Offering samplings literally from soup to dessert, nearly two dozen Gloucester and Cape Ann food and beverage providers turned out Wednesday night.

And some 300 diners turned out to try out their fare while supporting two Cape Ann nonprofits in the process.

The occasion was the sixth annual Taste of Cape Ann, hosted at Cruiseport Gloucester by the Times, Cape Ann magazine, and the Times’ Taste of the Times food pages. The event not only served to showcase 23 local restaurants, catering services and beverage providers but also served as a benefit, with proceeds going to Cape Ann Animal Aid and The Open Door food pantry and human services agency.

The event once again drew a mix of returning food providers and first-time participants – including new shops such as Cacciatore’s, which served up scallops wrapped in bacon with sauce, and restaurants that have returned in more ways than one.

At the table representing Alchemy, general manager Stefanie Dodds served up a wide variety of samples of everything from curried cauliflower, celery root and apple remoulade to meats such as soppressata and prosciutto. She smiled as diners congratulated her on the Duncan Street restaurant’s reopening and return after an extensive renovation project and a brief run as Pinoli.

On the waterfront side of Cruiseport’s main hall, Dennis Anderson and his wife Shanel, co-owners of Poseidon’s on Western Avenue at Centennial served up a range of calzones and pizza slices in their first Taste of Cape Ann appearance.

“We’re really excited to be here,” said Dennis Anderson, offering a slice of a steak bomb calzone. “It’s our first time out, but it really is great — a great event.”

Julie LaFontaine agreed — for a number of reasons.

On one level, she was, like so many others in attendance, enjoying the food, sampling the bacon-wrapped scallops from Cacciatore’s and pulled pork from Wally’s Blackburn Bistro.

But, as executive director of The Open Door, one of the night’s beneficiaries, she noted the real spirit of the evening.

“To see so many people turn out for an event like this goes right to what we’re about as a community,” she said. “We’re a community that cares for its own — and that’s what I see here tonight.”

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