published: Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Risking sugar overload to help local artists
Cooking contest organizers take note: This it. I am turning in my knife and fork and retiring as a cooking judge as of Jan. 1, 2013.
Choosing between favorite family recipes is simply too risky, too difficult, too fattening for me to continue.
And I seem to be doing more of it. No sooner had I run the gauntlet of appetizers and side dishes at the Avon Park Youth Academy, then Fred Leavitt, president of the Heartland Cultural Alliance, asked if I would judge a dessert contest -- part of a celebration marking the opening of the new local artists gallery, with its own entrance, at the Kenilworth Lodge.
Here are some of the reasons I am stepping down.
The taste theme at the consortium's reception was chocolate. From a light, almost frothy icing on a Yule log to a half-inch of rich fudge topping squares of cake, every dessert burst with flavor and sugar. Again, I was faced with having to decide one taste or texture over another.
These selections were all first rate, but for me, chocolate desserts tend to run together in terms of taste. The sugar buzz made concentration even harder.
In any case, you try making a decision between rocky road bars or iced pumpkin cookies, especially when the cooks are watching your every move, every expression on your face.
There are other difficulties as well. Beautiful women come up to you with entrancing smiles, making you feel like the only man in the room.
Then, just when you think you have met the mother of your children, these women inevitably point to one plate or another -- a decorated cake, fudge brownies or raspberry bars -- and say, "Why dear me, don't those just smell and look divine? Why I'm sure my poor effort will never match those." And bats her eyes.
Beautiful women, you learn the hard way, are not to be trusted.
Then there are the feelings of buyer's remorse after you have chosen what you thought tasted best -- no matter how much you enjoyed it.
What about No. 2, you find yourself thinking, or those deceptively simple chocolate chip cookies that turned out to linger on the tongue. Weren't they just as good?
Then there are the unusual ethical issues. For example, William Oliviveri entered amazing pastries looking like photos right out of "Bon Appetite." Turns out he is a professional with a shop at 3029 U.S. 27 N. As the judge, it was my responsibility to disqualify him because everyone else was an amateur.
After all that, come to find out the raspberry squares I finally named the winner were made by Gail Leavitt, wife of Fred the host of the event.
No. From now on I'll leave it to others to carry on with the spork.
As for Thursday's reception at the Kenilworth, having tasted every entry, I can tell those of you who did not make the party, you missed a treat.
Fortunately, the new art gallery showcasing local work is a permanent installation. It can be accessed from the Kenilworth lobby, or by a formal outdoor entrance at the south end of the building.
What people missed most of all, however, was an opportunity to find one-of-a-kind gifts: Books written by local authors, hand-painted glass and hand-crafted jewelry.
The best news is that art and jewelry galleries are opening up downtown and many artists may be contacted locally.
Check out the Lucid Heart Gallery at 131 N. Ridgewood, for example, where Joseph Anthony designs his own line of necklaces and earrings using semi-precious stones. Call Lee Ann Hinskey at 382-4110 to view her hand-crafted beaded jewelry, or take lessons in making your own.
Judy Nicewicz, of Avon Park, creates hand painted gifts and teaches the Onestroke Method of painting. She can be reached at 273-1339.
As for local writers, there are too many to do more than list the names of those at the reception: Nancy Dale, Jack Everett, B. F. Oswald, Millie Richmond, Cynthia Schumacher and Sunny Serafino. Go to amazon.com for more information.
Fred Leavitt can be reached at 402-8238.
Call the Highlands County Art League at 385-5312 to discover more about local artists.
Christopher Tuffley is a News-Sun staff writer. He can be reached at 385-6155 ext. 544.
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