Rich Clark hasn’t been a resident of Weehawken for very long, having purchased one of the recent additional units in the Riva Pointe luxury condominium complex a few months ago.
But when Clark read about the fundraising event, “A Taste of Weehawken,” that was taking place near his waterfront home in the food court of the UBS Financial Services headquarters on Harbor Boulevard, he had to make sure he attended.
“I never heard of anything like it before,” Clark said. “I was very curious and had to come.”
So after sampling an assortment of foods that were prepared by some of the best restaurants in the area, Clark was more than impressed.
“This is fantastic,” Clark said. “I didn’t even know some of these places even existed in the area. I got to taste all these quality foods. The price was right and it was for a good cause. It’s a good deal.”
Melanie Rogers doesn’t even live in Weehawken. She’s a new resident of the luxury buildings along the waterfront in neighboring West New York. A friend told Rogers about the event, so she had to attend.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rogers said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. You can just stroll around the room and keep eating and eating. The food is just outstanding. Whoever thought of this idea should be applauded, because it’s the best time out I’ve had in a very long time. I can’t believe all I’ve eaten.”
Rogers and Clark – ah, ha, a makeshift throwback to the vaudeville team portrayed by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman in the dreadful movie bomb “Ishtar” – were just two of the approximately 600 customers who attended “A Taste of Weehawken” last Tuesday night and came away smiling.
Greek salads to fried shrimp
There were more people than ever before, which didn’t help the tepid temperatures inside the Food Court. But there were also more foods, more varieties, more participants – all leading up to more money raised for the Weehawken Free Public Library and the program that the library provides during the course of the year.
You had the professional chefs who greeted the guests with an assortment of dishes, ranging from Greek salad to an assortment of different fried shrimp to Spanish chicken specialties to crab cakes.
You also had representatives from the Weehawken High School Culinary Arts program, some of whom were only 12-year-old seventh graders, preparing their own homemade crab cakes that were delectable.
Silvana Diaz, 12, served up crab cakes that were just as tasty as those made by the pros.
“I love cooking,” Diaz said. “Whenever I cook in school, it makes me want to go home and help cooking at home even more.”
Diaz said that she enjoyed getting positive reactions from the people attending the event.
“They’re all surprised when we tell them that we made them,” Diaz said.
“It’s wonderful to get to show what we do in class,” said fellow Weehawken High student Valerie Cordero. “The people are really surprised that we actually made these crab cakes. Some are afraid to eat them.”
But when they do taste, the reaction is even more worthwhile.
“It shows that we can do something positive,” said Cordero, who wants to study culinary arts in college. “It’s very inspiring.”
Students at work
If Cordero wants to do so locally, she can look no further than the Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts program, which also had a presentation table at the event for the seventh straight year, since its inception.
David Gonzalez is a local resident who now works as a professor and chef with the HCCC students.
“I’ve been coming to this event since we started seven years ago, and it never fails to amaze me,” said Gonzalez, a former resident of Weehawken who now lives in North Bergen. “It’s a great event for a great cause. The students do all the work and they gain the experience, but I get great pleasure out of seeing the patrons enjoy the great food.”
The HCCC students also prepared crab cakes and had beer-battered shrimp to present to the customers.
Nearby, 13-year-old Weehawken resident Celia Flinn was busy handing out seafood salad that was made by the staff at Amanda’s in Hoboken, a restaurant owned and operated by Celia’s parents, Eugene and Joyce Flinn.
Young Celia was having a good time getting into the food service business like her parents.
“I’m always working,” Celia Flinn said. “I love it. Plus, when I come here, I get to try all the other food and meet a lot of people, so it’s not really work.”
Joyce Flinn has been a supporter of the event since it began in 2000.
“It brings the town together for a wonderful cause,” Joyce Flinn said. “I mean, who doesn’t love the library? Everyone uses it. It’s a great night and there’s the spectacular skyline right in front of us. Who could ask for more?”
Joyce Flinn was also doing her best to help the ecology as well, making the patrons recycle their plastic forks.
“I’m doing what I can, because it’s so close to Earth Day,” she said. “We don’t want people throwing away their forks right away.”
Another popular stop was Paula’s at Rigoletto, headed by owner and chef Paula Frazier of Weehawken. This year, Frazier had a prime location, the first table everyone saw as they entered the Food Court. Frazier was handing out bruschetta and vegetables with mozzarella shish-kebobs on a stick, much to the delight of everyone.
Arthur’s Landing chef Michael Haimowitz prepared garlic and chili-rubbed shrimp that was as tasty as it was spicy.
The Weehawken High School Jazz Ensemble provided the entertainment all night, along with Webster School music teacher Piero Romano. Weehawken artist Anna Yglesias provided the art for the poster and the logo that was beautifully encased in an ice sculpture.
It was a great night for all and a lot of money was raised so that the library can build an outdoor facility this summer.
All thanks to people who are obviously hungry and willing to eat as they donate.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com