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JJ's Bar & Grill at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Taste of Liberty Jan. 29, 2016. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Last Friday, I attended the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Taste of Liberty awards at the request of my boss and co-workers.

I didn’t realize the extra treat awaiting until I noticed that each classroom in the historic Dorchester Civic Center had vendors for the Taste of Liberty.

Free food!

I met up with co-workers, who know me well enough to inform me there was also beer and wine — on the house.

Free food and free booze! Hallelujah — a Foodie’s paradise!

Some of the vendors were places I knew well. There has yet to be an event catered by Club Stewart catering that I haven’t devoured every morsel they place in front of me. The folks from the Pour House were there bringing back fond memories of ribeye steak sandwich and amazing crab soup. I’ve often enjoyed desserts from Southern Sweets or gone after healthy alternative lunches at Panera Bread.

After walking around a bit and, of course, starting off with a salad, I piled some Smoking Pig pulled pork on my plate. I loaded spicy sausage from Sho’Nuff Smokin’ BBQ and a couple of small items from other  vendors and sat to eat.

It was nice to see many of my favorite places represented well and vying for a people’s choice award.

Everything from my usual places was delicious. For round two, I spied places I had never tried. I walked into the bar room, ordered a beer and noticed there was a taco bar set up.

Hmmmm, build your own taco!

I grabbed a shell and stuffed it with meat, black beans, salsa, cheese and sour cream, nearly splitting that shell in half.

Heaven in a corn tortilla and washed down with a Bud Light to boot. Score!

In another room I found something just as great — a mashed potato bar.

Mashed potatoes, sour cream, add chives, a little cheddar to make it better and then — wait for it — bacon bits!

And in another room was a place I’ve been meaning to try, JJ’s Bar & Grill.

YEP … Latin food!

The food was  reminiscent of my hometown. They served gorgeous pieces of guava-glazed chicken, and my mouth began to water and my hands tremble.

“Is that flan?” I asked. They nodded yes. “Hook me up.”

The chicken was heavenly. Then I took a bite of the flan.

“Just like my aunt makes,” I thought, holding back tears of joy.

In the end, the people’s choice ended in a tie, with Sho’Nuff and JJ’s sharing the top honors. I congratulated them both and told the folks at JJ’s how the flan reminded me of my aunt in Miami.

As the vendors packed away leftovers, the folks at JJ’s Bar & Grill walked up to me, paper plate in hand. They said it was a gift to take home. I said thank you and goodnight. Of course, I had to peek.

The plate was stacked with flan, now that is winning!

I also tip my hat to the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, whose staff put together the taco and mashed potato bars.

If you guys ever decide to open a diner, please let me know when and where.

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