Sunshine on the water, boats slicing across the bay, green-blue mountains rising all around—the setting in Port Townsend, Washington couldn’t have been more perfect for the 24th annual Tastes of Port Townsend, a small plates event that raises money for the Victorian town’s vibrant Main Street Program. In the past, guests walked throughout town to participating restaurants, bakeries, and confectioners for tastes, but this year, the nonprofit chose the spectacular NW Maritime Center, a striking glass and wood building that overlooks Port Townsend Bay. It was a brilliant choice.
On a sunny June evening, when we arrived just a few minutes after the doors opened at 5 p.m., the place was already teeming with foodies tasting offerings from lamb meatballs to mussels, clams, and prawns from 14 local restaurants and food purveyors. Guests who paid a bit extra also enjoyed cider, craft beer, and wine samples from seven area wineries/breweries/cideries. Locally brewed coffee and tea were also available.
Large round tables, which quickly filled with guests who insisted on occupying the prized seats for the entire event, occupied the center of the spacious waterfront meeting room with food and drink purveyors serving from tables around the perimeter. There were also a couple of taller standing-style tables. The best dining was out on the deck overlooking the water where guests lined up for the spectacular views and salt sea air, using used the wide railings as tables.
Each Tastes of Port Townsend guest was given a plastic plate/wine glass and passport (yellow for food $35; green for food and alcohol $50) that was checked off as they visited each vendor. And the variety of food offerings was broad enough to satisfy—and fill up–nearly anyone. There were lamb meatballs from The Belmont; razor clam chowder from Cablehouse Beach Canteen; pulled pork sliders from the new Taps at the Guardhouse in Fort Worden; sushi, seaweed salad and edamame (salted green soybeans) from Ichikawa Sushi & Steak House; a spicy Caribbean Chicken Sandwich from The Old Whiskey Mill; seafood boil with mussels, clams, and shrimp from Sirens Seafood Bar; Prawn risotto from The Silverwater Café; pizza from The Tin Brick; hot dog bites from Dogs-a-Foot hot dog stand; and a terrific selection of cheeses, including a creamy Montchevre goat cheese from the Port Townsend Food Co-op. There were also sweets for dessert: locally made fudge from Port Townsend Fudge Company; cookies and chai from The Boiler Room, a nonprofit serving youth; salted caramel and caramel pecan chocolates from Port Townsend Chocolates; and truffles and, my favorite, tiny root beer floats made with Elevated Ice Cream and Bedford’s Root Beer, an silky artisan root beer made in Port Angeles.
Folks who opted for alcoholic beverages enjoyed Honey Meadow Cider from Finnriver Cidery; raspberry, ginger, and semi-sweet ciders from Eaglemount Wine and Cider; from Marrowstone Winery there were Riesling and Barbera; Fairwinds Winery served Cabernet, a Sauvignon/Merlot blend, and Merlot and Lemberger; Lullaby Winery offered 2009 Morning Light, Rogue de Virginie and 2014 Carbon; Propolis Brewing served Beltane-Elderflower Saison with Brett; and beer lovers enjoyed Chet’s Gold, Amber & Hop Diggidy from Port Townsend Brewing Company. Guests also could opt for non-alcoholic Pippa’s Real Ice Tea and locally roasted regular and decaf coffee from Sunrise Coffee Company.
The Tastes of Port Townsend supports the city’s Main Street Program, which preserves and fosters the vitality of businesses within the town’s beautiful historic district and helps maintain the small town’s quality of life. In addition to supporting local businesses, the Port Townsend Main Street Program decorates downtown streets with 100+ colorful hanging flower baskets and coordinates more than 25 community events, including the annual Earth Day Clean-Up, Concerts on the Dock and the Uptown Street Fair that draws 12,000 people each year.
Judging from the crowd and the happy faces at this year’s Tastes of Port Townsend, the city’s Main Street Program will be doing good work for a long time. – Story and photos by Bobbie Hasselbring, Editor Realfoodtraveler.com