Attention fans of deep-fried gluttony: This is the weekend to make good use of those stretchy Thanksgiving pants buried in the back of your closet. You know the ones – they’ve got the sort-of-still-there elastic waistband.
Your mission: Elephant ears, corn on the cob, corn dogs, burgers, Philly cheesesteaks and about 200 other foods that will leave you filled with regret and reaching for a hefty dose of Zantac. This weekend is Taste of Tacoma, the region’s biggest food court that brings 26 pop-up restaurants to Point Defiance Park for three days.
Among the things to see, smell, and, of course, eat are deep-fried eats of epic proportions: deep-fried Girl Scouts cookies, cotton candy-wrapped corn dogs (I did not make that up), deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches and a whole lot of other deep-fried things that will make your cardiologist shudder.
The menu is pure fair food of the fried and dripping-with-calories variety – an outgrowth of the Taste transitioning several years ago from a festival featuring Tacoma restaurants to a festival of traveling food vendors who specialize in carnival-style eats. The reasons for the shift are varied, but include (and are not limited to) restaurants finding portable restaurant setup expensive and labor intensive. In recent years, one or two Tacoma restaurants would show up and serve, but most of the vendors aren’t even from this area. Enter traveling food vendors.
But, wait! There’s one thing that puts Tacoma restaurants back into the Taste. This year’s event, The Taste Cooks, will be a series of cooking demonstrations featuring some of Tacoma’s top chefs and food personalities. Among those cooking will be Hudson Slater of Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge, Tom Pantley of Toscanos Cafe and Wine Bar, Kris Blondin of Stink Cheese and Meat, Tom Vigue of Savor Creperie, and Patricia Kerth of Old Milwaukee Cafe and Dessert Company. Check the schedule below for a list of chefs and what they’ll be cooking.
Also new to the festival this year are Seattle-area mobile food trucks – because we just can’t get enough of restaurants with steering wheels. Tokyo Dog, a Seattle truck catching buzz for its Japanese-inspired hot dogs, will serve alongside Ezell’s Express, an outpost of the region’s famous fried chicken restaurant chain. Also serving will be the mobile Asian bistro Chopstix, and My Chef Lynn, a truck serving old-style grandma comfort food with newish spins. The mobile trucks will be interspersed with the other restaurants set up in a grassy area at the park.
Besides a lot of eating and the new cooking demos, there’s also a wine garden, product samples, arts vendors and live entertainment. Read below for everything you need to know:
Emerald Queen Taste of Tacoma 2013
When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Point Defiance Park, Tacoma
Admission: Free, except the cost of food. The cheap bites have returned for $3.75 each (usually a smaller menu item). Menu items top out at $8.
Parking: $10 in the Funland lot across from the park, or park for free at Tacoma Community College and catch a free Taste Shuttle. Buses run all days and hours of the festival.
Information: tasteoftacoma.com or 253-759-8272
Bring with you: Sunscreen and an umbrella, hand wipes, sanitizer and make sure you wear your stretchy pants. There is limited seating, but attendees can bring blankets or portable camping chairs to set up impromptu picnic areas.
Music: Four entertainment stages — the Bowl Stage with classic rock; the Pond Stage with R&B, folk, gospel and world music; the Jazz Stage; and the Rock the Bowl @ Point D Kids Stage. Find the schedule here.
More entertainment: A comedy club, wine garden, a carnival, arts and crafts booths, commercial and vendor booths.
No smoking allowed: All areas of Tacoma public parks are smoke free. Also, leave the dogs at home.
Outside the park: Nearby Goldfish Tavern (5310 N. Pearl) is hosting a beer garden to raise funds to reopen the tavern. Not affiliated with the Taste but worth a stop before or after.
The Taste Cooks
Tour Tacoma’s restaurants without leaving the Taste. Tacoma chefs will conduct cooking demonstrations all weekend with The Taste Cooks, a series of one-hour lectures and demonstrations. The don’t-miss demo will be a cooking throw-down at 4 p.m. Saturday between Tacoma stylist Aura Mae and Maxwell’s Chef Hudson Slater.
The Taste Cooks will be hosted by TV Tacoma’s Amanda Westbrooke.
Find the full schedule here. These are the chefs you won’t want to miss:
Kris Blondin, 5 p.m.: The owner of Stink, a combination cheese cafe and wine bar in Tacoma’s St. Helens neighborhood, will turn to her favorite menu item for inspiration: macaroni and cheese. The restaurant is known for changing out its mac ’n’ cheese weekly. Blondin will make her current favorite – a Mission fig and blue cheese mac. She’ll also dispense advice for pairing wine and beer with everyday foods (something for which she’s known).
Patricia Kerth, 6 p.m.: The food mastermind at the Old Milwaukee Cafe and Dessert Co. will create her specialty: cheesecake. Noted Kerth, “Since it is impossible to complete the dessert in the half-hour time frame, I will be bringing along three completed cheesecakes to show the versatility of my recipe.” If I were an audience member, I’d ask her how she gets the pancakes at Old Milwaukee so perfect. She’ll also do another demo at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Tom Pantley, noon: The chef-owner of Toscanos Cafe and Wine Bar in Puyallup will make campanelle pasta with shrimp and a brandy-orange sauce. He’s also planning to cook a cipollini in agrodolce, or onions in a sweet-and-sour sauce.
Geoffrey Yahn, 5 p.m.: The new chef at Dirty Oscar’s Annex – a Sixth Avenue restaurant recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – will turn to Northwest flavors in his demonstration. He’ll make a duck salad with a cherry vinaigrette, brie and duck fat croutons.
Joshua Corcoran, 3 p.m.: The new chef at Chambers Bay Grill – a University Place restaurant – will feature a macaroni and cheese that’s heavy on Northwest ingredients with an intersection of Southwest flavor. He’ll make penne pasta with Beecher’s Flagship and Just Jack cheeses, smoked salmon, bacon lardons, sweet roasted corn, and green chiles.
Tom Vigue, 4 p.m.: The chef-owner of Savor, the new downtown Tacoma creperie – will prepare a chicken rosemary crepe with roasted sweet potatoes.