The Woodlands boasts exactly two large food and beverage showcases each year: The Woodlands Wine & Food Week in the summer, and The Taste of the Town at the end of January. Needless to say, when these events take place, they are kind of a big deal. This Thursday is the Taste of the Town's chance to be in the spotlight, with its event taking place from 4 to 9 p.m. at a huge ballroom inside The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.
Now in its 27th year, the Woodlands restaurant expo features a substantial number of local and chain restaurants, which set up booths and serve up a great variety of sweet and savory bites. Plenty of steak will be on hand this year, with Amerigo's Grille, Guri do Sul Steakhouse, Kirby's Steakhouse and Jasper's Restaurant in attendance. Fans of Tex-Mex will be able to get their fix from booths by Mi Cocina and Yucatan Taco Stand and Tequila Bar. Among many others, the ever-popular Trader Joe's and increasingly popular frozen yogurt spot Pinkberry will also make appearances.
If you have a chance to attend, I definitely recommend it -- whether you live inside or outside of The Woodlands. Here are some tips for making the best of your Taste of the Town experience, things I've learned from attending for the past five years.
5. Pre-purchase your tickets As a general rule, event tickets are less expensive when you purchase them prior to the event day, online. Taste of the Town is no exception; adult tickets cost $20 when you pre-purchase them, or $25 at the door. Apart from saving a couple of bucks when you buy the tickets online, you will not be stuck waiting in a long line full of procrastinators who are missing out on being able to head directly into the food and drink fun. By the way, your ticket grants you admission, unlimited food sampling and two drink tickets.
4. Arrive early Even though you will have pre-purchased your tickets, you should arrive as early as you can, since the earlier you get there, the less crowded it is. And the less crowded it is, the more food you're able to stuff your face with. I mean, uhm...sample.
3. Actually pay attention to the marketing materials you're given Every time you visit a booth, the people behind it will undoubtedly be giving you food with one hand and extending the other hand towards you with a stack of papers, making puppy eyes for you to take both the food and the papers from them. I know that you don't really want the papers and that you don't actually want to read them. But I really encourage you to take a look at what you're given, as a lot of the papers actually hold a great value. Apart from the typical "free appetizer" and "buy one get one free" cards, I've gotten a $25 gift certificate from an exhibiting restaurant before. Not too shabby, right? But you have to be paying attention.
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2. Wear your stretchy pants If this is news to you, then we need to get you enrolled in my Food Festival Success 101 class. Wearing stretchy pants, and a loose-fitting top, is vital to an excellent experience on such occasions. While you're carefully picking out your wardrobe, reach for comfortable shoes, too -- your feet will thank you at the end of the day.
1. Drink tickets As I mentioned before, your admission ticket includes two drink tickets. Two drinks are fine if you're staying for an hour or two. However, if you're planning on staying for the whole five-hour span of the event, you'll need just a bit more liquid in you. Of course you can buy additional drink tickets, but, even better, just ask your companion(s) if they are willing to give theirs up. You'd be surprised at how many people are still kidding themselves with their new year's resolution of not drinking alcohol in 2013, or trying to get through the last leg of a juice cleanse.