“For Local, By Local”: A Neighborhood CHARITY Event at Cress Restaurant!

On Labor Day Monday, September 3rd, Cress Restaurant celebrated its 4th anniversary with a charity event benefiting the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. This two-part event featured the premiere of their TV Pilot Project – ‘Vegetarian Bound’  and a Live auction at Athens Restaurant, followed by a VIP dinner at Cress.


The Food Gods must have been looking out for me or more aptly in this case,  Mr. Keith Edwards. Keith is an avid wine educator and supporter of the community who included us in these festivities. Thank YOU Keith!! Not only was I fortunate enough to partake in this momentous occasion, I also got to attend the VIP Dinner and savor the lavish creations from our very own Local Celebrity Orlando Chefs:

This beautiful evening was not only a celebration to mark the 4th anniversary of Cress Restaurant, but with the hard work, dedication, and support of generous friends, they raised $15,000 and 875 lbs of food to benefit the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. Well done!!

To begin allow me to introduce our Hosts for this spectacular event:

Dr. Jenneffer Pulapaka, General Manager & Co-Owner of Cress: Dr. Pulapaka wears many hats. She is a podiatric surgeon with her own private practice, The Deland Foot & Leg Center. She is also the co-owner, manager, and wine director at Cress. Dr. Pulapaka is the creator of the ongoing project “Vegetarian Bound: A Pilot for TV”.

Chef Hari Pulapaka, Executive Chef & Co-Owner of Cress: Is a full-time, tenured Associate Professor of Mathematics at Stetson University. Armed with a Jam Beard Award nomination for Best Chef South under his belt, Chef Hari is constantly striving to learn new techniques and create new compositions. Hari is a firm supporter of local ingredients, farmers, and products and about ‘giving back’ as much as possible.

Here’s my humble attempt at recreating this wonderful evening. Starting with the premier of the pilot ‘Vegetable Bound‘ and ending our delicious evening on a high note with the fabulous food and wine dinner course held at Cress Restaurant.

Chef Tony teased us with his Lobster Roll, Chef Gurnsey tempted us with Duck & Figs, Chef Pulapaka flaunted his Herb Crusted Florida Grouper, Chef Fonzo flirted using his house made ricotta cheese and pig head ragu, and Chef Blake captivated her diners with her Rusty Meringue & Bourbon Cherries. These are but few of the dishes exclusively created for the evening.

If only the walls of Cress could talk, they would surely be too embarrassed to share the food comotosed orgasmic sighs from us. It was all absolutely sublime and I fear I may not have the adequate words to describe the feast of these wonderful five courses paired with champagne and wine. Still, here are some snippets of the evening through my lens.

Hors d’oeuvres:

Paired with Lucian Albrecht, Cremant d’Alscae Brut, France, NV

  • Lake Meadow Naturals Duck, fig, local honey comb by Chef Gurnsey
  • Smoked Local Mullet Reuben, rusty pickled cabbage, Old Hearthe pumpernickle by Chef Blake
  • Lobster Roll, roasted lobster mushrooms, creme fraiche, tarragon, brown butter fingerling choux by Chef Tony
  • Scotch Lake Meadows Duck Egg, mustard aioli by Chef Hari
  • Savory Goat Cheese-Pistachio Cannoli by Chef Kevin



First Course:

  • Roasted Cauliflower Tart, Greek yogurt labneh, local honey, shaved pistachio, rosewater, crushed pepper, argon oil by Chef Tony
  • Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France, 2011

Second Course:

  • Local Herb Crusted Florida Black Grouper, Cape Canaveral Octopus, house smoked local house sausage, caviar of citrus beurre blanc by Chef Hari
  • Bachelot-Monnot Bourgogune Rouge, France, 2009


Third Course:

  • Ricotta Gnoochi, braised Palmetto Creek Farms pig head ragu, house made ricotta cheese by Chef Kevin
  • Damilano Barolo, Italy, 2006


Fourth Course:

  • Seely’s Ark Rabbit Terrine, baby carrots, confit of chestnut, fennel, ramps, game reduction, garlic foam by Chef Gurnsey
  • Bodegas Alto Moncayo, Campo de Borja, Spain, 2009

Fifth Course:

  • Rusty Meringue, toasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, bourbon cherries by Chef Blake
  • Yalumba Antique Tawny Port, Barossa Valley, Australia


Chef Hari even had goodie bags made, playfully presented for his dinner guests: ‘Pulpaka Garden’ ghost pepper sauce, chutneys, savory shortbread, local herb focaccia.

I am embarrassed to admit I have not yet had the opportunity to eat at The Rusty Spoon. After tasting such tasty creations from Chef Blake, The Rusty Spoon is on my To Go Soon list. And of course, I look forward to visiting Cress so I can indulge in more decadent and beautifully spiced dishes by Chef Hari.

For all you Orlando residents or tourists, I strongly urge you to take some time out from your hectic schedule and allow all your senses to be indulged by our very own local celebrity chefs. Yes, these are some of the finest Chefs,  CFL is proud to have!

Cress Restaurant on Urbanspoon The Rusty Spoon on Urbanspoon

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