Taste of Catonsville features four first-time participants

No refrigerator. No fryer. No problem?

For 16 years, Catonsville area restaurants have had the challenge of serving their signature dishes at the annual Taste of Catonsville event with many of the conveniences of their home kitchens missing.

Yvonne Hadaway operated her nearly five-year old restaurant, Caffe Di Roma, efficiently in the afternoon on April 4 as she juggled her phone and orders from customers at her base at 1719 Edmondson Avenue.

But less than two weeks before the Taste, the Pasadena resident had no idea how or if she could show off one of her most popular products at Monday night's two-hour event, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. April 16 at Rolling Road Golf Club.

"I'd really like to bring (gelato), but I'm trying to figure out how to keep it frozen," Hadaway said.

"If I can figure something out — " she said. Then, after a pause, she finished the thought, "Don't count me out yet."

Though gelato is up in the air, Hadaway will have several of her restaurant's other signature dishes, such as chicken and tuna salad sandwiches, and Maryland crab and chicken-and-dumpling soups.

Hadaway will prepare two gallons of each soup the day before the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce event because "soup's usually better the next day" and keep it in warmers during the event.

Despite the inconvenience of not having all her usual amenities at her fingertips, Hadaway, who joined the chamber a couple of months ago, said the event is worth it.

"It's a good way to get your product out there for people to taste and I heard it's a really nice event," Hadaway said. "I want to see what everybody else has and (is) bringing to the table."

In addition to Caffe Di Roma, this year's other first-time participants are El Nayar Mexican Restaurant, Regions and The Breadery.

Longtime participants G.L. Shacks Grill, Chef Paolino Cafe, Jennings Cafe and Ships Cafe Restaurant, however, will not be among the 14 Taste veterans at this year's event.

Jennings Cafe and Chef Paolino Cafe appeared at the Taste as early as 2001 and 2007, respectively.

G.L. Shacks debuted at the Taste in 2002, a year before Ships Cafe.

The fact that the event drew 280 people last year is a testament to the participating restaurants' preparation and ingenuity.

Technically a rookie to the Taste of Catonsville, Regions restaurant will be piloted by lifelong Catonsville resident Sean Dunworth.

Dunworth, co-owner of Regions and Catonsville Gourmet, has been a Taste participant since Catonsville Gourmet opened four years ago.

"We were open for like a month when we did the first one," Dunworth recalled. "We were so new, it was a lot to do. Now that we've done a couple, it's kind of like doing a trade show."

Preparation is key for the two restaurants based at 803 and 805 Frederick Road, who will share a table at the Taste.

Dunworth said he plans to have two or three people with him to serve the customers and will offer a seared tuna dish, a watermelon, crab and feta salsa and a third dish still to be selected by the chefs.

The two dishes he is certain will be on the menu will require 20 pounds of sushi-grade tuna and 10 pounds of Maryland crab, he said.

"While we donate all the food to the Taste of Catonsville, that's the best advertising," Dunworth said. "(The tasters) get to see your face and take a bite of your food. That makes good sense to me."

In addition to featuring the culinary creations of some of Catonsville's most popular eateries, the event sponsored by Catonsville businesses Carey Sales and Service and Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions kicks off Restaurant Week, said Teal Cary, the executive director of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce.

Running from April 17 through April 23, the special week will feature 17 Catonsville eateries, 13 of which are also participating in Monday night's event at Rolling Road Golf Course.

"We think the restaurants in our community are really important," Cary said. "Restaurants really contribute to the revitalization of an area."

Despite the slight dip in restaurants participating at the Taste from the 20 that did so last year, Cary said the chamber expects to sell about the same amount of tickets it sold last year.

"That's still outstanding participation," Cary said of the 18 restaurants the event has rounded up. "We do think it's time to change things up and do things a little bit different."

Cary cautioned that no specific plans for change are definite, but said she saw opportunities to make the event more family friendly.

One idea Cary said the chamber will consider is offering a family discount on tickets, which currently cost $35 in advance or $45 at the door.

Cary noted that a portion of the proceeds benefit the Fourth of July Celebration Committee.

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