Taste of Winter Haven Returned for 7th Annual Event
by James Coulter
With last year’s event being cancelled, Taste of Winter Haven made its epic return with its 7th annual event on Thursday evening, showcasing the plethora of good eats offered within the local community.
From quesadillas and shrimp gumbo, to po boy sandwiches and chocolate peanut butter cake, more than a dozen local eateries and catering companies offered some of their best menu items for attendees to enjoy. Participants included Haven Coffee Roasters, Gourmet Goodies, Catering Company, Bach Lac, Tanners Lakeside, and Kairos Nutrition.
For the past seven years, this annual event, hosted by the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, has allowed attendees to enjoy the best food that their local community has to offer. Unfortunately, their event was cancelled last year due to the ongoing pandemic and replaced with a food tour coupon book that could be used to sample food at participating eateries.
Fortunately, Taste of Winter Haven was hosted in-person again last Thursday evening at Venue 650. Its return proved quite popular, as the ticketed event was sold out that evening, said Briana Price, Chamber Marketing and Communication Manager.
“It is really great to have our first-person Taste of Winter Haven back in action,” she said. “We actually have a sold-out event this evening…it will be a great evening for everyone.”
Taste of Winter Haven brings together both residents and local business owners to share quality time together over local eats. Its ability to unite people, even during these uncertain times, has allowed it to remain as popular as it has become for seven years and counting, Price said.
“[It’s] giving our community a chance to see what Winter Haven has to offer has been the key to its success,” she said. “[We look forward to] having the event as it is and continuing to grow it as we can.”
Carisa Hughes, owner of Gourmet Goodies, showcased many of her bakeries best baked goods, including chocolate cake with peanut butter filling, almond cake with raspberry filling, and mini versions of her sugar, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle cookies.
Hughes has been attending Taste of Winter Haven since its inception, and she was glad to see it return after being cancelled last year. The overall sense of community keeps her coming back time and again.
“People are so ready to see each other’s faces, and have a good time and enjoy so many great resturaunts and caterer,” she said. “So many wonderful representations of Winter Haven here tonight, so it is great to see the people and vendors here…I love seeing the people in the community. I love seeing people having a good time and being here and enjoying the things that we brought and seeing people be happy and enjoy a great time.”
For Chef Jay Mathis, owner of Elite Catering Company, this was his first time attending the event. He arrived with his world famous smoked grilled gouda shrimp and grits. As a new business, he wanted to be more involved with his community and engage with potential clients. So far, his impression of Taste of Winter Haven was great, and he expects to return again next year, he said.
“This is our first year,” he said. “It has been well, very well, love the venue, love how the staff put things together, and very organized. All love. Just wanted to see the community come out and show support. There is a lot of support in Winter Haven.”