The scent of food filled the streets as more than 30,000 people packed the Woodmont Triangle on Oct. 6 for Taste of Bethesda.
Taste of Bethesda, which just wrapped up its 23rd year, featured more than 50 food vendors along Norfolk, Fairmont, Cordell and Del Ray avenues, plus five stages of music, and a children’s area with arts and crafts, balloons and face painting.
“We had a great day, and we were really happy that all our restaurants were there and serving really great food,” said Stephanie Coppula, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda Urban Partnership, a nonprofit that markets downtown.
Chef Tony Marciante kept it simple with pan seared scallops and a fresh salad, which sold out an hour before close. He promised to bring more next year, amidst cooking a batch of crab cakes, which were on hand at his restaurant, Chef Tony’s located on St. Elmo Avenue.
“It’s a tasting so you never know how many people are going to come by,” he said. “It’s been a fun day though. People look happy running around.”
Law student John Loforese of Bethesda said he was glad for the opportunity to sample downtown’s cuisine at a price he can afford. Taste tickets were sold in bundles of four tickets for $5. Food was served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in servings that cost one to four tickets.
By 2:30 p.m., restaurant Lebanese Taverna on Arlington Road served at least 600 people, said owner Dany Abi-Najm. The stand featured Lebanese sliders: hummus, modified cole slaw, and kafta, the Lebanese version of hamburger, on a mini pita. He said the event took two days of preparation, but kitchen staff spent all day baking fresh pita.
“We have fun doing it, and we get to try some great food,” he said.
The sunny day turned overcast by early afternoon, which was good news for Ri Ra Irish Pub and Restaurant located on Elm Street. Demand for the eatery’s cottage pie — like shepherd’s pie but with ground beef — surged once the clouds came out, said Andrew Christie, group business director for Ri Ra. Staff also served Guinness barbecue wings and chocolate pie, but had to pass on perennial favorite fish and chips.
“The fish and chips is big in the restaurant, but it’s a little harder to do well out here,” he said. “We’re an Irish pub and restaurant, as opposed to just the local boozer. We pay a little more attention to the food than that.”
If food is the main draw of Taste of Bethesda, Greta Brawner of Washington, D.C., said her only complaint was not getting to try enough of it.
“I didn’t get to enjoy it really because I spent the whole afternoon chasing after three little girls,” she said. “I guess they enjoyed it.”
Plenty of muscle was on display at the nearby 22nd annual Come Back to Bethesda Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show and Family Day.
In conjunction with Taste of Bethesda, Chevy Chase Acura on Wisconsin Avenue was transformed into a car, truck and motorcycle show to raise money for The Children’s Inn at NIH, a nonprofit offering free housing for families whose children are receiving treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The event matched last year’s proceeds of approximately $20,000, said Meredith Daly, a spokeswoman for the NIH.
“It’s a good show,” said John Sisson, who entered his 1964 Chevrolet Impala in the show. “I’ve always wanted to come, but I’ve never had the car ready.”
Sisson of Burtonsville retired from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, Bethesda. He registered for the event early, so that even if he did not attend, children would benefit from his registration fee.
Other attractions included a bounce house and a performance by the band Almost Blue.
Oswayne Thompson, 17, received a special treat after Almost Blue made room for him on stage, where he played the drums. He hopes to study music one day, but is currently being treated at the NIH.
Thompson of Jamaica suffers from aplastic anemia, a blood disorder in which bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells, according to the NIH. He lives at the Woodmont House, transitional housing provided by The Children’s Inn for families whose stay has surpassed maximum length allowed at The Inn.
“I haven’t played a drum since June, so it will be nice to finally play it,” he said before the performance.