A wide array of area chefs, restaurants and caterers competed for the People's Choice award for Best Appetizer and Best Dessert. (There's also a contest for Best Tablescape, which went to Secret Window Floral Studio this year.)
For a second year running, host outfit Crowne Plaza Hotel won the appetizer category, this year with its elaborate Tuscan duck plate (see it and read a description on this slideshow here).
Walter's Bistro walked away with the dessert nod, crafting a beautiful mini slipper out of chocolate.
Before I get into discussing my favorite foods of the evening this year — for a look at the previous two years' events, click here and here — I want to remind you what this event is all about in terms of who it benefits.
Zonta works internationally to "advance the status of women," and here in our community that means giving money to organizations like TESSA, the Women's Resource Agency and the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado, as well as sponsoring an undergraduate student annually at UCCS.
Laura Stamp, Zonta District 12 Area 4 Director, explains that our 65-year-old local chapter tends to give about 25 to 30 percent of annual funds raised to projects worldwide, and the rest to local efforts.
They hold two meetings a month — one a business meeting and the other more of a program-oriented meeting — at a local restaurant (guests pay their own way). At the program meetings, often guest speakers lecture; one recent topic was the experience of women pilots in the military, with local pilots helping honor historic Zonta member Amelia Earhart. Dues are currently $130 annually, with no pressure to give more money or donate time; it remains an all-volunteer organization.
This year's Glass Slipper Ball's net proceeds are around $26,000 according to president Sharon Roggy. That's a preliminary figure, as not every last dollar is in the door and accounted for, but that figure "is actually almost double last year which was $14,800," she says, adding that "gaining the support of so many wonderful sponsors this year was definitely a factor in this increase as well as the Live Auction and increased attendance."
OK ... so on to some food chatter, the real reason I believe I'm graciously invited each year to attend as comped media.
What's fun for foodies here is the treat of trying a whole bunch of fancy small plates that are vying for your vote, while knowing that your $100 entry goes to a very worthwhile cause. (And by the way, this live auction features big prizes such as a trips to wine country, France and China.)
The participating food folks go all out, with odd and creative pairings and presentations, which says nothing of the accompanying regional wine reps on hand pouring samples of excellent wines (included in the entry cost).
I won't entirely disagree with my fellow guests who voted for the People's Choice awards by picking my individual favorites here; instead I'll in no particular order discuss some personal highlights.
• Bella Panini's cherry bisque. Wow. I've had common bisque bowls like lobster of course, but never a semi-sweet bisque like this. The savory and sweet elements were in perfect balance and there was a great, natural cherry flavor. Bonus points for color too: no screamin' bright red synthetic weirdness or anything off-putting.
• Outgoing Craftwood Inn chef Ben Hoffer, representing a fun spin on the ghetto-glorified chicken and waffles concept: adobo lime chicken on coconut ginger waffles. Again a beautiful marriage of sweet and savory.
• Never doubt why Jun Aizu wins our reader-voted Indy Best Of contest annually. He sources amazingly fresh fish, in this case a Hawaiian Poki and Colorado Striped Bass which he served ceviche-style. Yum!
• Thank you Serranos for introducing me to the technology that is the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. It was fun to sample the less-bitter brew, especially as an Americano-style diluted shot of goodness.
• Dear Jake (of Jake & Telly's): Opa! (Thanks for the ouzo shot.)
• Dear Alicia (of Blue Star/Nosh): The paper bags of cookies set aside with my name of them (see slideshow above), complete with milk and million-dollar smile ... I just hope you could see the cartoon-style hearts floating out of my chest. They were there. I saw them.
• My old boss from Sencha, Brent Beavers, back on the scene where he belongs, with the new sustainability-minded Conscious Table. Good to see him out of the retirement home gig and especially Giuseppe's, dishin' a delicious plate of bison meatballs with a Thai red curry sauce. (P.S. See you at the CRA Hospitality Expo on March 11, this time as teammates instead of rivals, so I hear.)
• To Blue Sage Catering and Café: the fact that you displayed my review of your eatery as part of your table decor was awesome. Not as awesome as the Pueblo green chile chorizo meatballs you served, but close.
• Will I ever write one of these blogs without mentioning the always dominating and divine Margarita at PineCreek? Probably not — their fault for rockin' it 24-7 (or whatever hours they're open). That Crawfish Monica was quite the stunner. Creole goodness in a rich pasta setting ... so what if I did come back for thirds?
• Walter's Bistro did totally earn the vote for coolest dessert. The mini slippers were simply badass, and worth this parting porn shot here: