Havana Beach, amici 30A Italian Kitchen win event’s first contest
March 3, 2020
By Michelle Farnham
The weather outside the tent was blustery, but inside the sixth annual Taste of the Race was hopping, with 20 food stations and an open bar to keep the party going.
The night kicked off with a press conference with Chef Emeril Lagasse, who fielded questions from a panel of Seaside Neighborhood School students. The entire Race Weekend – which also includes a half marathon and 5K – benefits the public charter school. During the Porsche of Destin VIP Experience, those same students passed hors d’oeuvres they made themselves.
Lagasse, whose own children attended Seaside, was pleased with the event’s continued success.
“It’s a great cause to support the school and the race, which is why we got involved. Hopefully things keep evolving and the school keeps evolving,” Lagasse said. “I thought the students tonight did an amazing job and their food is amazing as well.”
In the main tent, chefs and the more than 600 ticket-holders were asked to vote for their favorite dishes – something new this year. Capturing the Chef’s Choice Award was amici 30A Italian Kitchen for their arancini, meatballs and mini cannolis, while Havana Beach Bar & Grill was the top vote-getter in the People’s Choice category with a braised beef short ribs dish.
Restaurateur Jim Shirley, a longtime supporter of Seaside Neighborhood School whose Ji•Shi Ki•Chn was on hand dishing up his famous paella, explained the added facet.
“We wanted to make things a little more fun for everyone,” Shirley said. “This is an incredible group of chefs – we all know each other – so a little bit of competition is fun. I want to thank everyone who came out tonight; it’s sold out so you can’t beat that. Events like this make Seaside School the school
that it is.”
Whatever diners were in the mood for, it was probably available. Lagasse’s Emeril’s Coastal Italian team was serving malfatti bolognese – an old fashioned Italian dumpling – and Louisiana crawfish shells and cheese. Toward the end of the evening, they offered up Louisiana’s own Zapp’s Potato Chips topped with dip and – get this – caviar.
Across the aisle, Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar dished up an orzo pasta salad with brown butter sage shrimp. Caliza Restaurant served an Alabama Blue Crab Salad that earned high praise while Bud & Alley’s offered a barbecued shrimp with grilled andouille and jalapeño cornbread. One of the more visually striking plates of the night, FOOW Restaurant served poached shrimp and crawfish gumbo with scratch biscuits.
Representing Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, Chef Dan Vargo sliced pepper-crusted New York strip steak with a mushroom and fig demi-glace.
“It’s a crowd-pleaser and the fig and mushroom sauce go very well with the Prime beef,” Vargo said, adding that Seagar’s has been a part of Taste of the Race since the beginning. “We’re very proud of the relationship we have with the Emeril Foundation and Taste of the Race.”
Other culinary vendors included Acme Oyster House, Aegean Restaurant, amigos 30A Mexican Kitchen, Coastal Catering & Events, Grayton Beer Brew Pub, Roux 30a, Signature Catering of 30a, Stinky’s Fish Camp, Surfing Deer, Sweet Henrietta’s Treats, Swiftly Catered, and Seaside Neighborhood School Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen students. Bar sponsorship came from Pepsi, Grayton Beer Company, Seeing Red Wine Festival, Distillery 98, Republic National, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and Sazerac.