Taste of Durango 2013 was about rolling out the hospitality to say, “Come on home for dinner!”
Cool temperatures and a splotchy summer sky didn’t dampen the spirits of families feasting on amped-up, mostly-grilled street food – pork, beef and almost anything that could be speared by a skewer, packed in a bun, rolled into a shell and washed down with a refreshing summer libation.
The annual event sponsored by the Durango Restaurant Association invites restaurants to strut their stuff to benefit Manna Soup Kitchen and Durango High School ProStart.
Folks curious about what Durango’s restaurants have to offer traded tokens for tastes of sliders, tacos, slaws and desserts.
They had no trouble mixing ethnic-influenced foods with craft beers and mint-muddled, fruity cocktails. Toddlers gnawed on corn on the cob. Parents balanced tasty bites and beverages while steering strollers with elbows.
Tents decked out with hanging baskets of petunias and trailing alyssum became makeshift sidewalk cafes, hosting couples dining to the brassy beat of live music.
Cocktails featuring pineapple, fresh ginger, cucumber, cilantro, mango, hibiscus, lavender and lime piqued the curiosity of the crowd.
“Oh my gosh, that sounds good,” said Durango BPOE Club Manager Lori Rundquist to Eno mixologist Dawn Adams, as Adams described a hibiscus-flavored cocktail.
Rundquist said she’s been attending Taste of Durango for as long as she can remember.
“I come to Taste of Durango every year. It’s my most favorite thing that downtown Durango does,” she said.
Local realestate agent Fred Zimmerman finished a mole pork popsicle appetizer from Steamworks, while professing what seemed to be a familiar strain: his loyal attendance at Durango’s premium food fair.
Zimmerman gave a thumbs-up to his favorite treat, the Ore House Steak Skewers with Cream Corn.
“It was just excellent,” Zimmerman said.
Brew’s co-chefs, Chris Bissonnette and Matt Myers, juggled beer-braised short ribs wrapped in shisito peppers and tangy pork bellies sweetened with a caramel malt. The 3-month-old brewpub and restaurant was the newest kid on the block but didn’t shy away from the eager crowd waiting in line.
First-time attendee Jenny Coddington of Durango complimented Gazpacho’s roasted corn on the cob. Kitchen manager Shannon Lewis and crew pulled ears from the grill, then drenched them in lime-flavored mayo and Cotija cheese. Hot chili powder was offered as an optional garnish.
Durangoan Derrill Macho agreed with Coddington’s assessment, “Not too bad.”
Fiesta Mexicana’s tacos impressed Ann Hodges of Huntsville, Texas.
Hodges said she came to Taste of Durango “for something to do,” while spending time at the family’s second home at Durango Mountain Resort.
Vacationers Jan and Tom Desideri of Chicago were first-timers to Taste of Durango but not newcomers to Durango.
The recreation-seeking couple appeared at home among the cyclists and mountain bikers congregating near the Rice Monkeys booth, located just steps from Rice Monkeys’ Main Avenue restaurant.
“These are really good,” Tom Desideri said of the deep-fried pork bundles wrapped in rice paper.
Durangoan Marsha Pfeiffer satisfied her sweet tooth with a mixed-berry hand pie from Flour Sack, one of five bakeries or confectionaries exclusively offering desserts. Signs advertising vegan and gluten-free products got the attention of adherents to special diets.
Most food or beverage items sold for three to five tokens worth $1 each, but the Manna Soup Kitchen’s two-token deal, a traditional sloppy joe topped with a yogurt-dressed apple and cucumber slaw, brought a smile to kitchen manager Darcy Cole’s face.
“Wow, for what you got, it was such a good choice – a classic for only $2,” Cole said.
Cole estimated Sunday’s crowd at about 10,000, similar to the 2012 crowd that generated about $18,000 in donations for Manna Soup Kitchen.