Strasburg caterer sweeps three judged categories; members of public also like Hotel Strasburg, Christina's Cafe entries
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The three judges determining the town's best tasting hot soup and chili on a cold day had one of the more pleasurable jobs available in Strasburg on Saturday.
The panelists at the Founder's Day Cook Off were more than up to the less-than-grueling task of spooning up bowls of sinus-clearing chili, vegetarian and rich, cream-based soups. They even remembered to cleanse their palates in between bowls.
"All the soups were good," said Conrad Helsley, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. "Some of the soups I thought I wouldn't like, I did like." Mayor Tim Taylor and C.J. Borden joined Helsley on the panel.
After an hour of tasting, the votes were counted and the winner announced: Six Star Catering swept all three categories. Six Star's commercial kitchen and business office are in Strasburg.
Tricia O'Leary, Six Star co-owner, said she has entered only three contests in more than 20 years of working in restaurants and the catering business. She opened Six Star in 2002 and travels to special events throughout the region.
"We're usually too busy to do something like this," O'Leary said. "Fortunately, it's slow during this time of year."
Her reward for winning will be an engraved plaque suitable for hanging in the Six Star kitchen.
The three restaurants entered in the competition, Charlie's Hotel Strasburg and Christina's Cafe received a second chance to compete when members of the public got a chance to sample the soups and chili and cast a vote for their favorites.
Hotel Strasburg won the chili and cream-based soup categories and Six Star kept its first place ranking in the vegetarian category.
Sam Saliba, the owner of the Hotel Strasburg and one of its five chefs said he and other members of the kitchen worked into the night preparing the soups for the competition.
For any kind of soup, it's best to let it set overnight for the ingredients to bond," Saliba said.
Bob Bowman of Strasburg was impressed with the butternut squash soup that was among Saliba's offerings.
"It's almost like a pie filling," Bowman said. "I like it. What if we want the recipe?"
Bowman had spent much of the day down the hall at a table near the building entrance selling a couple of books he has written on local history. The area around the entrance also included a table filled with memorabilia commemorating events held this year in honor of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town.
Founders Day was the last event for the year scheduled by the 250th anniversary committee, said Leila Orndorff, the committee chairwoman. The food at Saturday's event was free to the public because "times are tough out there," Orndorff said.
"Remember that old economics rule that there's no such thing as a free lunch? Well, today there is," she said.
Despite the lure of free admission and food, attendance fell well short of organizers hopes. Several people interviewed blamed competition from the Virginia Gourd Festival up the road in Middletown and other scheduled events.
"It's a good event," said Rich Orndorff Jr., a town council member and president of the Chamber of Commerce. "I wish it had been a little better attended, but it's a beautiful fall day and there's so much going on."