Thanksgiving is on the horizon. (And if you need to figure out where to spend it in Boston, here are our picks.) That means that the holiday season is officially upon us, and the spirit of giving is in the air. While many will try to find a way to support a favorite charity on their own, there are also some easy ways to spread the love simply by doing what you do best: eat. From special events to ongoing promotions at Boston-area restaurants, here's are a few food-focused ways to dine for a cause.
1. Dining Playbook Gala. Since launching earlier this year, the NESN show "Dining Playbook" has united sports fans and food lovers with its unique look at where chefs and athletes intersect. (Wondering which restaurant Ray Bourque owns, or where Kris Humphries finds his favorite burger? This is the show for you.) On Saturday, November 15 from 7-11 PM, hosts Billy Costa and Jenny Johnson (pictured, who previously whet citywide appetites on "TV Diner") will preside over their new show's first annual gala at the Castle at Boston Park Plaza. The dining wonderland will feature wine, dancing, and 30 food stations from restaurants like Stephanie's on Newbury, Taranta, Union Oyster House, Citizen Public House and City Table. And a live auction stocked with restaurant-related items will benefit Rosie's Place, a 40-year old organization which provides housing, meals and education services for poor and homeless women. Tickets ($125) are here.
2. "A Taste of the Town." Johnson will also host (alongside JAMN 94.5 personality Santi DeOleo), "A Taste of the Town" on Tuesday, November 18 at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. From 6-10 PM the 40th anniversary event will feature live music, cocktails, and tastings from a host of diverse restaurants, from upscale Mexican Casa Romero to creative Asian fusion Shojo, upscale gastropub fare from Society on High and greasy spoon favorites from South Street Diner. Tickets ($125) are here.
3. Eat small plates, make a big difference at The Sinclair. The Harvard Square rock hall-slash-restaurant has just launched a new program, "Small Plates, Big Hearts," that each month will donate a portion of proceeds from a designated small plate to a different charity. In November, try their pork schnitzel sliders with sour apple kraut, blue cheese and whole grain mustard aioli to support Future Chefs Boston, an organization helping teens prepare for work in the restaurant industry.
4. "Eat Your Heart Out." While we're at it, The Sinclair is also this year's host venue for "Eat Your Heart Out," an annual chef- and band-driven fundraiser that supports Boston food- and music-related nonprofits. On December 14 from 6-8 PM, guests will feast on small plates created by guest chefs, each reflecting that toque's favorite musician: think "KISS beef tongue" or the calorie-loaded Elvis tribute "Ain't Nothin Butter Hound Dog." Chefs will include Jamie Bissonnette (Toro and Coppa), Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow) and Jeremy Sewall (Lineage) to name a few. After you eat, the night's musical act will take the stage. Tickets ($40) are here.
5. "Mustache November" at The Tap Trailhouse. We're now in the thick of "Movember," that newly coined movement whereby dudes grow out their facial hair for various charitable reasons. Tap Trailhouse has jumped on the bandwagon, but it's up to you how hirsute you become. For every Freedom Trail Ale ordered during November, the restaurant will donate $1 to an organization raising support for prostate cancer. To support yourself, post a photo of your "fun mustache" photo on Instagram with the hashtag #TAPMOVEMBER to win weekly prizes of t-shirts, gift cards, shot glasses and more.
6. Drink for a cause at Eastern Standard. Not that we need an excuse to grab a cocktail here, but bar manager Naomi Levy just provided an awfully good one. Order her signature Guayaba Arabica (a combo of rum, guava, coffee, lime and cilantro) and a portion of each drink sale will benefit a regularly rotating charity: most recently the cocktail raised about $13,000 for the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference program, and now you'll be supporting the Noonan Scholars, a group of volunteers who work with disadvantaged but motivated high school students to prepare them for college and grad school success.
7. Hearth Shares. Add an extra dollar (or more) to your tab via Hearth Shares, an initiative launched in Boston-area restaurants throughout November and December. So far 27 area restaurants have signed on to the program, which lets guests add a minimum $1 donation to their bill in support to local poverty-fighting nonprofits like Friends of Boston’s Homeless. Keep an eye peeled for the extra receipt line at participating spots like Blue Dragon, Mistral, Brasserie Jo, and Sweet Cheeks Q, to name a few.
8. A 60-Chef Tasting Gala. Kids take priority during the holidays. And on Saturday, December 6 at 6 PM, 60 chefs will come together for "Celebration for Kids," a fundraiser at the Seaport World Trade Center that supports Rodman Rides for Kids, an organization helping at-risk city youth. During the "winter wonderland"-themed event you can wine and dine upon tastings from restaurants like Commonwealth, Tremont 647, La Morra, Ward 8 and more. Tickets ($200) are here.
9. Give a donation, get a gift certificate at Tryst. For the entire month of December, Chef Paul Turano is will reward guests with a gift certificate of equal value (up to $20 each) for donations (made here) made to the Patient and Family Resource Room, a program that helps provide services to families whose children are being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital Oncology and Hematology Center. The cause is close to the chef's heart: his then two-month old son received a life saving bone marrow transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital.