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Tasting Spring Branch

St. Arnold's and a slider from Avalon Diner.
St. Arnold's and a slider from Avalon Diner.

Nothing makes a late Sunday afternoon like tasty food, cold beer and a sense of community. This is what I found at the Memorial Assistance Ministries' Taste of Spring Branch food tasting event this weekend.

After a minor snafu involving a tree and my tendency to get flustered when directed where to park, my companion and I found ourselves outside a large white tent guarded by some very friendly-looking older ladies. The tent was even larger than it looked from the outside and full of about 25 sampling stations. I was disappointed to see how many empty sampling tables there were, but I quickly found that the event wasn't lacking in quantity nor quality.

I can only wonder about the missing treats from the tables labeled El Ultimo Taco, Jolly Cup, Polonia, Cinco's Seafood and French Press Café.

Our first stop was at the Guadalajara Hacienda table -- hands down the tastiest I tried. There we sampled nicely seasoned, perfectly crisp mini Tex-Mex empanadas filled with chicken, roasted corn, black beans and cheese, along with their signature creamy cilantro lime sauce. Another favorite was the Blue Planet Café table, with their delightful ham, cheese and green apple pressed sandwiches and creamy, rich chocolate gelato.

Other high notes included a well-flavored tortilla soup from Pappy's Café, juicy sliders from Avalon Diner and a chicken pesto quesadilla from Golden Hunan II, oddly enough.

Though the event was filled with some surprising hits, there were a few misses. First, it was freaking hot. The tent with full side flaps acted more as an oven than anything else, baking me into a sweaty mess. Luckily, there was an indoor seating area with much needed A/C.

Second, I was excited to see the Sushi Pop table and very interested in sampling, but was disappointed upon tasting a very boring spicy tuna mini taco and hearing my friend's confirmation that her jalapeno popper fared no better.

Another disappointment was the wine from La Fuente Winery. Aside from a dismissive pourer who decided I was going to taste the Chardonnay without asking, the wine just wasn't very good. It was described as an unoaked Chardonnay, but all I got was artificial tasting floral notes and a strange aftertaste. In all fairness, however, I did not try any of the other varietals.

Luckily, Saint Arnold's was on hand to pick up the slack in the alcohol department with samples of Fancy Lawnmower and Brown Ale. There were also large bins in the center of the tent with plenty of cold bottled water and canned sodas. Other attractions included live music and an adorable cake silent auction held inside (with air conditioning!).

Between the friendly event staff, huge sampling portions and family-oriented crowd, the event had an intimate, small-town feel that nearly charmed the disappointments away. By no means was this the best food sampling event I've been too, but it terms of overall charm and good spirit, Taste of Spring Branch is definitely a winner.

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