ANYWAY . . . Dinner on the Avenue is so much dad gum FUN, I keep thinking it should be a whole weekend or something. All that in ONE night? Yes. My favorite night of the year. BIG expectations, no question. I can’t wait to see what everyone is doing . . . to laugh and laugh some more, meet new peeps and see old ones. My own group is engaged in something I’m sure others are doing as well . . . recycling the theme from last year’s cancelled — rain? was there RAIN? — event. I’m trying to show it some renewed enthusiasm. Once you’ve been rained upon and with thunderstorms a possibility Saturday — damn you Mother Nature, I will track you down if it’s the last thing I do — it’s not always easy to get everyone corralled, stoked and ready for the next one. It’s just human psychology, I believe. But I’m tryin’. And, well, I LUV our theme, go on about it regularly (HINT!) . . . so I gotta!
This weekend also starts The Albin Polasek Museum & Gardens’ yearly ‘Paint Out’ event, which I also enjoy a bunch. I’m dedicating myself to STALKING the free-range painters who will be all over town next week, so, artists beware! It’s such a wonderful event, nothing I can think of Locally compares to it. The finale at The Polasek is amazing, when all the works from that week are displayed and sold, drinks and eats in the LUVly gardens there, the fresh smell of paint, all the artists there as attendees like myself gush over their new creations.
And last night, of course . . . Taste of Winter Park! What a terrific crowd there was and . . . . YES . . . what AMAZING food.
There were so many different vendors, I surely should have developed a plan. But, no, of course, I entered, found wine and hit this tent and that tent, roaming around as a pinball hitting various nobs and paddles, no real idea where I’d go next. There’s a certain beauty to that, I will claim, mostly because it seems to be my nature. I drive planning types crazy. Just ask my partner.
My experience there got off to a wonderful start, quite accidentally. I met Deborah Kalish as I arrived, as Maggie Cole, from The NEW Bistro, had also arrived and was trying to figure out the process for entering when you work the event. Maggie said my name and Deborah realized we’d been facebook friends — as ILUV WinterPark — for some time. It’s one of those chance meetings which occurs unexpectedly, gets things off on such a nice footing. Maggie was soon inside, as was I. And Deborah and I are getting together some time in the future. Yes, a good start to a great evening!
Inside, I quickly ran across Winter Park’s true politician about town, Tom McMacken. Tom always says he sees me everywhere . . . but HE is there when he says it. So one of us may be correct. It had been a few weeks since I’d seen him last, as I reminded him — and his wife — of his anticipatory joy in the Rotary Club Beer Garden at the Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival. His wife was out of town and he was allowing himself to go home and eat dinner like he was living in a frat house. I can relate to such, which is one reason I well remember it. Anyway, last night I asked Tom what he thought was the best he’d tried and without hesitation he sent me to the 4Rivers tent for their beef brisket burger. John Rivers and team, you ARE amazing. Dang, that was tasty! And by ‘tasty’ I have just understated their offering in a major way. It was yummy x 10.
After I stopped for an additional cup of wine, I decided I should get some photography out of the way so that I could focus on eating and drinking. I may not be organized, but I still have my priorities! 🙂 I made some quick rounds, stopped by to see Erika Boesch, from The NEW Bistro on Park Avenue, with employees Maggie & Tifford. Tifford’s their returning cook and the crab cakes he made for the evening, with jambalaya were delicious. Erika went for desserts, making an authentic German strawberry cake I LUVed big time. Well positioned, they were right next door to Tibby’s, with another jambalaya which was spectacular! I’m not sure if they were grouped together for the similarity of the dishes, but it did put me in a bit of a Nah’ Leans mood. I circled back for some more Barefoot pinot and heard attendees raving about the Fleming’s dish in the tent next door. I think it was beef tenderloin, with a crab dish on top. Honestly . . . it was AMAZING. I’ll say this again . . . A M A Z I N G ! What a knockout dish that crab was. We referenced it a number of times throughout the evening, sending others over to try it. A cloud moved overhead and sprinkling ensued. I sought cover in the Fiddler’s Green tent . . . for some Shepherd’s Pie. OMG. I had TWO! I will not deny it, as I’m pretty certain I have some Irish in my blood . . . . I am a total meat and potatoes sort of guy! It’s rare I find a potato I do not long to eat. But this Shepherd’s Pie was D-LISH! Again, I ate two! And the employees were fun, engaging. I enjoy playful people serving food. Doesn’t everyone? I think it was around this time that a friend, Lisa Lyons Coney, insisted I try the “bacon cupcake” from B&B Junction. Uh, “bacon cupcake”? YES. Wow, was that different. And it was really, really good. It’s the sort of thing that’s futile to talk about, attempt to describe. I’m not a food critic. I’m a food LUVer. Yeah, too much! I have no right, really, to critique any dish made by someone else. I will nearly destroy a kitchen making a tuna sandwich. So, I live in a glass house. Plus, what’s that saying about those who can do and those who can’t critique? I celebrate and talk about what I like and LUV. That’s it. But for these cupcakes? You’d just have to try one for yourself. They’re DIFFERENT and my rambling will give you no better idea of how they taste. 😉 Before I went inside — and as I was getting quite FULL — we walked down and visited The Meat House. I’ve wanted to write about these guys before. I like supporting, promoting small, Local, independent businesses. But I’ll also talk to and talk about chains, businesses based outside the area, especially when writing. I could tell you some stories of how HORRIBLE some such businesses are, how foolish they are when shunning the possibilities for really immersing themselves in the small communities in which they operate store fronts. The Meat House, to my view, comes into small communities and actively seeks to be a part of them, seeking out Locally made products they add to their shelves. It’s so smart . . . yet rarely happens. Anyway . . . they were serving a selection of three different dishes . . . two had potatoes. Yeah, like I was going to go for the others. Anyway, I had the burger — yes, of course — with potato salad. YUM! And my other half had the Italian sausage. His review was much like my own. And, again, another fun, engaging employee who liked to kid around. I finally headed indoors to realize I had little space left for food. I ate some bread and cheese at the Olde Hearth Bread Company and am excited they’ll be part of the forthcoming East End Market on Corrine Drive. I’m planning to write about them, capture the emergence of this new urban Local food market through their eyes, experience. I can’t wait for that . . . have seen the “inspirations” they claim to be using for the environment on their Pinterest page and it is surely going to be a MUST see / shopping experience. Tammy Sexter — co-owner of Bosphorous on Park Avenue and Sandlake Road — saw me and immediately began loading up a plate of lamb kofke kebab paddies. She KNOWS Bosphorous is my favorite restaurant on Park Avenue. I’ve been a huge Turkish food fan since a tour of Turkey in 2001. I whined about being full, but like the mother in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ who asks if you’re hungry, you say you just ate and she says “Okay, I fix you something”, I soon had a small plate stacked with those AMAZING little meat paddies. OMG, I LUV it! I could eat the chicken koftke kebab paddies and white bean salad every day, no problem.
I meandered around a bit more, but I was DONE. Oh, except, of course, on the way out I noticed the cutest little pup, Gabe, with his mom and dad, Natalia and Chris, from Mellow Mushroom. I was too STUFFED to puppy nab, but I was still tempted. He licked my face enthusiastically, so many yummy delights now on my breath! 🙂
Perhaps I need to starve for a few days. Yes, perhaps.
Til tomorrow . . . holy bricks and Spanish moss, I LUV living in Winter Park!