PHOTOS Taste of Marco: Esplanade draws a crowd as local restaurants put ‘best food forward’

With over 25 island restaurants showcasing their specialties, the 21st annual Taste of Marco, Sunday at the Esplanade, drew a capacity crowd, with proceeds going to benefit the Marco Y. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

With over 25 island restaurants showcasing their specialties, the 21st annual Taste of Marco, Sunday at the Esplanade, drew a capacity crowd, with proceeds going to benefit the Marco Y. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

— “Is it hot in here, or is it just you guys?” quipped Lords of Cool guitarist Steve Peterman over the PA system, adapting the classic bar line for the Taste of Marco crowd. Sunday was warm for April, and the food was sizzling, making bottles of water and mugs of beer big sellers at the 21st annual Taste of Marco at the Esplanade.

Some entrees, like the tangy blackened tuna bites from Kretch’s Restaurant, had a little zing to them, as well. Close to the food vendors’ tents, the press of people made it interesting trying to move around, and lines formed for crowd favorites. The tandoori chicken and coconut shrimp from the Paradise Café at the Hilton qualified, as food and beverage director Jorge Diaz kept the baskets coming.

Another hot seller was cold food, including the seafood salad from CJ’s by the Bay. With their tent set up right between the front door to the restaurant and the outdoor bar, CJ’s had the easiest setup of any of the more than 25 restaurants participating. Diners sat at their outside tables in the shade, or ducked inside for a blast of AC.

One of the cold favorites, the ceviche from Nacho Mama’s, was the choice of Christine Heweker, when she could take a break from dishing up strawberry shortcake at the Chef’s Express booth. Annie Feinman, mother of owner Laurie Feinman, made cake dioramas promoting their new location, and featured strawberries on their French toast kebabs. Heidi Moses and Sarah Opichka, notable for their Mohawk hairdos, pronounced the shortcake their number one choice.

Brad Smith and his crew found the best seats in the house, cruising over by boat from the Isles of Capri, which guaranteed them private waterfront dining sitting in the marina at the Esplanade.

Employees from Publix and Boar’s Head grilled an endless supply of keilbasa, bratwurst, knockwurst, and hot dogs, offering key lime pie for dessert. Mike “Cha Cha” Heiwig – “be sure and get the ‘cha cha’ in,” said his friends – opted to go with the taco salad from Nacho Mama’s, along with a mug or two of beer.

Not that the hot food wasn’t moving. Cathy O’Clarke’s manager Debbie Day reported their top seller was the lobster bisque. Angela Duncan chose the shepherd’s pie.

“I don’t care how hot it gets, I eat hot food and drink hot coffee,” she said.

Children played in the bounce house and inflatable slide, three radio stations brought their remote trucks, and live music, in addition to the Lords of Cool, included JRobert, and seven-year-old Sahara Brown singing several songs a cappella.

Vicki Owen and her friends figured out how to sample a range of goodies while keeping the calorie count in line. They got one piece of chocolate ganache, and four forks. Carol Traeger found an even more dietetic method. She went to the table where Mutual of Omaha volunteers had brought in homemade bake sale items, loaded up, and took them all to give to a friend who is having surgery.

Proceeds from the Taste of Marco go to support the work of the Greater Marco Family Y. A final tally was not available at press time, but in years past, the event has raised $30,000 to $40,000.

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