Ryan and I had such a great experience at Taste of the Nation in Orlando last year that we were incredibly excited to attend the event again last night.
Taste of the Nation events take place all over the United States (you can find an event in your area here) and raise money to prevent childhood hunger. Attendees sample incredible food and drinks prepared by local leading restaurants and 100 percent of ticket sales benefit Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America.
Since last year’s event was our first experience at a Taste of the Nation soiree, this year we went into the evening knowing full well that it would be an incredible night filled with some of the best food in Central Florida, fantastic drinks and lots of fun entertainment.
We drove to the Orlando Marroitt World Center in the early evening ready to dive into the amazing culinary selections.
When we arrived, we checked in and said hello to Maria, the sweet woman who invited us to attend the event along with some other Orlando bloggers and journalists. (While our tickets were free, Ryan and I made sure to make a donation to Share Our Strength prior to attending.) Maria told us that more than 2,000 people were expected at the event! Somehow it never felt overcrowded and we never felt like we were waiting in crazy lines to sample food. The layout was perfect.
Almost immediately after walking into the event, we ran into Ricky and Pearleen, the fantastic bloggers behind Tasty Chomps and Mega Yummo, two Orlando food blogs that review local restaurants and dining events in the area.
Over the course of the evening also saw fellow bloggers Katy, Carolina and Katie which was great! Katy is looking just as gorgeous as she was at her baby shower with her beautiful baby bump. I can’t wait to meet her baby girl!
After examining all of the auction items on a long table that attendees could bid on throughout the evening, Ryan and I decided it was go time and headed off to sample the food.
We went into the evening with the same strategy as last year: Eat entrée-style samples first and then eat dessert. We abandoned the strategy about five samples in last year, but this year we held strong!
During our first visit to all of the restaurant stations, we focused on the savory fare and the samples were out of this world. It wasn’t too hard to ignore dessert for an hour or so when you had plates that looked like this in front of you:
That was a taco from Emeril’s Tchoup Chop and I couldn’t get over the “bun.” The chef said it was bread that was steamed rather than baked. It was doughy and so, so good.
Ryan and I had a good time discussing the food and agreed that our top three favorite entrée-style dishes included:
- JW Marriott Orlando Grand Lakes: Sausage with crispy black-eyed peas served on a sweet corn puree
- Universal Orlando: Braised Creekstone Farms beef short rib in a cabernet sauce over wild mushroom truffle risotto
(Sorry I hate half of it before remembering to snap a picture!)
- B.B. King’s: Shrimp and grits
My favorite drink of the evening was Magners Irish pear cider.
It’s a winner every time.
Before moving onto desserts, I must also give a shout out to one of my favorite foodie finds of the evening.
We’ll call this bread heaven!
The Olde Hearth Bread Company had an amazing display of breads, rolls and granola and I fell in love with their cranberry walnut bread.
Dessert is always my favorite part of any fantastic dining experience and there was no shortage of sweets at this event.
Universal Orlando had a stunning display and I loved their chocolate truffle tart.
Without a doubt, my favorite dessert of the evening was Chef Jean Louis’ bananas foster.
I heard people rave about this dessert last year and somehow missed it, so I made sure to get my hands on it this year and it did not disappoint.
Once the ice cream started melting into the warm, buttery bananas, it was magical.
Ryan and I drove back to Ocala feeling full and happy. Taste of the Nation is easily one of my favorite events of the year and it was, yet again, a very memorable night!