Culinary masterpieces shine at 33rd annual Taste of the Town
Every corner of the exhibit hall at the The Woodlands Waterway Marriott and Convention Center offered delicious treats Thursday night, when thousands of foodies from around the region gathered to feast on bites from local restaurants at The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce’s 33rd annual Taste of the Town.
The event brought more than 45 area restaurants, bakeries, breweries and bars, including local staples like Goode Company, Robard’s Steakhouse and the newly opened Sorriso Modern Italian Kitchen to the hotel, where unlimited samples awaited guests for only the price of admission.
“We’re all about expanding business in our community,” said Meagen Korenek, the chamber’s director of special events. “This event is perfect because we can showcase all the restaurants in the area and we get to showcase why people should come here and find their new favorite restaurant.”
Taste of the Town is meant to showcase the culinary talents of Spring, The Woodlands and Conroe, but there was still room for a little friendly competition — Houston Restaurant Weeks founder Cleverly Stone, Hot Line Pepper Products founder Kerry Stessel, Houston Food Finder Editor and Publisher Phaedra Cook and Houston media personality Greg Onofrio were on hand to judge the evening’s Best of Taste’s Best Appetizer, Best Entrée and Best Dessert.
Defending champion Avenida Brazil Churrascaria Steakhouse were back with a vengeance, hoping their sirloin steak with creamy Parmesan au gratin potatoes could win Best Entrée for the second year in a row.
“It made him happy,” said co-owner Melissa Abrantes of Executive Chef Vanderlei Bernardi. “He loved it — he felt like it would be a good one to bring back because we offer it at the restaurant.”
But, it was not to be — Truluck’s Seafood Steak & Crab House took the grand prize with their sweet and spicy Icelandic cod with heirloom tomato and avocado salad with sweet chili, each one handcrafted by Executive Chef Shane Flynn.
“I’m very proud of him,” managing partner Chris Davis said. “He’s been working really hard on this.”
Robard’s Steakhouse Executive Pastry Chef Ryan Witcher’s chocolate ice cream was nothing short of a production — a liquid ice cream base made with Valrhona 70 percent dark chocolate Guanaja was poured into a dry ice bowl, mixed with Meyer lemon olive oil and fleur de sel salt, whipped and served in a chocolate waffle cone. At Robard’s, he said, it’s made tableside.
“I’m going for Best Dessert, Best Table, People’s Choice — everything,” Witcher said.
The production worked — Witcher and his team tasted sweet victory when the Best Dessert award was announced.
And of the generous helping of bacon bits in each serving?
“We’re in Texas,” Witcher said.
Broken Barrel was able to pull off a repeat for Best Appetizer, its toston with refried beans, Adobo pork, pickled onions and burnt salsa bringing home the award for the second year in a row.
For the first time, too, guests were able to have their voice heard, with a People’s Choice Award and an award for Best Decorated Booth.
The event is one of the many the chamber does year-round to promote and expand business in The Woodlands, Korenek said. All of the 95 total vendors at the event were chamber members and Taste of the Town is a way for them to not only promote themselves, but support their fellow business owners. The event is steadily growing, she added, and the 3,000 visitors expected at the 2019 were the most they’ve seen.
“We’re on target,” Korenek said.
Proceeds from the event, sponsored by Randall Reed’s Planet Ford and Visit The Woodlands, go toward business expansion and retention programs in the township.