On Saturday, I attended Taste of the Nation Orlando, an event that takes place in a giant ballroom at the World Center Marriott.
Like I mentioned before, Taste of the Nation is a fundraising event to eradicate childhood hunger. Tons of items are donated (like spa treatments, concert tickets, dinner at various restaurants, etc.) and silent-auctioned off. This year, for the first time, you could bid from your phone which made it an incredibly dangerous thing for me since that is basically shopping online – my fave thing ever. Even the leftover food from the event is given to those in need.
I arrived at 5:30pm and checked in. When I explained who I was looking for to the checker-inners, they were like, “oh, you’re with the media” and I felt very fancy and important.
I met up with Maria who gave me a short tour. Then she set me free in the land of food and drink.
I invited Michelle to be my date for the evening, but since she couldn’t make it until 6:30, I thought I would walk around, check out the food, and take mental notes of what I wanted first. I figured if I waited to eat, I wouldn’t spend the entire four hours shoving everything in my mouth and being uncomfortably stuffed.
That plan didn’t work out so well because I saw things I wanted and then when I went back to try them, they were gone. Like these:
I’m sorry you are not in my belly giant nacho.
I was very excited when Michelle arrived because my willpower to not eat only lasts for so long.
That dude stood there the whole night smiling and greeting people with his dough. That is some serious patience. But really, the most important part of that picture is, for the first time, I am the second shortest woman. Never happens. If I can just nudge Jackie out of that picture, I will win shortest. I’ll work on that for next time.
The girls had other ideas before eating.
And well, I’m not going to say no to sangria. I’m also not going to say no to stealing that picture from Jackie. There was a standard sangria and a Moscato sangria. Both amazing. We spent a lot of time at that booth.
After we were sufficiently wined, beered, and sangria-ed, we started making the rounds and the food started flowing. I wish I could tell you everything I ate and where it was from but without a pen and paper, that wasn’t going to happen.
My first stop was at Cask and Larder, a new restaurant in Orlando that everyone and their brother raves about incessantly.
This isn’t something I would normally choose to eat but I just had to try it. (I don’t like pork or anything that remotely resembles BBQ – I know, I know.) The cheese grits on the bottom were really good but I gave my meat to Michelle. She loved my meat. So this dish was a hit with the pork/BBQ lovers of the world. Oh, that blackberry was pickled. Did not expect that.
After Cask and Larder, the food became a blur. Everything was beautifully presented and there was something for everyone.
By far, my favorite of the night was this white fish with spinach gnocchi from Mama Melrose’s Ristorante. It was also the biggest portion, which I always appreciate.
Mama Melrose’s is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so I guess I have a reason to go there again. When I Googled them, I was hoping they’d be a little closer to home.
I held out on trying any desserts until late in the night because once that train gets going, it doesn’t stop. Avoiding this rotating dessert carousel for two hours was hard.
You don’t even have to go to the desserts. They come to you. That is a thing of beauty right there.
It was getting late and I was still hungry somehow and I became worried I wouldn’t get everything I wanted. So I panicked and ran to the S’mores.
And then I ran to the other side of the room for the cupcakes, lemon tarts, and strawberry balls on the carousel.
That was plate one of two, lest you think I restrained myself. The lemon tart with a graham cracker crust and strawberry ball were so amazing, I got seconds. That tart tasted better than everything chocolate that I tried that night and I do not speak against chocolate lightly. I looks so perfectly plastic, but it was amazing.
After walking around for hours, our feet were hurting and we were getting tired because we’re old ladies and can’t hang like the young kids anymore. So, I grabbed one more picture with Michelle and headed home.
I had a really good time hanging out with some of my favorite ladies and getting to try so many different foods. It was a fun night and not something you get to experience often, so I’m very grateful I was allowed the opportunity to be a part of it. Plus, it’s for a good cause and getting the word out is what really matters.