I wrote an article about it a few weeks ago thinking I would help generate ticket sales and most of you were probably shaking your heads thinking, “Silly new guy, the event is already sold out. You actually might find yourself peeking in the windows if you don’t get up from behind that keyboard and get down to Harrington’s.”
It wasn’t more than a minute after I walked into the Radisson Hotel that I knew my expectations had been wrong.
Attending the event with my wife and her father, we strolled into the conference area of the hotel and were greeted with a line of people that had no end; that is until we turned the corner and looked way down the hallway. Drinks in hand and boisterous conversation a plenty, this night was kicked off long before they even let us upstairs.
As an event to support Center Elementary School, I have to imagine many in this crowd were parents seizing the opportunity for a night out of adult conversation, food and drink. My wife and I included.
Of course it wasn’t only parents brandishing their Monday night “hall pass”; we met many people who were simply there for the incredible value that buying a single ticket gets you. More food than you can possibly eat (we tried), a wine tasting table put on by Harrington’s (in other words, free wine) and the sweet, melodious tunes of the talented piano player all under the backdrop of the beautiful conference center at the Radisson simply felt too good to be true for such a low, low ticket price.
Value, thy name is the Taste of Chelmsford.
The event officially kicks off when you get a brochure containing your 3 voting tickets upon entering. One is for best appetizer, one for best entrée, and finally one for best dessert; all color coordinated and clearly labeled to avoid confusion. You only get one vote per category, so cast them wisely young Jedi.
After you find a seat – tables are both reserved and open – go find yourself a plate and fork and let the insanity begin.
Much to my surprise, this wasn’t, “Oh hey, try our steak tips or mac ‘n cheese.” This was wild mushroom risotto with shaved parmigiano reggiano, grilled smoked pork loin with horseradish cream and pickled beet chutney, pork osso buco over lentil beans, boneless duck “3 Ways” (mango, mixed vegetable, and spicy), grilled sirloin over sofrito mashed ruree and tomato salsa, bread pudding with Bailey’s sauce, and snickerdoodle mini-cupcakes.
All for a small price, all to benefit a local school.
After you are done sampling all of this great food (gorging in my case) and socializing with friends and strangers alike, it’s time to make your picks and head over to the voting table. The voting bags are separated by the categories mentioned above and you simply put your, say, entrée ticket into the bag for the entrée that was your favorite. Rinse and repeat for the other two categories. The votes are tallied at the end of the night, and along with some other specialty awards (ahem, like the 1stannual Brad the Dad award), the lucky winners are determined and announced shortly thereafter.
Trust me, these restaurants care greatly about the products they are presenting on the night and truly want to win. The passion on “both sides of the plate” was just incredible to see.
I’ll beat this drum until this town shows me otherwise, but when there is a cause to get behind – whether it is funding enrichment programs for Center School like this one, or helping to rebuild the fire damaged South Row playground, or cleaning up and rebuilding the Westlands’ Cynthia Anne Moores Memorial Nature Park – Chelmsford and its residents (and others) are there.
I had a great time on Monday night and want to thank all organizers, participants and attendees. Rumor has it that next year’s event will be both better and bigger, so unless that type of thing is not your cup of tea, I hope to see you there.
If you would like to see pictures from the event, please click on this link to view my album. Who knows, you just might find yourself in one.
All in all, after such a great experience I’m left with only one question – what’s the next event, Chelmsford?
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 3/31/12.