Since its inception 12 years ago, restaurateur and Weehawken resident Joyce Flinn has participated in her town’s annual library fundraiser, “Taste of Weehawken.” She runs two of Hoboken’s best-known restaurants, Elysian Café and Amanda’s. This year, she and Chef Rodney Petersen will provide hungry fundraiser guests with samples of Amanda’s Zagat-rated American contemporary cuisine.
“He’s a looker and a cooker, not a talker,” Flinn said of Petersen during a press conference held at the library on Wednesday, “so we’re thrilled to finally get him out of the kitchen for this event.”
“Taste of Weehawken” has funded many of the town’s library programs by feeding lucky ticket-holders since Mayor Richard Turner was invited to a restaurant tasting fundraiser over a decade ago and found it to be a yummy – and profitable – idea.
“My kids have taken classes at the library for years, so it’s nice to be able to give back,” Flinn said. “The library staff is such a dedicated group that always goes above and beyond, and we are proud to be a part of this event.”
“This is just a great way for the community to get together and show support for the library.” –Holly Pizzuta
This is her first year coordinating the event in her new directorial role, which is a responsibility she both champions and regrets a little, since she attended previously as a participant.
“This is just a great way for the community to get together and show support for the library,” she continued. “I love ‘Taste of Weehawken.’”
This year’s “Taste” will be held at the Food Court at Lincoln Harbor, located at 1200 Harbor Blvd., on April 24. Local restaurants, caterers, and vendors – 28 in total – will put their best food forward for the community. Nine of them attended the press conference and offered a taste of the taste.
“The money couldn’t go to a better cause,” Turner said at the press conference. “In these tough economic times, we just can’t pay for every activity.”
Catering to a need
“Bring it on,” Union City-based caterer and soon-to-be graduate of Hudson County Community College’s Culinary Arts program Gisselle Madariaga touted as a sort of motto that applies not only to Tuesday’s “Taste,” but to her life as well.
The chef whose food is classical French in technique with a Latin flair (she’s Cuban) stood before small servings of her “tortillas with a twist” – fat, fluffy omelets stuffed with asparagus, new potatoes, and farmer’s cheese with a bright green chimichurri sauce on the side.
If the samples were a savory indication of how her month-old catering operation, “Plated By Gisselle,” will fare, Madariaga is in for a long and successful ride.
Between preparing for her upcoming graduation and launching her new business, which serves Hudson and Bergen counties, it’s a wonder she has found the time to participate in the fundraiser.
“Right now, every burner is on,” she punned. “I can’t wait for Tuesday.”
Veteran caterer Lorraine’s Table is no stranger to Weehawken, nor to the “Taste.” Their fresh and seasonal cuisine that spans the globe in style, from Greek to Thai to Indian, comes from the borrowed kitchen in the town’s Elk’s Lodge. They’ve provided tasty tidbits for town functions for years.
What makes them unique as a catering business is their home delivery service. Their Web site boasts a new menu each week with a range of entrees in each protein category ranging from $10 to $15 made from fresh, local ingredients. Hudson County customers can order just one, or freeze a bunch for later.
Union City’s artisan ice cream shop Cremas came on the scene three seasons ago (they close during the colder winter months). Co-owner and ice cream artist Mariano Pellegrino hails from Argentina, where “every block has an ice cream shop,” he said.
Inspired by his childhood, Pellegrino brought his 48 homemade, traditional and uniquely Latin flavors to the states. “It’s all about the butterfat,” he said. His creations lie smack in the middle of gelato (around 6 percent butterfat) and industrial ice cream (around 14 percent).
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Pellegrino explained. “It’s creamier than gelato and made in smaller batches, so we can really control the process. We actually squeeze the lemons for our lemon ice cream.”
Ben and Jerry’s West New York franchise also attended the press conference, offering their new line of Greek frozen yogurt in a summery blueberry graham flavor, which owner Sibel Berberoglu touted as “really freakin’ good.”
In with the new, in with the old
Chef David Cinnirella of West New York’s August-born wine bar Lusso has been cooking for 18 years. He looks forward to his first year at “Taste” and hopes to cue the community in to a new dining niche that was previously unfilled.
“Our food is a little bit old school and a little bit new school,” Cinnirella said. “I like to change the menu up every few months, but above all, we listen to the community and what they want.”
Guttenberg’s GP’s Restaurant and Bar owner George Politis stands by his meatballs, and has fed Mayor Turner for twenty years. He is a “Taste” veteran, and his Italian-meets-Greek cuisine is sure to please the crowds on Tuesday, as evidenced by the rapid disappearance of the meatball sliders he brought to the press conference.
General admission tickets purchased in advance cost $30 per person for entry between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., while Preview Hour tickets for $55 per person allow for 6:30 p.m. admission plus door prizes.
Tickets are available for purchase by cash, check, or money order only at the Weehawken Library at 49 Hauxhurst Ave. Tickets purchased at the door are subject to an additional $5 charge.
For more information, call the library at (201) 863-7823.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org