The Commons was hopping and popping with enticing aromas, visually tempting desserts and the chance for a beer chaser.
From pies to popcorn and roast duck to chicken, the second annual Taste of Columbus on Thursday was too delightful to resist — and seemingly few of the 400 in attendance tried.
Dave Barker, president of Siho Insurance Services, tried Taste of Columbus for the first time.
“So far, I’ve got to meet five of my customers,” Barker said. “It’s very much social and quite fun.”
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Columbus resident Brock Biehl, a manager at Old National Bank, was another first-timer.
Word-of-mouth buzz was too tempting for him to resist.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has raved about it,” Biehl said of the event.
More than 25 local businesses used the opportunity to promote their services, such as holiday catering.
Laurie Booher, a city councilwoman who owns Popportunity, was back for the event’s second year. Her business offers a variety of different popcorn in different flavors that can be made for weddings and other special events.
With the holiday season just ahead, “this is perfect timing for us,” Booher said.
Caterer Steven Hackney said he just wanted to have a little fun.
The assistant chef with Artisan Foodworks was busy preparing smoked duck balls at his booth when someone asked, “How do you eat this?”
Hackney, who returned to the event for its second year, said he enjoys being able to interact with the public and showcasing what Artisan Foodworks has to offer.
The smoked duck balls — wrapped with bacon topped with onion and placed on a small piece of lettuce — was among the unique fare that tempted visitors.
“It’s good to try something new,” Hackney said. “A lot of people haven’t had duck before.”
Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Taste of Columbus offered more variety the second time around.
Frey said she enjoyed seeing local restaurants serve items outside of their normal fare.
But food and dessert items weren’t the only samples available to visitors, who could also taste the wares of local craft breweries PowerHouse Brewing Co. and 450 North Brewing Co.
John Myers, who owns PowerHouse Brewing Co. with two business partners, said he enjoys the social aspect of the event and being able to talk about his beer selections with visitors, adding that the brewery takes different styles of beer and puts its own unique twist on it.
“Our beers are different by interpretation,” Myers said.
Charlie House, owner of Dags Deli, provided samples of candy-bacon wrapped chicken, persimmon pudding and pumpkin pies to attendees at his booth.
Participating in Taste of Columbus was an effort to reach people who had never visited the 11-year-old establishment before, House said.
“We’re not just about homemade ice cream,” House said.
One visitor to his booth said he was planning a graduation party and House didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to gain another potential customer.
“Once I mentioned catering, he said he was going to consider us for that,” House said.
Liz Kays, owner and business manager of cajun and creole restaurant Yats, was dishing up drunken chicken to visitors, along with a vegetarian dish featuring caramelized corn, black beans and peppers.
Kays said she hoped the event would help grow the customer base for her Fourth Street restaurant.
“A lot of people are tasting our food that might not come into our restaurant,” Kays said. “If I get five new customers, that’s great.”
2: Number of years for Taste of Columbus sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce
3: Number of hours to sample main courses, desserts and drinks.
21: Minimum age, as alcohol was served.
25: Number of business vendors
400: Size of the crowd at The Commons, same as the inaugural year