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The dinner hour started early in downtown Goshen Saturday.
About 200 people gathered at 3 p.m. for Taste of Downtown Goshen, a first-time event to showcase some of Goshen’s restaurants while raising money for Center for Healing & Hope.
Places like Rachel’s Bread, Mattern’s Butcher Shop & Corner Deli and Olympia Candy Kitchen stayed open after hours. Other places like Constant Spring and Pizzeria Venturi opened early. And nine restaurants offered plates of food to groups of diners.
The weather was glorious, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it wasn’t. We would have still eaten well and had a good time.
As the host, I made it to all nine places and got a taste of what they offered. But the participants who bought the tickets were in three groups and each visited pre-determined three places over three hours. That made sense this year as Joel Kauffmann of the center worked with restaurants and others to put this together.
In one group, Universal Tamal, Rachel’s Bread and South Side Soda Shop each offered something from their repertoire. Universal Tamal, which sometimes gets overlooked at 225 S. Main St., served each diner two tamales. “Oh this is so good,” said Barb Swartley as she ate.
Rachel’s Bread, which is in the Mill Race Center Farmers Market on Washington Street, served a well-made spinach pie, pumpkin soup and tastes of cookies or pastries.
South Side, perhaps Goshen’s best known restaurant nationally because of an appearance on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” put forward a plate of beef stroganoff that was rich and balanced.
In another group, Mattern’s, Olympia and Rolling Scones each welcomed diners. Mattern’s served two pork sliders. The meat was smoked and topped with havarti, cabbage and apple balsamic vinegar. It was a nice combination.
Rolling Scones served possibly the largest plates of food, offering either Puerto Rican rice and beans or chicken curry with salad, bread, and some other side dishes. The restaurant in the Old Bag Factory ran out of shrimp ceviche because it so popular.
Olympia, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, served a small bowl of chili and half of an olive-nut sandwich, which is one of the great sandwiches to be found locally. Owner Kare Andersen said the restaurant and candy kitchen is having its best year ever. And he teased me about Turtle Quest, in which I picked The Nut Shoppe’s turtle over Olympia’s. He gave me a turtle and said, “best turtle east of the Mississippi.” It was mighty good.
The third group included The Electric Brew, Constant Spring and Pizzeria Venturi, which just got some national attention in an Esquire poll for serving “life-changing” pizza.
The Electric Brew featured its new runza or bierrock. It’s been popular at the coffee shop and restaurant recently, according to employee Courtney Ropp. It’s bread dough filled with beef, cabbage and cheese. Nearly every tradition has a dish that folds fillings into bread or pastry, but this is of Russian Mennonite origin. Dave Hawkins said it’s like a hobo dinner. He liked it and so did I.
Venturi served a pizza to every diner and most took some home with them. The pizzas were smaller than usual and were half-margherita, half-fig. Becky and Matt Bateman said they never would have ordered the fig pizza with arugula, truffle oil and fig paste, but are fans now.
Constant Spring showed off a product from its new sausage maker and put a thai sausage on a plate with a bit of pad thai salad. Both were full of flavor. (You can see more photos of the dishes restaurants served on the Dining A La King Facebook page.)
By the time people gathered in the basement of Plymouth United Church of Christ for gelato from The Nut Shopppe and tours of the Center for Healing & Hope clinic, they were full. And happy. And a number of them said how much they enjoyed the event.
For three hours, they ate with friends and tasted new things. Sharon Risser wasn’t alone, but said she’d never been to Rolling Scones. But after trying it, she’ll go back. “It’s a good opportunity to be exposed,” she said of the first Taste.
I don’t know how much the event raised to help the center offer health care to those in our community who aren’t insured. I’ll let you know when we know.
Dustin Mattern, co-owner of Mattern’s, pointed out that downtown Goshen isn’t usually busy at late Saturday afternoon, but it was this weekend. And as a downtown businessman, that made him happy.
And those who ate were happy too.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-296-5805, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via Facebook.