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Chardonnay in Centerfield

in Apolitical/Peter by
I had the privilege of attending The Abilities Wine Tasting event on Saturday night. Billed as a top-five finalist for WEDU’s Be More Awards “Special Event of the Year” for 2007 and 2008, this event has become Florida’s longest-running and most prosperous one-night wine tasting. The Abilities Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has helped thousands of Floridians with all types of disabilities obtain mainstream jobs and affordable housing.

Sounds like a really classy event, right? For the most part it is, with a silent auction, hundreds of bottles in wine and plate after plate of delicious food. Previously, I have had to work at this event, the last time being when I was GM of Parkshore Grill. Saturday night was my first chance to enjoy the event from the other side of the banquet table.

Now I know it’s hard to find fault with such a worthwhile enterprise: raising money for disabled individuals while you engorge yourself on lamb shanks and pinot noir, but…

There’s just something awkward about sipping chardonnay in centerfield. One of the friends I was with had trouble with her heels, as they continued to dig into the artificial turf. The lighting and acoustics were very discombobulating; it’s impossible to evoke a sense of intimacy in a domed stadium. There has to be a better venue for this event.

As a food snob, I had an issue with the food, not just the quality of the offerrings, but the variety. (Not that either of these factors stopped me from enjoying more than my fair share of the samples. Salt Rock Grill’s Lobster Bisque was the best taste of the night, followed closely by the Wahoo Ceviche from The Table and the Lamb Lollipop from Bella Brava.) The food that was offerred had nothing to do with wine tasting, which is what the event was suppose to be. There is no coordination between the wine distributors and the restaurants, so guests are drinking whichever type of wine they usually drink with whichever food is coming from the booth with the shortest line.

My second criticism of the event is the lack of variety of restaurants participating. Present were all the familiar faces: Parkshore, Red Mesa, The Venue, Island Way Grill, etc. Because they have the money and capacity to participate in over-the-top events like this. What would be exciting to my palette would be to feature food from smaller restaurants which many diners have yet to experience.

I apologize if I seem ungrateful. I felt very French Revolution attending this event on Saturday. In a city whose most pressing problem appears to be the number of homeless people living in its streets, it was difficult to feel comfortable at an all-you-can-eat for the affluent.

Not so uncomfortable that I didn’t have a second serving of the Lobster Bisque.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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