This weekend, I was honored to attend this year’s Orlando’s Taste of the Nation event at Orlando World Center Marriott, and it was a fabulous event full of great food and lots of giving.
The event raises benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry platform, as well as local organizations Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
The huge ballroom was filled wall to wall with food stations hosted by over 40 Central Florida restaurants offering samples of their menu to guests. There were also several local breweries and beverage companies offering samples.
Guests were attired in cocktail wear, all looking fabulous and having a great time.
How could they not?? The food was amazing, and I got to try a lot of restaurants I hadn’t had the chance to visit yet, as well as enjoy ones I already knew.
So, while it’s difficult to pick favorites, here are the unofficially official CitySurfing Orlando Best of the Taste picks from the 26th installment of Orlando’s Taste of the Nation (please keep in mind my guest and I are both allergic to seafood, so none of those dishes were sampled):
Best Burger: Score one for the home team as the Orlando World Center Marriott Chefs cooked up a simple, yet tasty Bison burger paired with Housemade Loaded Tater Tots.
Best Sandwich: The Fried Green Tomato BLT from Lafayette’s Orlando hit all the right notes. It was crunchy, salty, a touch sweet, and who doesn’t love something fried. I don’t know if it’s on their regular menu, but it should be.
Best Meat Dish: This was a tie. I voted for the Blistered Peppers with Charred Chorizo de Bilbao from Capa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. The combo had a really nice smokey heat, and the chorizo was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. My guest, Rhonda, really enjoyed the Pan Seared Rib-Eye with Kentucky Bourbon Paint served with Maple Butter Sweet Potato Mash from A Land Remembered at Rosen Shingle Creek. A simple dish but full of flavor, she said.
Best Dessert: The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld brought Fried Zeppole, a light fried donut-like creation dusted with what tasted like cinnamon-sugar that was a nice not-too-sweet treat.
Best Take-Home: The JW Marriott Orlando offered up tiny bags of Smoked Bacon Parmesan Popcorn with Dark Chocolate, perfect for a little treat on the way home to cap off the evening.
Best Alcoholic Drink from a Restaurant: Another tie. The Grilled Pineapple Mojito was a slightly sweeter version of the classic drink from Cuba Libre and very delicious. We also enjoyed the Doc Holliday from The Ritz-Carlton’s Highball & Harvest, which combined Blueberry Jam, Tito’s Vodka, Ruby Red grapefruit juice, and ginger beer. Sweet and tangy at the same time, it went down smooth.
Best Alcoholic Drink from a non-Restaurant participant: Brew Bus Brewing brought a Vanilla Rollin’ Dirty Red Ale, an Irish-style red ale with vanilla. I’m a fan of red ales to begin with, but the vanilla added an extra note to the flavor that made it a winner to both of us. Runner-up was Tito’s Vodka who paired their liquor with flavored San Pellegrino sparkling water (I paired mine with the Pomegranite/Orange flavor). Always a fan of Tito’s, we both liked the ability to customize the flavor of the drink.
Best Non-Alcoholic Drink: Another win for the Ritz-Carlton’s Highball & Harvest, which offered bottled Lineage Cold Brew Coffee in black or with cream & sugar. A nice alternative to the alcohol.
I should mention in addition to all the food, there was a silent auction held during the event, which netted quite a bit for the charities. There was also the popular Giving Tree, which offered envelopes of restaurant gift cards ranging from $50-$200 for only $50.
I’m very happy to have been a Social Ambassador for Orlando’s Taste of the Nation this year. This was an amazing event full of great food and drink, awesome Central Florida foodies, and so much giving and celebrating. Kudos to Melissa Kear and her staff for putting on such a class event that does so much good. Melissa…I’m here any time you need me. And I will definitely be on board for next year’s event.
Did you go? Let us know what you thought of it. What were your favorite dishes and drinks of the evening?
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