One of the earliest signs that glorious autumn has come to upstate New York is the reappearance of the by-now-venerable Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, which returns this weekend to Cantine Field in Saugerties. The timing is perfect, as cooler weather makes laboring over a hot stove to concoct some delicious meal seem suddenly a more inviting prospect.
If garlic is a favored ingredient in some of your culinary specialties, you really need to check out the amazing array of varieties, both hardneck and softneck, available for sale from the more than 50 garlic growers slated to be in attendance this year. Flavors range in subtlety from mild artichoke garlic to robust rocambole to pungent silverskin types. Even the imaginative variety names evoke an international spectrum of tastes: Here you can find Northern Star, Spanish Roja, Canadian Music, Temptress, Foxy, Porcelain, Turban, Pskem, Bogstyr, Ceznok Red, Persian Star, Brown Tempest, Carpathian Mahogany, Killarney Red, Ukrainian Wild Buff, Elmer’s Top Set, Unadilla Double Coil, Siberian Fire, Vietnamese Purple Stripe, Transylvanian, Summit Shock and even Nirvana Weird. Take home a selection to try out in your own kitchen, or maybe even to grow in your own garden.
Advice on how to cultivate a superior crop will be provided by garlic-growing experts David Stern, Bob Dunkel, Tony Sarmiento, Crystal Stewart, Bob Yerina and Skip Arthur. Chefs Ric Orlando, Pat Crocker, Alessandro Maestro and Noah Sheetz will demonstrate the finer points of cooking with one of nature’s most mouthwatering gifts.
Or you can spend the day noshing your way through a startling selection of garlic-flavored foods, from beloved standbys to the decidedly counterintuitive. If you’ve never tried garlic soup, garlic fried dough, garlic crabcakes, garlic pretzels, garlic corn-on-the-cob, garlic chili, deep-fried garlic pickles or garlic-flavored chocolates and caramels, this is the place to find them. And yes, Guido’s famous garlic ice cream will be back.
The festival includes plenty of activities for kids, including a performance of Turtle Island Medicine Show by Saugerties’ resident Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, and One World Puppetry & Performance Art will bring the Garlic Giant and his friend the Garlic Fairy to wander the grounds. The Garlic Festival is one of the few venues in the Hudson Valley where you can see live Morris dancers, pounding their staves, whirling their handkerchiefs and jingling their belled harnesses in a pre-Christian celebration of the harvest that dates back to at least the 15th century (and probably much earlier). Onstage, continuous live music will be provided by Mike + Ruthy, Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers, Annie and the Hedonists, the Homegrown String Band, Sundad, Mark Rust, the NY Country Band and the fabulous world music ensemble Passero.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival opens at 10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, September 27 and 28, and closes at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. The entry fee per day is $10 general admission, $5 for seniors; children under age 12 get in free. Parking at Cantine Field itself is limited, but free shuttle service is provided to and from the three designated parking lots, and trolleys will pick up passengers at seven stops in downtown Saugerties. For info, call (845) 246-3090 or visit www.hvgf.org.
Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, Saturday/Sunday, September 27/28, 10 a.m., $10/$5, Cantine Veterans’ Memorial Complex, Washington Avenue Extension, Saugerties; (845) 246-3090, www.hvgf.org.