by Barbara L. Sherf
Who doesn’t like food, talented chefs and snooping around dream kitchens? That was the concept for the Chestnut Hill Harvest Kitchen Tour to benefit the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment last year that drew 250 area residents to eat, rub shoulders and check out a half-dozen impressive home kitchens.
Heirloom Fine American Cookery chef/owner Al Paris, who participated last year, thought Chestnut Hill resident Liz Bales’ kitchen was as good if not better than some commercial kitchens he has seen, so Paris plans to use her kitchen to cook up and serve braised pork cheeks with maple glaze and candied bacon on a corn cake.
Bales, a self-confessed “foodie,” was thrilled by the menu selection and the fact that Paris will be in her kitchen. “I’m delighted to help the CHCE, and if I can have Al Paris in my kitchen at the same time, then everyone’s a winner,” she said while showing Paris around the spacious kitchen.
This year there will be four Chestnut Hill kitchens and two Mt. Airy kitchens as part of the tour, to be held on Saturday, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to Marilyn Paucker, president of the CHCE, “The reaction last year was astounding, especially since it was the week of Superstorm Sandy, and it had rained all week until Saturday. Then the sun came out, the stars were aligned, and we had a busy, guest-filled day! After the tour, many guests said that we should do it again and that they would return and bring friends.”
One person who promised to bring a group for the tour is Richard Snowden of Bowman Properties, himself a “foodie” and the “Presenting and Platinum Sponsor” for the tour this year. Gold sponsors include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Pennsylvania Trust; Silver sponsors include National Penn Bank and Valley Green Bank.
“This year we are hoping for 300 or more tickets to be sold,” said Paucker. “We want to thank all of these busy chefs and the homeowners for giving of themselves and their time.”
Tracey Wolfson, of Bacchus Market Catering, will be back for a return appearance. “We participated last year, and it was a blast,” she said. “We love to cook for an appreciative audience, and the fact that the money benefits a good cause is just icing on the cake.”
Campbell’s Place co-owners Vanessa and Rob Mullen are cooking for the tour at the home of Vanessa’s father, Jack Noonan. Other participating food purveyors are Tavern on the Hill, Weavers Way Catering and The Wine Thief.
CHCE Executive Director Mary Zell noted that membership dues, grants and program fees do not fully cover the center’s operating costs, so they have come up with some creative fundraisers. “We are onto the fact that there are a lot of ‘foodies’ out there, and they will support this kind of event.”
In November of 2010 it was announced that CHCE would be closing its doors at the end of that year due to fiscal problems. After an article appeared in this publication, three anonymous donors came through with $65,000 to keep the doors open, and Snowden donated the center’s space for free.
Since then, the center has been able to garner some grant money, but this fundraiser helps with budget items that fall outside of restrictions that are often tied to the grant. Zell noted that in this economy, the center has been very mindful of keeping both the annual dues and program costs to a minimum. Currently CHCE serves 255 members and a larger population of non-members.
“Over 500 people from northwest Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County suburbs take part in at least one CHCE program every year,” Zell said.
Advance tickets for $30 may be purchased with cash, credit card or check at the Center for Enrichment, 8431 Germantown Ave. You may also order online at www.chestnuthillenrichment.org. Call 215-248-0180 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Barbara L. Sherf, the “Flourtown foodie,” can be reached at 215-233-8022 or CaptureLifeStories@gmail.com.