Actually, I could not have; but at least I wanted to dine all night because I was right up there with Audrey Hepburn in the enthusiasm department. Twenty years ago, I easily ranked in the “T. Rex” category in any culinary competition; today, the stomach doth protest too much. But by the time you finish devouring 😉 my exploits, I’m sure you’ll agree I gorged with honor. And at the very end of this post, a very special treat for Audrey Hepburn fans!
Last Sunday was the 24th annual Chef’s Sampler, probably the largest fundraiser of the Children’s Home Society (CHS). Dozens of Tallahassee’s finest purveyors of hospitality showcase their skills to benefit local children. Susie and I regularly attended this event after it first began in 1985 and ticket prices were reasonable. But after the price went to about $30, I felt it was no longer a value and we stopped attending.
This year, the gods of gluttony smiled upon us. Some friends with “preferred guest” tickets were unable to attend and I received first dibs on their tickets. Paying just $15 each for $60 tickets was an offer I could not refuse. Since our anniversary was a few days earlier, this became our celebration feast of dining debauchery.
This year, 49 hospitality businesses participated. Here are my “winners” in various categories.
Liquid refreshment of all manner was available. Soft drinks, coffee, punches (alcoholic and not), margaritas, beer, wine. But the award goes to a local Mexican restaurant: Cabo’s, which provided shots of Sauza Gold tequila complete with lime slice and salt. Viva Cabo’s!
For me, this was a battle of the wing merchants. Some of our finest wing providers were there. My favorite local wings are the hot ones from Beef O’Brady’s and they were there with them. Winner, winner, chicken wing dinner! (That’s from the movie “21” with a slight twist to fit the situation.) Hobbit Grill is a strong honorable mention for providing three different styles of their very good wings. (Now if we expand the competition to all of north Florida, I’ll go with Dick’s Wings; and next time we go to St. Augustine, I’ll buy their infamous T-shirt: “I prefer Dick’s to Hooter’s!”)
Meat (excluding BBQ)
Now this was a very competitive category, since steakhouses were present. Although local steakhouse Marie Livingston’s steak bites were (as usual) excellent, I’m giving the nod to, of all folks, Harry’s Seafood because of their scrumptious spicy Cajun pork tenderloin. Laissez les bons temps rouler! (We’ll be in New Orleans in two weeks…)
Johnson’s Meat Market tempted me with two special offerings: lamb sausage and goat. The lamb sausage didn‘t do too much for me. The goat tasted similar to lamb, which I like, but “gamier.” So I guess I’m now a goat fan!
In the rural South, this category is perhaps the most “prestigious.” The one that demanded seconds was Famous Dave’s St. Louis-style pork ribs. Large, meaty and lip smacking good! I didn’t even get around to trying their pulled pork. I’m planing a visit to Famous Dave’s for more of those ribs!
Although there wasn’t a lot in this category, the one that counted most made its appearance: Apalachicola (fishing town about 75 miles west) raw oysters on the half shell, courtesy of Barnacle Bill’s. I had 5… each on a cracker, with hot sauce of course. Their smoked salmon dip was a good accompaniment.
Another very competitive category. Melting Pot was there with their chocolate fondue. I believe it was Peterbrooke Chocolatier who provided the succulent strawberries dipped in chocolate, a “natural” since this year’s week long Florida Strawberry Festival recently wrapped up. Because I tend towards dessert snobbery, the award goes to Carrie Ann. Their Chocolate Kahlua bite was admirable, but better still was their Chocolate Truffle with Grand Marinier. Magnifique! Susie enjoyed Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s pretzel log dipped in white chocolate.
Sorry I Missed Ya
Our favorite Mexican restaurant, On The Border, had beautiful trays of fajitas but the two times we were there the lines were just too long. (But if I had any more room, I’d have had more of Famous Dave’s ribs and more oysters.)
It’s not easy being a glutton for charity but someone’s gotta do it! We ate for 75 minutes non-stop, almost entirely standing up as we walked from booth to booth. At the end, I was beyond full; I was hurting. I wisely waited five days before weighing and the scales said I only gained a pound, but no sacrifice is too great for the children… That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉
Since I’ve only touched on the highlights, I’m listing some of the other participants I didn’t mention in the post so y’all get a sense of how much good food was there. This list is from the program; although I did not see all of them there, I may have missed them.
Andrew’s 228 Andrews’s Capital Grill Anthony’s Italian Restaurant
Applebee’s Bella Bella Black Bean Cuban Café
Cabell’s Crepe Vine FishBonz
Longhorn Lucy Ho’s Miller’s Ale House
Masa Paradise Grill Pepper’s Mexican Grill
Po Boy’s Red Lobster Shane’s Rib Shack
Tapas Bar The Loop Wakulla Springs Lodge
And now….heeeere’s Audrey! (And that’s her voice you’re hearing; in the movie, Marni Nixon replaced all of Audrey‘s singing. Read the blurb at the top right)
And here’s what you heard in the movie….. hear the difference on those high notes?