Note: This article has been updated to reflect a more accurate estimate of the funds raised.
The 10th – or maybe it was the ninth – Cows ’n Cabs was held Saturday, partially under a massive tent set up in Winter Park’s West Meadow.
The confusion on the anniversary, of course, has to do with the pandemic. As with many annual events, Cows ’n Cabs wasn’t held last year due to social distancing strictures. But the sold-out crowd of two thousand more than made up for the skipped year.
As organizer John Rivers told me as he scooped out paella alongside Norman Van Aken, the first CnC had about 350 attendees. And the participating chefs and restaurants were all contained under the cover of the tent with plenty of room to spare. This year there were as many vendors outside the tent as there were under it.
From my accounting of that first event in October of 2011: “Among the chefs participating were Matt Wall-Iannarelli (Citrus), Chico Mendonça (Cocina 214), Kevin Fonzo (K), Matt Cargo (Prato), Hari Pulapaka (Cress), Gregory Richie (Emeril’s Tchoup Chop), Alex T. Brugger (Finesse) and Steve Saelg (The Crooked Spoon).”
Just look at all that has changed in 10 years. Both Mendonça, who went on to found Bem Bom food truck and then restaurant, and Saelg have died. Citrus, K, Finesse and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop are no more. Pulapaka sold Cress, and Cargo moved to Los Angeles to be chef de partie at Otium (but he’s left there; I’ll have more to share with you soon).
Of that group, only Richie, now chef/partner at Soco, of course, was in attendance this year. He and his crew served a braised beef cheek ravioli with wild mushrooms, root vegetables and a Soco gravy. It was one of my favorites.
I also liked the prime beef slider from BoVine, with lemon aioli and onions on a fresh brioche bun.
Not everything served was cow-centric. There were some crazy-good roasted Beausoleil oysters from 1921 Mount Dora topped with bone marrow, foie gras and bacon butter. I had several.
And as has become tradition, 4 Rivers Smokehouse served from its whole roast pig; always a treat.
And Puff ’n Stuff Catering had a wonderfully tender tomahawk steak.
With proceeds benefitting After School All-Stars and 4Roots Farm, Rivers estimated the evening would take in about a million dollars but a spokeswoman for the event later said it would likely be just over $500,000. Or about half of what was raised the past nine – or eight – years combined.