Monday, August 24, 2015

Orlando's best chefs were at Taste of the Nation.

Taste of the Nation was held at Orlando World Center Marriott on August 8th. Money raised at the 26th annual gala went to Share our Strength, Coalition for the Homeless and Second Harvest Food Bank. Taste of the Nation is the nation's premier culinary benefit dedicated to making sure no kids go hungry. Each spring and summer, the nations hottest chefs and mixologists donate their time, talent and passion at nearly 40 Taste of the Nation events across the United States and Canada with one goal in mind, to raise critical funds.needed to end childhood hunger.

I have sketched and reported on this gala for the past few years. In the past, Disney's Artist Point was lavishly decorated but this year there was no decoration, it was strictly about the food. Orlando World Marriott Center however never fails to amaze with the way they present their food. This year's display was almost circus like with changing lights and tall  lighting supports acting as towers. It was a quick and easy decision to sketch this display. The deserts being offered were even more impressive in their artistry and taste.

Several times I was offered food and drink, but I always resist the temptation until the sketch is complete. By the time I get to try some of the samples, there are no longer any lines at the tables. My first bite was a light mac and cheese from Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord Palms. I washed it down with a tiny bottle of "Smoked Bourbon Blackberry Tea" from Orlando Airport Marriott Lakesite, which had a flavorful kick.  The Tea which included smoked Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Darjeeling tea, hibiscus, lemon peel and strawberry.The tiny bottle was genius because I could tuck it away in my suit pocket and leave my hands for the plate and utensils. I heard that some patrons were hoarding the brew in every imaginable pocket. When I went back to try a second bottle, they were gone.

My second taste was at Yak and Yeti from Disney's Wild Kingdom. They served a pork cheek spicy taco. The tasty taco danced on the edge of my spicy hot tolerance levels. I ate it but wasn't tempted to try another. Cassa Bella served Sausage Capella which was quite delicious. I then ended my tasting spree back at the Orlando World Center Marriott to try their creative deserts. These gorgeous deserts were the perfect taste to complete the night.

In the hall outside the Ballroom, a Japanese sugar artist, Sugimori "Candy" Miyukiwas, busy sculpting candy creations for patrons. The candy was hot with a consistency of taffy. She would sculpt a horse, dragonfly, or any creature imaginable in a matter of minutes. Her hands moved with nimble dexterity. The line for the free candy creations was long. Last year $301,317 was raised at the Orlando Taste of the Nation to fight hunger, I have no doubt that just as much, if not more, was raised this year.

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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