WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Valentine’s Day may have been last weekend, but love of baking was on display at the West Caldwell Valentine’s Day Cookie Contest, held on Feb. 18.
Ten entries vied for prizes for first, second and third places. Judges for the event know their cookies: Vito DiCarlo, Bakery Manager of ShopRite West Caldwell, Maureen O'Neal, owner of Asalt and Buttery Bake Shop in Caldwell and Judy Crawford, Home Economics teacher at West Essex Regional High School were tasked with finding the night’s winner. DiCarlo said there were several things he was looking for in the entries, including “the history of the cookie and how it came about, the presentation of the cookies and of course, the taste.”
Ethan Galvin, Senior Reference Librarian for the West Caldwell Library, said the event came about when Library Director Samantha McCoy saw something similar at another library.
“[McCoy] thought it would make for a nice event, and get the community involved in the library,” he said.
Galvin and McCoy announced each cookie, its ingredients listed and some of the provided history. Once the judges sampled each cookie, they retired to another room to begin their deliberations. That gave attendees the opportunity to sample as many of the baked goods as they wished.
After more than 20 minutes of consultation, the judges said they found the task of ranking the entries very difficult, and Crawford added, “you guys are all winners,” but they had to pick one.
First Place went to Cathy Caragiulo and her Chocolate Crackles, a cookie she developed for her daughter, Stephanie Rose, who is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, coconut, food dies and other items.
Second Place went to Michelle Vicidomini, with a popular entry among the audience called Nutella Cups.
Third Place was awarded to Kathy Cass for her Ambrosia Bites and an Honorable Mention was given to Rose Amato Raimo for her Ricotta Cookies. Caragiulo was overwhelmed by the win.
“I feel like I just won the Academy Award,” said Caragiulo, who pointed to her daughter. “She’s my inspiration: She said, ‘mom you have to do it.’”
Library Director Samantha McCoy said she hopes to do a summer program similar to Thursday’s event. She also hopes to do it in conjunction with the Caldwell Public Library in order to support the “Ready, Set, Read” program.
“It is a program to help people exercise their bodies and minds by eating well and exercising,” said McCoy.
The recipe for the winning cookie is available in the photos.