As I write this I am literally and figuratively digesting a few dozen restaurants that we just sampled at the Children’s Home Society’s 25th Annual Chef Sampler. We’ve attended these a few times in the past (my company used to do the printing so I was able to go to one or two many years ago and then Todd and I went last year for the first time together) and it’s always been a foodie highlight. This year…
First a few disappointments. After searching for a parking space at the AMC end of Tallahassee Mall we finally get in and up to the counter to find that you cannot purchase tickets at this entrance. No, you have to drive to the opposite end of the Mall and enter near Guitar Center. Ugh! The door is being held open by a politician stumping for votes in the upcoming City Commissioners race. Finally, there are lines out the wazoo, going every which way, it seems, and no real order to be found.
On the up side, it’s the most crowded I’ve *ever* seen one of these events which is great for the Society but there was also a much more casual air among the attendees and there were several children running around. At the risk of sounding elitist–it just wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from this sort of event.
But enough of that, what about the food? There seemed to be an unofficial theme going–we encountered around 4 gumbos, 3 crab cakes and 3 versions of shrimp & grits in the 90 minutes or so that we were there. That seems like an awful lot to me. Most were tasty, in their own way, with only a few disappointments. My biggest complaint were the various shrimp dishes (with or without the grits) served with tails on. It really is tacky of a chef to serve sauced shrimp with a tail you have to navigate around–especially when you’re balancing your plate on your program which is already balanced on a small drink cup and you’re using your chest to leverage the lot!
There also seemed to be a lot of chains, both local and national represented and less in the way of local gems, though there were a few of those to be sampled as well.
Todd probably summed it up best when he mentioned, as we were leaving, that it was a bit of a disappointment compared to last year. Whether it was the promoters catering to a different demographic or just the lack of originality in the offerings it makes us think twice about going next year and paying $50 a person to be herded like cattle through a noisy, crowded mall.
For the full play-by-play of the various restaurants that participated, feel free to check out the (very long, I’m warning you, but with plenty of links to the various eateries) full listing over at Nibbles & Bites.