BY YANNIC RACK
If you really need an excuse to gorge yourself on delectable treats from some of the city’s top eateries and sample local craft beers and ciders at the 22nd-annual Taste of Tribeca — then do it for the children.
Proceeds from the May 21 outdoor food fest go to fund arts and enrichment programs at local public schools PS 150 and PS 234, but the foodie fund-raiser is also a chance to taste your way through more than 65 of the neighborhood’s top restaurants, according to one of the organizers.
“It’s a great opportunity for anyone to come and sample the neighborhood — you pay 45 bucks and you get to try food from so many restaurants,” said Taste of Tribeca co-chair Claude Arpels, who has helped organize the event for the past six years. “It would certainly cost you a lot more to go and eat a full meal at every one.”
The festival was first put on in 1994, and many of the original participating restaurants are still involved, including such Tribeca institutions as The Odeon, Bubby’s, and Duane Park Patisserie, whose owner and head chef said she thinks the festival is a great deal — not least because her own son benefitted from the food-funded arts program at PS 234.
“It’s terrific. It pays for music, it pays for library sciences, it pays for a part-time art teacher — it’s great,” said Madeline Lanciani, who added that she will once again serve a special treat for the event that isn’t even for sale in her store. “I actually make a taste that I don’t sell in the store — it’s warm molten chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce.”
Lanciani expects to serve around 900 of the exclusive treats on the day of the event, and predicted they’ll go fast.
“It’s an item that has to be made, baked and served immediately. People like something fresh out of the oven,” she said.
There’s also a slate of new eateries participating for the first time this year, including Australian restaurant Two Hands, Mexican cantina Rosa Mexicano, Korean barbecue spot Gunbae, and ice cream parlor Blue Marble.
All restaurants commit to providing at least 700 “tastes” for the event free of charge, but Lanciani says the effort and cost is well worth the exposure.
“We sign on to provide x amount of tastes, but many of us provide more. When people buy tickets, you don’t want to disappoint them!” she said. “I would probably sell this dessert for $8 apiece — you do the math, eight times 900. But it’s so worth it.”
Arpels, who attended his first Taste of Tribeca when he moved to the neighborhood in the mid-Nineties, said his own brainchild, a popular beer and cider tour put on for the first time last year, would also return this year.
“One of the new elements that I added myself is this beer and cider tour that we launched last year,” he said. “That was a huge success — we had five bars from the neighborhood, and we got five local brewers and cider makers to donate kegs. This year we’ve got ten venues and we have 14 producers who donated products. So every venue is going to have one local beer, and some will also pour local cider — all very artisanal producers. A lot of them are from the city, and I think we have every borough represented.”
For the younger denizens of the neighborhood, there will also be a family-friendly Kids’ Zone, with face painting, a clown, and martial arts demonstrations, plus a Sports Zone for the older kids.
As every year, City Winery is providing an entertainment stage, where kids from the Church Street School for Music and Art and the TriBattery Pops community band will serenade foodies at the event.
Proceeds raised by Taste of Tribeca provide music instruction for students at PS 234, which uses the money to buy instruments and hire specialized instructors. Last year, for example, the school had five different music teachers teaching vocal music, the recorder, brass, strings, woodwinds, and percussion, all paid for by the festival.
At PS 150, the festival also funds a range of programs, including modern and ballroom dance instruction, chess lessons, storytelling workshops, museum collaborations, and arts support for teachers.
Amazingly, Arpels says that after all these years, many long-time locals are still unaware of the festival’s history as a school fund-raiser, which he ascribes to the event’s neighborly character.
“To this day, a lot of people — including some parents at the schools — don’t realize it’s a school fund-raiser, because it comes off as such a community event,” he said.
“It’s not just about getting people to taste the food,” added Lanciani. “It’s about the fact that, in any community, you can make a difference if you decide to.”
Taste of Tribeca takes place rain or shine on Saturday May 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Duane St. between Greenwich and Hudson Sts.. One ticket includes six tastes from participating restaurants, as well as one beverage and two tastes from the beer tour. Tickets available at tasteoftribeca.com — $45 ahead of time, $55 on the day of the event.