211023ind TasteFILE

Alex Hird, left, of George's of Galilee serves scallops to patrons during "The Taste of Southern Rhode Island" event held in 2019 at Clark Farms in Matunuck.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The Taste of Southern Rhode Island is returning this evening after a year that has tested restaurateurs in ways they didn’t imagine the last time it took place, in 2019.

The local celebration of all things culinary has drawn more than 30 vendors to Clark Farms after a year’s hiatus because of COVID-19.

Organized and sponsored by the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and held in the fall, the Taste is a way to show support for local restaurants that usually see a dip in business after the summer tourist season ends. This is the Chamber’s ninth Taste event.

Two weeks ago, the Chamber posted that the Taste, and a separate concert at the farm on Friday by the band Sugar, had sold out.

“We limited ticket sales to 30% less,” the Chamber’s Executive Director, Joe Viele, said. Normally about 850 tickets go on sale, but this year with health concerns still on everyone’s mind, it was capped at 600, Viele said.

“We wanted people to feel safe, that there was plenty of room. It is an outdoor event but the fact that tickets sold out with about two weeks to go tells you that people are feeling safer,” he said.  

But, anyone feeling lucky and still wanting to go can call the Chamber at at (401) 783-2801 to get on a waiting list, in the event that tickets for the events become available. Tickets to the Taste are $40 for Chamber members, $50 for non-members. The Sugar concert tickets are $25 each.

The Taste of Southern Rhode Island is a food-lover’s paradise.

Visitors have the opportunity to stroll through a large big top tent at Clark Farms as the aroma from still-hot samples of prime rib, sizzling scallops chattering in the pan and specialties like chicky chorizo burger and Texas caviar salsa float through the air.

Even better, they get to sample and eat the mouthwatering fare offered up by restaurants such as Matunuck Oyster Bar, Mews Tavern, Trio Restaurant and Phil’s Main Street Grille.

Local breweries such as Shaidzon Beer Company and Whalers Brewing Company have their unique and popular flagship and seasonal beer offerings.

Have a sweet tooth? Local confectioners Sweenor’s Chocolates will have a table showcasing their products such as an assortment of chocolate novelties and boxed assortments.

Viele said there are slightly fewer participating restaurants, distilleries and breweries than previously. But those that are part of it form a solid lineup of familiar favorites and a few newcomers as well.

The Taste is different from other food festivals because of the level of organizational support given to the vendors.

At a typical food event, the vendors are expected to bring their own equipment and accessories such as plates, cups, small bowls and napkins. At the Taste of Southern Rhode Island, that’s all covered by the Chamber, Viele said.

“We ask the vendors to show up with what they want to showcase and we take care of everything else,” he said. “This is truly an opportunity for them to showcase what they do with a lot less overhead.”

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