Taste! Central Florida, the brand new benefit event now in its third decade, took place on Aug. 19 at the Orlando World Center Marriott. More than 3000 people attended to taste and sip the wares of dozens of restaurants and beverage purveyors. The proceeds are still being tallied, but it’s expected to have raised at least $300,000.
Technically, this was the first Taste! Central Florida, but in reality it was a continuation of Taste of the Nation. The only things that changed were the name and where the funds go. Just as in years past, all proceeds go to fight childhood hunger, with Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
But previously, the even was held under the auspices of Share Our Strength and two local charities had to share some of the funds with the national office. Now, all of the funds stay local.
There was one other, perhaps unintentional change from previous years: there was a noticeable dearth of wines being poured. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty to drink, especially of the alcoholic variety.
But instead of wines, cocktails and beers were the more prevalent pourings. But few complained.
One of the food highlights came from Cress restaurant’s booth, where owners Hari and Jenneffer Pulapaka were dishing up Calamari Salad with Roasted Vegetable Bisteeya and Mangalore Spiced Coconut Sauce. Delicious.
The Pulapakas were also presented with the Gold Foodster Award for Most Romantic Restaurant.
Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen had chef Jason Bergeron and his Tuna Poke with house-made ponzu and spicy avocado.
The Whiskey had delicious Asian Beef Tartare, prepared by chef Steven Flowers. It featured grass-fed wagyu with Asian soy glaze and sriracha aioli, served on crispy wonton platforms.
Chef Scott Pizzo represented Highball & Harvest with Coffee-rubbed Braised Short Rib Terrine with a Lineage Black Coffee and Bacon Jam Hushpuppy. It was paired with the restaurant’s signature Doc Holliday cocktail of Tito’s Vodka with blueberry jam, house-made ginger beer and a wedge of lime.
It all took place in the Marriott’s massive Cypress Ballroom, which had plenty of room for the participants to spread out.