Taste Is Everything at Chamber Event

It's a safe bet that those who attended the 11th annual Taste of Encino this weekend didn't go home hungry.

That's because the portions served at this year's event, held at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Encino, were larger than in previous years.

"I heard people say that the vendors shouldn't have such great portions so people could sample more varieties of food," said Judy Kessler Block, director of operations for the Encino Chamber of Commerce, an event sponsor.

One person who wasn't complaining was Encino resident Jeremy Eisenstein, who attended with his wife, Carolyn, and 2-year-old son Christopher.

"I like big portions," Eisenstein said.

Other than portion size, it was business as usual at the annual gourmand glut.

More than two dozen Valley restaurants offered samples of their specialties at prices ranging from $1 to $3.

An estimated 14,000 attended the two-day feast, said David Lynn, chief operating officer of the Encino chamber.

All proceeds will be donated to Los Encinos State Historic Park, which is in need of repairs from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, local schools and community programs, Lynn said.

As in previous years, ribbons were awarded to outstanding restaurants.

First-time participant Topz, a Sherman Oaks fast-food restaurant specializing in low-fat cuisine, received an award for Best Healthy Food.

"We have a burger that looks like a heart attack on a plate, but it only has 10 grams of fat and it tastes as good, if not better, than an In-N-Out Burger," said Victor Grauaug, vice president of Topz.

The event's most prestigious ribbon, Best Food Presentation and Food Decoration, went to Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant in Encino.

Buca di Beppo owner Tony Penn was surprised at the award, but the restaurant's banquet and catering manager Trish Parrotta said she expected to win.

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