Taste of Somerville returns for its 19th year, with major changes afoot for one of the area's best annual food events. To get the lowdown, I chatted with planning committee member Luke O'Neil.
Alex Weaver: Hey Luke, your name sounds familiar. Why have our readers probably heard of you before?
Luke O'Neil: Hello! Yes, you may know me from having written a piece or two on this very site, or from my day job as a writer for Esquire. But most likely as a guy who tweets way too much.
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AW: And I gather you're involved with Taste of Somerville. How so?
LO: For the past three years I’ve been working on the Taste of Somerville planning committee, which is run by the Somerville Chamber of Commerce Dining & Nightlife Group. Believe it or not, wrangling 60+ restaurants and dozens of volunteers, and coordinating with the city to make sure the event goes off without a hitch is a lot of work, so we’ve got a pretty good team, led by Morgan Bigley and David Flanagan. We’re hoping to avoid a local version of the Fyre Festival here. I can promise the sandwiches we’re serving will be a little bit nicer than that luxury fiasco.
AW: You're a pretty visible, in-demand guy. Why hitch your wagon to this event in particular?
LO: A good friend of mine has been running it for a few years, and he asked for some help a while back so I thought why not use my social media powers for good instead of evil for a chance.
AW: Tell me about the event: When was it founded, and why?
LO: This is the 19th year for the Taste of Somerville. It’s undergone a lot of changes over the years but there’s always a charitable component. Last year we raised over $50,000 for a coalition of Somerville based charities and we hope to top that this year for our beneficiaries the Somerville Home and the Walnut Street Center. The Somerville Home is a living facility that provides services and care to older Somerville residents, and the Walnut Street Center provides self-advocacy and community involvement support to some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
Aside from that it’s a means of generating excitement about the Somerville dining scene, which is one of the most diverse and compelling in the state — be it with the explosion of higher end tasting restaurants popping up or neighborhood spots from so many of the diverse cultures represented in Somerville. It’s also a pretty good excuse to gorge yourself on as much food as you can pile onto a plate at once, which is my speciality.
AW: What's new this year?
LO: This year we’re moving to Nathan Tufts Park, in Powderhouse Square, which is a big change. We’ve typically held it in a lot in Davis Square, which was fine, but this gives us, and the guests, a chance to really spread out on the beautiful lawns there. It’s the first time the city has granted a liquor license for a public park, so that’s sort of a big deal. We’ll have lawn furniture and rugs for people to relax on, tailgate games like corn hole and foosball, and a pop up playground and a firetruck for kids to play on.
AW: Okay, I'm listening. What's the deal with tickets?
LO: General admission is $50, which will give guests unlimited tastes from the 60 + restaurants, as well as beer and wine. Children under 12 are $15. The real draw is the VIP ticket, which is $75, and will provide access to an area with exclusive servings from some of Somerville’s real draws like Juliet, as well as wine and oyster pairings, and cocktails from some of our best bartenders.
AW: Anything else we should know?
LO: Talking about this is making me hungry.
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