Boston local food festival draws thousands

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Boston local food festival draws thousands

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By Samantha Barry, news correspondent 

The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts held its ninth annual Boston Local Food Festival on the Rose Kennedy Greenway last Sunday, inviting nearly 80 vendors to showcase their products and talk about sustainable living.

Advertised as the nation’s largest local & sustainable food hub” by the Sustainable Business Network, or SBN, the free event has been attracting food lovers from across the region since 2009. Vendors ranged from professional chefs and food producers to fisherman and farmers.

All chefs were required to source their materials locally from retailers in the New England area.

“Our theme is healthy local food for all,” festival organizer and SBN board member Nicola Williams said. “We support all of New England, so each year we look forward to bringing in new people. There are a lot of upcoming food companies all the time, so it’s important to us that we keep getting a pipeline of new, innovative local food businesses.”

Williams, the original organizer of the event, stated that she has enjoyed watching the festival grow in nine years. She went on to say that roughly one-third of this year’s vendors were new and the other 60 to 70 percent were returning members.

“I would never miss this show,” three-time participant Robert Houssein of Sugar Bob’s Smoked Maple Syrup said. “It’s just a great location, and it’s dynamic. So many people love coming down and they have a great group of volunteers. I mean, when you do shows for a living you have all kinds of experiences and this is one of the best.”

Houssein was there with business partner Andrea Ogden selling and offering free samples of savory maple syrup. Unlike most maple syrup, theirs is designed to go on meats rather than pancakes. In addition, Sugar Bob’s makes a variety of hot sauces.

Houssein and his team, who are based out of Vermont, said that coming to the festival was a big deal for them as it introduces them to the more cultivated food market of Boston.  

Other returning members included Taza Chocolate, Popzup Popcorn and Double Chin Cafe. Taza drew in crowds of thousands, the News estimated, with free chocolate samples and a contest to win a year’s supply of chocolate.

“We love actually having a chance to introduce the brand to a bunch of new people every year,” said Suhayl Ramirez, the promotions manager for Taza Chocolate Brand Partnerships.

Double Chin Cafe, an Asian fusion restaurant located in Chinatown, became one of the most popular booths of the day by selling smoothies served in hollowed watermelons and cantaloupes. This perfect, Instagram-worthy snack was seen in the hands of many satisfied festival attendees throughout the day.

“We came back primarily because those watermelon bowls from the Chinatown restaurant [Double Chin] are delicious,” said Newton resident Scott Grabauskas, who attended the event with his family.

“As a matter of fact, we loved it so much that I made a phone case from it last year,” he said, proudly displaying the case which had a photo of his wife and kids enjoying the smoothies.

Along with the food vendors, the festival also had a number of cooking demonstrations going on throughout the day, including a seafood throwdown and a filet demonstration with Chef ‘Ras Skills’ Mills.

There was also a family fun zone complete with a Bollywood dancing session, an Afrobeat fitness class, face painting and bean bag toss. The zone also had opportunities for kids to learn about composting, the benefits of greenhouses, hydroponics and other ways to live a sustainable lifestyle.

According to the Boston Local Food Festival website, the event was also a zero-waste event. This means that 91 percent of the waste created was either recycled or composted. To help with this, a volunteer was placed at each trash station to ensure that people were placing their garbage in the correct bin — recycling, compost or trash.

SBN will be sponsoring another event on Oct. 12 known as the Local Craft Spirits Festival in Cambridge and a local food trade show to happen sometime in the spring.

“If you want to get involved please visit our website and connect with us,” said Williams. “Everybody plays a role in this movement.”