The weather was just right Sunday evening for the ninth annual Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation Toledo at Gumbo's Bayou Grille on the Docks.
The setting gave plenty of room for the nearly 800 guests to chat and cruise the scene indoors and out. It was definitely a place to see and be seen.
Men, many in designer tuxedos, were dashing, but it was the women who stood out - looking classy, sexy, and feminine in a rainbow of colors in every fabric, from silk to sequins. There were long gowns, short skirts, high slits, low necklines, and lots of flesh. One lady in green stood out in the crowd. The sparkly fabric - what little there was of it - fit like a glove on her tanned body. The open back, micro-short outfit was worn by Amber McCabe, who was on the arm of Joey Skaff. Ms. McCabe, who bought the number at Nurielle in Miami South Beach, said, "Paris Hilton was in the same store the week before!"
Jazzing up the scene was the Ed Levy Quartet. Adding soul was the popular KGB band. Even though the evening was supposed to end at 9, the crowd lingered until nearly midnight.
A giant tent was set up for tasting the goodies whipped up by more than 125 people. Beirut/Byblos/Poco Piatti's station with lamb chops and hummus was popular. Georgio's shrimp was a hit, Gladieux's tuna from Hawaii was a special treat, the Rose & Thistle's Fresh Red Grouper was superb, Mancy's Steakhouse roast tenderloin and Mancy's Italian sea scallops were delish, and, of course, who could resist Avenue Bistro's signature lobster bisque? There was one temptation after another from Toledo's best.
Clearing the palate was easy with wines and fancy martinis by Heidelberg Distributing and W. Berman Co.
And there was more! People were excited to meet the guest chefs - Claud Mann of Dinner & A Movie, Seth Bixby Daughtery of Cosmos at Le Meridien Hotel in Minneapolis, and Christine Keff of the Flying Fish and Fandango in Seattle - and taste their creative concoctions.
Those who bought two raffle tickets received a free autographed copy of Cooking from the Heart by guest chef/author Michael Rosen of Glenford, Ohio. All of the guest chefs were in his book and also provided autographs. Proceeds from the sale of the books benefited Share Our Strength.
A big raffle prize, which included a car lease, a fur coat, and jewels worth $3,500, was won by Katy and Keith Walker.
In the crush of the crowd of all ages were honorary chairmen Labib Hajjar and Deb Deiger, along with a vast committee of ambassadors.
Seen were Dean and Becky Kasperzak, Betsy and Bruce Rumpf, Jeanie Hylant, Marcia and Mark Rubini, David and Susan Strup, Tim and Jenny Yoder, Janice and Jim Lower, Barbara and Alan Konop, Kathy Carroll and Carl White, Kelly and Sam Zyndorf, Rick Brunner and Jennifer Murtagh, Candy and Michael Tauber, Lisa and Bob McPherson, and Bill DeHoff with his wife, Sara Jane, who looked fabulous in a colorful flowing number that accented her tan. Jeff and Elisa Cooley were there too, after they hosted a preparty with the chefs the previous night in their contemporary and spacious Ottawa Hills digs. Also at the preparty was Karyn Hajjar, who whipped up a few specialties of her own, including her sinfully delicious desserts.
Chairmen of the evening were Craig Joseph, Gus Mancy, Terri Schmakel, and Ty Szumigala, who thanked national sponsors American Express/Jenn-Air/Sysco/Evian for their support. This year's record estimate of more than $110,000 net from the event made it one well worth coming out for, even on a Sunday night.