Taste of the Finger Lakes in Ithaca
Foodie Travel,  Special Events

Taste of the Finger Lakes – A Night of Delicious Bites and Sips in Ithaca

Being such an avid foodie, it’s no secret that I love food festivals. The Taste of Syracuse is one event that I look forward to every summer. But after attending Taste of the Finger Lakes last night, they have taken food sampling events to a whole new level. Located in the Ithaca Farmers Market along Cayuga Lake, this high class affair made for a truly special night.

Taste of the Finger Lakes

Thank you to the folks at Taste of the Finger Lakes for inviting me and a friend to enjoy the evening in Ithaca.

About Taste of the Finger Lakes

Most food sampling events that I have gone to have been free to attend, and then you buy your samples along the way. While it sounds more budget friendly, the $1 and $2 samples can quickly add up – especially if you want to try everything!

Taste of the Finger Lakes does things a little bit differently. There is a ticket price to get into the event, but once inside, all of your food and drinks are covered. So you don’t have to decide if you want sample A or sample B. You can have both! Plus, since about half of the vendors were local breweries, wineries, and distilleries, there was quite a bit of alcohol to be tasted.

One of the things I really loved about the event was the sustainability factor. Each guest was given a small plate made from recycled materials and a wine glass to be used throughout the whole night. This eliminated a lot of unnecessary waste.

Taste of the Finger Lakes Tickets

Unfortunately, I didn’t love the price tag of $100 per ticket, or $150 for a VIP ticket. But, when you consider what that ticket price entails, you can see the value in the cost.

  • Unlimited food and drink samples throughout the night.
  • A chance to try new foods from several new eateries all at once.
  • Live music.
  • A silent auction.
  • Supporting local businesses.
  • Exclusivity of attending the event.
  • Donations to local food non-profits who are working towards food equality.
  • A chance to dress up in cocktail attire and enjoy a night out.

Taste of the Finger Lakes: Happy Hour

The evening started at 5:30, with a cocktail hour for VIP ticket holders. At that time, there were a handful of booths serving oysters, hors d’oeuvres, and champagne. Accompanied by live music on the pier. While I am not a fan of oysters, I did find a few dishes that I absolutely loved.

Flatbread from Just A Taste

One of the first samples I tried was also one of my favorites from the entire night. The flatbread from Just A Taste was made with puff pastry smeared with a white bean paste and then topped with mixed greens, radishes, and purple cauliflower. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Focaccia & Cheese from Gola

There is no doubt in my mind that Gola Osteria wins for having the most beautiful display of the entire event. Their colorful focaccia bread with floral patterns made from veggies and herbs were both stunning and delicious. Add to that their dishes of fresh cheese and cured meats, and I was a happy girl.

Taste of the Finger Lakes: The Main Event

At 6:30, the rest of the food and drink stands opened up, and all general admission ticket holders could enter the event. That’s when the festivities really kicked off, because guests were able to spread out across the entire venue.

During the main event, a few local favorites and lesser-known eateries really stood out.

Fried Chicken and Pesto Macaroni & Cheese from Silo

While wandering around the market, one of the first spots that caught my friend’s eye was Silo. Even though she’s a vegetarian, she told me that they had some of the best fried chicken around. I concur! The fried chicken dumbstruck that I had was perfectly crispy on the outside while incredibly juicy and moist on the inside. Plus it had some great flavor. Not only that, but their pesto macaroni and cheese was perfection. I don’t know what I’ve done my whole life without it.

Lemongrass Meatball with Green Curry from Serendipity

Another one of my favorite bites from the evening, was the bite size lemongrass meatball from Serendipity Catering. Served in a tiny dish with green curry, rice noodles, and micro greens, it was exactly the type of food I look for these events. It was just the right size, completely unique, and very flavorful.

Burger Sliders from Babe’s Burgers

I was pleasantly surprised at both the size and the flavor of the slider from Babe’s Burgers. More than just a bite, the slider was the biggest sample of the night. Topped with caramelized onions, bacon, and babe sauce, the burger was a hit! It had a unique flavor that was both salty and a little sweet. I can’t wait to go check out the rest of their menu in the Lucky Hare Taproom.

Margherita Pizza from Adelina’s

I know what you’re thinking – pizza? Of all things to try at a food festival, I went with pizza? Heck yes I did and I don’t regret it for a moment. Adelina’s makes their pizza in the traditional Roman style, meaning the crust has a crispy bottom and fluffy inside. I chose the margherita, topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese. I wish I could have eaten 4 more slices. Next time I’m in Ithaca, I’m hunting down their food truck.

Taste of Desserts

So. Many. Desserts. Not that I’m complaining, I’ve got quite the sweet tooth. And the desserts at Taste of the Finger Lakes? They stepped it up a notch. My favorites had to be the dark chocolate pudding from Puttin’ On The Mitts and the lemon-lavender cake from Serendipity. Both fantastic options I would get again. Additionally, there were cookies, pastry puffs, pies, cheesecakes, and muffins from a variety of vendors.

Beer, Wine & Spirits

It wasn’t all about the food at the festival. Nearly half of the vendors were craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries. We definitely didn’t go thirsty throughout the evening. (There were also water stations, juice, and coffee.)

My first stop was to get an IPA from Liquid State Brewing Company, one of my favorite spots in Ithaca. But since I had been to many of the breweries and wineries in attendance, I focused my attention on the distilleries. Both Four Fights (from Corning) and Myer Farm (from Ovid) brought some delicious gins and whiskeys to sample. I’ll be on the lookout for that Rose Gin from Myer Farm next time I’m in the area.

My word of advice if you were planning to attend the taste of the finger Lakes next year? Go hungry! I probably only sampled 50 to 60% of the dishes at the event. And yet I was still sufficiently full for the rest of the evening. It was also a great chance to check out some restaurants and caterers that I had never heard of before. Especially those that are more scattered throughout the finger lakes, and not as easy for me to get to. I highly recommend attending a food festival outside of your hometown. You’ll get to discover so many new food loves.

Tell me your thoughts!