Local eateries set to hold court at annual event

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — The Edison Chamber of Commerce assures the public that its next event will be the epitome of good taste.

On Monday, the chamber’s seventh annual Taste of Middlesex 2004 is set to tempt the taste buds of anyone who attends the three-hour event scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Pines Manor, 2085 Route 27. The food extravaganza, designed to not only market restaurants but benefit the area schools and community charities, boasts the cuisine of about 30 of Edison’s restaurants, from Chick-Fil-A to barbecued rib houses to quaint, top-notch ethnic eateries, according to chamber officials.

For a cost of $40 in advance, $50 at the door and $25 to senior citizens over the age of 60, participants will be entitled to peruse palate-tempting tables representing each of the 30 very different restaurants and sample the foods highlighted by each establishment.

Conceived seven years ago by past Chamber President Joel Siegel, who owned and operated a township graphic arts firm, the event is designed to "market local restaurants and help the community at the same time," current Chamber President Gloria Dittman said.

"We have a lot of great restaurants and no one knows that. This is the perfect way to show them off, promote business and give to others. The restaurants not only have the food, their representatives bring brochures and business cards for people to keep."

And, local eateries are not the only places that benefit.

Nonperishable foods will be collected at the door of the event and be disbursed to the St. James White Church Soup Kitchen in Edison.

"The pantry is dry there, so this is a great opportunity to fill it," Dittman said. "People tend to donate to the larger soup kitchens, so the local ones, inadvertently end up running short on supplies. They really need the help and we’re happy to contribute. We will collect the food and disburse it ourselves directly to St. James White Church."

As far as monetary donations go, after covering costs to run the event, the proceeds from the event will go toward supporting a one-year college scholarship for a Middlesex County College student.

In addition, money from the event will help support financing tutors for students in need at the township’s four middle schools.

"Pretty much, the money goes to schools, which we see as the source of our future workforce, and the community," Dittman said.

While much of the Taste of Middlesex is devoted to giving back to the community, a lot is just good food.

"It is a way for people to mingle, network and take pride in the community as well," Dittman added. "There are door prizes. Everyone who buys a ticket uses that ticket for a door prize and raffle. The prizes, which range from spa days to towels to meals, are donated by local businesses. They’re a nice bonus. Also, free copies of ‘NJ Tables,’ a four-year-old magazine, highlighting restaurants in north and central Jersey will be given out to inform people of what’s going on in the restaurant world."

Another cute plus designed to make the event fun and help those in need in the mix is that students from the Thomas Jefferson Middle School will be on hand to sell cookbooks they designed and wrote for $5 each. The proceeds of the books will go directly toward what has become the school’s dwindling art supply coffers.

"The art department is running lower and lower every year," Dittman said. "This is not only a great creative project for the students, but a good way to get those supplies stocked."

All of this adds up to a event that is guaranteed to leave a good taste in the mouths of the community-minded entrepreneur, Dittman said.