Speed tasting!

The Taste at Fraze dishes out 25 years of local cuisine

By Emma Jarman

Have you ever wondered what the Fraze tastes like? If you answered no, then I’m with you. But there are a number of restaurants in the Miami Valley I am curious about that will be showcasing their fare at this year’s 25th annual The Taste event in the park at the Fraze, Thursday, Aug. 30 starting at 5 p.m.

Put on by the Kettering Moraine Oakwood (KMO) Chamber of Commerce, The Taste is a remarkably unique venue for attendees to sample a wide variety of cuisines. It can only be likened to speed dating, but for palates. For the $25 cost of a wristband at the door ($10 for children 10 and under), attendees can try any one, two or 50 different offerings from each and every vendor.

“Normally, you would pay as you go,” said Ann-Lisa Rucker, president of the KMO Chamber of Commerce. “You would buy tickets or pay at each booth for a taste. This one you get a wristband and you don’t have to mess with that the rest of the evening. It makes it more social.” It’s one of the more unique aspects of The Taste compared to other community restaurant showcasing events.

So with your wallet firmly planted in your deepest pocket, make your rounds past each table, nibble samples and question the chefs. Talk about them with your friends once you’ve walked away. Make notes on a tiny card as to which restaurant you might be interested in seeing again. And the best part about speed tasting? Everything you taste is going to like you. Should you so decide, you can schedule another date at any or all of the establishments you meet at The Taste.

There is something for everyone at The Taste, assured Rucker. “[The Taste] runs the whole gamut between deserts, appetizers, pizza, there’s a lobster ravioli, usually a steak or a prime rib. But the nice thing about the event is most of the restaurants present their nicest fare,” she said.

Vendors come from far and wide across the Miami Valley. Young’s Jersey Dairy, for instance, makes an appearance. There are catering companies, candy companies, personal chefs, dietitians, even the Atrium Grove from inside the Kettering Medical Center comes to surprise people with the quality of their hospital food. (I, personally, would love to see a farmers market make an appearance. And since the Chamber can add vendors as late as the week before the event, if anyone’s reading this and considering it, I beg you to consider it a little more seriously. Go locavore!)

That said, and with the mention of the under 10 years old wristband price, it should also be noted that the target audience for The Taste is a slightly more mature palate. While there is something for everyone, including vegetarian dishes, unless your tween loves truffled mac and cheese or umami-rich stir fry’s, it may be best to invite an adult companion. Vendors at this event tend to roll out samples of their higher-end menu offerings and a more refined and adventurous palate will appreciate the flavors more than someone who, within the last decade, liked to eat play-doh or lick markers that smelled like fruits.

“It’s a really cool date night,” said Rucker. Many people come straight from work to meet friends or spouses for a unique alternative to the typical sit-down dinner date. There is also a lot of core networking that takes place, not just between the competing chefs and vendors, but between those in attendance.

Live music will be pumped through the area courtesy of the Chris Bowman Band. “He does a very nice job with some cover music,” said Rucker. “He does some of his own music and then does some soft jazz. He’s really dynamic, he’s the perfect fit for this event. It’s just ‘feel good’ music.”

Furthermore, the vendors are encouraged to decorate their spaces in keeping with the ambiances of their establishments. This year, the more than 40 participants will do anything from hang floral arrangements to literally rolling out a red carpet to guide their expected line towards a highly-anticipated taste.

Concessions are the one thing that must be paid for outside of admission. Beer, wine and alcoholic beverages, along with soft drinks and water will be available through Fraze vendors and will be for sale throughout the evening.

As the biggest fundraiser the KMO Chamber of Commerce holds each year, all proceeds from wristband sales and from the high-end basket raffles and silent auction items are put towards their work on programming that directly helps people with resource tools for their business, said Rucker. Gift baskets are typically valued between $1,500 and a couple of thousand dollars.

Not only does The Taste at the Fraze give the community a great date night and showcase area restaurants and food makers, it serves as a fundraiser for the chamber while tying directly into their mission: “To foster prosperity in our community.”

To purchase tickets to The Taste, go to the KMO Chamber of Commerce, 2977 Far Hills Ave. in Kettering, the Fraze Box Office, or visit www.etix.com. For more information visit www.fraze.com/the-taste.

Reach DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@daytoncitypaper.com

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