There is a mysterious building visible from the Florida Turnpike northbound perched on the edge of a small pond. This building is illuminated at night by blue and purple directional lighting. This building is the Heaven Event Center, a rentable event space and for one night, the gathering place for over two-hundred Yelpers at Yelp’s Fire & Ice Gala. The event was free with advanced RSVP and organized by the wonderful Yelp Orlando Ambassador, Colleen Burns. Local sponsors like Sprinkles, Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly, Cocktails Catering, Orlando Brewing, Cakeshooters, Honest Tea, and Jeremiah’s Italian Ice provided free edibles and libations in support of the United Arts of Central Florida.
Inside Heaven — yes, that phrase hasn’t gotten old yet — the walls were draped from floor-to-ceiling with white cloth and lit with shades of crimson and violet. The event’s logo was projected onto the floor and music was thumping even in the lobby. Sponsor tables lined the walls and were already making sure Yelpers were fed and hydrated. Adam and I gravitated to the Cocktails Catering table for bruschetta, ceviche, and arroz con gandules (rice with chick peas) with diced sausage.
The bruschetta was a custom-made experience served with base ingredients like basil, tomatoes, onions, and grated cheese. Bowls of ingredients and hot plates were set out on a long table where guests could choose what went on their bruschetta. Servers sizzled ingredients like mushrooms, peppers, chives, and bacon, and placed them onto toasted crostini-style bread. The fresh ingredients were really the stars of this plate, and the bread was lightly toasted and maybe lightly buttered too. The arroz con gandules was very traditional and well-seasoned, although there was a smattering of diced sausage for added flavor. I was only sorry that there was a long line for seconds.
Before dessert, Adam and I met up with our friends Kathleen, Mike, Christine of Random Hangers, and her husband, Steven. We all enjoyed Orlando Brewing’s Pale Ale and one of their lighter organic brews, and then set upon Cocktails Catering again, but this time for a taste of their namesake, cocktails! The Red Passion made a splash flavor-wise over the Mojito Cocktail— Steven and I both enjoyed this one.
Adam also enjoyed his intense Dirty Martini complete with olives, and then put his full support behind Orlando Brewing for the rest of the night. Adam also visit and re-visited our favorite purveyor of Italian ice and gelati in Orlando, Jeremiah’s Italian Ice, for their refreshing mango and lemon Italian ices. At one point, Adam asked for a two-flavor mango-strawberry combo.
We all made multiple visits back to Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly mini cupcakes throughout the night. I kept gravitating to the red velvet cupcakes, which were amazingly moist and had a terrific flavor. One mini chocolate cupcake — which was good, but not as good as its red velvet cousin — made it home with me in an adorable to-go Chinese take-out box.
Sprinkles’ Cakeshooters were ultra-fun to eat! Remember ice cream push-pops? Think push-pops, but filled with frosting-layered cake. The Cakeshooter trees were a fun way to present the variety of flavor combinations. I enjoyed the red velvet shooter and Adam nommed the zesty lemon version. The frosting was deliciously creamy on both shooters, and since the portion sizes were so generous, my only regret is not having enough room to eat more.
This was my first Yelp event, but I know it won’t be my last. The venue was beautiful and decked out with mood lighting, comfortable seating, and plenty of places to set down extra drinks and food. I loved the little Yelp letters on table tops, Yelp Libs napkins, and Yelp accents on cupcakes. Plus, there was even a raffle for Red Chair Affair tickets, which is the opening celebration Central Florida’s new cultural season. Colleen outdid herself with the Fire & Ice Gala, and I’m looking forward to more upcoming Yelp Orlando events of this calibur.