Arts & Entertainment

‘Taste’ Judges Share Their Food Likes & Dislikes




With three of the four judges returning from last year’s Taste of Falls Church, this year’s restaurant entrants will have to step it up in order to impress these veteran taste buds. Here, the judges provide insights on their personal palettes and what gets their mouths watering.

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Robin Gardner

Mayor, City of Falls Church

1. Have you judged before, and whether yes or no, do you consider yourself having any food expertise?

Yes, I have judged before. I am now an expert judge – hopefully the others will look to me for guidance. I am an expert on vegetarian cuisine and kid-friendly fare. Yes, it is tough to create a menu around these two parameters, but no one ever said it would be easy!

2. What makes for a good meal or favorite dish? An example?

I could go with the obvious answers of simplicity in a dish, with a good presentation, but instead I will say that I really like meals that others cook. Being a non-cook by nature (yes, you can ask my husband, this isn’t a big secret) I enjoy meals that can be shared – so family style, large group fare works best for me. I love anything with noodles. My favorite meals range from Thai to sushi to Italian – I run the gamut.

3. Conversely, what makes for a bad meal or dish – what foods don’t pleasure your palate? An example, too?

Meals that are undercooked are a turn-off. Anything that is too spicy I find unenjoyable – I find myself always looking for something to bring the spiciness down, be it drinking water or another beverage, so I don’t appreciate the meal as much. Also, anything slimy is a turn-off. There is some sushi that I just won’t touch.

4. How would you describe your taste buds; do they tingle for spice, tang, perhaps something mellow? What titillates them?

I appreciate the tang in a dish. Some of my favorite ingredients are nuts, coconut, curry and cream.

5. Growing up, what was your favorite dish?

My mom made wonderful stuffing, so I’d have to say it was a roasted chicken with stuffing! How’s that for traditional!

TOFCjudgeCathy-Kaye.jpgCathy Kaye

Treasurer, City of Falls Church

1. Have you judged before, and whether yes or no, do you consider yourself having any food expertise?

Yes, I have judged before: last year and I had a wonderful time! I consider myself a cook, not an expert in any way! I like being a generalist, food niche-wise, then I’m not limited in my choices!

2. What makes for a good meal or favorite dish? An example?

A favorite dish has to have history. You have to be able to connect it either to your childhood, or a special event or a special person. I know that my favorite dish to make is lemon chicken, not only because I like it, but because it is my husband’s favorite and I have been making it for him since before we were married!

3. Conversely, what makes for a bad meal or dish – what foods don’t pleasure your palate? An example, too?

A bad dish is easier to define than a bad meal. I can find fault with a dish because of its ingredients, preparation or presentation. A bad meal is much more complicated. I think I have only ever had one bad meal (my mother made it, hence her permanent ban from the kitchen) in my life. I think a meal has to have at least two people eating it to be considered a meal. If I have good friends to eat with, how can a meal be bad?

4. How would you describe your taste buds; do they tingle for spice, tang, perhaps something mellow? What titillates them?

My taste buds like it HOT!! I like any spicy food, the more intense the better! Indian, Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian, I like them all!

5. Growing up, what was your favorite dish?

My mother cannot cook, however, she can bake. So my childhood favorite was a treat that she made every summer, her frozen strawberry pie. It was an amazing thing, frozen strawberries, cream and egg whites, whipped until they stood 8″ tall, piled in a cookie dough crust and then frozen…it still defines summer for me!

TOFCmeeks.jpgRob Meeks

Falls Church Recreation & Parks Advisory Board Chair

1. Have you judged before, and whether yes or no, do you consider yourself having any food expertise?

I was a judge last year. I am thrilled to be asked back this year. Judging two years in a row is my greatest claim to food expertise. My niche of cuisine is elusive, but I do know a lot about breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

2. What makes for a good meal or favorite dish? An example?

No question what makes a good meal: the people you share it with. Favorite dish is a tough question, I can think of two. The first is my mother’s lasagna. The second is a Brussel sprout dish that my wife makes. I am not mentioning the second dish to encourage my children to eat Brussel sprouts, but the season is approaching and it is a very nutritious.

3. Conversely, what makes for a bad meal or dish – what foods don’t pleasure your palate? An example, too?

I have had some meals with my in-laws that were not the greatest. And, eggplant, I wish I understood it better.

4. How would you describe your taste buds; do they tingle for spice, tang, perhaps something mellow? What titillates them?

I have been told that I have attractive taste buds, and they seem to be aging well.

5. Growing up, what was your favorite dish?

I called my mother to answer this one. She was glad to hear from me. She asked why I have not called sooner. She also scolded me for calling from the car. Then she said there was a time when I was in 6th through 8th grade when I would only eat ham. I don’t remember this. Perhaps, I am still a little bruised about the cell phone discussion.

TOFCjudgeclinton.jpgTom Clinton, Falls Church

Commissioner of the Revenue

1. Have you judged before, and whether yes or no, do you consider yourself having any food expertise?

I have never officially judged food before but I’m looking forward to it. I do like to eat so I hope that counts for something! I grew up in big family, I have eight brothers and sisters, so buffet style with the whole family was both practical and a lot of fun.

2. What makes for a good meal or favorite dish? An example?

I like a variety of foods and all the courses, if time permits. A good meal doesn’t have to be anything specific or overly complicated. Fresh ingredients always taste better. I think good company, good conversation and drinks are important elements as well.

3. Conversely, what makes for a bad meal or dish – what foods don’t pleasure your palate? An example, too?

If someone else is cooking, how bad can it be? I have two kids so chicken nuggets, or if we’re going fancy they’re called chicken tenders, are usually on the menu. My nickname is “the goat” so I’m not really a big complainer. I’m not into exotic and super spicy.

4. How would you describe your taste buds; do they tingle for spice, tang, perhaps something mellow? What titillates them?

I like spices and tang. I’m quite all right with the comfort food end of the spectrum as well. A really good buffet can be a multi-hour event for me. My mother was a good cook and was always able to provide both quality and quantity while we were growing up. My father took up cooking later in life. He was a big reader of cookbooks and watched a lot of the early cooking shows. He was always trying something new.

5. Growing up, what was your favorite dish?

My Dad made the best marinated boneless chicken on the grill. I’m not sure if it had a specific name but it always tasted real good, and the serving plate was always cleared off in no time. You had to skewer quickly to avoid other people’s forks coming at your hand and you couldn’t take more than you allotted portion!

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