By Mary Boyle
Ozaukee County is constantly rated as one of the wealthiest and healthiest places to live, and this designation is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it gives residents pride in their community; on the other, it may make one believe that nobody struggles here, and that is far from the truth. That is why the Family Enrichment Center is so important to our community.
Located in Grafton, the FEC is an amazing collaboration between multiple non-profits housed under one roof. This unique arrangement helps organizations such as COPE, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ozaukee, Energy Services, Ozaukee Family Services, Interfaith Caregivers of Ozaukee, and the Alzheimer's Association share resources, which enables them to afford more services for families all over the community.
Since 2014, the FEC has hosted the Gourmet Gala: a wonderful fundraiser that not only allows the community to learn more about the services the FEC provides, but also gives them the opportunity to try food and beverages from several local restaurants and win fabulous raffle and auction prizes, all while supporting the FEC non-profits.
For the first three years, the Gala was held at the FEC, but had grown so popular, that more space was needed for the event. This year was the Gala's first time at the Ozaukee Pavilion, where there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out.
Upon arrival, guests were encouraged to grab a beverage and view the many raffle baskets, participate in the Wine & Whiskey Pull, or get their photos taken on the "red carpet."
One of the benefits of the Ozaukee Pavilion was the ability for sit-down dining. Guests simply dropped their drinks off at one of the many beautifully set tables, and then proceeded to the corners of the room, where four different restaurants were busy making small plates of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
Appetizers were covered by The Cheel, who served a delightful Burmese dish called Tohu Thoke (a cold chickpea salad, tossed with garlic, onion, ginger, cilantro, and peanuts) and Twisted Willow, who contributed a delicious Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts.
All four restaurants served an entree on small plates. From Scratch Catering made an amazing Pork Tenderloin with a Cherry Cashew Wild Rice, while Yellowbellies offered up a dainty version of one of their most popular sandwiches, the O.G. (flatbread topped with bacon aioli, organic mixed greens, Bernie's bacon, Cedar Valley 2 year cheddar, pulled rotisserie chicken, and roasted tomato). Twisted Willow served Marinated Flank Steak with Cauliflower Puree, Chimichurri, and Micro Greens, and The Cheel did Sandheko Sukuti, which was crispy Nepalese spiced pork served with crispy flattened rice. Vegetarian options were also offered at the stations, upon request.
For dessert, Yellowbellies served two different mini-cheesecakes, and From Scratch offered a spice cake with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Tom Wachs of Fox 6 News was the Emcee for the event, introducing two videos about the FEC, and moving the evening along. The live auction was a particularly fun part of the evening, featuring two items: the Baird Suite at Miller Park for 20 Guests, and "The Cheel in your Ville," in which Executive Chef and Owner of The Cheel, Chef Barkha Limbu Daily and her husband, Jesse, offer a hands-on, in-home culinary experience for 10. Bidding for both items was fast and competitive, but when Chef Barkha, who returned for her third year at the Gala, manned the mic, she managed to drive up the bidding for her item even further than the Miller Park package.
"[The FEC] core values are very near and dear to my heart," Chef Barkha said in a recent FEC video. "They believe in fostering and enriching connections, community growth, and the well-being of the community -- that was one of the big reason I started my own restaurant. This is why I'm coming back."
Aside from being a wonderful evening, the Gourmet Gala truly highlighted the love, support, and appreciation for the Family Enrichment Center and all that they do for Ozaukee County. This is absolutely an event you'll want to mark on your calendar for 2018!