Adam Klein plans to go heavy on the cupcakes. It's one of the specialties of La Cakerie, the bakery and café Klein co-owns, but there will also be cookies and other autumn-themed treats as well.
"We always want to have more. We don't want to run out," Klein said of Taste of Towson, the Towson Chamber of Commerce's food extravaganza, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at SECU Arena at Towson University, 8000 York Road.
Now in its fourth year, Taste of Towson has grown bigger — and better every year, said Nancy Hafford, Towson Chamber executive director. Starting in 2010 with about 200 attendees and nearly 20 participating restaurants, she is expecting more than 300 people and more than 30 restaurants this year.
"Word has gotten around. People tell their friends, it brings in more people," Hafford said.
So popular has the event become that this year, it moved to a new and larger venue thanks to SECU, the State Employees' Credit Union, which is donating the space. Nearby free parking doesn't hurt, either.
"The goal is to give people an experience of the wonderful restaurants we have in Towson," said Hafford, who deliberately timed the Taste event to before the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season.
"We hope that when people are planning family and business functions and parties, they'll go to these restaurants and catering companies and hotels and use their services," she said.
La Cakerie has participated in two previous Taste events. Both were successful from Klein's point of view. "The event attracts a lot of Towson residents. We see people [there] who use us for catering,," he said. "Also, we meet new people who never heard of us before."
Indeed, the first year La Cakerie participated, it created a bit of a stir itself. Jason Hisley, a co-owner with Klein and lead pastry chef, had been on a national television cooking show not long before the Taste date.
"People recognized him," said Klein
Boyko Pachkov, partner with Elias Rizakos, of 7 West Bistro, has been a Taste participant from the start. Bistro is known mainly for its Mediterranean cuisine so Pachkov brings samples of his most popular items like stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie and baklava. "I bring trays of everything," he said.
7 West Bistro has been in Towson for five years, so it's not a newcomer to the dining scene.
"People at the event are excited. They tell us, 'You make the best crab cakes in Towson,'" Pachkov said of an item not ordinarily considered Mediterranean fare but the restaurant features nonetheless. "Really. I'm not making that up."
Likewise, Brian Recher, co-owner of Towson Tavern and The Rec Room, a restaurant and a sports bar respectively, said the most common comment he hears is compliments on the hamburgers.
"People say, 'These are the best burgers,'" said Recher, who also brings samples of the two restaurants' most popular items along with new specialities. "We have a new chef at The Rec Room who is redoing the menu and adding specials. I'll bring two or three of those," he said.
This year will be Recher's third Taste of Towson. Like other participants, he has noticed the increased attendance and the excitement in the air. The event is good for Towson and, not incidentally, good for business.
"The event is awesome. It's a neat way to get your product out there," he said. "People love it. Some know us; for some we're new."
Cunningham's Café and Bakery wasn't even officially open when it participated in the Taste event last year for the first time. Part of the Bagby restaurant group, the café opened after Taste was held.
"We were new to Towson. The event was great for us to meet everyone and to get to know our audience," said Megan Parker, general manager for Cunningham's Café and for Cunningham's Restaurant, both of which are participating in Taste this year.
Parker plans to bring salads, sandwiches and fresh-baked bread from the café. From the restaurant will come items from its dining menu and pastries from the pastry chef.
"What we hear is, it's nice to have a place locally so we don't have to go downtown," she said, referring the Bagby restaurant group's three other restaurants, all in Baltimore City.
As for Hafford, of the Towson chamber, the more popular the event becomes, the easier it is get restaurant participants. "We know everyone. We call them. Very few say no," she said.
Tickets for Taste of Towson may be bought on the Towson chamber website at towsonchamber.com. Ticket price of $40 includes all the food and an open bar plus a swag bag with discount coupons and promotions from the entire Towson business community.