Friday, April 07, 2006

Tasting the World in East Charlotte

It's 1:40 p.m. and I'm just now starting to feel hungry again. Last night, I did my second Taste of the World tour. This event keeps getting better. I attended the first one last April, which was good, but this one was even better.

If you've never been, it's organized by the Charlotte East group, the Charlotte Chamber and area businesses. It costs $35 and typically sells out. Participants meet at the Charlotte Museum of History where they board buses and head to three ethnic restaurants along the Central Avenue and Independence Boulevard corridor. About 15 restaurants participate and each bus is assigned three restaurants to sample. After the third stop everyone meets at the Vanlandingham Estates for dessert and coffee.

For me, the key to having fun with this is finding the right bus. Participants ranged from elderly couples out for an evening to rowdy Budweiser drinkers looking for good food and fun. I of course gravitated to the fun and rowdy people. I chose Bus 4 with gourmet guide (bus captain) B.G. Metzler, a spunky about-town woman who's probably served on every community board there is. I knew I was on the right bus when one guy jokingly introduced himself as if he were at an AA meeting. Our bus was a mix of Taste veterans and newbies.

We visited Saigon Bistro, La Canasta Dominicana and Brazas. The key to taking full advantage of the tour is to pace yourself at each restaurant. If you fill your plate up at the first two, you won't have room left for the third restaurant.

The food was great at all three - the pork at Brazas reminded me once again of why I love eating pig. Saigon and La Canasta were my favorites. I had a noodle dish and delicious spring rolls at Saigon. I ate the most succulent chicken and beef at La Canasta, and of course the plaintains. At Saigon and La Canasta, staff went out of their way to welcome and explain the dishes. We also got a little dance demonstration at La Canasta.

It was a night of good eats, good people and good fun. Were you there last night? If so, which places did you try? Post your replies below.