For it’s 5th anniversary Sarasota’s Taste of the Suncoast needed a change of venue and it got one. And, a good one at that. The annual food sampling event which benefits the All Faiths Food Bank was moved this year from it’s old home at Robarts Arena to the Westfield Southgate Mall. The move proved to be a just what the event needed. The evening also had two new presenting sponsors, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals and Westfield Southgate.
At first the new location in the mall seemed to be a little odd and surreal. We’re talking about shoppers with their purchases mingling in the aisles with foodies carrying small plates and wine glasses. A little weird, but it worked out great. The important thing is that people seemed to enjoy the new location. The night started off on the slow side but seemed to pick up steam (and people) as it went along.
The entire length of the mall was stocked with booths from close to 50 local restaurants. In addition to food, there was a cigar station, several alcohol beverage stations, two silent auctions areas and live entertainment throughout the evening. Representatives of the event said they were expecting around 500 guests for the night. All proceeds will go to the food bank, which can use the donations now more than ever.
OK, here’s what you’ve been waiting to hear. What was served and what stood out. There was one thing that was very obvious, Sarasota has some great restaurants turning out some amazing dishes.
Here’s my top 3 in no particular order:
Libby’s Cafe + Bar – Meatball Sliders, The meatballs were tender, had a great spice and were huge for an event like this. Now bigger isn’t always better, but in this case it was. I guess you can make anything into a slider, I would personally have never thought meatball, but it was an excellent choice. Maybe that’s why they’re doing the cooking and I’m doing the eating.
Siesta Key Oyster Bar – Grouper Tacos, Red Grouper, lettuce, tomato and a nice light sauce. Put it all together on a flour tortilla and it’s delicious. Grouper makes an excellent filling for this dish. I know a lot of places now are doing fish tacos or shrimp tacos as a healthy alternative, but it’s that REAL grouper does the trick.
Deli Lane – Duck with Brie and Caramelized Onions, duck and brie cheese wrapped in a light and fluffy pastry and served with a tasty apricot sauce. These turnovers were so light and flaky you could have eaten a whole plate of them. You might think that using duck in this dish might tend to be a little on the greasy side. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It had a great rich taste with the duck and brie really working nicely together, neither overpowering the other.
For the first year in its new home the Taste of the Suncoast was a big success. A lot of money was donated to a great local cause and lots of great food was consumed by an enthusiastic crowd. It’s nice to be able to sample such a wide variety of local food in just one stop. Hopefully, the folks who attended will pick a few favorites of their own and make a stop at the restaurant for a meal. It’s more important than ever that we support our local restaurant and dining community here in Sarasota. If you were there and had something outstanding to eat, leave a comment below and let the rest of us know about it.