- December 2, 2014
Although Lakewood Ranch Community Activities is known for its family focused events, the organization has something new in the works.
On April 14, the first Taste of the Ranch will be held at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch. It’s a hyper-local, food-and-wine event.
General admission includes food samplings from Lakewood Ranch restaurants, craft beer and wine tastings, and a live
performance by former “American Idol” contestant Sam Woolf.
A limited-seating VIP area will include access to the University of South Florida’s Culinary Innovation Lab, where ticket holders will be treated to a three-course, food-and-wine pairing led by Sir Adam Carter, a master wine taster. That area will offer a wine and beer bar, as well.
General admission tickets are $50 and VIP tickets are $150.
Proceeds from the event will benefit USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, whose students have helped create the first-time event, from recruiting restaurants to finding sponsors and planning logistics.
Lakewood Ranch Community Activities’ Director Keith Pandeloglou said Taste of the Ranch replaces its Italian Festival.
“We partnered with the merchants (at Main Street) and USF,” said Pandeloglou, who said eight of 12 restaurants on Main Street at Lakewood Main will be participating. “The merchants wanted something that would highlight what’s here.”
Community Activities typically does not offer ticketed events, so Taste of the Ranch is a first. Pandeloglou is creating the event from scratch with the help of USF students, and he hopes for 200 guests in its first year.
“The primary goal is giving residents value,” Pandeloglou said. “We have a lot of events like this in the Suncoast area, but not here.”
USF culinary professor Donald Wood, who made his livelihood as a restaurateur in the South, said the event has been a great learning tool for his students but also will connect the Lakewood Ranch community with existing businesses.
“Every time you look at a successful restaurant, it’s amazing there are people who live across the street from it and don’t know it’s there,” Wood said. “You want them to come back. That’s the goal.”
Jane Dokko, owner of Hana Sushi Lounge at Main Street, said she enjoys tasting foods at events, so having Taste of the Ranch at Main Street makes sense. Although not everyone will come into her restaurant and order a plate of sushi, they may be willing to sample a sushi roll in a different setting.
“They wouldn’t be prone to come in and order something they’ve never had,” Dokko said. “There’s a lot of new people in the area, and they’re still not aware of what is here. It supports more of the local stores, which I like, instead of all the corporate places.”
Other Main Street merchants agreed they want to work together to promote Main Street while encouraging the public to frequent their businesses.
“It’s a nice thing to discover all you have on the street,” said Christopher Nebra, a native of Paris, who owns Paris Bistrot with his wife, Alexandra Nebra. “They will find out how good we can be. We are one street, so we all work together.”
Pastries by Design owner Alejandra Hernandez also will provide a variety of desserts for the event.
“I think as a group we have to be together,” she said of Main Street merchants. “They see we are a team.”