Friends, fun and the go-with-the-flow attitude are what Gene Litz and Chris Calvey Jr. are most looking forward to at Taste of the Abingtons, which will be Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Ramada Clarks Summit, Northern Boulevard, from 5 to 8 p.m.
The annual event is the premier fundraiser for the Rotary Club of the Abingtons. It features food and drink vendors from in and around the Abington area serving sample-size portions of their seasonal and feature dishes. There will also be live entertainment and a raffle. Tickets are $25 and are available from any member of the Rotary club and on Eventbrite.
Litz, owner and chef of Thirteen Olives, and Calvey, chairperson of the event and president-elect of the Rotary Club of the Abingtons, will combine their talents for the second straight year. The two worked and served together last year and enjoyed their experience so much, they decided to collaborate again.
“I feel like this event is a friendly event, so it’s not like I have to just focus on my product and try to sell it. It’s better to do it with somebody else, and more fun. There is less pressure,” said Litz.
Calvey featured his own product solo in past years at Taste of the Abingtons but looks forward to the camaraderie and flavor palette working with Litz will bring.
“It’s a hot sauce hybrid. It’s tomato-based made with all natural ingredients, spices; it’s a sweet/savory blend that is so versatile,” Calvey said of his tomato habanero puree. “You can have it by itself with a chip or mix it and add it to any sort of dish you like. One of my favorite things is to mix it with cream cheese and put it on a bagel.”
At Taste of the Abingtons, the duo will serve smoked pulled pork with Litz’s Caribbean rub, a tortilla with Calvey’s tomato habanero puree spread and a pineapple pico de gallo with balsamic.
“With the spread, I wanted to extenuate the spread, so that’s just going to be on it’s own on a tortilla and the pork is going to have the rub, but otherwise pretty much plain. I’ll use a sweet balsamic with a salsa to cool it down a little so it will be heat and sweet at the same time,” Litz said.
A staple in the Abingtons for its pastries, Glenburn Grill & Bakery, 1144 Lackawanna Trail, is pleased to show off its sweet treats at Taste of the Abingtons once again.
“We enjoy it,” said Jess Norsen, baker and daughter of owners, Linda and Alan Norsen. “My children go with me, and they’re now 21, 17 and 9. They love it. Everyone is very accommodating with them being there and it’s nice to go and see what everybody else has.”
Even though Jess Norsen has been baking for about 10 years, she is still inspired every year seeing the dishes other chefs bring to Taste of the Abingtons. She enjoys getting ideas from other talented chefs and bakers in the area. She started working for her parents at the Glenburn Grill & Bakery when she was 16 years old and over the years has worked in just about every position the restaurant has.
She says it is the friendliness of the people at Taste of the Abingtons and the quality time spent with her children that keeps her coming back.
“If you ask my kids, they like Mannings [Manning Farm Dairy] the best. For me, it’s fun talking to people, you’re meeting new people and for the most part, I let the kids do the talking and it’s nice to see them interacting,” she said.
Norsen hopes someday her own children, who all help out, will take over ownership of the Glenburn Grill & Bakery and enjoy attending Taste of the Abingtons as much as she does.
“Everybody wants to bring more business to their business. We take coupons for 10% off and we give them away. We hope to bring more business in and new people,” said Norsen.
While Glenburn Grill & Bakery also features a breakfast and lunch menu in addition to pastries, Norsen will stick to delicacies for the event. She will prepare an apple pie muffin and a white chocolate cranberry cookie.
“Everybody loves our muffins,” she said. “I try to make different ones for different seasons and holidays; and everybody loves chocolate chips, but I love the white chocolate.”
Both the muffins and cookies have been popular over the years, especially at their restaurant, so Norsen expects they will be a hit again.
It is also a yearly tradition for her to serve a different cheesecake, another popular choice among customers. This year it will be a caramel crunch cheesecake.
“It is not stressful at all anymore,” Norsen said. “It used to be, but now we know everybody there and everybody is very helpful. I enjoy the atmosphere, getting to see everybody and enjoy taking the kids.”
Calvey is excited about the chance to show locals the full potential of what food can be.
“It’s such a fun event and just being able to open peoples’ eyes to the uses of our different products and mainly expanding their horizons, this really goes against the grain on a lot of things,” Calvey said.
“Since we did it together, we got a lot of attention last year which was cool and good for both our businesses. We’re not seeking attention, but it did make it fun. This year the dish is going to be a lot simpler so we’ll be able to engage with the customers a lot more and talk to them about what we do,” Litz said.
The two learned where they can improve and make the overall experience better for themselves and anyone who decides to try their dish this year.
“(Last year) we were focused on preparing and cooking versus having it already assembled and being able to engage the customer, watch them enjoy and explain the whole ensemble and get constructive feedback or praise from them,” Calvey said. “We can enjoy them enjoying.
“Make sure you come out.”
There are currently nearly 30 vendors already registered to participate. There is no charge to participate as a vendor. Contact Calvey at email@example.com if you are interested in becoming a vendor.
Tickets are available from any Rotary club member and on Eventbrite.
Emma Black is a photographer and writes Up Close and Personal, which spotlights people from all walks of life in NEPA who have a unique skill, craft, talent or trade. She is a graduate of Abington Heights High School and University of Scranton, where she studied journalism and electronic media. Emma has been with Times-Shamrock Communications since 2016 and enjoys playing, coaching and following soccer; exploring international cuisine; and doing arts and crafts in her free time. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100; @emmablack_13