Friday, September 4, 2009

Taste of Sanford

Last night the Sanford Chamber of Commerce held their first Taste of Sanford event. From the good turnout to the mounds of great food to the music and seating, it was a hit. I was nervous about it because of the rain we've been having, but it was inside in a nice location right by Fort Mellon Park. There were about 10-15 major restaurants there and a number of smaller places as well. As you might guess, there was a wide variety of food, much of it very good, some of it only mediocre or average.

First, the hit appetizer of the evening, in my mind, was the bacon wrapped fig from Gourmet 2 Go. What an idea. Bite-size, sweet and savory, it was wonderful. I did wonder what it would be like dipped in chocolate, but still, it was excellent and a novel idea. Entree of the evening? Well, there were several places that really shined, all for different reasons:

  • Angelo's Pizzeria had a great chicken and penne and mushroom dish served with a bit of salad. Nice combination (the hot/cold and the crisp/creamy) and the chicken and penne dish was very, very good. A+ to them (picture below).

  • Giovanni's had two dishes. The pasta primavera was a miss, the pasta overcooked and mushy. But to make up for it, their chicken and mushrooms and penne (think marsala) was excellent--very savory and cooked just perfectly. Give then an A for that!
  • Luigino's had a very nice sampler. The meatball was OK, just a meatball. The crab stuffed ravioli was excellent, as was the slice of prime rib--it was to die for. And they had a dish with chicken in a thick mushroom sauce, it was excellent as well. Give them an A- and put them on my list of places to eat (picture below).

  • Colorado Prime Steak had a great prime rib sandwich with a very nice homemade horseradish sauce. I'd give them a B+ and also put them on my list of places to eat especially since their menu prices seem very reasonable.
Rivership Romance had some very tender pork loin, perfectly cooked and seasoned, served with some black bean and corn salsa. Very good and give them a B+ as well (picture below).

The winner in the "combo plate" category--that is, a nicely prepared plate of things that not only were designed to compliment each other but were also nicely presented goes to Two Blondes and a Shrimp. Their combination of a hearty and spicy sloppy-joe style entree served on a carrot puree paired with a slice of corn bread and offset by a celery slaw with a drizzle of chili oil was brilliant. Looked good and tasted good (picture below).

In the middle of the pack was a disappointment--Stone's Throw Bistro had a shepherd's pie that was good, but just not great. To top it off, their presentation was sorely lacking--their table really had nothing on it to tell me something about their personality. I was disappointed by that. I'd give their food a C+, I expected better from a place that got several high marks from Seminole Magazine recently. [Note: since I first wrote the above, I heard from the chef/owner of Stone's Throw Bistro and he did explain how a series of unfortunate personal crises among the staff kinda popped the bubble on what they had planned. They did the best they could in unfortunate circumstances, he said. I sure will eat here again, their food was good, I'm sorry that their showing at Taste of Sanford was not so good, but stuff happens in life. I still recommend you try them out some time. It's because I've had their good food that I was disappointed. Tell them the Lake Mary Food Critic sent you!]

Hilton Garden in gets a B- for their empanada and their bruschetta--the presentation is what elevated them from a C. Nice presentation of the bruschetta with some orchid blossoms on the tray--looked very appetizing and was pretty good too (picture below).
Another round of high marks for presentation goes to Amura, their boatloads of shrimp sushi were fun to look at and the taste was spot-on, along with the braised ribs. Yumm, I'll give them a B+ as well.

And I can't forget Route 46. I've eaten there before and it's pretty good, nice smoked BBQ flavors. Their offerings were a smoked sausage on a stick, and a bacon wrapped smoked shrimp with BBQ sauce. Both were pretty darned good, I'll give them a B- as well.

In the disappointing category there were several "standouts":
  • Ruth's Chris Steak House did not impress me. Sure their ravioli were pretty good, and the bun on the mini burger (think a big slider) was excellent, but the burger itself was just a burger. They did not really tell me anything about their fine reputation. They get a C and mostly for the great bun on the slider.
  • Carlos n Charlies did not deliver, outside of their margaritas. The chips and guacamole and chips and pico de gallo had great chips, but the accompaniments missed. The pico was OK, not too bad, but the guacamole was just some green goo on a plate that was lifeless and flavorless. They get a D for disappointing. However they did have one guy there that gets an A for effort, friendly, bubbly, a good sell, when we left he was convincing a few of the young women to dance, and doing a good job at it. He sells me on that place being a party place, i get it. Only the food is not that great.
  • Don Pablo's had a soft shell taco that was about like any other soft shell taco you can get or make for yourself. It was OK but not great. Another D for disappointing.
In the dessert category, well, I don't do much desserts, but there were several my friends liked and none they did not so all the desserts get a B. And also thanks to Wayne Densch for the beer, and Cork and Olive for the wine.

The Taste of Sanford was a wonderful time. I'd go again next year, for sure. Thanks!


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