The sky had just begun to clear on Friday night, saving dozens from being soaked as they waited to be banded, wineglassed, and plated before taking on a wide field of food and drink inside Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science.
It was the museum's 18th foodcentric fundraiser dubbed the Wine, Spirits, and Culinary Celebration. There was indeed plenty of wine to be had, though our favorite was the sweet Strongbow Cider, which was poured generously as opposed to the small sips we received from some vintners.
Sure it was a "winetasting" event, but it was clear that tasting was being taken to the max. A group of men laughed giddily each time a woman jumped out of her high heels when with a loud hiss the pressure in a plastic tube that snaked around the museum was released, letting the ball inside soar above the crowd.
As I circled both the museum's upstairs and downstairs, I couldn't help but notice the dominant dish of the night: meatballs. Da Campo Osteria served them. So did Frankie and Johnny's, East End Brasserie and Café Vico. Some came in a savory mushroom sauce and were made with veal. Others were the standard beef in tangy red sauce with a side of ricotta cheese. Susie's Scrumptious Sweets offered red velvet and dark chocolate cake balls.
At $85 a ticket, you might expect something more than a meatball, but think again. Restaurants that ambitiously serve small bites à la minute at these gastronomic orgies often find themselves overwhelmed.
Hence the obnoxious, preppy-dressed couple whining at the Bimini Boat Yard Bar & Grill team for a bite of their grilled shrimp with goat cheese risotto and a champagne beurre blanc.
"Take your time -- nobody's waiting," they complained. Fast-to-prepare dishes always please at these events.
Crudos were also popular and far superior to the endless barrage of balls. 3030 Ocean served a fresh-tasting sliver of cobia over an edamame purée topped with firm fava beans and a punchy sesame dressing.
Our favorite was Via Luna's rich, fatty torched salmon crudo with a sweet golden beet panzanella salad.
You most definitely get your $85's worth at this event. Yet we would suggest next year the liquor distributors offer up their wares with some kind of mixer. It's hard to start a night with a shot of vanilla rum out of a plastic ramekin. Who knows? Mixed drinks might help even further loosen up the crowd's wallets for the museum.
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.