The big winners at the 18th annual Taste of Blount were the people who came with appetite in tow.
Of course, there were the competing restaurants, caterers, food trucks and gourmet grocers who were set up at the Theater in the Park in Maryville hoping to take home awards — as always. And the Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the contest, always wins — when the weather cooperates.
As measured by the thermometer it was hot, but a cooling breeze — for the first time in days — helped with that. Besides, you know what they say about cooking, if you can’t stand the heat …
A check with the National Weather Service in Morristown couldn’t confirm that the wind might have been stimulated by Hurricane Dorian storming up the Eastern Seaboard, but couldn’t rule it out either. So on a day for good eats, it was appropriate for Blount Countians to count their blessings.
The 26 competitors with all their chamber friends and foodies drew a record crowd of more than 700 people.
Beyond the honors, Taste of Blount is one of those events where being there is the key, kind of a marriage of food and fun where everybody wins. Could it be that food gatherings and weddings have something in common? Such as in “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Judging by the Taste of Blount, there might be some quirky truth in that.
Not saying John Clark is reaching senior status, but his Vienna Coffee House has to be the oldest competitor, with this being the 17th straight year his business has participated.
As for something new, 6-month-old Adeline Wetherington might well have been the youngest in attendance. Her brother, Jackson, is older at age 18 months and already a Taste of Blount veteran. The Taste is already a tradition for parents Brian and Stephanie Wetherington, who moved to Blount County from Kansas City 30 months ago.
“This is our third time,” Stephanie said. “We come every year and bring the babies.”
Something borrowed? Let’s just say there’s likely no kitchen tradition in America more time honored than borrowing recipes.
As for blue, how about the lemon blueberry cheesecake from Snoring Bear Diner’s Hayden’s Sweet Shop.
Plus there were Maryville Police Department officers on hand, keeping an eye out and decked out in black (almost navy blue). Maryville Police and Fire Chief Tony Crisp and Blount County Sheriff James Berrong were in attendance, but not in uniform, so that doesn’t count.
The skies were blue, and that was enough. “You couldn’t ask for a better day, and this breeze makes it tolerable, doesn’t it,” Crisp said.
The food was more than tolerable.
The Culinary Excellence Award Winners:
• Appetizer: REO Cheesewagon
• Sandwich: Sullivan’s:
• Drink: Mattie Moox
• Main Course: DaddyO’s
• Dessert: Snoring Bear
The Peoples Choice Award Winners:
• Appetizer: REO Cheesewagon
• Sandwich: REO Cheesewagon (second straight year)
• Beverage: McAlister’s Deli (fifth straight year)
• Main Course: Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise (ninth straight year)
• Overall: Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise (seventh straight year)
• Dessert: Lambert’s Southern Pies and Bake Shop (fourth straight year)
• Presentation: Lambert’s Southern Pies and Bake Shop.