When it comes to Cleveland sports, the Browns always seem to get a bad rap. But while I can’t comment about them on the field (I’ll let someone like Waiting for Next Year or Bitter Orange & Brown wax much more philosophic on the subject than I ever could), I will say I have a new, huge respect for the team after this week’s Taste of the Browns.
Since running the giveaway last month, I’d been looking forward to my first time attending Taste of the Browns. A roving tasting event, it’s one of the Cleveland Foodbank‘s largest fundraisers. I had also heard a lot of great things about it from Bite Buff, who used to plan the event when she worked at the Foodbank.
I have to confess, Monday’s Taste of the Browns was my first time in Browns Stadium (I’m a horrible Clevelander and haven’t been to a game yet). I see it every day as I drive to and from work, but have never been up close. There is something so impressively massive about the Browns stadium when you’re walking up to it.
Standing beneath the entrance, I definitely had a quiet moment of awe, as one of the area’s high school marching bands played in the background. This awe continued as I took the escalators to the second floor and walked into the event. Not only were there restaurants set up farther than I could even see, the open space was accented by a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window looking onto a magnificent view of downtown Cleveland.
After getting my bearings, it was time to taste. I started with a braised veal on bruchetta with truffles and asiago from Johnny’s Bar on Fulton. It was incredibly rich and tender, melting in my mouth. Definitely a good starter as I continued to make my way throughout the rooms.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I stopped at all of the 25+ food stations, because I was in a continual daze of food bliss throughout the evening. Some of the highlights for me included Light Bistro’s lamb kebob and the trifecta of AMP 150′s corn soup with pickled ramps, Bar Cento’s truffles chicken liver mousse with Ohio peach gastrique, and Blue Point’s raw oyster bar in one corner.
Hudson, Ohio’s One Red Door was also there. I’ve never been so I had been looking forward to stopping by their station. They offered a roasted date stuffed with manchego, chorizo and bacon wrapped along with a smoked tomato sauce. This was ridiculous and I need to now make the trip to Hudson to eat there.
My favorite of the evening, though, was Melange. They’re another reason I miss living on the East Side because I would be there much more often if I did.
At Taste of the Browns, they served a watermelon gazpacho soup with a poached shrimp. After an evening full of delicious but rich foods, this was a simply perfect change in pace. It was fresh with a little bit of spicyness to it. And although the weather has turned cool in Cleveland, it was nice to have that last taste of summer with the watermelon. It was an incredible way to conclude the evening’s food.
After filling myself, I had to walk it off so I explored the room a bit more. There were auctions and raffles galore and for all the Cleveland sports fans in attendance, a multitude of Browns players and alumni. In addition to left tackle Joe Thomas who co-chaired the event, Joshua Cribbs, Seneca Wallace, Steve Vallos, Brian Schaefering, Mike Adams, Reggie Hodges and Browns president Mike Holmgren were there to meet fans, sign autographs and enjoy the food with the rest of us.
The player or alumni who really stood out, though, was former defensive linemen and the man behind Bubba’s Q’s bbq smoker – Al “Bubba” Baker. As the other co-chair and unofficial emcee for the event, he brought the Browns players up to the stage to introduce and thank them. Just like what you’ll find at Bubba’s Q in Avon, he was gregarious, bubbly, and warm.
He also donated a double-tailgater for the raffle. The lucky winner won four slabs of baby back ribs, four slabs of St. Louis ribs, four four-pound chickens, a half-gallon of Cole slaw, a half-gallon of baked beans, a half-gallon of macaroni and cheese or a large, double order of fries, 32 muffins and plenty of sauce.
While my raffle tickets may not have been chosen, I wasn’t too upset since the funds raised by the raffle, auctions and tickets went towards the Cleveland Foodbank. Last year’s event raised $120,000. This year, Taste of the Brown was expected to exceed $140,000 with every dollar providing 4 meals to the hungry in our six-county area.
As I looked down on the Browns’ football field towards the end of the evening and reflected on this event’s huge impact, it was that number that impressed me most of all.
Of course, don’t just take my word for it. I reached out to Kate, the winner of my ticket giveaway, to see if she and her guest enjoyed their evening. Here’s what she wrote:
My boyfriend, Justin, and I were thrilled with the Taste of the Browns. We had a blast getting all “dolled up” for the event and were impressed with the stadium, the view and especially the food. Some of our favorites included the sushi by Sushi Rock, the mole tacos by Momocho and the to-die-for cupcakes by Cream-n-Sugar Bakery. The ice sculpture near the bar was a cool touch (pun intended) and the auction prizes were plentiful and impressive. All in all it was a wonderful event for a great cause and we feel very lucky to have been able to attend.”
If you didn’t get a chance to attend Taste of the Browns, there are plenty of other ways to give back to the Cleveland Foodbank. In addition to their year-round need for volunteers and donations, they currently are running the Can of Nothing campaign and will be at this weekend’s IngenuityFest.
And for all of you yoga and Cleveland Foodbank fans out there, The Studio Cleveland is holding an open level class on September 30. As part of National Yoga Month, the Connect Globally, Give Locally event is donation based with all proceeds going to the Cleveland Foodbank. More information can be found on their Facebook event page.
Cleveland Foodbank 411:
As was previously disclosed, I was provided one media pass to Taste of the Browns. My thoughts – as always - are 100% my own.