Saturday, August 17, 2013

Taste of the Nation

On Saturday August 10th, Terry and I went to the Orlando World Center Marriott to attend Taste of the Nation. 58 or so of Orlando's best restaurants were there in the Cypress Ballroom to offer samples of their best dishes and wines. Proceeds from the event went to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Maria Diestro of Second Harvest asked me to document the event with a sketch. She walked us in a little early so I could get a jump on the sketch.

The Orlando Marriott World Center desert station is what caught my eye. A weeping willow tree covered in red lights illuminated the center of the exhibit. One of those spinning racks from a dry cleaner was suspended and constantly rotating with plates of pastries and deserts. Yellow and red circles were also hung creating an ever changing Calderesque effect that was eye catching. Chef Ramon Ramos, who came over to see the drawing, came up with the idea for the rotating display, and Wizard Connection, a special events design company engineered the display. Wizard Connection had a hand in a few other displays notably backdrops that looked like working charcoal ovens.

On the left of my sketch, several volunteers were talking to the auctioneer for quite some time. They later looked over my shoulder to say, "Hey, that's me!" At the beginning of the event, only VIPs were sampling the pastries, but as the sketch progressed the display became mobbed. I decided to keep the crowd down in my sketch to show off the deserts spinning. For two hours as I sketched, I didn't taste any food. Terry wandered the event found some friends and sampled everything.

Jen Vargas stopped to say hello. She had on the new Google Glass that lets you stay digitally connected constantly. She is beta testing the devise. The display is just above the eye line so you can just glance up to look at a GPS map or check your social media. She let me try it on. She told me to say, "Take picture" and when I did, the device captured my view. I decided to say, "Sketch picture with loose ink and watercolor." The glasses responded, "Sorry Dave, I can't do that." The biggest drawback is that the power only lasts for an hour and a half. I suggested to Jen that they should have a pocket battery backup. "They thought of that and I have one." She said. When you use the battery, you truly look like a Borg since a wire sticks out of the side of your head.

When the sketch was done, I texted Terry and she took me to sample the dishes she liked most. Restaurant vendors were beginning to pack up. I got a small cup of sea food from Cala Bella Italian Bistro which was decent with calamari and I believe lobster. We tried a small bowl of soup from Cress up in Deland which was light and a bit spicy. Then we found a table and had a couple of Cokes. She suggested I walk around to see what else I could find. The only open vendor was Olive Garden Restaurant, so I had a small sample of pasta. All these amazing restaurants and I was stuck with a Darden Chain. I also returned to the desert turntable station and got Terry a grapefruit desert cup. I tried it and thought it was apricot. Alright, so taste isn't my strongest sense. I'm thinking I should start a "Sketch What You Eat Diet". By the time you sketch your food, the meal would be cold and therefor you would eat less. This could be bigger than the "South Beach Diet" and much easier. That is if you like to sketch of course.

Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign was also a beneficiary of Taste of the Nation. One in five children struggle with hunger. Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has raised more than $80 million dollars to fight hunger.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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