29th Taste of the Triangle

29th Taste of the Triangle

What better way to celebrate Fat Tuesday this year than by attending one of the most anticipated events in all of Southeast Texas? The Sabine Area Restaurant Association will be putting on quite a show with the largest number of booths ever for a tasting in this area. Ford Park Exhibit Hall is the site once again for this amazing gathering of locals who cook, and more importantly, of those who like to taste the tempting morsels offered.

The 29th annual Taste of the Triangle will take place between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and what a way to wrap up Mardi Gras celebrations across Southeast Texas. For the uninitiated, Taste of the Triangle – aptly named – gives guests the opportunity to walk among the more than 60 food and drink booths and taste or sample their wares. You will find local specialties, lots of seafood, country cooking, soul food, Tai, Italian, Cajun, Creole and a mix of many others. Bring a pen and pad to jot down your favorites so you can plan a visit to the area eatery to enjoy a full meal at a later date.

You’ll also have time to meet the representatives of the local restaurants and beverage companies in our area and to meet friends from all over the area who come into Beaumont for this special fundraising event. Organizers are expecting the largest crowds ever to attend.

“We are very excited and pleased,” said President Jay Jenkinson of SARA, “to see that we have more than 60 venders in this tough economy. We really did not know quite what to expect, but this outpouring has certainly exceeded our initial expectations.” Since 1981, area restaurants and beverage companies have donated their food and service to make the annual Taste of the Triangle SARA’s largest annual fundraiser. “Thanks to all those who have supported our efforts, to date, SARA’s gifts and donations total more than $1,050,000,” said Jenkinson, general manager and partner of Cheddar’s Casual Café.

“Education remains the primary focus of our giving. We are trying to assure that our grandchildren and their grandchildren get the tools they need to build successful lives and careers,” said Jenkinson. “Scholarships are a large part of our efforts.” Recently, SARA has donated $19,000 in individual scholarships to Lamar University and Lamar Institute of Technology, as well as an additional $25,000 to an endowment fund benefiting Lamar University Hospitality and Culinary Arts majors.”

“The restaurant association is only $25,500 away from fulfilling our commitment of a $250,000 endowment fund at LU. Another endowment of $15,000 was reached in memory of restaurateur A.J. Leger, who helped found the Taste of the Triangle. Before his death in May of (2011), Leger, who co-owned Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Beaumont for 35 years, had served in every officer’s position at SARA. He served the Texas Restaurant Association as its director-at-large for more than 20 years and is in the establishment’s Hall of Honor.

Along with all of the food and drink to sample and compare and a wonderful opportunity to hang out with friends from all over the area, guests will enjoy entertainment provided by Katie Whitney and The Draw.

Special guest of honor for this year’s event is another food service pioneer, Donny Broussard, owner and manager of Pizza Inn in Port Neches. More than 45 years ago, Broussard left his job at Texaco, bought a Pizza Inn franchise and brought one of the first national restaurants to Southeast Texas. He certainly has done things right and the 78-year-old still works five days a week in his restaurant supervising the staff, checking on those fabulous pizzas and greeting his many friends. He also attributes his good health to a daily diet, both breakfast and lunch, of his favorite hand-tossed pie. Seeing Broussard stand at the big ovens, watching the pizzas come out, is an absolute delight in itself.

The tickets are $20 for general admission and may be purchased at the Ford Park box office or at fordpark.com, all Ticketmaster locations including H-E-B on Dowlen and the Beaumont Civic Center, or at ticketmaster.com. You can charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. Note that Ford Park does not allow baby strollers, any carryout containers or trays at the Taste of the Triangle.

The 29th Taste of the Triangle is sponsored in part by Cheddar’s Casual Café, the YMBL, Texas Best Organics Rice, and Sysco.

If you have not included this event in your plans, you still have time and celebrate Fat Tuesday in high style and with many of your friends.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.