Fresh off their first win in two years, the Cleveland Browns went after another goal, pushing the 20th Annual Taste of the Browns past last year’s take of $255,000 to support the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Browns special teams assistant Josh Cribbs shared co-chair duties with linebacker Christian Kirksey and Chef Rocco Whalen. “We’re excited to give back while having fun,” said Cribbs. “That’s what tonight is all about.”

Braving a gush of rain getting into FirstEnergy Stadium, 1,000 guests grazed on gourmet treats prepared by dozens of Northeast Ohio restaurants and beverage purveyors. Bacon-wrapped dates from Whalen’s Fahrenheit, walleye cakes from Aurelia, Miceli’s pumpkin marscapone in dark chocolate cups added to Asian pulled pork served by Pearl of the Orient owner George Hwang and thick salmon burgers from Regan Reik’s Pier W kitchen.

Lemonade laced with blueberry and Tito’s Vodka joined the wide selection of beers and wines to sample from a variety of suppliers. For dessert and the drive home, Caruso’s Coffee capped the evening.

And that’s just a small sampling of the array of delicacies from Northeast Ohio’s great culinary talent that filled the 7UP City Club and Medical Mutual VIP Lounge.
“In 2017, we had a record year providing more than 55 million meals to those in need in the six Northeast Ohio counties we serve,” said Kristin Warzocha, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. “Every dollar raised tonight will help the Food Bank provide enough food for four nutritious meals.”

While the new starting quarterback was not on hand, players Joel Bitonio, David Njoku, Austin Corbett, and JC Tretter and several alumni bolstered the fundraising and mingled with fans. The patrons supported right back, with a winning bid of $850 for a Browns helmet signed on the spot by Cribbs and Kirksey. When the live auction ended and the silent auction closed, the Browns put another one way over the top, with the 2018 Taste of the Browns raising $309,000 to ensure a bounty for families in need this holiday season. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT

Ivan Schwarz, president/CEO Greater Cleveland Film Commission, with Kristin Warzocha, president & CEO, Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive.

Chef Rocco Whalen, left, with Browns left guard Joel Bitonio

Courtney Bitonio eyes the bacon-wrapped dates prepared by event co-chair Chef Rocco Whalen, background left, chatting with her husband, Browns left guard Joel Bitonio.

Bacon-wrapped dates from Chef Rocco Whalen await grazing fans.

Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey, left, with fellow co-chair and Browns special teams assistant Josh Cribbs auction their personally signed Browns helmet as Pumpkinhead #31, aka Gus Angeloine, encourages the crowd to go higher than the winning bid of $850.

Browns tight end David Njoku, left, and Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey