And the winner is …

Barbecue ribs are served up from the Apollo Liquor and Suprette table Saturday night at the Taste of Mower County held at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. The event is a fund-raiser for The Arce of Mower County. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Barbecue ribs are served up from the Apollo Liquor and Suprette table Saturday night at the Taste of Mower County held at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. The event is a fund-raiser for The Arce of Mower County. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Sweet’s Restaurant, Williamson top Taste of Mower

About 200 people supported a good cause by sampling dishes from about 11 Mower County chefs Saturday.

The Arc of Mower County held its third annual Taste of Mower County fundraiser at the Holiday Inn Event Center Saturday night. Guests sampled food and wine from local establishments and home-based chefs and then voted on their favorite item.

“It all goes for programming to help people with disabilities,” Arc of Mower County Executive Director Dawn

Ross Trotterchaude of Grand Meadow dishes foor from the table of the Holiday Inn's Brad George Saturday night during the Taste of Mower County, a fund-raiser for the The Arc of Mower County, held at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

Ross Trotterchaude of Grand Meadow dishes foor from the table of the Holiday Inn’s Brad George Saturday night during the Taste of Mower County, a fund-raiser for the The Arc of Mower County, held at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

Helgeson said.

Sweet’s Restaurant in LeRoy won first place among the establishments with its smoked windsor chops, followed by Apollo Liquor and Superette in second place with its barbecued ribs. Elaine Williamson won first in the home category with three different kinds of cheesecake, followed by Joe and Lacey Morse and Stephanie Edwards, who served smoked pulled pork and peach pie.

All the money from tickets and live and silent auctions will go toward funding programs that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including a recreation program and a housing program that helps them locate affordable housing.

Caitlin Jacobson dishes from The Bridge Club in Grand Meadow, dishes up Thai curry scallops over Jasmin Rice during the Taste of Mower County Saturday night at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. The Taste of Mower County is a fund-raiser for The Arc of Mower County.

Caitlin Jacobson dishes from The Bridge Club in Grand Meadow, dishes up Thai curry scallops over Jasmin Rice during the Taste of Mower County Saturday night at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. The Taste of Mower County is a fund-raiser for The Arc of Mower County.

While The Arc receives funding through the Hormel Foundation and the United Way, fundraising is important because the Arc does not receive state or federal funding.

“We have to raise a lot of money to keep our programming going,” Helgeson said.

Along with funding The Arc’s programs, the money raised Saturday is used for the Special Olympics Program, Our Place Recreation Center, parent workshops, aid for parent advocates, and more.

“It just serves so many people in our community,” Helgeson said. “To be able to go out there and just live life to the fullest.”

Last year, the fundraiser brought in about $8,000, but Helgeson was hoping for a higher total this year to continue programming and add new initiatives.

“We have to raise about $20,000 a year,” she said.

The Taste of Mower County is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for The Arc, and Helgeson said it’s a more effective way to raise funds than hosting many small fundraisers.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s not as much work as all those little things put together,” she said.

Fundraising totals were not yet available as of press time.

The roughly 200 attendees at the Taste were able to taste and vote on dishes from about 11 different chefs.

For Austin Hy-Vee chefs Kristine Merten and Elizabeth Dieser, the event was a chance to support a good cause while also promoting some new dishes.

Hy-Vee just added a new smoker, so Merten and Dieser featured home-smoked pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce. They also served garlic parmesan mashed potatoes. The two featured their own recipes, and Dieser said meat and potatoes — a southern Minnesota favorite — would be a good way to promote the new smoker.

“It’s a lot of home-style stuff,” she said of the event.

Hy-Vee has participated at the Taste all three years, as it’s a way for its chefs and the company as a whole to support a good cause.

“It is a great community event,” Dieser said. “Hy-Vee totally supports events like this, groups like this. It’s great to reach out in our community.”

While the chefs competed for best dish, Dieser said it was more of a friendly competition.

“It’s a competition, but for us, it’s just something fun,” she said, adding the event is a fun way for the chefs to see what other people are cooking in Mower County.

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