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Another MercerMe Cut-Throat Cookie Exchange is on the books and we all are letting our belts out a notch and putting away our baking gear — for another year.

We are incredibly grateful to our sponsors. These local businesses give generously to us each year and we appreciate their support. During the holiday season and throughout the year, we encourage everyone to shop local and support these businesses.

Sponsors in no particular order:

  • The Farm Cooking School and Roots to River Farm, both located at Gravity Hill Farm
  • Boro Bean
  • Law Offices of Steven D. Janel
  • Dr. Rosetta Treece
  • Donald Ade
  • The Blue Bottle
  • Starbucks of Denow Road, Pennington
  • Wilson Apple Funeral Home
  • Sweet Envy Decadent Desserts by Shaun Palms
  • Hopewell Valley Vineyards/PALS
  • Sourland Mountain Spirits
  • Cuginos
  • Twine
  • Dandelion Wishes
  • Seeds to Sew, International, Inc.
  • Antimo’s Italian Kitchen
  • The Bent Spoon
  • The Bear and the Books

Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for …. drum roll, please!

The winners of this year’s contest (as shown in the main photo at the top of this article) are:

  • Best Overall: “linzer tart cookies” by Karen Weed (center left)
  • Runner-up, Best Overall: “pecan crescents” by Cristina Loufti (center right)

More honors were served up to the following winners. In the photograph of cookies on the blue plate, they are clockwise (from 12 o’clock):

  • Farm Cooking School Sponsor’s Choice: “coconut caramel chocolate cookies” by Joanne Pawelko
  • Honorable Mention: “Imperfection” by Sara del Castillo
  • Runner-up, Best Tasting: “anise cookies” by Katie Stevens
  • Best Tasting: “brown butter ricotta cookies with homemade Nutella” by Jill Goldman
  • Runner-up, Best Appearance: “Christmas morning” by…. wait for it…. our very own Renata Barnes!
  • Best Appearance: “peppermint macarons” by Ariel Swain
  • Runner-up, Most Original: “butterscotch bacon maple miracles” by Terri McDonough
  • Most Original: “raspberry pistachio cookies” by Sarah Ohls
  • Boro Bean, Sponsor’s choice: “sticky toffee pudding” cookies by Catherine Cahill
  • Honorable Mention: “cherry almond rugelach” by Mary Kolb

While these were the official winners, there was not a bad cookie in the bunch. Everyone worked very hard and made spectacular contributions!

Thank you so much to our judges. Everyone tells us they want to judge, but it is a tough job. Trying 30 different cookies and figuring out which one is best is not easy work.

Judges, in no particular order:

  • Corey Abernathy of Boro Bean
  • Dr. Rosetta Treece
  • Steve and Kim Janel
  • Donald Ade
  • Malaika Spencer – Roots to River Farm
  • Ian Knauer – The Farm Cooking School

This year, MercerMe initiated a new tradition of giving “Tzedakah,” which is the Jewish concept of “charitable giving, typically seen as a moral obligation,” according to Lisa Wolff, who explained it at the event.

The staff at MercerMe recognizes how fortunate we are to live in an area filled — not only with pastoral beauty — but with caring and generous people. That generosity was exemplified by the reaction to Lisa’s presentation. The assembled bakers gave more than $300, which will be given to a Hopewell Valley neighbor who has experienced catastrophic events this year.

The staff at MercerMe is eternally grateful to our founder, Mary Galioto, who through great perseverance has published hyperlocal news, sometimes completely on her own and out of her own pocket, about the Hopewell Valley for six years now. We hope that our growing staff will not only help her bolster coverage but give her a break now and then.

We want to express thanks to Ron and Amie Rukenstein for generously and warmly opening their home to so many competitive bakers, for feeding us, and for their constant love and support of the MercerMe vision and Hopewell Valley.

And, last but certainly not least, thank you to Renata Barnes who runs herself ragged putting this trash-talking love-fest of local business promotion and community interaction together. She is a miracle. Don’t miss her next installment of The Taste Chase, right here in MercerMe.

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