Greencastle launched its Christmas season Thursday night with camaraderie, white lights, piped-in Christmas music and best of all, something tasty for everyone.
The second annual Taste of the Holidays was held again at the Blue Heron Event Center on South Washington Street and drew a crowd of 140 people. The goal of this seasonal kickoff, organized by the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Orrstown Bank, is to give people ideas for their own holiday entertaining.
Friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives attended together to learn and sample new recipes and walk away with cooking tips and decorating ideas.
But, let’s face it. The night is mostly about fun.
“It’s girls’ night out, and it’s the beginning of the holiday season for me,” said Annabelle Henry, who came with sister Esther Walck and mutual friend Ena Verdier. The three ladies, all from Greencastle, talked and giggled throughout the night like school girls. Christmas joy sparkled on their faces.
The three women attended last year and are avid fans of Taste of the Holidays.
“That’s why we came back,” said Walck, who also added that she enjoyed the Crab Bites so well, she’s “definitely making them for Christmas.”
As for Verdier, it was more about the sampling than the ambitious task of actually trying the recipes herself.
“They’re very good, but it’s more than I want to make. I’ll eat it if someone else makes it,” Verdier said.
Scott A. Rucki, vice president and financial advisor with Orrstown Financial Advisors, was doubly pleased Thursday night — both with the turnout and with the fact that his 9-year-old daughter attended with him this year.
“It’s well attended. I think it’s really going to catch hold here,” he said looking out at the crowd. “I think it’s a nice start to Heritage Christmas. It brings the community together, and a fun-filled time is had by all.”
His daughter, Peyton Rucki, was brimming with enthusiasm — happy to be there and happy to be with dad.
“I wanted to come because it seemed like a good time, and I’ve heard lots of good things about this event,” said Peyton, who lit up and said she will definitely want to come back again with dad next year.
Attendees sampled homemade lemonade as well as hors d’oeuvres of crackers and cheese and fruits and vegetables. They enjoyed free samples from Jan Zell Wines of Chambersburg; finger food desserts by Custom Cakes by Laura (Laura Seavolt) of Greencastle; and a special coffee, Heritage Holiday Blend, a mix of apples, cinnamon and French vanilla, offered by Joan Mohn, who has just launched an out-of-her-home business in Greencastle called BillyBeanblossoms. Mohn also had special holiday coffee mugs for sale, handmade by Quincy pottery artist, Anne Aden, specifically for this year’s Heritage Christmas.
The main events, however, were the cooking demonstrations and the sampling afterwards. This year’s chefs were Blue Heron owners, Denise Hutchison, who demonstrated how to make the hors d’oeuvres Crab Bites and Stuffed Fingerling Potatoes and the main course, Beef Bourguignon, and her husband, Paul Hutchison, who demonstrated the dessert, Pastry Cream stuffed in a tart and garnished with blueberries and raspberries.
When demonstrating, Denise offered cooking advice that can be used with any recipe. For example, don’t skimp on mayonnaise, buy a name brand. Add a pinch of salt to every step in the process.
“Any place you can add flavor, add it,” she said. “To every layer, you add some salt and pepper.”
And finally, “Add baking powder, so the puff has a puff.”
When demonstrating her Beef Bourguignon recipe, again, she offered advice that would be suitable for all cooking. She uses chuck roast because it’s flavorful. Don’t overcrowd the beef in the Dutch oven and use a good wine for cooking.
“You really don’t want to use anything too sweet because then your meat will be sweet. Use what you like to drink,” said Denise, who used Beringer’s Cabernet Sauvignon for Thursday night’s recipe.
Also, when using dried herbs, squeeze and rub them before throwing them into the pot to really bring out the flavor, she said, and use whole bay leaves, so you can take them out later.
Paul also offered advice while making his Pastry Cream. You could use whole milk or half and half, but he likes heavy cream. Don’t boil the cream, only bring it to a simmer, which is when the first bubbles start to rise. Every time you add more ingredients, take the cream off the heat, and keep whisking it. This is so it never scalds and never boils. There is perhaps no time more important to do this than when adding eggs. This action is called “tempering.”
“You do all this off the heat,” said Paul. “You take the pot from the heat and bring the temperature up slowly, so you don’t cook the eggs.”
Georgina Cranston, executive director of the G-A Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased with the turnout, which was comparable to last year’s. She said she hopes for 200 attendees someday but noted that this year’s summer would not let go, and the vibrant fall colors now probably kept some people away who were not yet in the Christmas mood.
“I’m not sure people are thinking holiday yet,” she said. Nonetheless, “I hope everyone has a great time. I hope everyone leaves here and says, ‘Wow! That was fantastic!’”