The Great 2015 TasteFest hosted by the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce lived up to its name, providing an amazing selection of local tastes in one elegant setting. Our Menu Monday feature this week is inspired by TasteFest, where we chatted with chefs as we sampled food and drink with friends. No guest at TasteFest walks away hungry, but we left with a list of local restaurants we can’t wait to visit this holiday season!
While entertained by the Amy Yassinger Jazz Ensemble, we tasted foods from dozens of restaurants and spirit vendors. The event felt like a walk through Barrington from the South to North, tasting from the places we pass by daily, know and love. Mandile’s gave a perfect sampling of their refined focus — tried and true Italian. They served their famous lasagna which highlights their use of fresh sauce ingredients and melt-in-your-mouth homemade pasta.
Two of the town’s other favorite Italian restaurants took a unique take on a traditional Italian favorite. ZaZa’s served arancini stuffed with Bolognese (bacon, eggs and cheese) combining two favorite tastes into one easy-to-eat dish. Biaggi’s stuffed their arancini with goat cheese, and perfectly paired it with tomato chutney and apple syrup. This dish will be on their menu through the holidays, and we recommend you put it on your Deer Park holiday shopping list.
Surprise combinations came from newcomers Strawberry Moon who sampled their Roast Beef Pomegranate Crustini…
And Cary Ale House, sampling their Pork Belly BLT’s and Beef Tenderloin with Onion Jam pub sandwiches. Whole foods tasted Spanakopita and wraps off their catering menu.
The event’s host location, the Marriott Northwest BBQ Beef sandwiches from their RC Grill and two local favorites captured the taste of the season. Francesca’s sampled brown butter pumpkin ravioli, which will be on their menu through December. Heinen’s Pumpkin Butter Goat Cheese tarts packed an incredible taste combination.
Heinen’s stuffed puff pastry shells with a combination of goat cheese with pumpkin butter (found by their jams and jellies) topped with a candied pecan. We can’t wait to make these for our holiday parties, and Heinen’s promised us they would stock plenty of hard-to-find pastry shells in their freezer section through the holiday season.
Many a sweet tooth was satisfied with tastes such as fudge-frosted brownies from Savory Salads, and delicious mini cupcakes from Cupcake War-winning Smallcakes in the Arboretum. We tasted the double chocolate cake with pink buttercream frosting and look forward to stopping in the store for their best-selling Boston Crème cupcake.
We cannot overlook the delightful libations that peppered the event. The Almond Sparkling served by Coopers Hawk was one of the greatest surprise tastes of the night. And the mint chocolate port served by Grassroots was a delectable and light cordial digestif. Many others sampled liquors including our very newest tavern Alley 59, Copper Fiddle Distillery from Lake Zurich and Broken Earth Winery of Long Grove.
Taking the trophy for top tastes were:
Best Taste: Incontro A Tavola for their veal meatballs and caprese skewers. This new favorite Italian bistro in the Arboretum thanks Barrington for the warm welcome. Business has been booming as they frequently sell out of their Ravioli Aragosta (lobster-stuffed pasta over spinach in a vodka cream sauce).
Best Entrée: Mandile’s Italian Restaurant won Best Entrée for the second year in a row. Mandile’s TasteFest menu featured Lasagna, Manicotti and Panna Cotta. People just can’t get enough of Mandile’s housemade lasagna and vodka sauce!
Best Dessert: Jennie and Vera’s cookies. (25) These cookies are so special they are a frequent treat at the Golden Globes. Their focus centers on natural flavors, and their results are melt-in-your-mouth sweets without the typical dyes and processed syrups found in many desserts. The walnut cookies and chocolate orange bites are fan favorites and a must try. In addition to Jenny and Vera’s bakery in Barrington Commons, they are available at Grassroots and Whole Foods as well as other high-end retailers.
Best Spirit: The Voters’ Choice award for “Best Spirit” ended in a tie, with Garfields and Cooper’s Hawk Winery both taking home the top prize.
Thank you Barrington TasteFest and all who hosted booths for an amazing event. We hope you all join us for a taste next year!
Photographer Sally Roeckell specializes in contemporary lifestyle portraiture with an emphasis on food photography. She regularly features recipes lovingly prepared for family and friends via Table and Dish on Instagram and on her website at TableAndDish.com.
Kelly Donlea is a Barrington mom, chef, cookbook author the owner of Organizing Dinner, a company that brings sensible cooking solutions to busy people. She has published several cookbooks and one of her specialties is helping parents plan family meals with fewer trips to the grocery store. Kelly also offers cooking classes and demonstrations in your home or public facility.
To learn more about Kelly, her recipes and her services, you’ll find her Facebook page by clicking HERE and her website at OrganizingDinner.com. Kelly is a regular contributor to our Barrington EATS and Menu Monday series here at 365Barrington.com. She shares recipes, cooking tips and special features about local chefs and popular menu items at area restaurants.