Where to eat? Taste of Morristown had plenty of suggestions

Cousins Michelle and Laura Mongey enjoy yellow tuna tartare from Chef Fredy's Table at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cousins Michelle and Laura Mongey enjoy yellow tuna tartare from Chef Fredy's Table at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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By Marion Filler

Wondering where to go for lunch or dinner? If you attended A Taste of Morristown on Monday, you would know in a flash.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Morristown and Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, the event has been going strong for 17 years for good reason.

It has evolved into an ever-expanding food lovers’ fantasy. This year, 37 local restaurants, wineries, bakeries, and chocolatiers served a smorgasbord that filled two large ballrooms at the Westin Governor Morris .

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click / hover over image for captions:

Cousins Michelle and Laura Mongey enjoy yellow tuna tartare from Chef Fredy's Table at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Melissa Garcia of Morristown's Green Point Organic Juicery serves Acai cup with coconut and bananas at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Executive Chef Joseph Masucci of H2Ocean of Cedar Knolls applies lobster to bisque, while cook Steve Adamo observes, at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
PECHE SUR GLACE: Gustavo Rubio of the Madison Hotel with sculpted ice fish at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Alexandra Bock of Roots Steakhouse serves filet mignon with horse radish to Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty and Cornerstone Family Programs CEO Patrice Picard at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Leia Gaccione (South + Pine), Kevin Felice (40 North), Todd Redmond (Town Bar & Kitchen) and Vincenzo Rossy (Town) at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Patron inspects auction artwork at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Auction items at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Al Hatami of Gary's with a $200 bottle of Kristal champagne at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Linda Coutts Snyder is interviewed by Morristown Green's Marion Filler at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rotarian Larry Ripley mans the keyboard at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Rebello of Edible Arrangements, at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kathy Gervasio of The Artist Baker serves Arnoldo Qujano at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Arnoldo Qujano, Daniel Torres and Sergio Lopez liked the ribs from the Red Dog Tavern at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Craig Gilbert liked Ruth's Chris Steakhouse offerings, while Gretchen Braunschweiger was a fan of the tuna tartare from Chef Fredy's Table, at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rotary members Bill Weiss and Doug Greenberger at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The team from Millie's Old World Meatballs & Pizza: Manuela Andrade, Peter Martinez, Tianny Bourdett and Rodrigo Cardenas, at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Brothers Anthony and Tino Pacarella of Pascarella Brothers at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bob Goldsmith, attorney for the Morristown Parking Authority, and Wendy Taffet of Enjou Chocolat at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Merle Johnson, president of the Morristown Rotary, said Monday might have been the organization’s biggest and best Taste so far–despite a snowstorm in the wee hours.

“This is one of the largest locations we have ever had as well. Two years ago, we had a crowd of 400 in the large ballroom, but it was so tight that we added a second ballroom so we can now accommodate 600,” Johnson said.

Although the numbers were not all tallied, she anticipated the event was close to sold out. And there never is a shortage of exhibitors.

“Many of the restaurants have been coming for years and years. We actually have a waiting list now and many sign up right after this event for next year,” Johnson said.

She expected the revenue from A Taste of Morristown to approach $40,000, and said most of that will be “ploughed back” into the Morristown community as charitable grants. Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $65 to $100.

While there were several newcomers to the show, it was hard to find a vendor who had been in Morristown longer than Wendy Taffet of Enjou Chocolat. She stood behind a mountain of dark chocolate sea-salted caramels that were rapidly disappearing.

“I’ve been at 8 DeHart St. for 36 years,” said Taffet. “I used to be a pharmacist, always mixing things, and I always like to bake. A gentleman started Enjou for his wife who didn’t want to do it, and I came in. The rest is history.”

A very new newcomer, Fig & Lily Garden, is opening soon at 2 Cattano Ave. Erhan, a Turkish chef, was on hand to serve Mediterranean dishes such as rice pilaf and paklava, which will be featured in his restaurant.

A crowd was snapping up the pulled pork tacos at Hot Rod’s BBQ, a restaurant in Wharton also making its first appearance at A Taste of Morristown. “We’re only 15 minutes away,” said chef Anthony Sibona. “They don’t have BBQ like this in Morristown.”

Not everything was decadent. Eugene Onishkevich of Green Point Juicery, from Speedwell Avenue off the Green, was serving his signature fresh cold pressed juices and organic cupcakes to the crowd.

Born in Russia, he came to America but “after the first year, I almost wanted to move back because I couldn’t find good food,’ said Onishkevich. “But then I started juicing.”

After gaining experience working in various restaurants, he decided “to do something healthy for people and start a business at the same time.”

And of course there was Gary Fisch, who started his first store with his brother in Madison in 1987 and has expanded Gary’s Wine into Bernardsville, Wayne, Closter, and Hillsborough.

His expertise has earned him national media attention on CNN, the Food Network, and Bloomberg radio and television. Gary’s has participated in this event for “six or seven years,” and hosted several tables in both ballrooms on Monday. “There are a lot of different wines and beers. You have to have a variety,” Fisch said.

Perhaps the most notable was a $260 bottle of 2008 Cristal champagne which, according to Al Hatami, the company representative, is unique because it is the only French champagne made in a clear bottle.

It was created in 1876 for Czar Alexander II, who wanted clear glass because he was paranoid about poison and explosive devices. Unfortunately, he only got to enjoy it for a few years before his assassination in 1881. (But we still can savor it!)

Steve Adamo of H2Ocean of Cedar Knolls pours lobster bisque at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Steve Adamo of H2Ocean of Cedar Knolls pours lobster bisque at Taste of Morristown, March 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The crowd seemed happy. Mayor Tim Dougherty wouldn’t be pinned down to a favorite dish, but First Lady Mary Dougherty thought Chef Fredy’s tuna tartare was “outrageous — it’s wonderful. ”

Tricia Pongracz, director of the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, tasted A Taste of Morristown for the first time and loved chatting with the vendors, many of whom she knew. “It’s a beautiful event to see a lot of friends,” she said.

Katja van der Loo of Papyrus Home Design said she donates a design consultation every year to the Taste of Morristown auction because “I know the Rotary does such amazing things.”

Even though they were busy working the coat check, Alexis, Brendan and Jason from the Interact Club, a branch of Rotary in Morristown High School, had enough down time to enjoy the food. The lobster bisque from H2Ocean was an overwhelming favorite, a 10 out of 10.

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