Sarasota is full of charity event opportunities. If you look around, just a little, you can find galas, dinners, brunches, and just about any other kind of event you might want. We don’t partake in these on a regular basis, but one fund raising event we do try to make it to each year is the Wine Walk to the Ca d’Zan. The Ca d’Zan is the home of John and Mable Ringling and is part of the Ringling Museum of Art. The Wine Walk is their major fundraiser for maintenance and preservation of the home and the grounds. While that is why I’m willing to pay for the tickets, it isn’t why we really go. We go because it is a really nice event where we get to taste some good wine, eat some good food and enjoy a really pretty atmosphere. It’s a fancy date night and every married couple needs one or two of those each year.
This year the theme was Red or White and the grounds were done up in beautiful red and white seating areas, red and white flowers and red and white foods and wine. Each station had several varietals to choose from, along with some interesting snack type foods. Last year we found a few under $20 bottles of wine that we added into our rotation, and we were hoping to do the same this year. Unfortunately, this year all the wines I really liked were on the expensive side, so I have them noted for when I need a special occasion wine, but they are not something I’m going to buy for every day drinking.
My favorite niblet of food this year was the strawberry shortcake. I fully admit, I am a sucker for a good strawberry shortcake, but I also know that it can go very wrong if the chef tries to get to fancy or too creative with this very simple, perfect dessert. (Strawberry shortcake, made with fresh, not frozen strawberries, is probably my absolute favorite dessert so I am a little biased, but I’m also super critical.) To make a good strawberry shortcake you need a really good base – something that will soak up some of the strawberry juice, but not turn soggy. You need fresh, ripe strawberries and you need really good cream with a touch of vanilla. Miss any of those, or try to add something weird like bourbon cream or “spice” and it just does not work. (Yes, I have had a bourbon cream strawberry shortcake and it was bad. When you feel like you had a short by taking a bite of cake, it is bad.)
This dessert was close to perfection. The cake was sturdy, but not stale. The chef used a little bit of strawberry jam to layer the cake and introduce some moisture. I thought this was brilliant for the setting – cakes will be sitting out for several hours and you don’t want soggy cake. The jam kept it fresh and light while providing some moisture that the macerated strawberries usually provide. The cream was very good – just a hint of vanilla bean to compliment the strawberry but not overpower the fruit. And the strawberries were fresh. Ripe, fresh berries. I *may* have gone back for seconds. … or thirds.
Next year I’m hoping we can find some more every day bottles, but it was a nice evening.