Local restaurants showcased at annual Taste of La Verne event

Posted Sept. 29, 2006
Maria Villalpando

While on her second plate, Cindy Finley was accompanying her sister Amber Finley for the first time to Taste of La Verne. The annual event was held at the La Verne Community Center on Monday, hosting several restaurants in the area. Amber was sampling the Roasted Duck on a tortilla from McKinley’s Grille at the Sheraton Fairplex.

The typically beige and red La Verne Community Center transformed into an elegant eatery with round tables, blue linen and white restaurant booths during the sixth annual Taste of La Verne presented by the La Verne Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25 in La Verne.

Tables of varying heights blended a bar and a restaurant styled atmosphere as more than 200 people surveyed tasty dishes of 13 local restaurants.

 “Gelled” champagne glasses, with a fanned strawberry at the tip of the straw and colorful bouquets of cellophane and popsicles served as center pieces.

But the greatest marvel was the food.

Roasted duck, fajitas, pizza, lasagna, pad Thai noodles, barbequed tri-tip, wine and coffee, amid others, brought the surveyors back to the restaurant booths time after time.

“I knew there’s gonna be food but I didn’t know I’d try new things,” said Sandy Fernandez, University of La Verne senior business administration major and Miss La Verne 2006.

The Pizza Barn attracted many with its Ultimate Sandwich: cheese meat and veggies packed between two crispy pizza-like crusts.

“It’s one of the best things here,” said La Verne resident Margaret Mancuso. “I discovered izza Barn from Taste of La Verne.”

Despite the glamour, several restaurants showcased similar entrées. Three restaurants featured lasagnas.

“It’s like they’re having a battle of the lasagnas,” Mancuso said.

However, each person had a favorite.

“I like Caffe Allegro’s,” said Diamond Bar resident Barbara Hamilton. “It had the most flavor.”

Restaurants invested into the community through the event, donating all featured food in attempt to mark a memorable impression on attendees.

“It’s a great way to bring the community together and to highlight the restaurants,” said Joe Fransen, co- chair of Taste of La Verne and board member of the Chamber of Commerce.

The band “The Brats” set a pleasant tone with classic hits, replacing the DJ from previous years.

The raffle drawing was one of the highlights of the evening. People jumped up with joy and rushed to the stage to receive their long-awaited prize.

Miss La Verne raffled off more than 20 items including fair tickets, free Internet access, wine bottles, gift baskets and free art lessons.

“Because I sold them to everybody I wanted everybody to win.” Fernandez said. “I tried to use my marketing strategies.”

Even though the event proved successful, the Chamber of Commerce experienced several difficulties this year.

“This one was a bit of a challenge to put on because we didn’t have any staff,” Fransen said. “Normally if you don’t have a CEO and an administrator nothing happens.”

Originally, the Taste of La Verne was hosted in the Church of the Brethren’s dining hall then made its way to the David and Margaret Home and now has arrived to the La Verne Community Center.

Old timers debated on which year was the best.

“In the first one they had gourmet food that was really elegantly prepared,” Mancuso said. “But you don’t see that anymore.”

However, others disagreed.

“I think it’s the best one,” said Vanita Tolia, La Verne resident.

Yelena Ovcharenko can be reached at yovcharenko@ulv.edu.

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Click here to see a video from the Taste of La Verne, courtesy of La Verne Community TV, LVTV-3