Taste of the Nation is Huge Success

TasteNation.jpgAugust 9, 2013, The Orlando World Center Marriott welcomed Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation®. Featuring the area’s finest appetizers, entrees, desserts and spirits, Taste of the Nation 2014 set a new fundraising record of $301,317 to support the feeding programs of Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank of CIMGP5819smentral Florida and an organization dedicated to reducing hunger and poverty in Florida statewide: Florida Impact.

Retro rad celebrity chef Emily Ellyn and I arrived at the event in race-red style, as part of a cross-blog  Southeast Ford promotion where I got to test drive a brand new Ford Fiesta for a week for Central Florida Top 5. The plan was to take ‘er for a spin to those events that are Top 5 on our family’s list: Travel, education, charity, culture, food. Happily for me, most of our stops involved a combination of two or more of those each time. Taste of the Nation Orlando, was no exception.

In addition to sampling some of the most delicious bites from chefs around Central Florida, guests enjoyed participating in raffles and drawings of epic proportion (like a trip to Oktoberfest in Germany and over a hundred bottles of wine!). The highlight of the night: two chefs (Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant and Alexia Gawlak of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen) went head-to-head in a live cook-off. Emceed by Food Network celebrity chef Melissa d’Arabian, the contest allowed 20 minutes for each chef to create a dish using Creekstone Farms sirloin flap steak and pantry staples donated by Whole Foods Market. Though I would have enjoyed tasting both dishes, I didn’t envy judges Scott Joseph from Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide, WFTV’s Bob Opsahl, and Honorary Chair Helen Donegan. While both dishes were prepared expertly (and smelled heavenly!), Chef Gawlak was declared the winner.


Area restaurant bloggers and pro foodies flank coral-colored Food Network divas Melissa d’Arabian and Emily Ellyn.

Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Orlando event brings together the area’s top chefs who donate their time, talent and passion to end childhood hunger in Central Florida. Along with culinary delights, guests have the opportunity to sample select wines, cocktails and premium beers and enjoy silent and live auctions and entertainment. Every dollar raised fights hunger and homelessness in the Central Florida. Local beneficiaries include Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.





Wine, Women and Shoes at SeaWorld Ports of Call

WWSCollage01SeaWorld Ports of Call is the place to be Sole (Soul!) Sisters for Wine, Women and Shoes Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 2–6 p.m. WFTV’s Jorge Estevez will emcee the event for the second year in a row.

More than 350 local women will be treated to heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine tastings (of course!) and shopping from national and local boutiques (shoes, purses, make-up, and more) with 20 percent of those sales going to Second Harvest. Guests will also enjoy a live and silent auction (I want the chocolate shoe!) plus a fashion show featuring designer Diana Simaan.

WWSCollage2Wine Women & Shoes is the only event of its kind where 100 percent of the ticket proceeds go toward fighting hunger in Central Florida. All said, the event will raise over $85,000 to Feed Hope Now! For every $1.00 donated, Second Harvest can provide $9.00 in food value to those in need.

SeaWorld Orlando is once again donating the Ports of Call special events venue, in addition to providing Chef Hector Colon’s food creations*. Also provided are live and silent auction items**, parking, and special guest appearances by Animal Ambassadors and their feathered and furry friends.

To purchase your ticket (general admission is $75), Call (407) 514-1017 or email Jennifer Landress, jlandress@feedhopenow.org.

See you there!

Special thanks to the Wineries involved and all the amazing sponsors:

  • Justin
  • Landmark
  • Sequin
  • Handcraft
  • One Hope
  • New Age
  • Cannonball
  • Raymond
  • JCB

*What’s on the menu?

  • A variety of flat breads and pita breads with assorted hummus and Tabouli Salad
  • Imported and domestic cheese and fruit display with
    an assortment of gourmet crackers
  • Cinnamon Sweet Potato Puffs
  • Macaroni and Cheese Bar with an assortment of toppings, including: Broccoli, Roasted Red Peppers, Crispy Pancetta and Truffle Oil
  • Smoked Tenderloin Sliders with Caramelized Sweet Onions, Red Wine Reduction and a Horseradish Mayonnaise
  • Dessert Assortment of mini pastries and fruit tarts

**What is SeaWorld putting up for auction?

For the Live Auction: SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove V-VIP package for six!
For the Silent Auction: 4 SeaWorld and Aquatica combination tickets with a gift basket, 2 Discovery Cove Dolphin Swims with VIP basket, Sharks Underwater Grill gift cards for 4, Marine Mammal Keeper Experience for 2



Hector Colon is Featured at Second Harvest Guest Chef Event

Executive Chef Hector Colon SeaWorld OrlandoHector Colon is the Executive Chef/Director of Culinary Operations for SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove and Aquatica. His skills make him a sought-after chef, and he’s using his amazing food talents to raise funds for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Thursday, September 19, 2013 at the Morgan & Morgan, PA Hunger Relief Center at the Second Harvest Food Bank center, 411 Mercy Drive, Orlando, FL 32805. Chef Colon makes some incredible dishes, including Duck Confit over Wild Mushroom Grits (read about it and get the recipe here).

The Guest Chef Event, held monthly with local chef-celebrities, is a unique event for a select group of diners. Each event is limited to 100 diners. What’s especially unique is the live video feed from the kitchen to the dining room so guest can see all of the action. Also of special note, culinary students work alongside the guest chefs preparing each course as part of their Second Harvest culinary training core curriculum.

On the menu for the $50-a-plate fete?
Lobster tamale
Sweet Corn Buttered Lobster and Caribbean Spices on a Traditional Corn Husk
Chipotle Avocado Cream

Baby Greens
Watercress, Feta, Toasted Sun Flour Seed Pomegranate and Mango
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Costillas en Vino Tinto
Boneless Short Rib in Red Wine
Celery Root Puree Chimichurri Sauce Fried Yucca and Brocoline

Vanilla Bean Milk Chocolate Flan
Roasted Sweet Coconut Candy and Bourbon Maple Syrup

Proceeds for the event go back into the Second Harvest Food Bank hunger relief program, because one in 5 Floridians don’t know where there next meal is coming from.

As a child growing up in Central Florida, I experienced hunger more times than I like to remember. My brother and I used to joke about having a “jam sandwich.” To make it, you take two pieces of bread, and “jam” them together.

Our family did not have the resource of Second Harvest back then. (The Central Florida branch was founded in 1986.) Thanks to the Guest Chef event, and other fund-raising efforts, more than 550 nonprofits will receive assistance in our area through the Central Florida Second Harvest Food Bank to help kids who are like I was, who need help from the community to have more than than a “jam sandwich” as a meal.