College students are back and summer festival time is winding down in the Hudson Valley, but Labor Day weekend doesn’t spell the end of the festivities by any means — especially in New Paltz, where one of the year’s most highly anticipated events traditionally occurs in mid-September. We’re talking, of course, about the Taste of New Paltz: that always-fun gathering of foodies from all over to the big white tents at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, where you can hand in a ticket for a sample of the specialty dish of any of dozens of local eateries.
In China they call it dim sum; in Spain they call it tapas. But by any name, it’s a brilliant concept, this assembling of a satisfying and diverse meal from a long list of tasty offerings from many different styles of cuisine. As long as you’re not having to do the work of preparing the food yourself, why be limited to gorging on an excessive portion of a single entrée? Why feel guilt-propelled to finish the whole thing, lest food be wasted while children are starving in Third World countries?
Far more intriguing, it seems, is to follow your nose down a meandering path of enticing aromas, tasting here and tasting there. After all, if you find something so delectable that one tiny plate just isn’t enough, you can always go back for seconds — all at an affordable cost of $2 to $3 per sample. And if your adventuresome palate decides to take a chance on an unfamiliar food that ends up not particularly to your liking, you don’t have to throw much away or feel like your costly meal out was a waste. You’ll even be able to compost it this year. More likely, you will discover something new to love and at least a few area restaurants that warrant a return visit.
This will be Taste of New Paltz’s 23rd year, when it returns to the fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 15: a date that an estimated seven to eight thousand visitors from near and far will be marking down on their calendars for the annual gustatory pilgrimage. The event’s longevity and consistently lively attendance, even when the weather’s less than perfect, attest to the popularity of the Taste concept, as well as to the quality and variety of the food and drink offered.
The array of participating restaurants varies from year to year, but repeat visitors know that they will always have plenty of culinary riches from which to choose. Restaurants and farm markets supplying food this year will include the Adirondack Creamery, Asian Fusion, Curbside Cuisine, Gary’s Pickles, Gomen Kudasai, Jamaica Choice, the Main Course, Mexicali Blue, Mohonk Mountain House, Moxie Cupcake, Neko Sushi, Pasquale’s, P&G’s, the Ship Lantern Inn, the Thayer Hotel, Hurd’s Family Farm and Tantillo’s Farm Market.
Taste veterans also know to arrive early, if possible. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but menu items in high demand have been known to run out well before closing time, so consider yourself warned!
What’s new this year? “We’re going to have a Craft Beer Garden that’ll include our local brews from the Gilded Otter,” promises Helen Gutfreund, director of marketing and communications at the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. “Our larger distributor this year is the Craft Beer Guild, which will offering several regional craft beers on tap, including Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada and Narragansett.” In addition to full mugs, “There’ll also be tasting portions.”
“Because we’re featuring craft beers, we’re going to be doing food pairing,” Gutfreund continues. “Many vendors will have suggestions for what beers go well with the food they’re serving.” Not a beer-fancier? Wines will also be available from two Shawangunk Wine Trail wineries: Robibero Vineyard and Whitecliff Vineyard.
Another big emphasis this year is on shrinking the Taste’s carbon footprint. “We’re trying to build our levels of sustainability by providing renewable and compostable utensils and Waste Management is providing recycling, trash and composting services,” Gutfreund explains. “If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, put it in the compost bin with your bright-green fork and you’re good to go.” Sorted leftovers will be hauled to the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency in Kingston, where organic waste from food and soiled paper products will be turned into a nutrient-rich compost for local agriculture. “Waste runners” will collect food prep scraps and leftovers from food vendors during and after the event as part of the sorting process.
Your admission fee to the Taste of New Paltz — $7 in advance, $10 on the day of the event — buys you more than just the right to spend more money for food and drink tickets. There will be a classic car and motorcycle show, a Business Expo, an Antiques Expo, a Crafts Expo, a Wellness and Recreation Expo and plenty of activities for kids. Three bands will be performing: The Pleasers go on at 11 a.m., Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde starting at 12:30 and local faves the Big Takeover at 3. In between the mainstage acts, there will be live karate, fitness, massage and bodyworking demonstrations.
Sponsors of the 2013 Taste of New Paltz include Craft Beer Guild Distributing of New York, Naccarato Insurance, the Kempner Corporation, the Adirondack Creamery, the Hampton Inn, M&T Bank, Ted Clark & Associates, Gen-Tech, Ulster Publishing and Cumulus Media.
To purchase tickets in advance, visit the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce website at www.newpaltzchamber.org by Sept. 6 and the tickets will be sent to you by mail. Or you can pick them up in person at the Chamber offices at 257 Main Street, or at Fox & Hound Wine and Spirits in the New Paltz Plaza. A special $22 advance package deal includes admission, ten taste tickets and an official Taste of New Paltz tee-shirt. For more information, call the Chamber at 255-0243.
See you at the Taste on Sept. 15! Come hungry.