Editor’s note: The Taste of Pearl has sold out for 2018.
Sometimes the best things come in small packages.
That’s the task given to restaurants involved with the annual Taste of Pearl event: Show the world the best of who you are in one single bite — and make it so good that it will stick in their memory and make people want to come back.
The Taste of Pearl is downtown Boulder’s annual restaurant-tasting tour. It runs 2-6 p.m. Sunday, April 29 this year. Participants get a map and can make their way, at their own pace, between 15 different destinations on the Pearl Street Mall.
But this event isn’t your ordinary food-tasting event. You don’t hop from restaurant to restaurant; each stop is in a different local business or art gallery. And every restaurant stationed in each spot is paired with a local distillery or winery. The drinks are chosen to compliment the mini dish. And while you taste the different flavors, you can browse local art, clothes, accessories and more.
“Going into a retail store and gallery is a unique aspect and one of the best parts of the event,” says Anna Salim, spokesperson for the Downtown Boulder Partnership. “People buy the tickets for the food but then discover something else really exciting. So many people walk down the mall and go to their favorite restaurants and get a drink. This is a great opportunity to go in somewhere new and do a little shopping and see what’s going on in some of the stores.”
In its ninth year, the event has tickets for 600 participants. And it usually sells out. Tickets are going faster this year than usual, and all 150 VIP passes are already gone. VIPs get in an hour early to get dibs on the food and skip the lines.
General admission tickets are $65 and can be purchased at TasteofPearl.com. This is a 21-and-up event.
Fun fact: The Taste of Pearl received the Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence and the Best Promotional Event in 2011 from Downtown Colorado, Inc.
New for 2018
Not much changes from year to year. But for 2018, the Taste of Pearl boasts three new restaurants: Emmerson, Next Door American Eatery and The Post.
For beverages, a newcomer this year is Suerte Tequila, a Boulder-based but Mexican-made tequila. You will also see several new wineries this year, including Sutcliffe Vineyards of Cortez, one of the best wineries in Colorado.
This year, organizers better coordinated with restaurants to determine what dish they would be making to prevent too much repetition, too. Last year, there was a lot of salmon. This year will have more variety, Salim says.
Tips for the Taste of Pearl
- Go to the check-in tent on 13th Street first. There, you will get a bag of goodies and a map. Organizers will suggest a place for you to start, to help spread out the participants, but you don’t have to follow that suggestion.
- A smart way to make sure you hit all of the spots without having to double-back around and around is to park on the east end of Pearl, walk to the check-in tent and then start at the end of west Pearl. The walk back to your car from there will hit every spot.
- If you landed a VIP ticket, be on time. That’s what you paid for.
- If you don’t want to wait in line, drop into a nearby store and browse until the line dies down. People tend to travel in clumps.
- Many of the local businesses and galleries offer participants a coupon or discount that is good for days after the Taste of Pearl. So if you see something you like but don’t feel like, say, trying on clothes after you’ve had 13 different mini plates of food, come back in a few days and you can still get that money off.
- If you have dietary restrictions or sensitivities or don’t eat meat, this event is probably not for you. Most of the dishes are meat-centric and you can’t request a different variation, like gluten-free bread.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Treat it like you’re going for a walk. The event spans 10th and 17th streets, so it’s no short trek.
- Use the wine check. If you purchase wine along the way, you can check it with the winery, get a ticket and then pick it up at the Visitor Information Center when you’re done. This is a free service. No need to haul your purchases with you.
- Take your time. Bounce around and go out of order. Stop and sit on the mall and look at the colorful tulips. No need to rush. “It can get pretty exhausting doing the whole thing,” Salem says.
- If you want to avoid the check-in line, start around 2:45 or 3 p.m. (but not later or you might run out of time). Most people arrive right at the beginning. Don’t worry about them running out of food. They’ve prepared for every ticket.
- Come hungry. The Taste of Pearl is not meant to be a full meal, but it truly can be. Fifteen tastes of wine and 15 bites of food can fill you up. Pace yourself.
This year’s restaurant participants include:
- Frasca Food & Wine
- OAK at Fourteenth
- Next Door
- The Post Brewing Co.
- Centro Mexican Kitchen
- Flagstaff House
- Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro
- Leaf Vegetarian
- Pizzeria Locale
- Riffs Urban Fare
- SALT the Bistro
- West End Tavern
- Wild Standard
- Art + Soul Gallery
- Art Source International
- Barbara & Company
- Common Era
- Island Farm
- John Atencio
- Ku Cha House of Tea
- Pedestrian Shops
- Savory Spice
- SmithKlein Gallery
- Bookcliff Vineyards
- Redstone Meadery
- Colterris Winery
- Monkshood Cellars
- Sutcliffe Vineyards
- The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey
- Suerte Tequila
- Balisteri Vineyards
- Decadent Saint Winery
- Garrett Estate Cellars
- Settembre Cellars
- Deviant Spirits
- Geek Spirits
- J&L Distilling Co.
- Vapor Distillery