Visitors relished local cuisine at the Chester County Restaurant Festival in Downtown West Chester on Sunday, September 21st. Under a sunny sky, crowds poured into the streets and vendors offered a taste of a little bit of everything.
Chef Tom of West Chester Carlino’s has been working the festival for seven years. Every year, he says, there is something new. Dishes this year were gluten-free Panini’s as well as two salads that they will be debuting for fall. One was roasted butternut squash and wild rice salad with mild lemon oil and pineapple white vinegar; the other was a roasted corn and barley salad with cranberry balsamic vinegar.
For Joey and Kathleen of Cupcakes Gourmet out of Wayne and Paoli, they were excited to serve up the Oktoberfest beer cupcake for the first time, a vanilla cake with a beer frosting. “Red velvet is the most popular,” Joey attested. This time of year, pumpkin spice is usually a close second. Having been attending the festival for six years, they affirmed that it does boost business.
MoJo’s Pop Co., a mother-daughter operation run by Maureen Namiotka, sold favorites such as Maureen’s Original Almond popcorn. A frequent vender at the Artisan Exchange in West Chester, this was another way to get their product out to customers. For Popcorn Obsession, recently opened in Painter’s Crossing Shopping Center, this was their first year. According to Benjamin, the zebra caramel popcorn was “the top seller by large amounts.” It’s a recipe where popcorn is layered with caramel, white chocolate and sea salt. Spicy buffalo was another favorite.
Mãs Margarita, the only rooftop restaurant in West Chester, was on hand dishing up tacos, chips and sauces. Some of their signature sauces for sale were the Mole Sauce and the Salsa Roja. Other booths had their own favorite dishes. Dave Wenerd, executive chef at The Gables at Chadds Ford said that the shrimp and grits plate was among them. Though not new to the menu, it is set to be a consistent item. The festival also afforded The Gables the opportunity to present the pretzel baguette.
Focus was not limited to just pleasing people, but pets as well. Boutiques such as Junior’s Favorite Dog Treats were on hand to serve such treats as dog cake pops made with peanut butter. Customers were also favoring mix bags. With mixed bags, they mixed-and-matched dog cookies made out of such ingredients as oatmeal along with a peanut butter and bacon combo cookie. They could also select mini muffins that came in such flavors as banana bread.
Restaurants and food sellers weren’t the only ones with booths. Entrepreneur Abby Zimmerman of Pink Accents Jewelry, who works out of her home, was selling handmade earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Her big sellers were Halloween-themed earrings, bracelets with charms of the Philadelphia Eagles and charms for wine glasses. She stated that she got the idea for being an independent business woman one day while merely looking at a chain of brown pearls and thinking “it would be really cool to just string up a bunch of colors, throw it all together and see what happens.” The result was a new, personal franchise.
Most vendors hit the streets around 8 and 9am to set up shop and get ready for a day of music, food and fun. If there was any singular theme to the day, it was all about promoting local business and supporting the community.