Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CROW hoping for successful Taste of the Islands

After months of coordinating and carrying out the plan to stage one of the most popular fundraisers for islanders and tourists alike, Steve Greenstein and Melissa Congress can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But they aren't ready to exhale just yet. That will have to wait until Sunday afternoon, after the 29th Annual Taste of the Islands closes.

Greenstein, the executive director of the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), and Congress, a board member and event chair, have been putting the finishing touches on their plan to return the food and beverage festival to Sanibel following a one-year hiatus.

"It's been a learning curve for me," said Congress, who previously helped coordinate the Taste of the Town event in Fort Myers. ""From the restaurant commitments to the sponsorship commitments to advertising and parking and everything else. I just hope to make sure everything is done right so people who come to the event will have a great time."

Residents and visitors who come out to the Taste of the Islands this Sunday, Nov. 21 will sample dishes and desserts from 22 of Sanibel and Captiva’s finest restaurants. The benefit for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) will take place from noon to 5 p.m. at Sanibel Community Park.

Confirmed island eateries include Blue Giraffe, The Bubble Room, Cantina Captiva, Cip's Place, Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille, East End Deli, Il Tesoro, Island Pizza Company, Jacaranda Restaurant, Lazy Flamingo, Matzaluna Italian Kitchen, Over Easy CafĂ©, Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream, Sanibel Deli, Chip’s Sanibel Steakhouse, Schnapper’s Hots, Sea Star Cafe & Bar, Sweet Melissa’s, Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market, Traders, The Stone Crab and The Mucky Duck.

"We are hoping that everybody has a good time, and I'm hoping that everybody will have a chance to learn a little more about what CROW does," said Greenstein. "And we hope that they will continue to support our mission in the future."

Congress and Greenstein explained that the event is being coordinated by a staff of more than 100 volunteers and a committee of about 10 people. Highlights of the festival will include the participating restaurants vying for "Best of" titles in six food categories — appetizer, seafood, meat, vegetarian, pizza and dessert — which will be selected by a celebrity pool of five chefs and food critics.

In true Taste tradition, "foodies" participate in helping to select the "Best of the Best" — from appetizers to desserts and everything in between — at the People’s Choice voting booth.

"I'm looking forward to my family and friends having a great time and will enjoy great food at an event that I helped plan," said Congress. "I'm proud that I'm helping out an organization that represents the entire island community."

Local bands Strange Arrangement (noon to 1 p.m.), Deb and the Dynamics (1:15 to 3:15 p.m.) and The Troublestarters (3:30 to 5 p.m.) will provide entrainment at the popular all-day food festival.

Taste-goers can stop by the CROW Gift Store tent, where renowned artist Ikki Matsumoto will be signing prints — designed exclusively for the 2010 Taste — and local authors Charlie Sobczak, Kyle Miller and Brian Johnson will be signing books. All proceeds will benefit CROW.

Also, a “Kids Challenge” for children under 12, coordinated by the Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club, will last throughout the day, and a waiter/waitress contest and "Island Iron Chef" competition will be featured during the afternoon. 

"I'm hoping that we have a wonderful fun-filled day that helps create more awareness about CROW and what we do," added Greenstein. "It's a chance for people to learn about how our staff, students and volunteers work together to serve wildlife and to educate people how to prevent injuries to animals."

Greenstein and Congress also thanked their presenting sponsor, Bank of the Islands/Edison National Bank, for their dedication and assistance to helping stage the festival.

Admission tickets are $5 per person at the gate at Sanibel Community Park, located at 2231 Periwinkle Way. They may also be purchased in advance (at a discount rate of five tickets for $20) at CROW’s Visitor Education Center, at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road, or at Bank of the Islands, located on the corner of Periwinkle Way and Casa Ybel Road on Sanibel. Children under 10 are admitted free.

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