Some call it Taste of Tacoma. I call it The Weekend For Gluttony.
The festival featuring the greatest hits of deep-fried fare opens Friday (June 26) and continues through Sunday at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park.
This is the 30th year for the festival.
If you’ve never been, let me help define it:
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It’s the place to show off your stretchiest plants, the kind with the forgiving waistband built for competitive eating.
It’s where one might discover what’s new in the World of Gut Busting Monstrosities (in the running this year is the Krispy Kreme bacon burger, or the Krispy Kreme-themed sundae).
The Taste is a place to catch a band, throw a Frisbee in the park, shop for necklaces or sample Tacoma-made craft beer.
It’s the region’s largest pop-up food court offering the gamut of eating: Russian, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and French. Regional American cuisine is represented with food from the Bayou, Hawaii and Texas.
In all, about 40 food businesses will serve, selling items ranging from $3.75 for the “Just a Bite” smaller menu items and topping out at around $9 for the larger dishes.
For years, participation by Tacoma-area restaurants has dwindled to just a few. Most of the restaurants at the Taste are actually caterers who make a living on the fair and festival circuit.
This year is no exception for the low Tacoma restaurant turnout, with four serving food (see below), but Tacoma restaurants will be represented strongly in one area of the festival — on the cooking stage. Several local chefs will give cooking demonstrations.
Also, here’s something to try. Tacoma will be well represented by local craft breweries at a design-your-own-craft-beer tour, which is a new feature at this year’s Taste of Tacoma.
Here are my picks for what not to miss this weekend:
Tacoma food trucks: Four Tacoma-area food trucks will roll into the Taste. Arnold’s Happy Days will serve burgers and pie bars; Budha Bear Bagels will offer a few styles of its bagel sandwiches; Gibson’s will serve its famous frozen yogurt with a toppings bar and the Original House of Donuts will be plying festival goers with cake doughnuts and maple bars.
Booths to try: These restaurants have always proven as top producers at festivals I’ve attended in previous years. Try the crepes at Crepe Thyme; don’t miss the beef-and-cheese piroshky at Kaleenka; and you’d be remiss if you didn’t stop by Biringer Farms for strawberry shortcake.
Desserts: Speaking of desserts, there’s a bigger and better selection this year. There will be frozen yogurt, ice cream, funnel cakes, shortcake, floats, fudge and Fisher scones (yes, the scone people from the Washington State Fair)
Craft beer: Located within the event is a beer garden that will work as a miniature South Sound craft beer tasting festival. Guests 21 and older can spend $15 and get a commemorative glass and tickets to redeem five 5.5-ounce pours from any beer from five South Sound breweries. Pouring will be 7 Seas, Fish Brewing Co., Odd Otter Brewing Co., Northwest Brewing Co. and Wingman Brewers. Find the craft beer tasting area on Saturday and Sunday near the Local Stage.
Distilled spirits: Located in the beer garden this year is something new — cocktails. Gig Harbor’s Heritage Distilling will pour cocktails made with its bourbon and vodka.
Chef demos: The Taste Cooks! stage will have a continuing schedule of chef demonstrations featuring some of the city’s top chefs. Among a long list of chefs speaking will be Kris Blondin of Stink and El Tufo Wine Bar; Matthew Schweitzer of Marrow; Yu Nanakornphanom from Indo Asian Street Eatery (opening soon in the Stadium neighborhood) and Eddie Williams from JW in Gig Harbor.
Cookoffs: There will be two cookoffs between four Tacoma chefs at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Competing Friday will be James Bacher from X Group restaurants (Masa, Asado, Engine House No. 9) and Mike Joinette from Marrow. Competing Saturday will be Derek Bray of The Table (opening soon on Sixth Avenue) and Alexander Anton, chef of Smoke + Cedar.
Entertainment: The Bowl Stage will host bands playing rock and blues; The Pond Stage with funk and soul; the Wine and Roses Stage with jazz; the Family Fun Kids Stage.; the Local Stage with artists from the Maurice The Fish label.
Also happening: A carnival; arts and crafts booths; commercial and vendor booths.