NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The “Taste of the North Kingstown Chamber” has set the table for the this upcoming summer season for visitors as well as locals looking for new culinary adventures.
This spread of various dishes and other menu offerings from restaurants in North Kingstown, as well as throughout South County, annually draws more than 400 people to network, to taste and to recommend them to others searching for the right food and dining ambiance.
“It really showcases the uniqueness and all that we have to offer,” said Kristin Urbach, executive director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, which runs the “Taste of the North Kingston Chamber.”
This spring tradition kicks off the latest word-of-mouth advertising critical for helping vacationers and day-trippers looking for that special restaurant with outstanding local fare.
Proof of this impact can be found with Larry and Linda Dunekack, visiting Rhode Island from Pittsburg, Kansas. They went to the May 8 tasting after learning about it at the chamber’s offices.
“We like to visit antique stores and eat in locally-owned restaurants. During the tasting we thoroughly enjoyed their food. We look forward to returning to Rhode Island in the future,” wrote Larry Dunekack in an email this week from his home in Kansas.
“I met several people from (the) community and learned about their businesses and some shared that they were planning visits to our part of the country,” he added about the networking opportunities.
Urbach pointed out that the event is also a significant for that reason. Restauranteurs and others meet each other, business owners and leaders as well as visitors, all of whom become a large referral calling-card.
“So we’re just constantly connecting people. It’s a great sense of community,” she said about how this signature chamber event gives everyone attending handy tips for tourists.
In addition, said, Rick Laviolette, the chamber board’s vice chairman, “it’s about promoting that vibrancy in the community.”
The event has been sponsored by the chamber for many years. However, Urbach in the last four years has re-designed it by broadening the theme, expanding its popularity and increasing the number of participants. Proceeds from the ticket sales help to underwrite other programs the chamber sponsors.
Ryan Audette, owner and executive chef of The Provisioner NY Deli and Café, said it gave him another showcase for his Post Road restaurant. It has been open only about a year.
Urbach described Audette’s macaroni and cheese recipe, which was sampled during the event, as simply outstanding.
“He gave like a pint per person of mac and cheese with braised beef on top.” Urbach mentioned. “I said, you need to give a lesser the portion at the tasting or you’re going to run out and he said, ‘No, no, I want people to know when they come here they get quality food and they get big portions.’”
The Kansas visitors agreed, saying they went to his restaurant a few days later after tasting his specialty dish.
Audette said he enjoyed his first time at the “Taste of the North Kingstown Chamber,” adding, “I liked meeting people, showing people what we have to offer.”
About 30 other restaurant and beverage businesses gave guests an opportunity to try various cuisines. On the beverage side, tasters could sample whiskey from Sons of Liberty in South Kingstown or craft beers from a variety of local brewers, including Proclamation Ale Company in Warwick.
The event theme was “From Land to Air to Sea, Let Your Taste Buds Soar” and was held in a hanger at Quonset State Airport complete with jets parked outside. Urbach said the airport is “a unique outlet that really is a cool place.”
The hanger is built alongside a runway that is more country, than metropolitan, with planes landing intermittently. It is a clean building with wide open space, just like a ballroom in the middle of an airport.
At Quonset, FlightLevel Aviation, the airport’s only fixed-base operator for serving planes that land or park there, provided the hanger and is a co-host for the event, said Urbach who has been with the chamber about four years and first proposed using the airport.
Pulling together this kind of event, focused on displaying and promoting a growing number of food and beverage offerings, is a large undertaking, she said, adding it is done entirely by chamber members.
They take pride in this event each year because of its importance, she said, in promoting businesses and drawing new people to attend.
“I’m also always looking to elevate it by adding extra entertainment or different theme,” said Urbach
Her added attraction this year, in addition to private jets on display, included the Audrain Automobile Museum’s Rockabilly-era cars and a performance by the TeleDynes band. It’s music is a mix of Surf Rock and Rockabilly, drawing heavily from blues, country and swing.
Restaurant participants this year included Back 40, Coast Guard House, Dan’s Carriage Inn, Exeter Job Corps Academy, Foolproof Brewing Company, Frankie’s Italian Pizzeria, George’s of Galilee, Gooseneck Vineyards, La Forge Casino Restaurant, Matteo’s Bakery, Narragansett Beer, Newport Craft Brewing and Distilling Company, Proclamation Ale Company, Red Stripe Restaurants, Sons of Liberty Beer and Spirits Company, Sophie’s Brewhouse, Tate’s Italian Kitchen, Tavern by the Sea, The Inside Scoop, The Provisioner NY Deli & Café, Village Nutrition, and Whalers Brewing Company.