West Liberty Economic Area Development (We Lead) hosted the Taste of West Liberty Sunday, Feb. 26, in the Regional Learning and Cultural Center.
This was the second time for the fine wine and dining fundraiser that brings in restaurants, wineries and breweries from all around the West Liberty area.
The last Taste of West Liberty was held in March, 2014, in the building now home to Marais/Mangolandia. That made this the first ‘Taste’ to truly be held at home.
“There’s a lot of room in here and we’ve had good pre-sale tickets,” said We Lead President Sandee Buysse-Baker. “We have different restaurants from all over the area.”
For a night the RLCC building, which is home to We Lead, the WL Chamber office and classes from Muscatine community College, was a fully functioning restaurant.
Tables with candles ran alongside the walls and through the center of rooms as vendors filled in the nooks and crannies of the downtown facility.
“We’re probably willing to do it on an annual basis,” Buysse-Baker added of the Taste of West Liberty. “It’ll be a great fundraiser and it’s a whole lot of fun for the community.”
Throughout the building were eateries willing to show off their best stuff, including wings from the T-Burds Bar and Grill from Atalissa and burger from Newt’s Cafe in Nichols.
Representing West Liberty, the WL Country Club served chicken and pork tenderloin, the WL Foods Market brought out different kinds of pinwheels and kabobs and Marias brought the yogurt and fresh fruit.
In the kitchen was a busy Donna Alberti, who made meatballs and tarts in order to promote the fact that she’ll be teaching cooking classes in the RLCC building soon.
There was a lot to eat, and just as much to drink.
“We do quite a few events like this,” said Marcia Cesarz of Ardon Creek Winery, about 20 minutes southwest of West Liberty. They brought their best stuff to the ‘Taste’
“If I can get off of work I might come next year just to be here,” she joked, getting ready to hand out a sample of Ardon’s most popular sweet red wine, Red 52.
The number one question she gets asked during tastings: Does the winery actually grow its own grapes for all of its wines?
“We have 4.1 acres of vines and grow a variety of grapes,” she answered, giving a history of the winery’s Irish heritage and how it ended up in Letts, Iowa.
Also on tap, so to speak, was Peace Tree Brewing of Knoxville, Iowa, with its Red Rambler Ale and the Blonde Fatale, a Belgian-style Blond Ale.
Giri’s BP rounded out the tasting with a variety of drinks as well as a representative from Budweiser who served a coffee-beer combination.
The ‘Taste’ was tasty, the drinks were flowing and the community came out for the fundraiser, which may be one of We Lead’s biggest during the year.
“The purpose was to create a fundraiser to bring awareness to downtown West Liberty,” said Lee Geertz, former Board President of We Lead and organizer that evening.
“It’s great networking for businesses and neighbors,” she added. “We took a couple years off for the RLCC, and then our board thought it would be a good idea to bring it back.”
It was indeed a good night for networking, most who attended sat down to eat in large groups. For a couple hours the ‘Taste’ turned the RLCC into a hybrid best-of restaurant.
In a way, Geertz believes that the Taste of West Liberty and We Lead are one in the same.
“The mission behind what We Lead does is celebrating or focusing on our existing businesses and connecting those folks,” she says. “It’s also a good way for us to get out and connect.”
The ‘Taste’ returnsJacob Lane · Wednesday, March 1, 2017