Doesn’t it taste — I mean feel — good to make a difference? As I’ve shared before, I have a real soft spot in my heart for causes that work toward ending childhood hunger, and one of my favorite events of the year is Taste of the Nation Orlando, put on by Share Our Strength. All of the ticket proceeds go to local agencies, so in my case:
- Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida – The Coalition’s mission is to address the needs of the homeless in our community and to serve as a catalyst for community collaboration to end homelessness. To do this, we strive to return homeless individuals to lives of independence through case management, education and job training.
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida – Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, nonprofit organization that collects and distributes donated food to more than 500 nonprofit partner agencies in six Central Florida counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.
- Florida Impact – Florida Impact’s mission is to inspire and enlist the people of Florida to secure justice for and with those whose economic rights have not been realized. We also work to increase access to food programs by conducting aggressive outreach strategies and public policy advocacy.
Lucas and I got all dolled up and headed to the swanky Mariott World Center (which, by the way, had the best setup in the three years I’ve attended TON!) to get our eat on.
**Note: some of these pictures are blurry, because we can’t work our digital camera we don’t have a DSLR we were in stealthy food blogger mode.
We weren’t alone — there were three ballrooms full of food, drinks, auctions and more.
I even found a TREE! It’s one of those live statue things and had me totally engrossed.
I don’t believe in the whole dessert-after-dinner rule, so I basically grabbed anything that looked delicious. Including a few of these:
Shockingly, neither of us had any beer because of this:
and because the lines for wine were much shorter.
BTW, how cute is my hubby in his wedding tie? More sweets for the sweet:
Including the best thing I have ever eaten — a slow baked apple tart with freshly whipped cream and candied yumminess:
And maybe one of the worst things I’ve ever had to drink — although, it’s my own fault for thinking something this color could be tasty:
It was an amazing evening, and it was easy to indulge — it’s a once-a-year treat that really does make me feel good. Lucas did a recap of his own, which includes a more meat and potatoes approach.
Couple of takeaways:
- As a vegetarian, I was afraid that there would be limited options. I was surprised at how many chefs offered vegetarian meals or were willing to give me special meat-free versions of their plates.
- These events are like a buffet — you want to try everything! I’d say that only about 25% of the dishes I tried were real standouts…I wish I’d had a review of the dishes to go by BEFORE starting to eat. Maybe next year, SOS? I’d volunteer to try everything and write up a “good eats” guide!
- Because drinks are included in the ticket price, it’s really important to either have a driver (me) or book a night at the hotel. If you want to make this a real party, plan ahead.
- I wish the chefs were out in front of their tables talking about the food. Often, I’d have to push ahead in the line just to see the sign of what was being served. I also wanted to engage with the chefs more, especially at the tables where the dishes were amazing.
- Maybe vegetarian dishes could be starred or highlighted on the menus?
There are Taste of the Nation events all over the country, and I BEG…PLEAD…IMPLORE you to attend one near you. The complete listing is here, and it’s a really great way to discover some restaurants and chefs in your area while making a real difference to those who don’t have the luxury of fine dining every night.