There were wines from around the globe--New York to Italy. Craft and other beers from Brooklyn to Belgium. Top-shelf rum, whisky, vodka, sangria. Foods from Greece, India, Mexico, Japan, Cuba, and numerous other regions.
Over 425 happy attendees showed their support (and their hearty appetites) on April 29 at the 14th annual Taste of Weehawken food festival at Lincoln Harbor.
About 30 vendors participated this year—the largest group in the fundraiser’s history. “The restaurants all do this at their own expense,” said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, explaining that the vendors donated their time and wares to support the Weehawken Public Library.
Two waves of attendees sampled the wide assortment of food and drink. General admission tickets from 7:30 to 9:30 allowed patrons to sample from the area’s finest restaurants, bakeries, and caterers. A special early-bird ticket allowed entry at 6:30 and also entered attendees in a drawing for about 25 prizes valued at up to $100.
Altogether, approximately $12,500 was raised for the library.
A taste for all palates
The event was originally conceived by the library board of trustees in collaboration with former Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, according to current board president Leona Nersesian.
“It was much smaller,” she said. “But it was like a neighborhood. Spring in the neighborhood. Everybody would come. It’s really grown, because we have all new people on the waterfront so they’re coming in. They’re becoming our neighbors now.”
Since inception, the event has been held in the food court at Lincoln Harbor, generously donated by Hartz Mountain, who also provide staff and support. For 2014 the tables around the periphery were smaller to curve better and allow for more vendors, as the space is being maxed out.
Asked if there were plans to move the event elsewhere, Nersesian said, “We’ve talked about that and we don’t know where else we would go, because it’s a perfect venue” with its expansive view of Manhattan.
Giannone Wine & Liquor Co. has been an unnofficial co-sponsor of the event for the past few years. For the current edition, they supplied 12 tables and invited their distributors to present a wide variety of wine, beer, and spirits.
“This is a good event for people from wine novices to experts,” said Chris Zitman, sales representative for Angel’s Share Wines, and a local resident who has photographed the library. “When you get to try all of these wines from all of these different vendors, styles, levels, it’s a great way to learn. You have people come to these things and all of a sudden they fall in love with wine..”
Food vendors included everything from well-established local eateries like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Chart House Restaurant to newcomers and local entrepreneurs.
Ispresso at Park provided a coffee that many at the event claimed was the best they ever drank. Originally an architectural firm, they opened up a small café at Park and 47th in Union City to serve thirsty locals. and the business took off. They also sell delicious homemade cookies and pastries.
Desserts were popular. Kathryn’s Confections, Cholita Dessert Bar, Hudson Cakery, and Gladis Homemade Cakes were among the vendors.
Among the more offbeat entries was Lorraine’s Table, a food delivery service that offers a rotating menu of high-quality dishes each week. They also provide cooking classes, catering, and, most intriguingly, a supper club once a month in an old Victorian house in Rutherford, complete with a roaring fireplace in winter.
Also at Taste of Weehawken was a table of students from the high school culinary class, a longtime staple of the event. Red-clad students hustled about, serving hand-prepared spinach salad and barbecued pulled pork sliders that took days to prepare, including soaking ten pork shoulders in brine.
Better each year
Calixto Rodrigues II of Weehawken has worked at the library for about nine years. This is his fifth year attending the event.
“It’s actually got more people than last year if I remember,” he said. “Previously they always had wine. I never had whiskey or any hard liquor in the past. But I found it.” He happily raised his glass.
His favorite food? The cake pops at Hudson Cakery.
Attending with him was Weehawken resident and ex-library employee Maria-Luisa Kennedy. She opted for Ispresso. “Oh my goodness, they’re amazing.”
“We usually come every year,” said Xavier Hernandez, attending with Jessica Torres. “We live in Hoboken so it’s close by. This is one of the better years. Hardly anybody ran out and there was plenty of food and it was very good. A great wine selection and beer. And they have the single malt whiskey and everything.”
“The price is good also,” said Torres. “You get a lot of food. And high quality.”
Joan DiNardo came for one reason. “The taste. The taste of Weehawken. Fine restaurants.”
A retired restaurant owner herself, DiNardo prefers now to let others do the cooking. “One of my favorites is GP’s. And also I live in Hoboken so we go to the Madison for lunch. We go out a lot.”
Attending with DiNardo was her friend Jean Burns, owner of Jay’s School Uniforms in Jersey City. “For food, we’ll travel,” she said. “We’re exploring. Looking forward to visiting some of these restaurants. Ruth’s Chris is my favorite.”
“It’s always a good night,” said Michele Curci, who grew up in Union City and now lives in Weehawken. “It just gets better and better each year.”
Curci came with her mom, Julie Curci from Secaucus, whose connections to the library go way back. “I know Leona from school,” said the elder Curci, referring to the board president.
“It’s a very good cause,” said Michele Curci, who has been bringing her mom to the event for the past seven or eight years.
“She always brings me to the best places,” said mom.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.