Mother Nature was cranky, but revelers lined up in rain, mist, and fog to attend the annual Taste of the Vineyard Gourmet Stroll Thursday night at the Dr. Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown. More than 75 vendors from the Black Dog Tavern to Lagunitas Brewing to Coca-Cola and Lambert’s Cove Inn offered amuse-bouches to nearly 1,000 partygoers who paid the $175 ticket price to attend the posh event.
“It’s really about family and community coming together around food and drink,” explained Paul Gately from Tröegs Independent Brewing in Hershey, Pa. Sounds from the crowded dance floor echoed through the sprawling tents, and attendees mixed and mingled with old and new friends alike. Glowing orbs and stars hung from the rafters and illuminated what has become a seasonal rite of passage for tourists and Islanders alike.
“The Taste,” as it is known, began as a small, potluck event in 1986, but has become the most important annual fundraiser for the Vineyard Trust, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the preservation of historic landmark buildings and scenic landscapes, à la the Flying Horses Carousel, Alley’s General Store, and the Old Whaling Church.
“I remember when it was just a few restaurants, and we were the only beer provider at the event,” Phil McAndrews of local staple Offshore Ale waxed nostalgic. Despite the almost beer-festival atmosphere, McAndrews’ booth was still a popular filling station.
MV Wines & Spirits and Rosewater Wines & Spirits bookended the entrance to the big tents, and doled out prosecco and rosé respectively, making for a grand entrance for both princes and princesses.
In traditional Vineyard fashion, there was no lack of fashion itself, patrons breaking out their Taste gear in the form of jackets emblazoned with sharks and minnows, seersucker suits, Kentucky Derby–like headwear, and stiletto heels that ran the risk of getting stuck in the mud.
The famous Taste photo booth and legendary “couch” — a retro Victorian loveseat complete with props and white background — boasted lines and pulled together old friends and new looking for the classic shot.
The clouds may have started clearing, but the tents did not. Nearly every morsel of delectable fineness was gone by night’s end, and for good reason: Chappy Kitchen served up balsamic marinated portobello tacos with pineapple salsa and fresh guacamole. Mikado and the Lookout Tavern took up Asian inspiration with an array of sushi morsels fit for a king. Neighbor Alchemy was not to be outdone with a crab salad and Bibb lettuce bowl complete with garlic breadcrumbs. Kitchen Porch rolled out blushed Sweet Neck oysters served in the shell. And Grey Barn farm topped it off with certified organic Fabergé egg, uni hollandaise with seaweed and Melba toast.
Those who were smart enough not to fill up on the appetizers were greeted to a potpourri of desserts compliments of Murdick’s Fudge, Enchanted Chocolates, Scottish Bakehouse, and Not Your Sugar Mamas. And that’s not even to mention the array of creative cocktails — a smorgasbord of beer, bubbly, and everything in between.
Brae Ferguson, president of Martha’s Spiked, a line of all-natural Island-inspired infusions, was cleaned completely of her tart-not-sweet Cranberry Lime and Lemonade varieties. “The Taste is not just a party,” explained Ferguson. “It’s an opportunity to put your best foot forward, turn people on to your brand, and hopefully they remember when they see it in a store or on a menu in the future.”
It’s hard to say what people remembered or not, other than the full-blast festivity of the affair. The Sultans (formerly “of Swing”) slowly drew the crowd to the music tent with their own full-blast brand of rock ’n’ roll. Billed as one of the “premier party bands in the country,” the talented ensemble boasts a repertoire including Maxi Priest, Oasis, Beyonce, Katy Perry, the Backstreet Boys, and Garth Brooks.
Local restaurants the Port Hunter, Wharf, and Covington were also part of the action, not only within the event but for those who didn’t want to shell out the steep cover price and as HQs for impromptu after-parties. At midnight, Main Street in Edgartown was still hopping, and while law enforcement had an unmistakable presence at the fantastic fete, they seemed more bemused than anything, chatting with salubrious souls who didn’t want the evening to end.
All in all, the gala was indeed gallant, and there wasn’t a complaint in the house. “I loved how no one was deterred by the weather,” beamed Funi Burdick, director of the Vineyard Trust. “Hundreds of fun-loving Islanders sipped, tasted, and danced all evening. Vendors donated food and drinks to support our preservation work. I couldn’t be happier.”