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BY JANEL BLADOW
More crowds, more food, more fun. The 8th-annual Taste of the Seaport foodie fest on Oct. 21 was the biggest and best ever, according to business owners, residents, visitors and kids alike.
Peter Pelsinsky of Pearl Street, enjoying the afternoon and some “Peposo con polenta” — a traditional peppery Tuscan beef stew from Felice 15 on Gold Street — remembered the event’s humble beginnings.
“The first year it was a half-block long with six vendors,” he said. “My how it’s grown. It feels as if it’s always been here.”
More than 40 food stands offering small bites from local restaurants and cafes — such as Fresh Salt, Eataly NYC Downtown, CUT by Wolfgang Puck, and Big Gay Ice Cream — lined Front Street. A “Kids Zone” filled Peck Slip, where youngsters could let their imaginations run free, and get into some spirited outdoor play. And with two stages with rotating rosters of entertainers, the party was on.
Vendors were setting up as early as the night before, but the real action got underway at 11 am. On main stage at Fulton Street, the Peck Slip School Chorus kicked off festivities, followed by young performers from the Spruce Street School. Eight bands and soloists, including rockers Best Behavior and Queen V, performed throughout the afternoon.
Over at the Kid Zone stage, magician Gary the Great and puppeteer Nicoa McEldowney entertained while other kids lined up at booths for fun activities such as face painting, pasta rolling, creating picture frames with felt cutouts and decorating cake pops.
The FiDiFamilies website sponsored a free fall-activities booth. Blogger Denise Courter said started the site because “I was always asked about things to do downtown with the kids. This is my sixth year as part of the event. The weather couldn’t be better. The kids are outside, there’s music, food. It’s a cool city experience.”
Meanwhile, up the street, her 9-year-old son Luke was throwing nerf footballs through a hoop.
“I play a lot of football,” he said, after making another score.
Some kids played with cardboard boxes they could color, cut up or crawl into, while others surrounded the “Does It Float” booth — set up by the South Street Seaport Museum MiniMates program — where they figured out if an object (say, a coin, or a sponge) would float in a tub of water.
“Everyone is amazingly friendly, having a great time,” said SSSM communications director Kenneth Sommer, who was manning their food stand around the corner on Front Street and serving up corned beef and cabbage. “[Borough President] Gale Brewer and [Councilwoman] Margaret Chin stopped by.”
And while the weather was unseasonably warm, there were still plenty of takers for their hot dish.
“We went through three trays already and it’s only 2 in the afternoon. It’s from the third-class menu,” Sommer said, pointing to a printed menu from the museum’s current exhibit, “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900–1940.”
In front of Kiwi Cuba Gastropub — recently changed from Nelson Blue — the meat and veggie empanadas were going fast. And the team from Insomnia Cookies couldn’t pass their treats out quickly enough.
Stefano Barbagallo, owner of Barbalu on Front Street, was dishing plates of creamy pasta with a pear and ricotta stuffing.
“I didn’t want to have the usual pasta you can find in any Italian restaurant,” he said. “People came back for seconds. This event is great for every generation.”
Cafe Patoro, the Brazilian pastry shop that opened earlier this year on Front Street, had a stand for the first time. Manager Taigo Reis ran out of their well-known Brazilian cheese bread made with gluten-free tapioca flour very early.
“It all went fast,” said Reis, proudly adding that the cafe makes five different flavors of the “pao de queijo” or PDQ. “We also have cakes. Brazilian carrot cake which is very different from the American [recipe],” he said.
A $40 ticket was good for five tastes, and VIP tables could be reserved for up to $1000. The money raised benefits activity programs at PS 387, or The Spruce Street School, and PS 343, or The Peck Slip School.