CROW’s Taste of the Islands touted ‘best ever’ by crowds
An estimated 4,000 people filled Sanibel Community Park on Sunday afternoon, taking part in the 29th Taste of the Islands, a food and wine tasting event held to raise funds for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).
“I think it was a tremendous success,” said Steve Greenstein, executive director of CROW. “All of the feedback I heard was very positive. People attending the event said it was the best ever, and the restaurants were very pleased with the way everything went.”
Under mostly sunny skies and with live entertainment provided by Strange Arrangement, Deb & The Dynamics and The Troublestarters, festival-goers meandered the park while sampling culinary offerings from 22 island eateries.
But more than an all-day “munch-apalooza,” Taste of the Islands offered fun and friendly food competitions between the participating restaurants, including waiter/waitress races and — for the first time ever — an “Iron Chef” battle between the islands’ most prestigious cooks. The latter honor went to AJ Black of Il Tesoro.
Of course, the most heated competition of the day was for the six individual “Best Of” categories, as well as the “People’s Choice” Award, selected by people attending the event. When every vote was counted, Traders emerged the most popular dining establishment taking part in this year’s Taste.
“The people have spoken!” said Jeff Archambault, manager at Traders, after learning that the eatery had been chosen the 2010 “People’s Choice” winner. “It looked like they had a great turnout. It had been a long time since the last one, so it was good to have the event back.”
Matt Asen, owner of The Timbers, was equally pleased to see Taste of the Islands return to prominence amongst the island’s fall lineup of special events.
“There were a lot of people there,” he said. “Everybody looked like they were having a really good time, and we had a lot of fun.”
The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market was honored for serving the Best Seafood dish at Sunday’s event, Shanghai Street Noodles with shrimp.
“It felt ‘old school’ for me,” added Asen. “We had won Best Seafood at the first Taste of the Islands 30 years ago. We also won it a few more times over the years, but it just goes to show you that the more things change, the more they stay the same!”
Other “Best Of” winners selected this year include:
Best Appetizer — Sweet Melissa’s Cafe (Bourbon glazed pork)
Best Meat — Sea Star Cafe & Bar (New York strip steak)
Best Vegetarian — East End Deli (Cajun red beans and rice)
Best Dessert — East End Deli (Sticky toffee pudding)
Best Pizza — Sanibel Deli
In addition, the East End Deli’s sticky toffee pudding was selected as the “Taste of the Taste,” the top dish as judged by a panel of chefs, food critics and island business owners.
Also, Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream was given an honorable mention in the dessert category for their cannoli filled with their Wedding Bells ice cream.
Other participating restaurants included Blue Giraffe, The Bubble Room, Cantina Captiva, Cip’s Place, Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille, Island Pizza Company, Jacaranda Restaurant, Lazy Flamingo, Matzaluna Italian Kitchen, Over Easy Café, Chip’s Sanibel Steakhouse, Schnapper’s Hots, The Stone Crab and The Mucky Duck.
“It’s nice when you get a community together to support a great organization like CROW,” said Archambault.
While it may be a couple of days to determine how much money was raised on behalf of CROW, Greenstein noted that he was already looking forward to planning next year’s event.
“I think we exceeded all expectations,” he added.