***Have you entered to win tickets to Vintage Ohio yet? I’m giving away two sets of two tickets to this great event, courtesy of the Lake County Ohio Visitor’s Bureau. You have until 11:50pm on Tuesday, July 19 to enter, so get to it! Click here to enter.***
Instead of the usual weekend recap, I simply have to devote an entire post to the amazing event that CLEguy and I attended on Saturday night: the 9th annual Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration. We were lucky enough to receive tickets to this incredible event while attending the opening party for the Washington Place patio. And since then, I have literally been counting the days until we could head out the the Culinary Vegetable Institute for an evening of food, wine, and philanthropy.
Veggie U is a curriculum-based program, implemented in fourth-grade classrooms across the country to teach children where our food comes from and the importance of healthy eating. This food and wine celebration isn’t just about delicious eats and drinks, but about raising money and awareness of this amazing program. Aside from ticket sales, there were live and silent auctions, t-shirt sales, “sponsor a classroom” donations, and more.
The focus of the activity Saturday evening was the “tasting tent.” Here, various restaurants and wineries offered delicious small bites and pours to satisfy even the most ardent foodie. I told CLEguy I felt like I was on an episode of “Top Chef!” Rather than tell you bite by bite about all the yummyness, I’ll give you a list of my Top 10 Moments at Veggie U…
1. Our very first stop inside the tasting tent was at Gruppo Mezzacorona, where splits of sparkling wine were served with twisty straws. This is clearly the best way ever to enjoy sparkling wine.
2. Sweets by Maggie! Turtle cake balls! Salted caramel cake balls! Port wine brownies! Lavendar cupcakes! Grand Marnier cherry cupcakes! Yum!
3. Mackenzie Creamery featured three different flavors of Ohio goat cheese: pesto, pimento, and honey and fig. The pesto was amazing and I probably could have eaten the entire tray.
4. CLEguy’s favorite dish of the night: Cayman-style fish tea from The Brasserie in the Cayman Islands. This slightly creamy soup featured conch, red snapper, and Chef’s Garden vegetables.
5. Seeing restaurants from CLE and all over (Cayman Islands, Utah, Florida, South Carolina) using Chef’s Garden vegtables to present amazing, tasty treats.
6. Running into foodie friends, such as Poise in Parma and Chef Chris Quinn.
7. The offerings from Deagan’s Kitchen, The Greenhouse Taven, Three Birds, and AMP 150. Deagan’s lobster nachos, with avocado, corn and sweet soy glaze were delicious (and not just because I got the last one). The Greenhouse Tavern’s provencal broth with fresh Chef’s Garden vegetable and rabbit ravioli was fresh and savory. Three Birds put smoked duck over a vanilla and orange pound cake, with peach and cherry sauces, blending savory and sweet perfectly. AMP 150’s chilled duck breast makes me even more determined to get back to the restaurant to see what Chef Jarrett is cooking up.
8. The line for Jeni’s Ice Cream was about as long as it is on a Saturday night at their Chagrin Falls shop, but it was worth the wait. The black raspberry and sweet corn ice cream was inspired!
9. The bumper crop of veggies displayed during the event, which people could take home at the end. And the fact that there was a mad rush to take home bags of vegetables!
10. Getting a chance to chat with Farmer Lee Jones, the man behind the Culinary Vegetable Institute, Chef’s Garden, and Veggie U, and getting to meet his lovely wife. These are two people who are genuinely committed to what they do and who are incredibly gracious and welcoming hosts. Thanks for a wonderful evening, Farmer Lee!
Hopefully you’ll put the Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration on your calendar for next year – I know it will be on ours! A couple tips if you do go: It was HOT in the tents and a few extra fans probably would have helped to keep the melting (of people) to a minimum. Find a spot by a fan and camp out for a bit. Also, a lot of restaurants were running out of food around 8pm and some were less than gracious when they did, so if you go next year, go early!
The Culinary Vegetable Institute and Veggie U are doing amazing things to promote healthy, locally-grown, sustainable eating. Support the restaurants that use their products and donate to Veggie U – you’ll be glad you did!
***Disclosure: While attending the Washington Place patio opening party, we heard a presentation from Farmer Lee Jones about the Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration. All in attendance at the patio party received a ticket to attend the Veggie U event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***