By Brandi Underwood
Blue skies and fried pies were just two of the ingredients for Friday’s 11th annual WOAY Taste of Bridge Day, which boasted a guest list of several hundred people.
While the scenic backdrop at Smokey’s On the Gorge was a plus, ask anyone who went and they’re likely to tell you that they were motivated by the good eats and sweet treats, which included around 40 different varieties of appetizers, entrées and desserts.
“It was a record turnout,” said Taste of Bridge Day Committee Co-chair Becky Arthur, as an excess of 1,000 people were estimated to have traded tickets at vendors’ tables to get a coveted “taste” of Bridge Day.
“I’d say the weather played a big factor, and the quality of the food,” Arthur said.
While most restaurants prepared enough food to feed the mouths of hundreds, some of the more popular dishes were scraping the bottom well before the event’s end, including the crab cakes served up by Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant and Long Point Grille & Bar.
A panel of on-site judges dished up their opinions on the evening’s best fares: Adventures On the Gorge’s butternut squash ravioli and Hawks Nest Restaurant’s hot pepper pie, a spicy combination of ground chuck, red and green peppers, onion and a four-cheese blend baked in a pie crust, tied for first place in best entrée; best appetizer went to Gumbo’s Jambalaya; and best dessert went to The Corner Gas & Grill for their homemade bread pudding.
Jason Helfer and wife Melinda, of West Lake, Ohio, also gave The Corner’s bread pudding top marks.
“He’s a big bread pudding fan,” said Melinda. “If it’s on the menu somewhere, he tries it.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Jason said. “I’ve never had any as good as this. This is our second piece tonight.”
New this year was a retail shopping area, located beside the Adventures on the Gorge pool, where visitors could get a break from the hectic food crowd and shop around.
Bryan George and wife Ali, owners of Vu Ja De Vineyards in Spencer — that’s déjà vu backward, folks — were on site sampling some of their seasonal wines.
“Each year we offer different wine varieties,” Ali said. “It keeps our customers curious.”
As the evening waned on, the chilly weather herded most people inside Smokey’s or one of the neighboring tents, but staff from Woody’s Smokehouse, located at ACE, were still busy patting out pizza dough, piling it with toppings and shoving it in their handmade wood-fire brick oven, which they assembled solely for the evening’s events.
Sous-chef Junior Ozorio was making pizzas with the aid of a flashlight at one point.
“There’s no stopping,” he laughed.
Woody’s, who came prepared with enough dough to make 740 pizzas, offered a variety of toppings, including mixed meat, pepperoni and vegetarian.
Their pizza even got the nod of approval of BASE jumping legend Moe Viletto, a 42-year veteran of the sport and avid supporter of Bridge Day since its inauguration.
Scouts from Troop 179, of Fayetteville, were on hand at the evening’s end to help with the cleanup efforts.
As the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Oak Hill and Fayetteville Rotary clubs, Arthur said that overall, the 11th occurrence of the event may have been the most successful yet.