Kudos to the City of St. Augustine, Epic Community Services Inc and the newly formed Ancient City Blues Society for putting on an absolutely fascinating day of food tasting and blues entertainment - # 1 & 2 on the list of my all time favorite things to do.
Although my fifteen years as a restaurant owner would certainly qualify me as a food writer, this article will be the exception to the rule. I'll stick to eating Grilled Pork Medallions, Crab Bisque, Crab Cakes, Seafood Pasta Salad, Oak Smoked Panini, Smoked Fish Dip, Salmon Terrine, Shrimp Creole, Thai Shrimp Rangoons, Cajun Kabobs, Fudge Lollipops, Bread Pudding, Blueberry Parfait, Cannolis and Key Lime Pie and drinking fine wines and the best domestic and imported beers, rather than writing about them.
All of those tasty dishes and beverages, by the way, were just a few of the delicious offerings that were available from A1A Ale Works, Aviles Restaurant, Creekside Dinery, Crockpot Dinners by Chef Jeff, Custom Summer Kitchens, Dick's Wings and Grille (whose catchy slogan "I Like Dick's Better than Hooter's" is a hoot), Fiddler's Green, Florida Cracker Cafe, Gypsy Cab Co, High Tide Cafe, Hot Shot Bakery, Kingfish Grill, Manatee Cafe, Mangia, Old City House Restaurant, Present Moment Cafe, Saltwater Cowboys, Santa Maria, South Beach Grill, The Fudge Lady (my kinda woman), The Reef, Tsunami Japanese Cuisine and Zhanra's, who all participated in the Annual Taste of St. Augustine.
I'll vehemently argue with anyone who can tell me there is a better way to spend an absolutely beautiful sunny day, than strolling from one delicious food vendor to another, sampling delicious foods from many different ethnic backgrounds, while good old down home blues is being played. If this is what heaven is like, and I do hope it is - then I'm ready.
Speaking of the blues, the very newly formed (they were having their first official meeting two days after the festival) ANCIENT CITY BLUES SOCIETY - led by JACK SCHULTZ, did one heck of a job putting on a full day of blues entertainment. The acts included CHRISTIAN SUN and the AFRICAN DRUM MASTERS, SOULO LYONS, MARK "MUDDYHARP" HODGSON and the FLORIDA BLUE ALLSTARS, J. W. GILMORE, THE BOXROCKERS featuring blues legend WILLIE "THE REAL DEAL" GREEN and JOEY GILMORE.
Having lived in the Ft. Lauderdale area for over 20 years, seeing J. W. Gilmore and Joey Gilmore (no relation) was a regular experience. With both of them living in the area, they were both staples on the local blues scene. However, since relocating up to the Treasure Coast about five years back, I don't get to see the guys as regularly as I used to and it was a treat to once again see two of my old favorite blues men.
Just minutes into his set, J. W. had the crowd already loving him. His smooth vocals and fabulous harp playing drew enthusiastic rounds of applause and lots of hooting and hollering. Ninety minutes later, as his set was ending, the crowd made it quite clear they wanted more.
Joey Gilmore gave the fans something to shout about as well. Having won the 2006 INTERNATIONAL BLUES CHALLENGE - an event sponsored by the BLUES FOUNDATION, in which approximately 300 bands enter each year - JOEY's reputation precedes him. With his large and statuesque presence, and his similar style of vocal and guitar playing, JOEY is often compared to the great B B KING.
Another of the days highlights was a performance by WILLIE "THE REAL DEAL" GREEN. Coming from someone who considers himself to be knowledgeable of the blues, I've got to admit, WILLIE'S new to me. Other than seeing him twice in four weeks, here and at "Springing the Blues" in Jacksonville, I've never heard of this amazing bluesman. Backed by a very tight local band called the BOXROCKERS - which featured Grammy Nominee and Legendary Blues Guitarist TONY O sitting in - WILLIE GREEN put on a show that showed his determination to become a household name in the blues community.
From what I saw today, I'm looking forward to a bright future for the Ancient City Blues Society. The venue they have to work with - the newly remodeled ST. AUGUSTINE AMPHITHEATER - is absolutely beautiful. It's very spacious, with comfortable seating for a few thousand people in a covered outdoor setting. Tie that in with the support of the city and the people at Epic, and hopefully some other sponsor to jump on the band wagon and this could soon become one of the major festivals in the State of Florida. They certainly have the Blewzzman and www.Mary4Music.com on their side.
For more information on any of these bands and to possibly book them in your area, most of them have websites, so please check them out.
You can also check out pictures of the event at http://www.mary4music.com/Page18.html