Forbidden black rice, balsamic glazed mushrooms, key lime popsicles oh my!
The Taste of Greater Gainesville kicked off it's 9th Annual fundraising event on Sunday June 3rd. All the money raised from the event goes to charities including PACE Center for Girls-Alachua, Tyler's Hope for a Dystonia Cure, Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, and the Child Advocacy Center.
Traditionally, Taste of Greater Gainesville has been held at the Hilton but for the first time the event was in the Exactech Arena at the O'Connell Center. The O'Connell Center was the ideal place to have it as the space allowed for people to watch the Iron Chef of Greater Gainesville Competition in the stadium seats or via the live video production, while people milled about tasting food and drinks from 40 different participating restaurants.
Upstairs, they housed the silent auction which had over 100 different items to choose from, including getaways to the international destinations like Greece and Mexico, as well as more local hotspots like condos in the Panhandle and St. Augustine.
One of the highlights of the event is undoubtedly the Iron Chef competition, where three local chefs are tasked with creating an appetizer, dessert, and entrée plate using a secret ingredient. This year's secret ingredient was citrus. The crowd waited eagerly as each Chef took twenty minutes to create the three-course meal. Sitting in front of me was the family of Chef Nester Espartero of Volcanic Sushi + Sake. They were cheering, hooting, and hollering to support Chef Espartero while he was cooking and his son told me, "I am so proud of my dad." After the judges had tried the dishes from all three judges they announced that Chef Espartero had won the Greater Gainesville Iron Chef Competition for the 2nd year in a row. The winning Chef and his family were thrilled.
My personal favorite part of the event is being able to taste food and drinks from the forty different restaurants, caterers, and venues that participated including 4 BBQ spots, 3 wineries, and 4 dessert spots.
Dom, my husband, whose birthday was the same day tried all of the BBQ places and said his favorite is Adam's Rib Co. I tend to go for healthier alternatives and my favorite was a new restaurant that will be opening up soon called Bolay (grand opening is June 22). Their combination of forbidden black rice, lemon chicken, and balsamic glazed mushrooms had me swooning.
Other local favorites included Omi's Elegant Catering, Cilantro Tacos, and Wahoo Seafood Grill. Swamphead Brewery was serving up some of their delicious beers and Total Wine and More provided a nice sampling of red and white wines. We ended the night with sweet treats from the Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops (their key lime popsicle does not disappoint), Electro Freeze Southest (delicious soft-serve topped with a cookie), and Thornebrook chocolates (their dark chocolate mint truffle is to die for).
Overall this worthwhile charity event for children was a huge success. I'm already looking forward to the next one!