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Taste of Montpelier Attracts a Crowd

Chloe Pettersen, Hugo’s line cook, left; Emily Sola, kitchen manager; and Hugo’s General Manager Jana Markow serve Yellowfin tuna tartare tacos with wonton crisps during the Taste of Montpelier event September 10 for Hugo’s Bar and Grill on Main Street. Photo by Carla Occaso.
I had a taste of Montpelier on Saturday, September 10, and it was delicious. 

Just before 2 p.m., I was lucky enough to get a parking space across the street from the Kellogg Hubbard Library, and took it from there. I thought all the vendors for the Taste of Montpelier food festival would be on State Street, but was delighted to find Hugo’s Bar and Grill (the former NECI on Main) making a bold showing with their “tuna nachos”. 

It wasn’t what you would expect (or, at least what I would expect) from an item called “tuna nachos.” Rather, it was a delicate blend of tuna tartare on a bed of crispy wontons, along with spicy mayo, Asian slaw, wakame seaweed, scallion and radish. So the flavor was a sort of sashimi fusion with other delightfully fresh vegetable accents.

The iced honeydew juice, served with the nachos provided a lovely splash of cool sweet fruit juice. As of early afternoon, things were going well, per the Hugo’s crew. “It has been pretty busy. We’re having a steady flow of people,” said Chloe Petterson, a line cook at Hugos. 

Meanwhile, people with lawn chairs strapped to their backs headed toward State and Main Streets for Taste of Montpelier entertainment. And on the other end of State Street, the klezmer, Balkan, and Banda sounds of Brass Balagan lured festival goers toward the event in a parade-like stream from the Statehouse to the Information Booth parking area, enchanting children and adults alike.

Street performers entertain food festival attendees at the “Taste of Montpelier” event September 10. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway
Long lines formed for Wagyu sliders, fresh pressed cider, a taste of Vermont Creamery and Cabot cheeses, Lake Champlain Chocolate sample, and more. A yoyo show competed with Oakes and Evylyn’s gnocchi demonstration, while a long table (decked with white table cloths and flowers) down the center of the street filled with people and their plates of local fare. 

Taste of Montpelier was sponsored by Hunger Mountain Coop and organized by Montpelier Alive emphasized how local food trucks and restaurants offer a variety of food from across the state. Offerings included Oakes and Evelyn’s gnocchi, Wilaiwan’s papaya salad, Bees Knees cocktails, Enna sandwiches and more. In addition to the food vendors, street performers such as Big Nazo’s intergalactic puppets, and the Hokum Brothers. performed. 

“It was a well-attended and fun event and we are happy to establish this new tradition for the Capital City and celebrate Vermont’s amazing food and beverage artisans,” said Dan Groberg, executive director of Montpelier Alive. About 3,000 people attended, he estimated.

As the cherry on top of a scrumptious weekend, Chef Michael Kloeti from Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury Center, will be giving a talk at the Bethany Center for Spirituality through the Arts called “Food for the Soul – A Conversation about food and spirituality and the relationship between them” on Tuesday, September 13 at 7 p.m. The evening will include a conversation with Chef Michael, a Q&A time, and a sample tasting.  Tickets are $15 and available at eventbrite.com/e/food-for-the-soul-tickets-402396648207

Event sponsors were Hunger Mountain Coop, VSECU, Vermont Creamery, Barr Hill, Community National Bank, Vermont Mutual, AARP, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Three Penny Taproom and Fidium Fiber.

  • Cassandra Hemenway contributed to this report