If you find yourself without plans today, head to Hemming Park for the third-annual GastroFest, an all-day celebration of the culinary world of Northeast Florida.
The cash-based festival kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs until 7 p.m. and features more than a dozen area restaurants offering something for everyone, with sample sizes available for $1-$3.
Participating restaurants include Black Sheep, bb’s, Blue Bamboo and Il Desco, among others.
“We reach out to many restaurants, but also accept applications from those we haven’t spoken to in the past,” said Erin Thursby, executive director of GastroJax. “This year, all our restaurants are locally owned.”
Thursby added the past two GastroFest events boasted more than 30,000 people each year.
There will also be live music throughout the day, free and ticketed events, and a marketplace where everything from honey to hot sauce is available for purchase.
The Sawyer Gas Demo Stage at the corner of North Laura and West Monroe streets will feature vegan demonstrations by Chef Kurt D’Aurizio of Provision from noon-1 p.m., Heather Borders from Kailo Nutrition will show how to prepare creative plant-based dishes from 2-3 p.m., the art of rum ball and rum cake-making will be held from 3:30-4 p.m., followed by a cheese workshop from 4:15-4:45 p.m. and a demonstration from Jacksonville rice-growers Congaree & Penn from 5-6 p.m.
The Main Library at 303 N. Laura St. will host free workshops throughout the day on culinary and sustainability topics, including Recycled Arts Repurposing from noon-3 p.m. You can learn how everyday materials can be transformed into personalized works of art, how to make your own sustainable, nontoxic cleaning and personal care products at 1 p.m.; find out about Fleet Farming Riverside, which owns and operates small farms throughout the area, at 2 p.m.; and learn about honey spinning from the experts at Bee Friends Farm at 4:15 p.m.
Special events include Palm Ridge Whiskey Workshop and Tasting at noon, hosted by Marti and Dick Waters, owners of Palm Ridge Whiskey; a Spirits Workshop with Manifest Distilling at 1 p.m.; a homebrew competition at 3 p.m. where local homebrewers will present their best brews; a local beer workshop at 4:15 p.m. hosted by Dennis Espinosa, owner of Springfield’s Main & Six Brewing; and a vegan wine-tasting event at 6 p.m., which costs $23.40. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.com.
GastroFest strives to be ecologically responsible and will have 13 waste stations throughout the park for recycling, regular trash and mixed food waste, which will be taken to Celestial Farms and used as feed for their rescue animals.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will have the Skyway open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. for fest-goers. There will also be bike valet service available.
The festival is also hosting a hashtag campaign, which includes chances to win rewards for greening the fest, with prizes including gift cards from 13 Gypsies, Restaurant Orsay, Moxie, Southern Roots, Urban Corner and Timoti’s, as well as tickets to Sun-Ray Cinema and a two-ticket pass to AMC Theaters. To enter, post a picture of yourself on social media with the hashtag #greeninggastrofest while biking to the fest; using a re-usable, collectable GastroFest cup; correctly using the recycling bin; riding on the Skyway; or anything else that helps shrink the event’s carbon footprint.
For more information on GastroFest, visit Gastrojax.org.
Angel’s Envy dinner
If you’re not able to get to GastroFest, the culinary and cocktail teams at Ovinté will host an Angel’s Envy Bourbon Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 27.
Guests will be treated to a four-course meal following an appetizer reception, which includes braised fennel crostini with vanilla, dill and candied lemon, prosciutto and mascarpone terrine with smoked eggplant and red pepper jam paired with the “Louisville Slugger” — Angel’s Envy Bourbon, lemon, orange and Ruby Port.
The first course is blood orange and chili smoked quail with apple, walnut, beet yogurt, peach vinaigrette and micro-lemon basil paired with “I Disgress” — Angel’s Envy Bourbon, amaretto, peach brandy and lemon.
That’s followed by cherrywood-smoked lamb chops with sundried tomato and Benton’s bacon jam, rosemary whipped potatoes, wilted kale and luxardo cherry glaze paired with “Manhattan Perfected” — Angel’s Envy Bourbon, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange bitters and luxardo cherry.
The third course is pepper-crusted scallops with saffron risotto-filled zucchini flowers, lemongrass, rose petals, smoked sea salt and house-made rose water paired with “Smokey Ices the Bandit” — Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon, cherry heering, orange juice, sweet vermouth and applewood smoke.
It’s finished off with the dessert course of chocolate crémeux with hazelnut pecan streusel, citrus fluid gel, vanilla Chantilly and rum caramel paired with Angel’s Envy Rye in Caribbean rum casks.
Tickets are $95 per person, plus tax and gratuity.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Forking Amazing Restaurant’s second Collaborate and Give campaign, which will benefit the Jacksonville Humane Society. Forking Amazing Restaurants will also donate 5 percent of all food sales at Ovinté, Bistro Aix and Il Desco from March 27-29 to support the Jacksonville Humane Society’s “Let’s Build This Puppy” campaign.
Reservations for the Angel’s Envy Bourbon Dinner must be made by March 22 by calling (904) 900-7730 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chill into spring
The first day of spring is Monday and two local frozen sweet treat shops are giving away freebies to celebrate.
Rita’s Italian Ice will give away free Italian ice at their Northeast Florida locations at 13529 Beach Blvd., 393 3rd St. N. in Jacksonville Beach, and at 380 A1A Beach Blvd. in St. Augustine.
The company anticipates handing out more than 500,000 pounds of Italian ice at their 600-plus locations across the country during the annual celebration.
Dairy Queen is also giving away free ice cream cones on the first day of spring.
Those who visit participating non-mall Dairy Queen and DQ Grill & Chill locations will receive a free small vanilla soft-serve cone.
Participating locations will also collect donations for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Last year, Dairy Queen raised more than $200,000 in one day for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Bonefish offers seasonal menu
Bonefish Grill unveiled its seasonal menu this month and it’s available through May 1.
The new Applewood Bacon Wrapped Scallops starter features four scallops wrapped in Applewood bacon and topped with mango salsa.
Entrée additions include Georges Bank Scallops, which are grilled and served on a bed of parmesan risotto with Applewood bacon and green beans. Rockefeller Atlantic Cobia is topped with spinach and lump crab.
Cedar Plank Norwegian Salmon is topped with a seasonal glaze of honey and Dijon and served with jasmine rice and a vegetable medley, and Kate’s Wild North Atlantic Haddock is topped with feta, artichokes, lemon basil butter sauce and served with mashed potatoes and green beans.
For dessert, Chocolate Crème Brûlée, chocolate custard with a hint of Grand Marnier and house-made whipped cream, will be featured through March 27.
The latest addition to the drink menu is the Pomegranate Sage Martini, which combines vodka, sage simple syrup, pomegranate juice, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lemon juice and angostura bitters.
There are two Jacksonville Bonefish Grill locations: in San Jose Plaza at 10950 San Jose Blvd. and at 2400 3rd St. South in Jacksonville Beach.
For more information, visit www.bonefishgrill.com.
Fundraiser at Tropical Smoothie
Tropical Smoothie Café at World Golf Village will host a Spirit Night Thursday to raise money for Mill Creek Elementary School.
The café, at 124 Tuscan Way, Suite A101 in St. Augustine, will donate 15 percent of sales made between 4 and 8 p.m. to the school.
The money raised will help the Mill Creek Parent Teacher Association make continued advancements in technology, reading and comprehension, the arts and overall learning.
Send any dining news, promotions or rumors of new restaurant openings to email@example.com.