So Now I'm Telling You to Eat McDonald's Food ... sort of

I felt sorry for the best chefs in town, truth be told. Theywere tasked with creating appetizers so delicious that folks would spend $250 to eat their creations, along with others, at a gala event. The catch? Some ingredients had to be the same as those used in the kitchens of the McDonald’s fast food chain.

Last night, Orlando-area food writers were invited to taste four of the appetizers, plus two cocktails. My conclusion? Good stuff. Maybe not what the same chefs would come up with using caviar and foie gras, but good stuff all the same. And this isn't all reformatted McRib. As I overheard one chef say, "There were a lot of surprises. They use real eggs."

I now sincerely recommend you support Ronald McDonald House by attending the Appetite for the Arches gala on Saturday, March 1, at the Orlando World Center Marriott. In addition to the food and drink, the evening will feature live music and a silent auction.

Here’s a sneak peek. All told, chefs from the following establishments will participate: Blue Bird Bake Shop, Cask & Larder, Citrus Restaurant, Cuisiniers Catering, Eddie V's, K Restaurant, Luma on Park, Orlando World Center Marriott, The Rusty Spoon, SeaWorld Orlando, The COOP, The Ravenous Pig, The Ritz-Carlton, and Yardbird.

First, the cocktails:

Here's a fruity, not-quite-too-sweet concoction made with white whiskey, real strawberries, and a smidgeon of "strawberry drizzle."

I didn't get to taste the Whiskey Smash -- I'm a one-cocktail gal when I have to drive -- but my colleagues gave it a thumbs up. The bartender used McDonald's hazelnut and maple syrups plus its apple slices.

Chef Kathleen Blake of the The Rusty Spoon used doctored-up hash browns as the base of her Charmoula Chicken. She worked some McNugget magic too. A little salt and vinegar, a pickling of McD's red onion, and she pulled off a nice starter.

At College Park's K Restaurant, Chef Kevin Fonzo is all about American and Italian fare, with some ingredients from his backyard garden. Here, he used McD beef, tortilla, barbecue sauce, iceberg lettuce, white onion, southwest veggies and shredded cheese to create a Chipotle BBQ Beef Enchilada. The corn, cilantro and cumin he added in brightened the offering.

James Petrakis' Brandade Fritter with Smoked Tomato Bolognese may have stolen the show, and I'm not saying that because his The Ravenous Pig was our host. The hushpuppy-like orbs were chockful of pig -- pork sausage and bacon -- plus McD hamburger and fish fillet. But once he smoked McD cherry tomatoes and "finished with chicken livers," he presented an exceptional dish.

His wife and The Ravenous Pig co-owner, Julie Petrakis, made a dessert so good I wouldn't fault her for adding it to her menu. Her Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Oatmeal Raisin Streusel and Vanilla Ice Cream was so good I finished it -- and I never allow myself more than a forkful of dessert calories. Using McD cinnamon buns as a base, she worked also with caramel sauce, apple slices, oatmeal raisin cookies, ice cream, milk, eggs and lemon from the supplier to create a moist and satisfying sweet.

Bravo to the chefs for giving their time, effort and creativity to such a good cause. I hope you'll give your time and money to attend. Think of all the families who are desperate to stay near one of our major hospitals while their children are being undergoing care for a horrid illness.

Eat well,