When I first heard about “Savor Rochester, a Festival of Food 2007,” I expected a group of upscale chefs serving Rochester’s upper class a taste of their most exotic and unique dishes.

With a $40 price tag and vendors such as the Triphammer Grill, Casa Larga Vineyards and Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, I was ready to put on my khaki slacks and actually button up a shirt for once.

When I got there, however, I found not only a completely surprising atmosphere, but also an experience that could really benefit college students. For those of you who don’t know what Savor Rochester is, don’t feel left out: I didn’t either, and I’ve lived here my whole life. The event is a fund-raiser for Foodlink, the regional food bank for the Rochester area and the Finger Lakes. It features over 100 area food and drink vendors serving samples of their cuisine from 5 to 8 p.m. The vendors include restaurants, wineries and breweries, farms, sweet shops and specialty food makers.

As I entered the gate, I was greeted by a Foodlink volunteer who was ready to slap an “OVER 21” bracelet on my hand. Tempted as I was to go on a night-long walking wine tour, I couldn’t bring myself to lie to the guy. Plus, I had to drive home. I got a tote bag for menus and handouts, a wine glass for drinks and a tray for my food samples.

Already I was impressed, and I hadn’t even begun to stuff my gut.

Starting the rounds of sampling put the idea of free glassware and missed opportunities to rest in a hurry. I quickly came upon an area in which I had what amounted to an entire meal without moving more than 20 feet.

My first stop was the James Brown’s Place table, where I feasted on a generous portion of a Bayou Frittata – Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, rice and eggs mixed together for a spicy breakfast dish that could work for any meal of the day. Two tables over, I washed that down with some 100 percent juice raspberry apple cider from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, N.Y. Finally, opposite the Red Jacket table was a display of desserts from Newbury Park Pastries. I finished off my mini-meal with some pumpkin praline cheesecake, a sweet treat that perfectly captured a number of fall flavors.

It didn’t end, either. Every (non-alcoholic) table was something new. Eating sample-sizes didn’t seem like a big deal, but by the end of the night I could not believe how full I was. Like a visit to Danforth, only with better food, better drinks and no after-effects. So, not really like Danforth at all.

The atmosphere was completed with two live bands, one of which was headed by the resident conductor of the UR Wind Symphony, Bill Tiberio. Smooth instrumental pieces were the perfect touch to the experience.

Unfortunately, there were very few college-age people at the event. With the previously mentioned price tag and the lack of publicity to the college crowd, it’s easy to see why.

But it really shouldn’t be that way. Savor Rochester opened my eyes to so many interesting eateries around the city, and it, along with other food-related celebrations in Rochester, is an easy way to find that perfect spot that no one else knows about yet. Some of those involved in Savor Rochester chimed in on that idea.

“You get exposed to a lot of restaurants and a lot of specialty food shops all in one place,” Corn Hill Creamery owner Mark Holbrook said. “You can sample so many foods and things from the local community. I know that UR has students from all over, so it really is an ideal place to get to know the Rochester area.”

“It’s a matter of getting it out to students,” owner of James Brown’s Place James Brown said. “It’s expensive, but it’s well worth it. It’s a good cause, that’s the whole thing and I think it’s awesome.”

Foodlink Director of Programs and Development Frances Pesavento had a lot to say about the appeal of such an event to students from all over Rochester.

“As a 20-something myself, it’s a great place to find your next date night,” Pesavento said. “You’ve got over 100 restaurants, wineries and food producers here, and how much fun would that be to find one of these little hole-in-the-wall places to go? It’s just fantastic food and [you’re] supporting local business. You can come here and, in one night, try out every place and find some just really fabulous places.”

“People see the price tag and think, ‘Oh, maybe it’s not for me,’ but I’m saying if you’re going to save up for something special, this is the thing to come to. Also, it’s a such a benefit [for Foodlink].”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.

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