By CHERIL VERNON
More than 300 people attended the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of Palestine event — getting the opportunity to taste different types of food, desserts and wine from 15 local businesses including restaurants and wineries.
Amanda McNeel attended the event with her son, Connor, 13.
“We really enjoyed it. There was lots of variety and it seemed like everyone was trying to outdo each other this year, so there really was the best of everything,” McNeel said.
At the end of the event, those who attended voted in four categories: Best Entree, Best Presentation, Best Winery and Best Dessert.
A first-time participant, Palestine restaurant Red Fire Grille received two of those awards — Best Entree and Best Presentation.
“We moved to Palestine a year ago about the time of last year’s Taste of Palestine event. That was our first week, here to seal the deal on the Redlands building where we operate,” Red Fire Grille executive chef Christian Mailloux said after receiving the award. “Tonight, we were 30 people deep non-stop for two hours serving food. We are so overwhelmed. It’s a great honor to win. The food scene in Palestine is changing. This was a great opportunity for us to grow and serve people.”
Red Fire Grille menu choices for the Taste of Palestine included a gluten-free jumbo lump crab cake served with fresh corn salsa with cilantro lime sauce and chipotle aioli over green onion mashed potatoes, topped with micro basil. Another entree was a marinated grilled beef tenderloin tip over horseradish mashed potatoes, served with grilled squash or zucchini with a demi glace.
Bon Appetit Coffee Shop & Bakery won the Best Dessert award, serving several dessert options including raspberry tiramisu, carrot cake, cream of coconut cake, Texas sheetcake, strawberry dessert and pecan sandies.
“We’re excited and so happy to have Pierre (the trophy) back,” Bon Appetit co-owner Peggy Marchant said after winning the trophy. For the past two years, Bon Appetit won the Best Bakery award before the award categories were changed.
Sweet Dreams Winery won the Best Winery trophy for 2013, showcasing a selection of wines this year, including their newest addition, PawPaw’s Mayhaw.
“We’re glad to get the trophy back this year. We enjoy the competition and have a lot of fun at these things,” Sweet Dreams Winery co-owner Mike Pell said.
Pell said his favorite part of his winery business is interacting with people.
“I enjoy the people the most, introducing them to new wines,” Pell said.
The 15 participating businesses had the opportunity to showcase the best from their menu including: Bishop’s Brisket House, Bon Appetit Coffee Shop & Bakery, Cotton Patch, Dairy Queen, Denny’s, Don Mario’s, El Toro, Granny Muffin Wines, LLC., Mazzio’s Pizza, Red Fire Grille, Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus, Palestine Regional Medical Center, Sweet Dreams Winery, Dogwood Diner and Lakeview Methodist Conference Center.
Don Mario’s owner Mario Garcia said he was glad his restaurant participated this year.
“You get to see a lot of people. It helps build up your business and it’s good to show the community that we are here for them,” Garcia said. “I got the opportunity to see lots of our regular customers who were happy to see us here.”
Dogwood Diner owner Sam Aryanpur gave credit to Chamber of Commerce’s administrative assistant Kristy Kirkwood for all of her hard work on the event.
“Kristy does a good job. It’s a good way to see your competition, your friends and visit with your customers,” Aryanpur said.
Palestine Regional Medical Center was one of the participants in the Taste of Palestine event.
“Palestine Regional believes in being a part of every community event as much as possible to show our support to local businesses. Palestine Regional offers lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, including the best fried fish on Fridays,” PRMC marketing coordinator Meredith Mahan said.
One of the most popular vendors at the Taste of Palestine was Cotton Patch. Not only did they serve four entrees, dessert and drinks, they also had a “Wheel of Fortune,” giving away T-shirts, discounts and freebies.
“We went big this year. We brought the canopy, our wheel, prizes, four different entrees, dessert and drinks,” Cotton Patch manager Mark Haley said. “Our Dr. Pepper™ Cake was a big hit.”
This was Palestine Mayor Thomas Therrell’s first time to attend the Taste of Palestine event.
“I thought it was awesome. For my first time, I’m impressed,” Therrell said. “The Chamber put a lot of effort into this and did a bang-up job. They represented Palestine well.”
Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce member Kevin Watts chaired the Taste of Palestine event.
“It went really great. I want to thank all of the volunteers, the Chamber ambassadors and board members who made this all work, all I did was delegate a little,” Watts said. “The community really came out. We had good participation from the vendors and everybody really seemed to enjoy it.”
Local Mary Kay director Mattie Jackson also had fun, attending the Taste of Palestine for the first time.
“I really enjoyed it — good atmosphere and everybody seems to be happy,” Jackson said.
During the event, Smokin’ Country provided the music and Ben E. Keith provided beverages.