Event Review: Pittsford Rotary’s 11th Annual “A Taste of Pittsford” Fundraiser


Pittsford Rotary Club’s 11th Annual, “A Taste of Pittsford”
(in cooperation with the Pittsford Chamber of Commerce)

Purpose:        Fundraiser for the Pittsford, New York Rotary Club
Location:        Nazareth College – Shults Center
When:            Monday, March 10, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Cost:              $45.00 per person

Event Overview
What a pleasure it was to attend the Pittsford Rotary Club’s 11th Annual, “A Taste of Pittsford” fundraiser event on Monday, March 10, 2014! This year’s sold out event hosted over 400 people, awarded 49 door prizes and offered 20 silent auction items. The memorable evening included tastings of signature hors d’oeuvres, gourmet innovations and delectable desserts of over a dozen Pittsford restaurants. In addition, regional wineries and breweries offered their libations, which complemented the food nicely. Live music also added a festive feel to the event.

Not only was this event was a great place to network, and mingle with friends and neighbors, but it also was a charitable endeavor. This annual “Taste of Pittsford” event raised funds to support the many projects and services of the Pittsford, NY Rotary Club. I especially appreciated that all of the proceeds from the ticket sales went directly to the Rotary Club of Pittsford. This was due to the participating restaurants, wineries, event host, and donors generously supplying the food, beverages, venue, door prizes and auction items at no cost.

The Venue
Held in the Nazareth College Shults Center, the bi-level venue was a great place to host the event, as it is conveniently located and easy to find on the grounds of the popular Pittsford campus. Not only was complementary, professional valet service offered, but ample self-service parking was also available in a well-lit, adjoining lot.

Each restaurant, winery and brewery staffed a table in one of several serving areas. Both the upstairs and downstairs spaces were set up with a generally circular participant table layout around the perimeter of the rooms. This encouraged patrons to roam from table to table to sample the cuisines being offered. In the center of each space, attendees could stand at one of several round high-top tables to enjoy their tasty treats. Other common areas offered tables and chairs for those who wanted to be a little more comfortable while dining.

Let’s not forget the beverages! A central space hosted the majority of the beverages, including wines, soda and water. However, other liquid refreshments such as coffee and beer were scattered throughout the venue.

Admittedly, the upstairs area was smaller and thus less accommodating than the larger, downstairs area. In the upper room, guests were more crowded and the room was quite warm. This may have been due to the live music upstairs, or simply that several of the vendors upstairs were cooking at their tables, contributing to the heat. However, I was pleased that both rooms were wheelchair accessible, being outfitted with indoor ramps and railings.

Food and Beverages
Restaurants, wineries, brewers and spirit makers which participated the 2014 event included:

Erie Grill at the DelMonte                   Grey Ghost Catering at The Highands
Black & Blue Steak and Crab              Lemoncello Italian Restaurant and Bar
Simply Crepes                                  Coal Tower Restaurant
Mario’s Italian Steakhouse                 Red Tail Ridge Winery
The Original Crab Shack                    Anthony Road Winery
Label 7 Napa Eatery and Bar              Apple Country Spirits
Village Bakery and Cafe                     Lake Ontario Winery
Jo Jo Bistro and Wine Bar                  White Springs Winery
Back Nine Grill                                  Casa Larga Veneyards and Winery
Corner Bakery Cafe                           Swedish Hill Winery
Good Smoke BBQ                              Beans & Machines
Lisa’s Quality Catering and Cafe         The Victor Brewery
Hicks & McCarthy Restaurant             Tandoor of India

My oh my did we eat! My event companion and I did a stellar job of covering all of the event area – we didn’t want to miss out on anything! I enjoyed the eclectic mix of edibles and the creativity employed in preparing and serving these treats. At each table, we were treated to a brief explanation of the tasty treat and a description of the ingredients or the cooking method, or both.

