Good taste

Taste of the Vineyard Gourmet Stroll kicks off the summer season.


On Thursday, a bunch of rich people spent too much money to dress up, dine on gourmet grub, and get drunk; or so I thought. I entered the 39th annual Taste of the Vineyard Gourmet Stroll expecting to see a pretentious display of wealth, as pretty people paraded around various food and drink stalls, convinced that they are doing it for a good cause. At 10 pm, with a lemon Yommi popsicle in one hand and a blueberry pop in the other, I left The Taste convinced that tickets are well worth the $250 price tag.

The Taste is an annual fundraiser for the Vineyard Preservation Trust to celebrate the best food and drink the Island has to offer and the Trust’s mission to restore and preserve historic Island landmarks, including the Flying Horses, the Old Whaling Church, and Alley’s General Store. Following the Gourmet Stroll on Thursday, the Trust hosted their annual Patron’s Party on Saturday to complete the fundraising weekend. 

Eighty-two vendors from on and off-Island, including restaurants, caterers, bakeries, and breweries, set up stalls at The Taste, donating their time and food, to feed the 1,000 hungry attendees. The Harpoon Brewery team brought beers from Boston for the second year in a row, saying it is a “great event for a great cause.” Cottage City Oysters, who were shucking local clams and oysters, repeated the sentiment, saying “It is all about giving back to the community.” Moving from stall to stall, it became increasingly clear that the vendors were there not just for the fun people-watching, but to support the community and the Vineyard Preservation Trust.

For the first time this year, The Taste hosted a “tablescape competition” for the vendors. The idea was to “give vendors a chance to be creative with their space,” explained Molly Pogue, the Trust’s marketing manager. The tablescapes were judged by a panel of 15 experts in pretty things, based on a guideline rubric including brand identity, creativity, and a nod to the Vineyard Preservation Trust mission. 

Santoro Hospitality created a golden pineapple table theme, as the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and the team wanted to showcase that “we are not in the restaurant business, we are in the hospitality business,” explained director of operations Jen Toppin. On a long table, scattered with golden pineapples and lobster traps, Rockfish offered Guinness-braised short ribs over kale and leek mashed potatoes; Fishbones served crab cakes with chipotle aioli; The Lookout had lobster rolls, and The Net Result served poke bowls. 

Garde East brought the sand and sea from their front porch with them. Their table was decorated to highlight their beachfront dining and “docktail” space. On a less sandy side of the table, they had a finely diced tuna poke with a ginger ponzu, black and white sesame, avocado mousse, and miso caramel — my personal favorite food of the night. 

MV Smoke House designed a Japanese-themed table, reflected in their spice yellowfin tuna and fresh smoked bluefish, both served in seaweed wraps. Owner Gus Leaf said that “putting a Japanese twist to the local smoked fish has been a huge hit.” 

In addition to a celebration of food, The Taste is a celebration of fashion, with a line of colorful dresses and suits snaking their way through the two tents to the iconic photobooth couch. Designer Jody Service-Earlington wore a green dress created by her brand, Fitz Collection. Natalija Lakis described her look as “an Aperol spritz in Amalfi in the summertime,” which was making its third Taste appearance after being worn by both Natalijia and her sister in past years. Bailey Csapo-Moreis wore a pink dress from Nell in Edgartown, explaining she wanted to wear something “bright, colorful, easy, flowy, and comfortable enough to eat a lot of food in.” 

At 8 pm, The Sultans, a popular Vineyard band, started playing, giving attendees a chance to dance off their dinners. Encouraged by more drink vendors than one could sample in a night, 20 of whom came all the way from off-Island, people quickly drained the bars and moved onto the dance floor. Henry Wallace, representing Jim’s Package Store, ran out of Aperol Spritz, quoting “straight chaos.” For the less picky drinkers, the Ritz was serving cheap beer saying “We are the anti-taste, we rolled in a PBR keg, we have fake tattoos and red solo cups.” 

After what felt like a short snack break, the event ended at 10 pm, releasing attendees onto Main Street in Edgartown to either venture towards the bars or towards their beds. Black Sheep, who stocked their table with all their store favorites, sent VIP attendees home with a goodie back of midnight snacks. In addition to Black Sheep’s strawberry shortbread, which I can confirm was delicious at 11 pm, the Edgartown Police were present to help everyone get home safe. “We are a community police department and want to make sure everyone has a good time, gets to the event safely, and gets home safely,” explained Sergeant Mike Snowden.

While some call it “the drunkest night of the year,” the Taste is also a community celebration of good food, friends, generosity, preservation, and people with too much time and money to spend on a random Thursday. Molly Pogue said it best when describing that her favorite part of The Taste is “seeing every walk of life in the community there enjoying themselves, with smiles on their faces, and enjoying the best parts of the food and drinks that the Island has to offer.”