Hector's Returns to 24th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region

MEREDITH — The 24th annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Church Landing in Meredith on Sunday, March 30, and will feature more than 20 of the Lakes Region's finest restaurants serving up samples of their culinary specialties for the benefit of the Laconia Altrusa Club's community projects.

Over the years the event has raised nearly $300,000 for the Altrusa Club's efforts in promoting literacy, and providing scholarships, according to Carla Peterson of Hector's Fine Food & Spirits, which has been represented at all but one of the events.

Peterson and her husband, Carl, moved to the Lakes Region from Connecticut in 1986 after buying Hector's, which celebrates its 30th year in business this year.

''We had a couple of little kids and thought it was a nice place to move to,'' says Peterson, who bought the restaurant through real estate agent Nancy LeRoy, who also recruited her to join the Altrusa Club.

She was one of the club members who attended a Taste of the Seacoast event put on by the Altrusa Club in Portsmouth, which served as the model the local club sought to emulate when they held the first Taste of the Lakes Region at Pheasant Ridge Country Club in Gilford. Over the years it has grown to become a Lakes Region tradition.

''It's a great way to start the spring. It's like a big garden party and comes during mud season when people have cabin fever and want to get out and enjoy themselves but it's not quite warm enough to spend a lot of time outdoors,'' says Peterson.

Carl Peterson says that Hector's seafood stuffed mushrooms have become so popular at the event that they will be served again this year in response to popular demand while chef Peter Cullen will be preparing one of their new menu items, Sonoma Chicken.

Cullen said the dish features grilled chicken in a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce topped with mushrooms and onions and freshly grated parmesan. ''It's something on the lighter, healthier side,'' says Cullen.

Tickets cost $25 per person and can be purchased at Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith, or in Laconia at Hector's or at the Coldwell-Banker Residential Brokerage on Court Street. Because there is a cash bar at the event, no one younger than 21 will be admitted.