Providing taste treats for Taste of the Lakes Region patrons is something that's looked forward to

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — To participate in the Taste of the Lakes Region, the primary fund raiser for the Altrusa Club of Laconia, local restaurants prepare enough food for 400 diners and spend the day setting up and serving the food. The restaurants receive no direct compensation for their materials or labor, yet every year Altrusa is able to fill a function hall with great food representing the best of what local kitchens have to offer.

The 22nd Annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held ...

LACONIA — To participate in the Taste of the Lakes Region, the primary fund raiser for the Altrusa Club of Laconia, local restaurants prepare enough food for 400 diners and spend the day setting up and serving the food. The restaurants receive no direct compensation for their materials or labor, yet every year Altrusa is able to fill a function hall with great food representing the best of what local kitchens have to offer.

The 22nd Annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held Sunday, May 6, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Conference Center of the Lake Opechee Inn & Spa. Those who buy tickets will have access to the offerings of 20 kitchens. Tickets cost $25 and may be purchased at Hector's Fine Food & Spirits, Hart's Turkey Farm, Patrick's Pub & Eatery and the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Laconia. Because there will be a cash bar, no one under 21 will be admitted.

Contigiani Catering, a Laconia-based company, is one of the organizations which has been involved with the "Taste" every year since it was started. Jim Contigiani, the third generation of his family to run the business, said the event offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to market his business to a diverse swath of potential customers. "You see a lot of faces from around the community," he said.

At a typical "Taste," Contigiani said he'll meet at least four new people who had never heard of the 47 year-old family business, and will likely see about 80 past customers who stop by his table to say hello.

"I enjoy them," Contigiani said of the "Taste" events, adding that he usually is able to steal away from his table for a few minutes to sample the competition. Contigiani, a graduate of the Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, brought last year a "walking taco," a small bag of Fritos into which he spooned taco fillings. He's not sure what he'll do this year but is thinking of something to griddle or sautée at the table.  "Winter's behind us, Spring's coming, it starts off the season."

Catherine Contigiani, Jim's mother, said the "Taste" event is "a good way for the outside crowd to know us. We're not just institutional food, we do gourmet food, too."

Lakes Region Linen was a sponsor of the event from the first "Taste" until 2009, when the company was acquired by General Linen. The new ownership has continued the tradition and will again sponsor this year's event. Forrest Brock, a regional sales representative for General Linen, explained why. "As a local, independently-owned linen service, which is unique in the area, we have a strong, baseline philosophy of giving back to the community. We think Altrusa is great, with the programs they support." Funds raised will further the all-volunteer organization's scholarships and literacy promotion efforts, among other programs. "Is is a grass-roots thing, we think it's great," said Brock.

While the linen company and Contigiani have been with the "Taste" since its founding, this is the first year that the Castle in the Clouds restaurant in Moultonborough will be represented.

Gretchen Shortway, the restaurant's chef, said she's joining the event for the opportunity to help out a local service club, give her restaurant exposure, and to see how her food fares in a different environment. She plans to prepare a trio of sliders. "It's nice for chefs to get off the line and see the customers, it's a nice change."

Although this will be the first "Taste" for the Castle in the Clouds, Shortway has participated in the event in the past as an employee of Canoe. "It's a fun event," she said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Other participating establishments include Annies Café & Catering, Cactus Jack's/T-Bones, Canoe/O Steaks & Seafood, Cocktail Confections, Ellacoya Barn & Grille, Suiseppes Pizzeria & Ristorante, Kevin's Café, Ooo La La Creative Cakes, Patrick's Pub & Eatery, Weirs Beach Lobster Pound, Burrito Me, Camp/Lago/Lakehouse Grille, Fratello's Italian Grille, Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant, Lakes Region Casino, Our Family Tree Restaurant, Hilltop Restaurant at Steele Hill Resort and the Woodshed Roasting Company.

CAPTION for TASTE CONTIGIANI in AA:

The 22nd Annual "Taste of the Lakes Region" will see 20 local restaurants represented on May 6. Shown here are Forest Brock (left) of General Linen, a long-time sponsor, and Jim Contigiani of Contigiani Catering, which has been a participant for every year of the event. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)