Valparaiso - Taste Five a Food and Wine Festival

Sample of the food at Taste Five Food and Wine Festival in Valparaiso, Indiana - Slow roasted pork from Don Quijote and Mac n' Cheese from Bon Femme Cafe. 

As a new citizen of Valparaiso, Indiana and a foodie I was thrilled to see that Valparaiso has more than just a Popcorn Festival. The downtown area is invested in making Valparaiso a destination for fine food and specialty shops. They are not quite there yet. No matter how much Lite Rock they pump over the speakers on every street light (which they really should turn off when there is live music) there aren't many specialty shops and only a handful of fine dining places. But that handful got together and have started a campaign to get Valpo on the map. The five restaurants are Bistro 157, Bon Femme CafĂ©, Don Quijote, Paparazzi and Pikk’s Tavern. Check out http://www.valpodining.com/ to find more details and dates about future events.

The Taste Five Food and Wine Festival takes place at downtown Valparaiso in the Central Park Plaza which is currently under construction.

Let me state for the record that I hate the shortening of Valparaiso to Valpo. It sounds so po-dunk, much less exotic, than its French origin. Although it's not pronounced like a French word. Imagine George Bush saying Amer'ca with all the nasal A's. That's how Valparaiso is pronounced around here. We're definitely not in Valparaiso, Chili.

Back to the Second Annual Taste Five Festival; it's the center piece of the campaign to liven up the downtown. I fully support this effort. On Saturday June 4th, 2010 from Noon to 9:00 pm the Taste Five Food and Wine Festival was held. Five Lincolnway restaurants had tents offering the best of their dishes.

I'm not a big meat eater and practically every menu item was a meat dish. I did have some tasty mac n' cheese from Bon Femme. Jeff got some slow roasted pork from Don Quijote which just made me realized we should have gone to the COCHON 555.

Slow roasted pork and lamb from Don Quijote restaurant. 

There was live music which was pretty good. It was really loud when sitting at the tables. I noticed the couple in front of us was texting each other back and forth. A far more effective method than the shouting into each other's ears that Jeff and I were using.

Even with good food and good music it was hard to get over the concrete and orange cone ambiance. The paper baskets, Miller plastic cups and zero presentation with the food wasn't helping. I noticed the average attendant was holding a Miller beer cup (which could have contained a local brew but no one would know as it was all served in Mill High Life cups) and had selected the most bar food like options, mini burger, fries and completely by passing the more original and exciting dishes.   There were some wines available if you asked, but no one was drinking them and they were not put out for display.
Five downtown Valparaiso restaurants are featured at the Taste Five festival.  From left to right: Pikk's Tavern (not shown), Don Quijote,Paparazzi, Bon Femme Cafe, and Bistro 157.   

My conclusion, this is a great concept for a festival it just needs more attendance and a little more thought to make it all look appealing. The square next to where the festival is being held is currently under construction and from the signage looks to be made into a park square where perhaps future Taste Five can be held in Valparaiso. Then with a little thought to food presentation, perhaps a little more Outstanding in the Field and a little less county fair this festival would be embraced by North West Indiana. 

I am hopeful Taste Five 2011 will be better.


  1. Yeah we have had this experience as well before. The BBQ festival in Boston is basically each place having pulled up a big truck with guady billboards with awards, etc on them. The food is good but the atmosphere isn't foodie friendly. The average attendee doesn't care so I'll enjoy my bites and then go home an make them in style!


  2. I would go to Valpariso just to have some of that lamb from Don Quichote, looks amazing

  3. Fun post! A shame about the ambiance, but that is probably pretty typical.

  4. I have friends in Indiana and will have to tell them about this. Hopefully they get it organized and make it better next year.

  5. That looks absolutely awesome, wish I could be there!