Taste of the Nation Orlando 2014

I need to back up a few weeks because I’ve been meaning to talk about Taste of the Nation Orlando, which I went to for my second year. So let’s pretend it’s two weeks ago, mmmkay?

After a 3:00am wake-up for an 18-miler, a large iced coffee, a short nap, a few Diet Cokes, and a 18 oz sugar free Red Bull, because why not at that point, I made my way to the Taste of the Nation Orlando with my last minute date, Cheyanne.

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Hubs was originally my date for the night but he found out that he had to work all weekend the week before the event, so I didn’t get to dress up with him which makes me sad. We almost never get pictures together and I was looking forward to getting one of us looking all pretty-like. Cheyanne was a good date substitute though and she didn’t even try to take advantage of me at the end of the night.

Anyway, if you don’t know already from my previous posts, Taste of the Nation (TOTN) raises money for the Share our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. Michelle and I went last year and this year it was held at the same spot – a giant ballroom at the World Center Marriott, the mother of all Marriotts. Not only does TOTN hold silent charity auctions but all the food that is left over from the event gets donated as well. So even though the ticket price is a bit steep ($150 without a discount code), it’s all going to a good cause.

We arrived a little late since I dropped dinner off for hubs beforehand. Once we got there, the place was already pretty hoppin’. That didn’t stop Cheyanne from finding her soulmate within 30 seconds of walking in the door.

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Sparkly things and wine is all she needs to be happy.

Michelle (and her husband Dan) came out this year too. She arrived early to eat and drink all the things, so by the time I got there she was nice and juiced up and led Cheyanne and I straight to the Tito’s Handmade Vodka booth like any good friend would.

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Those Tito’s drinks were delicious. I know you’re thinking, “Paula just likes booze” which is true, but I went back for seconds. I would have gone for thirds but the lady there did not mess around with the pours and I had to get home in a way that did not involve crawling.

Cheyanne and I made our way around the ballroom to check out the different restaurants. Since Michelle and Dan had already been there for an hour, they told us the best booths to hit up. I gotta say, the food this year blew away the food from last year in my opinion. (Warning: unappetizing dark pictures ahead.)

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Steak so tender you could cut it with a plastic fork and mashed potatoes from Capital Grille. It was the first thing I ate and by far the best thing of the night. I will definitely be trying out that restaurant.

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Probably the best scallop I’ve ever had, short ribs, and a vanilla cake from Shingle Creek.

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Calamari, also from Shingle Creek. It was the cup that a kept on giving because there was pasta on the bottom. Genius.

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Fancy mozzarella with something I was sure I was going to hate on top, but loved. I wish I could remember where this was from. This is why you don’t blog two weeks later.

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More short ribs from another place I can’t recall. I’m not even a fan of short ribs but this was amazing  It was so good that I thought they should have left off the toast, which is weird because I think bread makes everything better. This is the one time in the world when it didn’t.

I stopped taking pictures at some point because it was proving too difficult to balance a drink, food, and camera (life is hard) so a lot of good stuff went unpictured, including a crazy delicious fried green tomato BLT from BB King’s Blues Club and a bartender machine where you program the drink you want from a touch screen. I didn’t get a picture of the bartender machine but I did get a picture of Dan and I which is just as good.

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Worth it, I think.

I’m still doing the low sugar thing but I did try several desserts. The dessert area was a complete cluster compared to last year’s dessert carousel. This is the “line” I was standing in.

I almost gave up I was waiting so long but I persevered because dessert is my homeboy. I gotta say, I wasn’t too impressed this year. I don’t know if that’s the new, picky, low sugar me talking or if it was actually the desserts but I could only find one I really liked. Taste of the Nation must have been looking out for my waistline this year.

If I could make any suggestion, it would be to go back to last year’s dessert set-up or add a second dessert booth. Even jammed-packed, last year was way faster to get through and less frustrating.

Despite the dessert area, I think this year’s event was much better than last year. It’s like all the food was kicked up a notch. It’s nice to know they keep getting better. I had a great time and I’m thankful once again to be one of the media bloggers for the event. Time to start saving my pennies for next year. :-)

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