Story & photos by SARA M. CHASE

More than 150 people attended the inaugural "Taste of the Bay" fundraiser for The BRICK Ministries held on Saturday evening in the Northland College Ponzio Campus CenterCafeteria.
Guests were treated to 'taste' sized samples from 13 different area restaurants and caterers including New China Restaurant, The Platter, Pizza Pub, El Dorado, Freehands Lakeside at the Blue Wave, Ashland Baking Company, Delta Diner, Deep Water Grille & The Alley Restaurant, Ashland Family Restaurant, Frankie's Pizza, Four Corners Food & Spirits, Benoit Cheese Haus and Chartwells at Northland College.
"Of course the stars of the evening are our vendors," said Liz Seefeldt, Executive Director of The BRICK Ministries. "Thank you to all the restaurants who participated this evening, donating not only all your time but all your efforts, your labor as well, thank you for stepping up to the plate so to speak and making such a great donation to The BRICK Ministries."
Four awards were given out honoring the Best Savory and Best Sweet dishes as voted on by those in attendance and chosen in a blind taste test by a trio of judges, Hal Haynes of Northland College, Skip Hunter of Heartland Communications and Father Paul Pare of the Catholic Communities of the Ashland Cluster.
The Judges Choice Savory winner was Chartwells' Beef Wellington Stuffed Mushrooms while the People's Choice Savory winner was the Deep Water Grille & The Alley Restaurant's Caribbean Style Pulled Pork with Jamaican Jerk BBQ Tropical Fruit Slaw.
The Judges Choice Sweet winner was Chartwells' Sweet Blueberry French Toast Bread Pudding while the People's Choice Sweet winner was the Ashland Baking Company's dark chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, port wine spiced cherries and pistachios.
"We tried to feature things that we have in the bakery all the time," said Ashland Baking Company catering director and pastry chef Jessica Pergolski. "The devils food cake we used is a cake option we often sell and it's available for special order and then the chocolate mousse is the top layer of our bittersweet mousse cakes that we always have in the case as well."
Chartwells at Northland College Director Amanda Tutor described their winning Blueberry French toast bread pudding as being soaked in cream and eggs, then baked and topped off with a rum carmel sauce.
According to Hunter, judging was a lot of fun. "There's a lot of food — you've got to pace yourself otherwise you get full too fast," Hunter said. "You can't give too high a score to the first one if it tasted really good just in case the last one tasted just as good."
Benoit Cheese Haus owner Jill Jones said they were glad to be involved with Taste of the Bay because it is for a good cause. "The BRICK is obviously a perfect venue to join into," Jones said. "We're really glad to be here ... There are a lot of people, they seem very happy so I think it's going really well."
Ashland Family Restaurant Owner Tim Saliu agreed that it was a great opportunity for a very good cause. "This is a wonderful, wonderful event to bring the college and the community together," said Sue Reader, Board President for The BRICK Ministries. "The Northland Community has offered student help and their facilities partnering with The BRICK Ministry."
BRICK board member Bill Holzhaeuser and his wife Mary Jo checked people into the event and sold tickets at the door. "The thing to recognize too ... is the generosity of the Northland Students because their dinnertime was reduced in order for this event to come in and set up so we appreciate that," Mary Jo said.
Seefeldt said Northland softball coach and BRICK board member Steve Wammer was essential in the partnership between Northland College and The BRICK and the success of this event, which certainly exceeded her expectations. Wammer and multiple student volunteers spent the event delivering samples up to the second floor conference room for the 'blind' judging, among other duties. "We wanted to have a signature fundraiser," Wammer said. "We do fundraisers and other things but something that was special to us and to the community, doing something with food seemed to make sense."
According to Reader, The BRICK has been interested in holding an event like this for at least six years. "It finally became a reality this year so this is really exciting," she said. "It's a great way to start our initial year and we're hoping that this is our signature event."
Taste of the Bay also featured a raffle made possible by donations from multiple area churches, business and organizations.
Seefeldt really wanted to emphasize the great outpouring of generosity shown by the community. "Thank you so much to the entire community for showing up for our event, for supporting the good work that we do at The BRICK Ministries, to serve the low income people who live right here in our community throughout Ashland and Bayfield Counties," she said. "Without your help, we would not be able to serve over 1,600 people through our Food Shelf program every month. Without your help we would not be able to serve at least 1,000 people in our community through our Benevolence Program every year.
"Thank you for all your support."