Tag Archives: Taste of the Nation

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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A Decent Run and a Good Cause

I mentioned that marathon training started last weekend. I met up for my first long run with my training bud, Brad, on Saturday. I guess the run went ok for my first 10-miler in three months. My shoulder was hurting again (it’s been a year since that’s bothered me), my calf ached for miles 5-10 because of all the uneven pavement and brick, it was face-of-the-sun hot, and the humidity made breathing suck but, I didn’t wish for actual death so I’m going to consider that one a win.

Since my calf is still the bain of my existence, my Crossfit trainer recommended a massage guy to me that “rakes” calves. I don’t know what “raking” calves means and I’m scared to look it up. Raking anything sounds terrible.

I finally made an appointment, which I’ve put off for a month because I know it’s going to hurt and I’m a big baby. Why can’t problems just disappear if you ignore them? I would rather get a pap smear if that tells you how much I don’t want this “massage” but I would also rather not limp the marathon. So, I sucked it up. I’m tempted to live tweet the massage so we can see what new swear words I invent.

You probably know by now that I’m running Chicago in support of the American Heart Association. Well, I’m also supporting another charity event – the Taste of the Nation Orlando – which raises money for the Share our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. This is the same event that Michelle and I supported last year.

Back in the days of long hair and new boobs. This year I’ll support them with short hair and old boobs.

This is also the event in which I ate and drank my face off and posed with food.

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Ok, that’s all events but this one has all sorts of different food and drinks from awesome restaurants in the Orlando area. Plus, everything that is left over is donated so nothing is wasted.

Taste of the Nation Orlando is running its final discount code. So if you’re in the Orlando area, you’d like to support a great cause, and want to test the limits of your stomach and liver with me, you can get $10 off your ticket through the 11th. (Buy tickets with this link.)

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The deets:

2014 TASTE OF THE NATION ORLANDO
WHEN:
Saturday, August 9, 2014
6:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE:
Orlando World Center Marriott
8701 World Center Dr., Orlando

Now, who knows what raking calves is and what am I in for?

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My First Taste of the Nation

On Saturday, I attended Taste of the Nation Orlando, an event that takes place in a giant ballroom at the World Center Marriott.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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While we were there, we also ran into some other lovely ladies, Jackie and Christine (and Katy, but she evaded my camera). Let’s not forget the pizza guy (not a lady).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And then I ran to the other side of the room for the cupcakes, lemon tarts, and strawberry balls on the carousel.

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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.

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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.

 

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Taste of the Nation Orlando

Have you guys heard of Taste of the Nation?

I’m not big on promoting events but this one raises money for the Share our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. I thought that was a really good cause, so I’m helping promote the Orlando fundraiser. (I should mention that I get a discounted ticket price for doing so, but I was going to promote the it whether I was able to attend or not.)

Anyway, the event basically gathers all the delightful restaurants and chefs around central Florida and puts them in one room and let’s you face plant in their deliciousness. The cause sold me, but let’s face it, so did pictures like this:

I guess they have other foods that are not desserts too but we know where I’ll be spending most of my time.

This is the first year I’ve had a chance to attend this event. I’m looking forward to dressing up, eating some good food, drinking some good drinks, spilling that good food and drink on my nice dress, and doing it all for a good cause.

If you’d like to attend, you can buy tickets here. I hear it’s so worth the ticket price. Plus, I’ll be there which is basically priceless anyway. Winking smile

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2013 TASTE OF THE NATION ORLANDO
WHEN:
Saturday, August 10, 2013
6:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE:
Orlando World Center Marriott
8701 World Center Dr., Orlando

Let me know if you’re going so I know to look for you!

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