This past Thursday, Taste of Cambridge set up shop at University Park and Sidney Street in Central Square to showcase the restaurants and bars behind Cambridge’s stellar culinary reputation. I’m most likely biased, but this city has some of the best eats around. I jumped at the chance to sample restaurants that have been on my must-visit list (Lord Hobo, Alden and Harlow, The Sinclair), and indulge in local beer and wine.
The event had been postponed from the previous Tuesday because of rain, but I never would have known from the long line at the entrance and the consistent crowd all night. I don’t know if the organizers took the extra two days for fine-tuning, but Taste of Cambridge could not have been a more enjoyable event. It’s possible the four drinks included with my ticket colored my perception, but short lines, a wide spectrum of samplings, and good music all enhanced the experience. A DJ from Mmmmaven had an awesome playlist and I caught multiple strangers singer aloud. There was also live music from the Dirty Water Brass Band, who were killing it with their horns.
All that fun was just icing on the cake that was the food and drink. To start the evening, I bee-lined to Formaggio Kitchen where their knowledgeable staff helped me pair my cheese samples with the right topping of jam and honey. Also early in the night, I had to stop myself from gorging on Flour Bakery’s coconut cupcakes to have room for other samples. Of course I had to hit up some tried-and-trues like Life Alive’s Goddess Bowl and Veggie Galaxy’s BBQ Jackfruit Sliders (so good it took me a minute to realize I wasn’t eating meat). But after that, I had a strict never-tried policy.
Of all the explosive culinary feats I tasted, my favorites ended up being two pretty simple dishes. Craigie on Main had a summer squash and cured pork belly crostini that was buttery and crunchy and packed with flavor, while Amelia’s Trattoria offered succulent and satisfying lamb skewers grilled on an authentic Italian grill.
I should note that both Craigie and Amelia’s were part of the VIP section of the event, which stayed open an extra hour. They alone were worth the extra $25 but VIP also housed the signature cocktails. Wagamama played to their strengths with their bella mela that featured fresh juices and St. Elder (an elderflower liqueur that matches St. Germain in flavor and beats it in price.) While everyone seemed to go nuts for Tavern in the Square’s Hendricks Watermelon Lope Cooler, I found it too sweet and instead preferred The Violet Beauregard from Middlesex. The true cocktail star was East Coast Grill’s Bloody Mary Bar. I got a very generous pour of vodka that I then spruced up with tomato juice, cocktail onions, olives, and a variety of spices and sauces.
While ticket prices for Taste of Cambridge can seem steep ($50 for an adult ticket, $75 for VIP), they’re actually more than reasonable for the quantity and quality of samples available and, in some cases, cheaper than a meal at one of the swankier venues. Cambridge is only going to continue to grow its culinary circle which means this event will keep getting tastier. I’m already in for next year.
Check out the full list of this year’s participants at the Taste of Cambridge website.