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23rd Annual Taste of the Beach a local affair
May 9, 2018

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The votes were in - 474 to be precise - and a small crowd waited on Old San Carlos Boulevard for the news. A cheer went up as announcer Jo List declared the winner: Nervous Nellie's. The restaurant was chosen 2018 People's Choice winner for Taste of the Beach, a food sampling event hosted on Sunday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Approximately 16 restaurants competed in the 23rd annual event that invites guests to vote for their favorite bite. Offerings ranged from ice cream to fish tacos to lobster. A panel of 12 judges chose winners in categories other than People's Choice.

"We work hard to keep it a true blind tasting," said Jacki Liszak, Chamber President. Liszak said food from different restaurants was presented to the judges on identical plates to eliminate bias.

According to Liszak, the judges, who are sequestered in a designated location during the event with food runners delivering samples, come from a variety of backgrounds. Chefs, food critics, a county commissioner, and other local community members comprise the panel.

Liszak said the Chamber begins planning the event in December and it's designed to appeal to locals.

"High season is over. This gives an opportunity for restaurants to shine during a slower time," Liszak said.

Vendors arrived as earlier as 6 a.m. to begin setting up. Liszak hopes even more restaurants will participate next year. "We want to expand our footprint with a little more space," she said.

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