wral.com • 

— Delicate chandeliers and strands of lights hung from the ceiling of The Durham Armory on Thursday evening as 40 proud chefs presented small plates of their tastiest creations to hundreds of area foodies.

The Annual Grand Taste Experience, a celebration that precedes a weekend of events, was a success.

The $95 tickets provided guests with an “all you can eat and drink” experience where they walked around the ballroom with a plate and wine glass to sample meats, appetizers, desserts, sides, candies, beverages and more. Shrimp salad deviled eggs, curried cheese pigs topped with pepper jelly, seafood cocktails, au gratin potatoes, strawberry shortcake and a sparkling “French 75” cocktail were just some of these creations.

Many of the small plates focused on locally-sourced ingredients, while others boasted daring culinary combinations. The event featured chefs and restaurants from across North Carolina, but many were local to Durham, Chapel Hill and other nearby cities.

The Mint Julep Jazz Band helped set the elegant mood with swanky “big band” music, and well-dressed guests wandered through the beautifully-decorated arena in search of their next sampling. The food was plentiful, the mood was luxurious and, with 11 different beverage companies serving liquors, tonics and spirits, there were plenty of laughs to go around.

Taste the Event is more than fancy dresses and cocktails, though. A hefty portion of the ticket sales are donated directly to the N.C. Food Bank, and event organizers are proud to say that this year’s event will raise a record amount of money from the previous two years. Combined, the 2014 and 2015 Taste events donated more than 30,000 meals to hungry people in need.

“When you come to Taste, you can rest assured that part of your contribution is going to others who don’t eat as well as we do,” an event organizer explained.

“We’ve delivered tens of thousands of meals to people in need,” a representative from Durham Magazine, one of the presenting sponsors, added. “This year, the Taste team spent an entire day at the food bank sorting food and learning how the organization works to give back and help those in need. We’re so proud to sponsor the food bank because of the standard of excellence they have, and to be affiliated with that standard is pretty remarkable for us.”

Taste 2016 Continues

Taste the Event continues on Saturday with family-friendly cookout featuring craft beer, hot dogs, ice cream, bluegrass music and more at Maple View Farm in Hillsborough.

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