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37th Taste of the Islands to feature selections from 13 island restaurants

By Staff | Nov 7, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Debi Neri, event chair, poses with just a few of the items that will be up for grabs in the silent auction during the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife's 37th Taste of the Islands, set for Nov. 11.

The longest-running tasting event in Lee County – and biggest fundraiser for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel – will offer something for every palate on Sunday.

Featuring 13 island eateries, the 37th Taste of the Islands will take place on Nov. 11 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at the Sanibel Community Park. For just six CROW Bucks or less, attendees can enjoy an array of menu items from the restaurants, which are competing for top honors in several different categories.

“This was the first taste event,” CROW Development Director Mary Schoeffel said, adding that organizers hope it brings the community together after a long summer of water quality issues.

“It’s a celebration of the islands and the food,” she said.

The list of participating eateries include:

Mary Schoeffel

– Blue Giraffe

– Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille

– IL Cielo

– Matzaluna

– Sandollar Restaurant

– Sanibel Deli & Coffee Factory

– Sanibel Fish House

– Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

– Thistle Lodge

– The Bubble Room

Debi Neri

– The Clam Shack

– The Jac Sanibel Island Bar & Grille

– The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market

“We are incredibly happy to have 13,” event chair Debi Neri said.

She explained that because of the water quality problems and red tide over the summer, many restaurants were significantly impacted. When first planning the event, not many had signed up.

“But they cared enough to want to support us,” Neri said of the final number.

Each year, CROW cares for approximately 3,500 patients, including over 200 species of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in its veterinary hospital – one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation facilities for native and migratory wildlife. Proceeds from events like the Taste enable CROW to continue its work.

Asked about a goal for this year’s fundraiser, she explained that there really is none.

“Every little bit helps,” Neri said.

Some new eateries – and competitors – to the event are The Jac Sanibel Island Bar & Grille, which opened in June, and the reinvented Sandollar Restaurant, found at the Sanibel Island Beach Resort.

“They have a new chef and a new team,” Schoeffel said.

Long-time participants include the Thistle Lodge and The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market.

“The Timbers has been to every Taste,” she said.

The menu items to choose from will run the gamut, from seafood and sushi, chicken, short ribs and lamp chops, to Italian, Mexican and desserts. There will even be vegetarian options available.

“We have everything from pizza, to escargot,” Neri said.

Judges for the competition will award the “Best Appetizer,” “Best Seafood,” “Best Meat,” “Best Vegetarian” and “Best Dessert,” with an overall winner taking home the “Taste of the Taste” trophy. Attendees will also have a say, casting ballots to pick the winner of the “People’s Choice” trophy.

“It encourages people to taste more things,” she said. “Or at least we hope it does.”

There will also be live by the Private Stock Band, from the East Coast.

“They cover everything – Motown, the decades,” Schoeffel said. “Music for all ages.”

Inside The Community House, attendees can visit with CROW’s Animal Ambassadors, like Lola the American kestrel and Bashful the opossum. There will also be a handful of programs scheduled.

“We want to educate people on what we do,” Neri said.

The family-friendly programs will be held at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.

Also inside, attendees can place their bids for a variety of donated items up for grabs in a silent auction. Featuring dozens of prizes for every taste, the bidding will open at 12:30 p.m. and close at 4:30 p.m.

There are handmade wreaths by Barb Walling, a ceramic piece from Jerry Edelman, wall photo collage by Kim Patmore, gift baskets, massages and other beauty items, along with restaurant gift certificates.

“We’ve got some original art,” Schoeffel said.

Auction bidders will also find a half-day fishing charter and tickets for the Key West Express, as well as a sterling silver bracelet featuring sea life – valued at $320 – donated by Congress Jewelers.

To raise additional funds, the event T-shirts will be available for sale.

“They’re limited edition,” Neri said. “We have people that get them every year.”

The tank tops are $20, while small, medium and large T-shirts are $22, with all other sizes at $25. The shirts can also be purchased in advance of the event at Bank of the Islands or the CROW Gift Shop.

According to organizers, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 attend the Taste each year.

Neri noted that planning starts in January and there are 150-plus volunteers helping out.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said.

This year’s presenting sponsor is Bank of the Islands/Edison National Bank.

The gold sponsor is The Silverman Organization, and silver sponsors are Dave and Jennifer Nichols, Suncoast Beverage, Heidrick & Co. Insurance, and Jensen’s Marina and Cottages. FOX4 is lead media.

Admission is $7; children under 12 years old are free.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.crowclinic.org or at the event.

The public is encouraged to pick theirs up.

“It benefits local wildlife, and we have a good time,” Schoeffel said.

Neri echoed that.

“It gets bigger and better every year,” she said.

Event parking will be available:

– East of Sanibel Community Park: Bank of the Islands, Sanibel Community Church (after 1 p.m.), Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ (after 1 p.m.) and Strauss Theater/Community Park

– West of Sanibel Community Park: Bank of America, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church (after 1 p.m.), U.S. Post Office (front and gravel)

Shuttle service will be offered at all of the east end options; for the west end, shuttle service will not be available at Bank of America, Premier Sotheby’s and St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church.

“If you’re on island consider biking,” Neri said.

Toll receipts can be redeemed at the event for CROW Bucks.

For more information, visit www.crowclinic.org/articles/37th-taste-of-the-islands.

The Sanibel Community Park is at 2231 Periwinkle Way.

CROW, along with its gift shop, is at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road.

Bank of the Islands is at 1699 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.