If you’re a culinarian and like food and wine events and supporting good causes, you were torn in multiple directions this past weekend. There was the Chef’s Gala for Heart of Florida United Way at Epcot; Cattle Baron’s Ball benefitting American Cancer Society at Rosen Shingle Creek; Beard in Baldwin raising funds for culinary scholarships in Baldwin Park; and Dinner on the Avenue, which apparently doesn’t support a charity and requires participants to supply their own food but gives them a chance to dress in costumes and take over Park Avenue for an evening.
I’ve been to all of them in past years, and all are fun and support worthy causes — well, three out of four, at least.
I attended Chef’s Gala and had a good time, as usual.
The highlights for me included, as I had predicted from a Gala preview dinner there, Jiko — The Cooking Place, which served its Isitambu an African dish of beans and samp, broken dried corn kernels. It included braised oxtail, as it did when I sampled it before, but chef Edward T. Mendoza topped it off with a quail egg for the gala.
The only things that kept me from just circling around and having more of the Isitambu were the other stations that were just as tasty.
Chef Jared Gross of Urban Tide was offering a Plantain-crusted Atlantic Codd with roasted Red beet crème fraîche. The fish was so delicate and the beets so tasty.
A crew from Morimoto Asia, serving on behalf of chef Yuhi Fujinaga, had Poie “Pho,” with Kona Kanpachi and shiso. I liked it for its sippable quality, and for the goodies in the bottom of the cup, MA had a unique utensil that could be used as chopsticks one way and a fork the other way. A Chork, perhaps.
Another highlight was the Blanquette de Veau with crispy sweetbreads and forest mushroom ragout from Robby sayles, chef at Tiffins. Blanquette de veau is such a classic dish but one that is seen too seldom on restaurant menus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it at such an event. It was delicious.
I haven’t heard any numbers from the Chef’s Gala folks or any of the other events that were happening around town, but just from eyeballing the crowd, there seemed to be fewer attendees. My first inclination was to chide the various organizers for not coordinating dates, but I’m not sure that would matter.
And let’s face it: Orlando is becoming a grownup city. We have millions of people in the area, and lots of others visiting. We can — and should — support multiple events. Even on the same night.
What about you? Which of the events did you attend, and what did you think? Leave a comment below.