Eating for two and 36 tasting stations
EDITOR'S NOTE Gainesville's Lunch Out Blog received 2 complementary tickets to attend, and GLOB Healthy Eating Columnist, Michelle Cardel attended as our GLOB Correspondent.
The 8th Annual Taste of Greater Gainesville was held last Sunday the UF Hilton Hotel and Conference Center. The $125 ticket was a bit hard to swallow until I learned that not only does it feature unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails from local favorites and signature dishes from some of Gainesville's best restaurants, but also it benefits four Gainesville children's charities:the Child Advocacy Center, PACE Center for Girls Alachua, Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, and Tyler's Hope for a Dystonia Cure. Not only do you get to eat and drink, but you can be merry knowing that it is going to a great cause.
There were 36 different establishments that participated, including local favorites, restaurants that will be opening in the next 6 months and merchants that sell food items and adult libations. I am 8.5 months pregnant and am always hungry, so getting to try the food from all of these restaurants made my belly happy. I have listed my favorite dishes below by category. My sweet husband, Dominick Lemas, took on the selfless job of sampling all the boozy beverages and came up with his own list of favorites. So here are what we thought were the highlights of Taste of Gainesville:
This was a tough one. There were so many amazing foods and I enjoyed them all.
1. Metro Diner: The chicken and waffles were amazing. It's embarrassing to admit it, but I had never tried chicken and waffles before. The strawberry butter on top of the perfectly crisp waffle dipped into hot sauce maple syrup with a piece of fried chicken was enough to make this preggo swoon.
2. Cilantro Taco: The chicken and pulled pork tacos were a perfect combo of sweet and savory. Had to go back for seconds on this one.
Best meal delivery service
1. Chef Ami: I have used the Blue Apron meal delivery service on occasion for over two years. Somethings that bother me about Blue Apron are all the waste it produces and the food has to travel so far to be delivered. Both problems solved once I tried Chef Ami. For $65 a week (Blue Apron is $59.95), Chef Ami will deliver three meals for two people and they pick up the box it came in and resuse it. Additionally, ingredients are from local farms, such as Swallowtail and Frog Song Organics. Thus, you are supporting local farmers and getting delicious food while you are at it. The tuna poke was served at TOG and was fresh, perfectly seasoned, and all around delicious.
Best Healthy Snack
1. Vale Food Co.:: Since I am an obesity and nutrition scientist and a registered dietitian, I am a sucker for a good, healthy snack. I had never been to Vale Food Co. but their acai bown made my belly happy. They topped acai with fresh granola, strawberries, and blueberries. They are locally owned and have one location in Gainesville and one in Tallahassee.
I couldn't pick just one. These were my top three favorites.
1. Sabore: Sous Chef, James Hegenbarth, whipped up a liquid nitrogen delight of pina colada sorbet. It tasted like summer in the Caribbean.
2. Thornebrook Chocolates: In full force, a large variety of truffles and chocolate "cups" holdingC hocolate Wine were available. I couldn't indulge in the wine component but ate my share of decadent chocolate truffles.
3. Hyppo Gourmet Pops: Bite-sized samples of nine different pops were available to sample. My favorites were the Guava Hibiscus (lifechanging!), Blueberry Lavender Lemonade, and Pistachio Coconut dipped in chocolate. I just wish I could get the pops delivered at 9 pm when pregnancy cravings hit.
1. Fish Hawk Spirits: Bourbon, whiskey, and vodka cocktails were served. Located next to Alpin Bistro in downtown, this is a great place to end your night in downtown Gainesville with a nightcap.
1. Swamphead Brewery: This was the only brewery in town that participated but the Big Nose IPA is a staple in our house and does not disappoint.
1. Island Grove Wine Company: There was an array of blueberry wines and other delicious fruit wine blends. My husband went back for seconds of the Sunshine State Berry Sangria.
Other highlights of the event included a silent auction thai I received two entry tickets. All in all, the event was a blast and I hope to attend next year. Thank you Taste of Gainesville for another wonderful event and for your participation to local charities.