A foodies delight: Thousands visit Taste of Northampton

By Sophie Hauck

For the Gazette

Published: 09-10-2023 5:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Foodies and picky eaters alike delighted in the return of Taste of Northampton on Saturday, an all-day food festival that gave thousands an appetite for supporting local businesses.

Dozens of vendors lined Main Street, serving fried crawfish balls, burnt sugar ice cream and Czech dark lager — among hundreds of other unique items — from noon until 8 p.m. The Downtown Northampton Association sponsored the Taste for the second year in a row following a 20-year hiatus, aiming to increase local commerce after many businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been such a long time because of COVID, it makes the food taste even better,” said Sarah Barr, who came to the festival on two separate occasions — first for a fresh lobster roll in the afternoon, before later returning for a pesto sandwich in the evening.

“It’s a great way for a small new business to get their name out there, get some really great exposure [among] both folks that are local in the community and folks that are coming for this banner event,” said Jill Foley, who owns charcuterie board catering company Fed by Foley.

Foley participated in last year’s event, which she said boosted engagement on her business website and social media pages. Months after the Taste, new clients referenced the downtown event as the way they discovered her business.

In lieu of an entire charcuterie board, Foley served bite-sized servings of salami, cheese and vegetables in what she called “CharCUPeries,” one of many snacks Northampton resident Mary Penney sampled over the course of the event.

“You’re only spending a couple of dollars, and you get to try something new,” said Penney, over a slice of pie and plate of noodles. “The great part about this event is you go to restaurants you don’t usually go to and you don’t feel like you’ve spent a ton of money or invested in a whole meal or evening at a place that you might not necessarily like.”

Among the dishes Penney dug into with her husband Mark, the risotto from Paul and Elizabeth’s was their “bite of the night,” so delicious that the couple considered requesting the recipe. Both noted that they had not been patrons of the restaurant since before the start of the pandemic.

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Vendors manned their booths under intense weather conditions, working under a blazing sun in the afternoon that gave way to torrential downpours in the event’s final hour. At some points, Staia Potter of Flowerwork Farm in Florence filled up buckets of cold water in another business’s bathroom to cool down the bouquets of flowers she sold.

“Merchants on Main Street are their own community in Northampton, and they do really rely on each other a lot,” Potter said. “Even though I haven’t worked downtown in years, there’s like five different stores I could go in where I know the folks, they know me. We would help each other out no matter what.”