I was pretty excited to be asked to be on the panel to judge entrees for the Best of Taste of Cincinnati this year. The panel for Best of Taste is mostly members of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, plus a few of us who are more food-oriented– Polly Campbell (who joined me in entrees), Debbie Goulding from Les Chefs de Cuisine and Kroger and Alex Shebar from Yelp. I actually like this– though it’s fun to have people who live and breathe food on these panels, the ultimate “winners” are selected by those who put their hard-earned dollars down for food at Taste, and this panel represented the average consumer well. Most of the restaurants were local– Claddagh was an exception.
Best Entree went to Andy’s Gyro Wrap, which was really nice and unexpected. I’ve never been impressed with Andy’s (sorry, Andy) but I was really happy with this wrap– there was a lot of flavor, the meat was well seasoned, the bread not too thick and the tzatziki for dipping complimented the dish well.
Best Damn Dish was from Arloi Dee, who has won in the past for their lettuce wraps. This dish, technically a seafood entree, was one of those dishes you can’t help but take more than one bite of because it’s so good. I had two seafood judges next to me and they just raved about it, so I’m not surprised. It was also gorgeous! I tried (on their insistence, as well as Bridgett from 365 Cincinnati’s insistence) their dessert, which was a coconut-tapioca pudding that was just fantastic. I’m hoping it’s on their menu regularly (as I’d definitely order it).
I also loved Mac’s Pizza with spinach and goat cheese and Laszlo’s walking Chicken Saltimbocca. I’ll admit, eating one bite (just one!) of 29 dishes was kind of overwhelming (and I’ll be full for weeks) but it was a very fun time.