photos courtesy Sk Delph

On March 9, Dr. Joni Flowers, the founder of the Cultural Diversity Foundation, treated us to an event that brought together a community. The 24th Annual Educational Taste of Excellence at Palace Station featured 17 of Las Vegas' best restaurants and caterers and over 100 domestic and imported wines and spirits, sponsored by Breakthru Beverages, Lee's Discount Liquor, Johnson Bros and Tito’s. The event included a champagne toast, silent and live auction and the introduction of the newest recipients of the CDF scholarships. The Foundation had expected about eight hundred people to attend and saw the arrival of over
a thousand. 

When we hear the words ‘Taste of Excellence’ it evokes images of opulent varietal wines and the fine dining experience, and it should. For a very special group of people, it represents a standard of education and new hope for the future. The Cultural Diversity Foundation overflows with the stories of those who were assisted and triumphed over disadvantages. Dr. Joni Flowers is a true blessing to our community and deserves to be praised in every sense of the word as her passion for what she does embraced me. “Our whole focus is computer skills training, where we help underemployed and unemployed or even employed people who are ready for an extra skill set, such as Quickbooks, Office or social media....” It’s commendable that she has dedicated the better part of her life to raising money to educate and award scholarships. 

The countless stories over the past 24 years of the Foundation’s history touched my heart, such as one recipient who is a survivor of sexual trafficking (she shall remain anonymous to protect her identity). With courage, she rose above this tragic experience and was awarded a scholarship from the Cultural Diversity Foundation. Another earlier recipient is today a registered nurse helping those in need. I believe through sharing our unique stories we all can find common ground and relate to each other through our personal struggles to overcome the trials of our past.

My motivation for this article, as much as it is to tell you about an event of this magnitude, is to spread the word about the scholarships available, and more importantly, to inform those who in the future might also wish to help support this cause. I have every confidence that by understanding how this has blessed the lives of those in their time of need, we would be moved so that others can continue to benefit in the same way. 

Shall we take a stroll together and enjoy a bit of food and wine? 

Live jazz music, featuring saxophonist Darren Motamedy, created instant atmosphere, and a quick glance around told us the restaurants who donated their offerings did so in lavish style, but I must confess, I headed for the wine first. As soon as I saw the famous Maison Louis Jadot’s Pouilly Fuissé with those distinct emerald gold tones, I knew I had arrived at a party. The gentle buttery flavor, followed by a burst of crisp green-apple, was kind enough to linger on the finish, but I digress... Let's get some food!

The Angry Butcher Steakhouse carved a prime flat-iron steak topped with chimichurri sauce served over Yukon Gold butter whipped potatoes and their Maine lobster chowder with roasted corn, bacon and fingerling potatoes was worth the trip in itself. 

Palace Station’s Boathouse Asian Eatery elegantly plated generous portions of yellowtail and salmon sushi and served up Nigori sake and handcrafted cocktails by Gemma Acheson, their lead mixologist.

California Noodle House offered tender Kalbi short ribs, oxtail fried rice and their mango pudding, which was a hit! 

Heaven beckoned when I tasted the tamalitos from Leticia’s Cocina, coated with a tomatillo verde salsa. As I munched, I watched several people go back for seconds and thirds.

Zenaida’s Cafe's creative tofu scramble and Asian cucumber slaw were delicious! 

Chef Josh Manna from Public School 702 cleansed our palates with enticing beet salad bites followed by bacon and cheddar tots. 

Chef Oscar Sanchez of Oscar Sanchez Catering prepared a beautiful paella with chicken and chorizo topped with a rainbow of peppers. 

Vegans were treated to Simply Pure and Chef Kenny's Asian Vegan Restaurant. The faux meat selections and creative vegetable dishes gave regular meat-eaters pause to marvel. 

For dessert, Braud’s Funnel Cake Café handed out mini funnel cakes with chocolate and strawberry toppings, and Leticia’s Cocina created funfetti cake pops and birthday cake French macaroons. And to top it all off, an absolutely delectable frozen custard with toppings galore were compliments of Shake Shack

I wasn't able to get to every booth, but I'd like give a toast to Americana, BBD's, Bonefish Grill, District One and Mint Indian Bistro for their contributions and support. If you missed it this year, attend next year for the chance to taste wine from California to France and the world over, and of course partake in the gourmet food and rejoice in uplifting the lives of those who need it the most.