Back in the early ‘90s, when the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce referred to their newly conceived “Taste of New Paltz” event as “New Paltz’s newest tradition,” the assertion was optimistic, but turned out to be prophetic. First held at a local winery, the event’s popularity inspired the change in venue to the Ulster County Fairgrounds by 1994. Over the years since, attendance has crept ever upward, and Taste of New Paltz has grown from a small event with a handful of local businesses participating to an annual showcase of regional food, wine, spirits, entertainment and business.
The 28th annual Taste of New Paltz, hosted by the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce, was held on a very hot late-summer Sunday, September 16 at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. Along with the opportunity to sample some local cuisine, wine and spirits, the event offered a Dr. Seuss-themed children’s area with face-painting and Lego activities, crafts vendors, live entertainment and a business expo, with dozens of local businesses represented. New additions to the yearly event were an apple pie baking contest — 12 entries judged for taste, looks and creativity — and attendee voting for “Best of the Taste” in three categories: best food truck, best restaurant and best winery or distillery.
Participating restaurants included Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden, Jamaica Choice, La Cabanita, La Charla Mexican Restaurant, Lola’s, Noshi’s Coney Island, La Ruta del Sol, Village Pizza and Reggae Boy Café.
Food trucks and vendors at the event were DJay’s Grill on the Run, Eddie’s Churro Factory, Ms. Vee’s Sweet Treats, Rafka’s Lebanese Cuisine, Lakeside Licks (ice cream), Spacey Tracy’s Gourmet & Deep-Fried Pickles, Sunshine Concessions and Off the Hook (seafood).
The winner of the apple pie contest was Doree Lipson, proprietor of Wellness Embodied: A Center for Psychotherapy and Healing on Main Street in New Paltz. Off the Hook was chosen “Best of the Best” food truck, Lola’s was selected as best restaurateur and Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery was awarded best winery or distillery.
Samples of cuisine were sold at an average price of $5 per sample, with several offering $3 options and a few priced higher. Portions were small and lines were long, but that didn’t seem to deter the crowds of people waiting to try a lobster roll from Off the Hook or a nopal (grilled cactus) taco from La Charla.
Wineries and distilleries represented at the event included 1857 Spirits, Baldwin Vineyards, Freefall Sangria, KAS Spirits, Old York Farm Distillery & Cooperage, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery and Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery.
Craft beer and hard cider were available to sample from Sloop Brewing Company, Doc’s Draft Hard Ciders, Bell’s Inspired Brewing, Blue Point Brewing Company, Collective Arts Art & Brewing, Lagunita’s Brewing Company, Sixpoint Brewery, Naragansett, Smuttynose Brewing Company and Naked Flock Hudson Valley Hard Cider.
Thirty craft vendors offered a wide range of gift-able items, from handmade soaps and beauty products to jewelry, accessories and handcrafted dog biscuits, and another 30 vendors inside the barn staffed tables with information about their respective businesses, which ranged from banks and insurance agencies to energy providers and design firms. Attendees could learn about the health benefits of physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga and karate.
A pen at the back of the fair, near the children’s tent, held dogs available for adoption, and Sunflower Art Studios offered juggling lessons, bracelet-making and wooden sunflower shapes with a hole in the center for kids to put their faces in.
One thing that never changes at Taste of New Paltz is the event serving as the major fundraiser of the year for the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce. It promotes local businesses and their connection to their communities; none participate in “Taste” to make money at the event but rather to promote what they have to offer fellow residents of the Hudson Valley.
The Chamber encourages tourism through referrals and member services, and participates in legislative advocacy for local business. They hold seminars and networking opportunities and special events like “Taste.”
For more information, visit http://www.newpaltzchamber.org/our-mission.html.