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Street Food, Northern Berkshire Style

Tammy Daniels

Colleen Taylor of FYP and Taylor's was chatting up Michael Gallagher of Square Roots Farm.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Food Festival on Sunday had easily its best showing in years, if not best ever. There were more restaurants, more variety, more music and more people — many more people — than the past few years.

The 9-year-old event has had its ups and downs, plagued by rain or searing temperatures and inconsistent participation. Some of the eateries from that first fest don't even exist anymore.

But there's always been a hardcore dozen or so restaurants and food vendors that set up under tents for an afternoon of dining.

Shish kabob & chicken jambalaya

This year, hundreds, likely well more than a thousand, packed Main Street from 1 to 4 to sample from 17 food purveyors. Rod Bunt of the Office of Tourism, which organizes the event, said more than 18,000 tickets (at 50 cents apiece) had been sold by 1:30. That's compared to nearly 15,000 total last year.

"I don't know how many people that is but I'd say it's a lot," said Bunt.

The new setup certainly helped the event's success. Instead of clumping the tents at the east end of the street the entire south side of Main Street was closed off and the tents spread down from about Hoosac Bank past Holden Street. The layout also offered far more seating than before and kept people walking along the street between the tents. The new benches also offered a spot to sit and listen to the musicians playing.

Councilor Lisa Blackmer, chairman of the Community Development Committee, said the idea was to include the galleries at the west end of the street and open the way to grow it next year.

"This was much better," said Kate Schilling of The Hub, whose booth was just a hop away. "It's much more spread along the street and it's a better layout."

The foot traffic also helped Creations, which owner and City Councilor Keith Bona had opened for the afternoon. (Sadder was the "almost free stuff" being picked over in front of Tangiers, which is closing at the end of the month.)

Romaine fresh from the field.

There was a lot of variety, too. Along with the usual pizza suspects, attendees could chose from Spanish, Italian, diner, fine dining, vegan and Indian. And, what seems an obvious addition, fresh root and early garden greens from Square Roots Farm in Clarksburg. I picked up bok choy and some nice-looking radishes; Bona was spotted munching on a stalk of romaine.

Being a regular customer of most of the downtown eateries, I opted to try something different: a beef shish kabob from Lucia's Latin Homestyle Spanish Cooking washed down with a pale ale from Girardi Distributors. The sausage tasted a lot like kielbasa. The beef was great — rare, moist and tender. I also tried some chicken jambalaya from Wild Oats Market that was a lot lighter than expected and had a nice spicy kick.

A half pan of jambalaya was all that was left, said chef Greg Roach, who figured he'd gone through more than 200 servings. The cookies were long gone. Many of the vendors ran out of one or more items by the end of the afternoon; Schilling was cleaned out and the final few bread puddings were given away.

Seven Blakeman of the Elf Parlor said she'd run out of everything by around 3 p.m. "I never did anything like this before," she said. "I didn't know what expect."

Make more mini food like these baby burgers.

Overall, the restaurant owners as well as the organizers were pleased with the turnout. There were plenty of politicians on hand, too. Both candidates for sheriff, Dan Bosley and Tom Bowler, were there with their T-shirted posses; all three candidates for 1st Berkshire District, Gailanne Cariddi, David Bissaillon and Edward MacDonald, were schmoozing. Also spotted in the crowd were a number Clark Art and Mass Moca stickers, a very good sign.

Organizers are hoping for even bigger and better next year. One suggestion, encourage the vendors to offer more small bites for fewer tickets: think amuse bouche. Supreme Pizza was offering its version of Bananas Foster (very sweet) on a toothpick ("That was perfect," said Blackmer,)  for a ticket. Lickety Split had peewee cones (Blue Blazer) for two. I had both, and would tried more if I hadn't been full of shish kabob and jambalaya (mostly shish kabob). I forgot to go back and get a mango lassi from Spice Root but I'm not sure I could've fit it in.

What was the best dish in your opinion? Post here or on our Facebook page.


Tags: Food Festival, North Adams      

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