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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taste of the NFL - and Cincinnati!

The folks at the Freestore Foodbank were nice enough to send me (and 2 of my readers) free tickets to the Taste of the NFL. It's a yearly event with NFL teams across the country and they all benefit food banks in the NFL communities.

The event was held at Paul Brown Stadium and at $150/ticket - I was very thankful for the free tickets! But just because we got to go for free - there were plenty of other ways to help out Freestore at the event. They had a silent auction, raffles and information on their Power Pack program.

But - I was also there for the TASTE part of the event! 40 restaurants/chefs were participating and had so much amazing food - my friend Kelly and I were definitely in wonderland!

Jag's - Shrimp Cocktail 

First up was Jag's - they were pretty impressive - especially for our first bites! The shrimp were gigantic and the sauce had a nice kick to it!

Jag's 

This was their other option - Kelly and I shared dishes all night. I don't know what this was - except to say - amazing! I think it was Kelly's favorite of the night. The beef literally fell apart and was so delicious. The mushrooms were great as well and served with a little gravy over some grits. There was also a sour cream-ish type of sauce on top. All in all - a fantastic little plate of food. This was hard to beat for the night! 

Senate - Savory Maine Lobster Roll with Crispy Onions

Senate was the Honorary Restaurant for the event. Normally they're known for their hot dogs - but tonight we got to try their Lobster Roll. This event was great for me because I got to try some places I've never been - like Senate! 

The lobster roll was pretty good - not too mayonnaisy and lots of big chunks of lobster. I have never had one before - and from this experience - I would definitely try it again. 

Besides the food - there were local celebs there! Like the Bengals mascot!! I think I'll have a website devoted to all my pictures with mascots.

Dojo - Churro 

Next up was Dojo! I have known the owner of Dojo for a few years and am so proud and happy with the incredible success that Michael has had. I've never had a bad flavor and this day was no different! I tried the churro and it was fantastic! It was creamy and soothing with a bite of cinnamon and sugar. I could just imagine dipping a churro into it! 

Cincinnati Cooks! Calypso Citrus Shrimp Ceviche with homemade chips

I had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Freestore Foodbank and learning more about their Cincinnati Cooks program last fall. It was great to be able to get another taste of their goodies. I even got Kelly to try Ceviche! It was a little difficult to eat while holding a purse, camera, drink, etc... The ceviche was probably my favorite that I've had (I think maybe 3rd time). It was very limey - which I love. 

La Petite Pierre - Mediterranean Leg of Lamb, Tzatziki & Harissa & Greek Olive Chutney

I have been wanting to try La Petite Pierre for years so I was really excited to see their booth! Unfortunately I didn't love the lamb - it was a little dry and didn't have much flavor. My Greek blog winner agreed and wasn't too excited either. I'm guessing it was just an off night - I've always heard great things. 

Knotty Pine on the Bayou - Sauteed Shrimp 

The book lists this as "Sauteed Shrimp" - this was so much more than just sauteed shrimp. It was cajun, spicy, bubbling goodness! It was amazing!!! Definitely in the top 3 for the night - it was also pretty spicy! That stayed with us for a few booths...but I loved it!!!

Here was our big photo opp for the night - I saw Marvin walking by and grabbed him. He was so friendly and cordial - it was a really fun moment!

eat well Celebrations & Feasts - Tiger's Breath Popcorn

Next up was a bit of fun - Tiger's Breath Popcorn! There was a boiling cauldron that looked like it was out of a Disney movie! The popcorn went in and then right onto a plate. I think it "froze" the popcorn and then when you ate it - smoke came out your nose! It was fun! The popcorn didn't really have much flavor - but the fun factor made it a busy spot.

smoQ - Dry Rub St. Louis Ribs

Another place I was eager to try was smoQ! These ribs had a dry rub rather than a sauce - which I'd never actually had before. It was a fantastically cooked rib. Fall off the bone and juicy - definitely added to my "wishlist"!

Pit to Plate - BBQ Platter (Chicken, Pork & Beef)

BBQ fans in Cincinnati have been telling me for months to go to Pit to Plate and finally - I got to try it! I told them when I came up that they had big shoes to fill from what everybody had told me! They said they were ready for the challenge and that I would NOT be disappointed. 

They were right! This food was amazing!!!! I was partial to the chicken and the pork over the beef - but Kelly liked the beef the best. We both were flabbergasted at how delicious it all was! If we hadn't been eating for two hours - we would have gone back for more. I definitely can't wait to get to the restaurant and have even more! 

We also found Andrew Whitworth - well it's not like it was hard - he's enormous! I have to say - I think he'd had enough of all the people - he didn't actually speak. At least he took the picture.

This is the one thing I had to say - I was at an event for the Minnesota Vikings about 8 years ago on Draft Day at the Mall of America. Every single player was not just cordial but chatty and extremely friendly. I was hoping for that at this event - but not so much. I don't know if the times have changed or it was just a fluke and the Vikings are awesome (hehe - they are MY team).

Sugar Cupcakery - Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel Frosting

Sugar was there - of course - and had three varieties of cupcakes to try. I went for the chocolate and of course - loved it!

Bella Luna Cafe - Cannoli

By the time we got around to Bella Luna - we were in full-on dessert mode! The cannoli was so amazing! Crispy, chocolatey, creamy - zomg! How am I supposed to decide between their Bread Pudding and this amazing cannoli??? 

Jimmy G's - Japanese Surf & Wagyu Turf Terrine Sweet Pea Wasabi Puree - Dashi Gastrique

Jimmy G's isn't open yet - and to be honest - I sure hope the rest of the menu is better than this. Four of us looked at this - one bowed out before even trying it. Kelly and I were adventurous enough to try a bite. After the look on our face, the fourth backed out. It was pretty gross. Raw fish (and I like sushi) and the terrine and gak - it was just gross. Slices of this stuff that tasted like the jelly around a can of spam. 

We also caught Bobbie Williams giving a Cincinnati youth a great mentoring session. He was most definitely the rock star of the night - he had a smile for EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. Thanks Bobbie!

JP Chocolatier - Bottom Two: White Chocolate w/ Coconut, PB Jelly Filled Chocolate 

We were hanging out with our friend John and his friend and both decided to take off separately and do one last round on the food. We told them to bring us back something special - their choice. Oddly enough - they both brought back the same thing: CHOCOLATE! 

Kelly tried the top two - I tried the bottom two. The dark chocolate was filled with peanut butter and jelly and it was really great. I've had JP's before and it's always phenomenal. But...the white chocolate...I have to say - it doubled me over in pain. It was so good - it hurt! It was soft like frosting and rich and so amazing. The best part was that John's friend came back a couple of minutes later - with more of the same! This white chocolate bit was so amazing! It was the perfect way to end the night! 

If any of this food looks good - then hey - you should donate to the Freestore Foodbank! (How does that correlate directly? Not sure - but seriously - it's an awesome cause - go for it! Donate food, money, time - whatever you can!) 
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