By far my favorite bite was a creamy and delicious sautéed sea scallop, served atop of smear of pureed potatoes and topped with a crunchy garnish, all served on a small triangular and transparent, curved plastic “dish”. I am not too ashamed to admit that I managed to scarf down three of these succulent scallops throughout the evening. This was no small accomplishment due to the flurry or other hungry fans circling this particular table, but hey, I’m scrappy! A variety of cuisines were well represented, and of course I sampled as many as possible. Specifically, I enjoyed the pasta in tomato sauce from Mario’s Italian Steakhouse, as well as the spicy samosa (crisp patty stuffed with savory potatoes and peas) from Tandoor of India.

My friend particularly liked the tender braised beef short rib and polenta from Erie Grill at the DelMonte, and the two crepe offerings from Simply Crepes, featuring sweet strawberries and shortcake or savory chicken with tarragon. I couldn’t agree more. Although I stuck with water and soda, she sampled the wines, reporting that her favorites were the dry Chardonnay varieties offered by Casa Larga Winery and Anthony Road Winery.

Other memorable tasty nibbles of the evening included Kobe beef meatballs, elk meatballs, stewed rabbit, fresh salsa with chips, tortilla soup, appetizer size roast beef sandwiches, fettuccine alfredo, and savory spinach flatbread. Not to be forgotten, a smattering of decadent dessert items rounded out the menu.

The Atmosphere and Experience
Upon entering the venue, we were greeted promptly and happily by one of the event organizers. Rotary members were easily identifiable by their name tags and friendly smiles. We were directed to write our contact information on our ticket stubs and enter them into the door prize drawings. Because we arrived a few minutes early, we had time to peruse the long table of donated items offered in the silent auction. The diverse auction items ranged from jewelry and a designer handbag, to photography services, a golf package, dinner for four with local government officials, and more.

At the entrance to the food service area, each patron was given a clear plastic food dish, with a handy notch for a beverage glass, allowing the user to hold his plate and glass all with one hand. This facilitated hand-shaking with friends and quicker food snatching! Disposable cutlery and napkins were offered at almost every food and beverage station. I was impressed that the uniformed wait staff did a great job of quickly and efficiently clearing tables, as nomadic guests continuously grazed and mingled. Also, each of the participating eateries seamlessly kept their areas clean and inviting, while successfully serving hundreds of people! All of this added to the elegance of the event.

After exhausting the offerings downstairs, my companion and I headed up the half-dozen or so steps to the upstairs room, where we found even more to sample! We took a quick lap around the room and picked out our favorite offerings, only to find that the room was a little too crowded and overheated to enjoy our spoils. The live music, provided by The Electrokings, must have really enticed patrons to congregate to that room. After being satisfied that we experienced what the upstairs room had to offer, we meandered back downstairs.

We found a centrally located table to relax for a bit and we were soon joined by a very pleasant couple with whom we compared notes on our favorite morsels of the evening. We traded tips on what to sample next and enjoyed each other’s company. Actually, I found everyone there to be very friendly and welcoming, offering an unsolicited smile or greeting upon passing.

The silent auction seemed to be a big draw at the event. However, I was somewhat surprised that it was not more prominently featured. I would have liked to hear a greeting at the start of the event, not only welcoming patrons but also explaining the silent auction process and timing. I did notice one person walking through the crowd, holding up a paddle with direction that the bidding would end at an appointed time. Other than that though, I really wasn’t aware of how the auction would proceed.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this fundraising event and would recommend it to anyone who likes food, mingling, or supporting a good cause. It is well run and worth the price of admission several times over. Please consider attending next year – you don’t want to miss it!

(Disclaimer: Several days after attending this event, I learned that I randomly won one of the door prizes. However, that in no way altered my review of the event).

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About the Pittsford, NY Rotary:

Rotary’s 1.2 million members believe it starts with a commitment to Service Above Self. In more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, you’ll find members volunteering in communities at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.

The Pittsford Rotary Club engages in community service in Pittsford, New York and the surrounding area. Their signature events are the “Taste of Pittsford” and an election night pasta supper. They are a service club chartered in 1941 by Rotary International, currently with over 50 members. The club meets in the Fisher Room of Pittsford Community Library, 24 State Street, Pittsford, NY at 7:00 am every Wednesday morning.

Club President:             Jerry Elman
Club President-Elect:   Grace Soong

Website:    http://www.pittsfordrotaryclub.org/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pittsford-Rotary/148608248539356

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