A warm summer breeze and the soft glow of lights around the Bentonville square greeted attendees of Savor the Flavor on Thursday night (Sept. 17) as they strolled in and out of 12 different establishments on a walking tasting tour of the best restaurants in downtown Bentonville.
A expected sell-out crowd of 400 guests joined the fun as each paid $40 to sample savory dishes such as wild mushroom ravioli, fried olives, 4 cheese ravioli with basil pesto and Tavola crostini at Tavola Trattoria; grilled pork tenderloin and butternut squash soup prepared by Born2CookInspired at The Spice and Tea Exchange; cheap dates, quesadillas and guacamole at Table Mesa; cochinita pibil and watermelon fresca at YeYo’s; Cajun macaroni and cheese, pizza, hoagies, cinnamon rolls and coconut macaroons at 3rd Street Eatery and Bakery, and ice cream at the Walmart Spark Café. Attendees also enjoyed trying dishes from Two25 Gallery, Ramo d’Olivo, Mama Carmen’s, Tusk & Trotter, The Hive and Big Rub BBQ.
The event, a fundraiser for Faith in Action, a Washington Regional Medical Foundation charity, was also held in Fayetteville on Sept. 8, where it is a long-standing tradition. This was the first year for Bentonville’s Savor the Flavor and proceeds from both events were expected to raise $81,000 to $82,000, or 68% of the annual operating budget of Faith in Action.
Jaclyn Keeter, director of development and outreach services, said a similar event was offered in Bentonville years ago, but was more of tailgating experience where food was brought to tents around the square. She said the growth in the number of restaurants around the Bentonville square created the opportunity to raise additional funds by creating a walking restaurant tour there, just like the Savor the Flavor event around Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
“We are a small program, within the Regional medical foundation, and we are responsible for raising all of our own operating costs every year,” Keeter said. “So we were at a point where we needed to be able to raise some additional revenue and the idea of Bentonville was presented about a year a half ago. We decided that were we going to do it this year.”
Keeter said organizers got a great response when they spoke with the different eateries around downtown Bentonville. She said businesses not participating this year are open to being a part next year. So, with that prospect, and with new restaurants opening in downtown Bentonville within the year, she expects Bentonville’s Savor the Flavor to grow by 50%, if not double, next year.
Faith in Action is a volunteer based organization providing homebound seniors in Washington and Benton counties with free non-medical services to help promote their independence, dignity and quality of life. In 2014, Faith in Action had 113 individual volunteers and 19 groups who helped homebound seniors by providing 2,882 hours of time, 3,165 services and transporting clients more than 19,000 miles. The charity also helped 106 senior citizen clients.
Clients must be over the age of 60 and not driving. “Income is not a requirement, although we know that most of the people we serve are lower income,” Keeter said. “And where you live is not a requirement, although we have to have a volunteer in the area in order to be able to provide the service.”
Keeter said they are hoping the event will bring an awareness of Faith in Action to the community, especially in Benton County.
“We are hoping that people who are looking for volunteer opportunities in the senior community, that they’ll think of us,” she said. “And become volunteers at some point – whether that’s group volunteers or individual volunteers or whether they want to do a food drive for the pantry.”
Carolee Starovich, a volunteer for Faith in Action, said she and her husband visit an elderly lady named Iris, helping her with grocery shopping and some housework.
“Our experience has been that the seniors that are pretty well homebound enjoy the company, as much as what you do for them,” she said. “That’s what you do for them, remind them that there’s a world out there and that we care about them.”
Harps Stores continued their tradition as presenting sponsor of Savor the Flavor. Gold ladle sponsors included Bobby and Margaret Taylor and the Chase Family Foundation.