If there is one event that all able Bengals fans should support, it's the Taste of the NFL. It's an event where Bengals players and local celebrities come out and mingle with the fans, featuring food from some of Cincinnati's best restaurants. The best part is, all of the proceeds go to support the Freestore Foodbank with the mission of fighting hunger by providing meals to hungry local Tri-state families.
"I want to thank all of those that support this event that have bought tickets, that are here, and without you, none of this would be possible for the Freestore Foodbank" honorary host Rey Maualuga said, addressing the enthusiastic crowd. "The cost of one ticket to this event is equivalent to 525 meals for children and families in our community."
Throughout the night, there were multiple opportunities to take advantage of the event and support the cause. Each Bengals player in attendance helped to create a fantastic atmosphere and a memorable night for everyone involved.
Some of the best restaurants from around Cincinnati helped to cater the event, providing some fantastic food. Places like Holtman's Doughnuts, The Pacific Kitchen, Pontiac BBQ, Mazunte, The Metropolitan Club, Jag's Steak & Seafood, Buffalo Wings & Rings, and many others provided as much of their best food as the hungry participants could eat.
However, the most interesting table of the event had to be from The Presidents Room at the Phoenix located in between Race and Vine street. They were serving lobster corn dogs, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; hunks of lobster meat dipped and fried in corn dog batter. What made these even better is that I got to eat mine while chatting up Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
Holtman's Donuts was another can't miss table, providing a seemingly unlimited supply of their famous donuts. People in Cincinnati will know Holtman's as one of the best donut shops in the city. Their donuts on display at the event showed their support of both the Bengals and the fight against hunger. Also, if you're keeping score on the interesting food tables, Holtman's definitely made their mark with lemon fruity pebble donuts, as seen in the picture below.
A number of Bengals players attended the event, mingling with the fans and generally making it a cool experience for everyone involved. One of the most accessible players was Will Clarke who seemed to be all over the place throughout the entire night while hanging out with his family.
Clarke was definitely one of the most sociable players at the event, but one other Bengals player blew everyone else out of the water. That player was Carlos Dunlap, who already has a reputation for walking up and mingling with people at these events. He lived up to that reputation and then some, talking to anyone that he could and even offering to pose for pictures with fans.
It wasn't exactly difficult to tell who was a Bengals player and who was not. For reference, I am 6'2 and 230 pounds. That's above average among the general populations. Despite that, you can see both Clarke and Dunlap absolutely towering over me. To be fair, Clarke and Dunlap are both defensive linemen, but the story was about the same for every other Bengals player at the event. Players like Andrew Whitworth, Andy Dalton, Cedric Ogbuehi, Tyler Eifert, and former Bengals great and current radio analyst, Dave Lapham all attended the event and were instantly recognizable due to their sheer size.
Going to an event like this, you're expecting to meet and mingle with a lot of Bengals players. But, one of the more interesting parts of the night was getting a chance to meet and mingle with some local non-football celebrities. Guys like WLWT anchor Ken Broo, Kiss 107 host D-Lo, and Good Morning Cincinnati anchor Bob Herzog were just a few of the recognizable names and faces who populated the event.
Marvin Lewis was one of the most popular and outspoken people at the event. In fact, he even went up to make a small speech after Rey Maualuga introduced the event and shared some insights on the team's progress so far.
"We finish up our mandatory minicamp tomorrow, which will finish up our basically nine weeks of offseason work we've had, prior to training camp. It's been a productive time for us," Lewis said. "We'll take hold of it and get our breath back a little bit and we'll get ready for training camp."
As excited as Bengals fans at the event were to hear Lewis talking about the team and how they are coming along in the offseason, the focus of the event was not forgotten. In the same idea, I personally had a lot of fun attending the event and getting to talk to the players on a peer to peer basis. My fellow Cincy Jungle writer Jason Marcum and social media editor Jeremy Conley also attended the event, the latter of whom wrote about his experience at the event with his father here. But, as exciting and fulfilling of a night as it was for everyone, it all came back to getting together and helping hungry families receive meals from a fantastic local charity.
"Remember, keep digging and support the Free Store Food Bank," Lewis finished. "Who Dey!"