"This gives us a taste of what's out there and what to try the next time we have something to celebrate, like a birthday, a wedding or something else," said one Cranston woman who attended Thursday night's event.

CRANSTON, R.I. — Have you ever seen rainbow unicorns?

Well neither have the 700 or so attendees at Thursday night's Critic's Choice Food and Drink Event, hosted by The Providence Journal at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. Those were two interns from Johnson & Wales University working with Andrea Soave Nadeau at Carina's Sweet Shop.

"Our table theme was magical fantastical and they wanted to dress up like that," said Soave Nadeau, the storeowner and one of 70 vendors present at the event. "Everything we do here is special... Our customers come to us for a baby shower and they end up coming back.

"We can make cookies out of anything."

Of course, a balanced diet does not consist exclusively of sweets, so for those who wanted a traditional plate of Portuguese food, Central Falls based Café Restaurant Beirão was ready with a plate of pork, clams and potatoes.

"I'm from Cabo Verde, São Nicolau, but when I bought the place four years ago, I decided to keep the restaurant Portuguese," said owner Vera Ramos. "It's good to be here because I get to become part of the show.

"I feel welcome here."

Those were welcome words for Journal food writer Gail Ciampa, who selected all of the participants.

"We sent out 120 invites and the first 70 to respond got a table," said Ciampa. "I love walking in here and seeing all the vendors and people just smiling and having a good time.

"It's just a fun thing," she continued. "Not only does it help the paper, which is important to me, but a portion of the proceeds will also go to Amos House to help the impoverished and homeless."

The vendors were not the only ones having a good time, as pointed out by Nadia McGovern, a Cranston resident who came with friends.

"A group of us friends from work are foodies," she said. "This gives us a taste of what's out there and what to try the next time we have something to celebrate, like a birthday, a wedding or something else."

Some of the visitors even left a little bit surprised.

"We came because it sounded good," said George Gervais, of Warwick, who came with his wife, Mary. "Good food and a good moment to check out some good drinks.

"For me it was better than I thought," he said. "There were way too many choices... I normally don't like grits but I liked them here because they weren't very ... gritty."

"It was a good chance to check out all the food choices around," said Mary. "Those grits were very smooth though."

Every consumer, every owner, has a story to tell and apart from that being the essence of humanity in Ciampa's eyes, it is also where the real value of a plate of food lies.

"Everyone in here has a story and I know them all," said Ciampa. "Food is more than food, it's about making a memory. Making a connection."

—kandrade@providencejournal.com

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On Twitter: @Kevprojo