Boston’s Local Food Festival: Celebrating Food from Our Backyard

By Orlea Miller ‘16

As I step off the T, I’m not sure which way to turn. I’m no native Bostonian and using the Subway is still quite the challenge for me. Luckily, someone else has predicted my dilemma and pointed me in the right direction, a mere 20 feet from South Station:

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As a self-proclaimed foodie, I’ve planned on attending Boston’s Local Food Festival for the last two years, but didn’t make it until this fall. Let’s just say I don’t think it’ll be my last time taking advantage of the incredible free food experience I had today.

This year’s 5th annual festival was themed “Healthy Local Food for All,” advertising a celebration of “the virtues of eating locally grown and produced food from Massachusetts and New England.” Translation: tons of free samples of produce, charcuterie, cookies, ice cream and beverages from local farmers and chefs, accompanied by performances by local musicians, and demos and exhibits about cooking, nutrition, health and exercise.

As I approach the beginning of the festival, which takes up about four blocks of Atlantic Avenue (close to Boston’s Aquarium), my face lights up in anticipation of this culinary adventure.

My friend and I immediately encounter Cupcake City’s food truck, offering a traditional cookies and cream cupcake, in addition to unique fall flavors including salted caramel, vanilla chai, and pumpkin. Just to the right Bart’s Homemade is parked, an ice cream stand selling its own twist on flavors, such as Deep Purple Cow Yogurt (black raspberry yogurt with white and dark chocolate chunks), Three Geeks and a Red Head (coconut ice cream with coconut flakes, chocolate chunks, fudge brownies, and a raspberry swirl), and Dutch Chocolate with Orange (chocolate ice cream with orange and vanilla extracts).

And in case the sweet, creamy treat didn’t appeal to the taste pallets of locals on Sunday afternoon, Flatbread Company was serving up pizza straight out of their brick oven just a few feet over.

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As my stomach tries to fathom the tastes I’m already experiencing, my friend and I make a tough call: we’ll walk the entire festival before deciding what we’ll have for lunch.

Luckily for us, we didn’t have to stay hungry. With free samples from just about every booth, we’re full before we make it too much further.

First up is Michele’s—a New Hampshire based popcorn company offering samples of their chocolate, buffalo supreme, sweet and salty, and extra cheddar flavors.

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Maple Nut Kitchen is serving up its gluten free and vegan granola just to the right, encouraging samplers to try each of its twelve flavors. The mocha chip is perfect, and the fruity flavors, such as Northern Berry Harvest and Southern Cherry Almond, allow you to experience a crunchy sweet and savory blend all together.

As if the 60 degree weather isn’t doing fall justice, each booth’s display reminds me of the approaching season as well. Decorated with pumpkins and leaves, the offerings of fall fruits and vegetables and vegan/vegetarian chili dishes allow me to spend the day taking in all of the delicious flavors that fall traditionally brings to the East Coast.

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In between the rows of local food vendors are exhibits and DIY stages, including a cooking demonstration by Red Lentil’s Pankaj Pradhan. After watching the chef display his expertise on Indian-style plant-based foods, I’m convinced my lunch must include something from the Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant’s booth.

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I choose the tofu kabob and rice, a delicious choice that provided the traditional Indian feel, topped off with a cilantro-based sauce which gives it a unique twist.

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My friend starts off sweet, enjoying a cantaloupe-filled treat. The fruit just provides the container, and is filled with something that resembles a strawberry smoothie that attracts all sorts of attention throughout the remainder of our stroll.

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Afterward, she switches to savory and selects a honey butter biscuit filled with fried chicken, and topped with maple syrup.

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By this point, the two of us are happily stuffed, yet manage to squeeze in seconds at our favorite local food vendors’ booths. We go back for more cookies, popcorn, Q’s Nuts’s offerings (a family-owned and operated nut company), and even a pasta dish being prepared by a chef right before our eyes.

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We can’t leave the food festival without our ice cream, and end our afternoon with treats from SoCo Creamery, which unfortunately we consume before either of us had a chance to snap a photo. My friend goes for the Coconut and Brownie flavor, and I have a cone of Espresso Cookie, savoring every last bite while we walk back to South Station to return to Harvard Square.

Boston’s Local Food Festival surpassed any expectations I had for the event. The food samples are endless and delicious, the music adds just the right surrounding mood, and the gorgeous weather is the perfect way to experience all that Boston has to offer its residents.

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