Annual ‘taste’ fundraiser brings unique flavor combos to Carbondale

CARBONDALE — It was soupy, but then it reminded Andy Cerra of dessert.

“Delicious,” he said, after sampling a savory morsel of butternut squash soup topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. “I’ve never had anything like it.”

He nodded toward Barbara Gentile, co-owner of Crystal Pines Restaurant in Clifford Township, who served up more soup.

Gentile and more than a dozen other restaurant owners, winemakers and confectioners filled Carbondale Grand Hotel ballroom for the fourth annual Our Taste of the Town, held by the Greater Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber fundraiser brought more than 300 guests to sample flavors of local vendors and pick up culinary tips during live demonstrations.

Dozens of people sat at round tables adorned for fall with bright centerpieces — gerbera daisies set in tall Mason jars filled with whole corn kernels. Bright orange and red peppers flopped out of the jars. Florist Paul Daugevelo of Ros-Al Floral and Events said he wanted to connect his decorations with the afternoon’s theme — food.

“It’s a good opportunity to get to sample everybody in town,” said Chef Robert Miller, who owns the Plate d’Azure restaurant in Carbondale.

His restaurant opened just 11 months ago, and the event, which he cooked for last year just a few weeks before opening, helps bring visibility to his business, where he recently unveiled his first dinner menu.

Keeping with the autumn theme, he served up butternut squash risotto, chocolate mousse and hors d’oeuvres made with beets, green apple and goat cheese.

Chamber Director Laure Carlo said the amount of money they raise each year varies, but they hope to donate between $500 and $1,000 to an area nonprofit. This year, the chamber chose the Women’s Resource Center, which serves about 1,800 women and children who have been victims of violence or sexual abuse each year in Lackawanna County alone, center Director Peg Ruddy said. The organization also has an office in Montrose to help women in Susquehanna County.

As one of only two Chinese restaurateurs in town, Foliage restaurant owner Zhang Bao said most people in the city know his menu, which his family has been serving in Carbondale for 30 years. On Sunday, he served hearty portions of American favorites like General Tso’s chicken and vegetable lo mein.

“(Some of) these are restaurants that have been around for over 100 years,” Carlo said, running down a list of long-standing local restaurants. “It’s nice to get these local businesses out so they can show off what they have.”