Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell

SAUGERTIES–Philip Gisiano estimates his crew at Dana Foods Catering made 9,000 garlic knots over the weekend.

No doubt, the golden twists, dripping with garlic and butter, were a favorite at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, which drew thousands on Sunday.

This was the Gisiano family’s 15th year participating in the festival, the annual fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Saugerties.

Dan Gisiano holds up the garlic knots and shrimp his family offered at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

It just so happened that Gisiano was the only vendor at Cantine Field selling garlic knots, touted on the sign outside his concession stand as having the “maximum garlic allowed by law.”

“People ask ‘How do you get all that garlic in those little knots?’ They really seem to like them.,” said the former restaurateur who lives in Kingston.

The festival is one of the Hudson Valley’s biggest, drawing an average of 40,000 people from all over the Northeast and beyond during its two-day run. The biggest year by far was 2007, which saw 53,000 attendees pass through the gate.

Food is always the main draw, but the festival also highlights chef demonstrations, live music, garlic farmers sharing tips on how to grow the perfect bulb and a children’s area.

The event began in 1989 in the backyard of Pat Reppert’s Shale Hill Farm and Herb Gardens, according to the festival webpage.

The Kiwanis Club took it over two years later, holding it at the sprawling sports complex in the village, where it has been ever since.

Like Gisiano, Frank Voce of Isn’t It Sweet chocolate shop in Albany, was anxious to capitalize on the garlic delirium.

Not only did he sell out of garlic creams on Saturday, but he had to go all the way back to the shop to make more garlic chocolate bars.

“We’ve got a lot of garlic lovers that come to this festival really wanting almost any kind of product that’s got some kind of twist to it. You can get a plain chocolate bar any day, but to come to the festival and get some garlic chocolate is pretty awesome,” Voce said.

The giant garlic king, one of the festival mascots, greets attendees on Sunday. Photo by Paula Mitchell.

For those not brave enough to try it, he said the flavors really do complement each other.

“The chocolate actually softens the taste of the garlic, and, conversely, the garlic gives a little kick to your chocolate.”

It was pretty much the same explanation by Jeff Howard of Linabella’s Gourmet Garlic Farm in Oakham, Mass.

He and his wife, Michelle, were selling pestos, powders and garlic chocolate chip cookies, which he swears is a match made in heaven.

“We go heavy on the chocolate chips. Once you’re done chewing on the cookie and you swallow and exhale, you get a garlic aftertaste, but it’s not too much garlic. They’re a big hit,” he said.

Beyond the food, the festival is known for its market place, featuring vendors selling garlic-inspired kitchen products as well as sauces, marinades, garlic dog biscuits, hats, jewelry and French-milled soaps.

It was also the place to find raw, fresh-from-the-Earth garlic like Jill Geis’ bold and burgundy-skinned German reds. Her booth was right near the entrance gate, so she said business was brisk on Sunday.

German red garlic is ideal for soups, stews and sauces, she said.

“It holds up the garlic flavor. It has a little bit of a bite when you eat it raw, though.”

Geis apologized for not having breath fresheners, but she helped those who sampled slivers of garlic take away some of the garlic-from-hell breath.

“I offer crackers,” she said. “They help follow up and chase away.”

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