2019 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival
The crisp morning air drifted golden leaves towards the windshield. The car smelled like my sunscreen, despite my jeans and cardigan, as we drove north to Saugerties, New York.
The drive reminded me of going to Lake George — as we passed the familiar signs towards the Catskills.
This was my first year attending the 2019 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, and I was excited to try the imaginative garlic creations.
The 2019 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival | Saugerties, NY
We arrived at the garlic festival and followed the hand-painted signs down a semi-finished road. Workers in neon-colored vests directed lanes of traffic to paid and free parking. We went to the farthest lot (free parking, always) — and caught the shuttle bus going towards the venue.
A quick ride down the road past houses and fields of parking, brought us to the entrance. We joined the line of people — paying $10 for a wristband before entering the festival.
Shout-out to M.M. Studios | Visual Arts for photographing me throughout the day, so I could enjoy the event.
The First Garlic of the Day
A beautiful display of hanging garlic caught my eye, which drew me to the first table of the festival.
It was a farmer’s stand, with wooden baskets of Russian red garlic. A small wooden cutting board had raw garlic in rough pieces with toothpicks nearby.
I speared a generous chunk and popped it in my mouth. It was spicy right away, with a crunchy bite that only raw garlic has. My eyes watered a bit, but overall, the flavor seemed like the everyday garlic I buy at the market.
Across the paved pathway was a vendor selling garlic bulbi. He also had a gorgeous garlic display.
I spoke briefly to the man behind the booth — I lost my pamphlet explaining what part of the garlic that these small seed-like pieces come from — and continued around the booth to sample some.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. The man told me that these were just as potent as fresh garlic, and that you could add them like normal, when cooking.
I was skeptical, so I tried my one bulbi seed. It was about the size of a sunflower seed and had a brittle shell around it. The flavor was bitter and not very pleasant. I couldn’t see myself cooking with those, so we continued to the next booth.
Old Saratoga Spice Rubs
I noticed the neon shirts hanging on the back of the semi-enclosed tent. They read, “If you love it, rub it!”
A group of women stood to the right of a table stacked three-layers-high with containers of what looked like spices. A raised platform with containers and lids lined the front of the table. Samples!
I stepped up to the table and examined the bottles and prices. I browsed the top of the containers. It looked like a dip of some kind.
The man running the table greeted us — his name was Paul Greenberg (and according to his business card) he is the President of Old Saratoga Spice Rubs. He was charismatic and asked us if we wanted to try anything. I came for the food so of course I wanted to try everything.
He started us off with something simple — smoked kosher salt.
Now, I’m not impressed with salt nor smoke, so I was skeptical about trying the combination. He poured a few shakes of this black salt in my palm which I tossed back.
It was magical.
Salt! Who knew salt could be impressive!
He had my attention now.
“What about a dip?” He asked, pointing to the different containers with their blue plastic lids. He lifted the corresponding spice mixture. “Portobello mushroom?”
“Sure.” I’m not a major fan of dips, but I would try it.
He scooped me a Lay’s potato chip of the sour cream dip. I was worried about how much sour cream was on the chip but…it was delicious!
I must’ve had a shocked expression because everyone around me asked, “Can I try that too?” They loved the portobello mushroom spice mix as well.
Paul sprinkled different spice mixtures in our palms, asking, “You seem like you prefer sweet right? Well, try this one. Can you taste the pineapple? And the little bit of spice afterwards?”
I was impressed with his knowledge of flavors and the time he spent with our group. Despite the line forming near the entryway and the group of ladies being helped on the other side, he was calm and welcoming, answering our questions and recommending different spices.
“How much for a container?” I asked.
“$6 for the salt, $5 for the spice.” I felt like that was fair.
I flipped the bottle around as he pointed out, “Our mixes are gluten free, MSG free, and contain no added preservatives or anti-caking agents, just the spices.”
I’m glad that there were no chemicals creating the depth of flavor in his mixes, so I bought the smoked salt and the portobello mushroom.
Garlic Vendors and Sweet Treats
Having happily packed my first purchase of the day, we headed next door from Paul’s booth, where we looked at garlic patterned placemats and tablecloths. Colorful painted gourds hung near the pathway.
I stopped in the booth with the handwritten sign advertising pesto. Small tasting spoons sat on ceramic plates. Handwritten cards read:
Pesto with maple
Pesto with honey
I love everything pesto — so I tried all of them. The pesto with honey was an interesting combination (more sweet than garlicky).
I visited displays with pickled garlic, fresh garlic, and blackened garlic. One stand had giant blue garbage cans of kimchi and cabbages. One farmer’s stand had a section for his daughter, who made garlic hats and framed rock art.
I loved the other fresh produce. Some stands were dedicated to other foods, unrelated to garlic — like maple syrup and chocolate.
The chocolate stand was like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Packets of dots and gummies, filled chocolates, and chocolate displays (like firemen or children’s toys) collaged every surface of the booth.
Garlic Vinegar Shots and Other Spicy Things
The sun was rising in the sky and the crowds of people thickened as we made our way farther into the festival. Lines began to form at different tables, and you had to ninja your way into popular tables like biscotti and garlic cheeses (both delicious).
Throughout my booth-weaving, I sampled a BBQ/Caribbean sauce without truly reading the bottle. I saw the words “Mango” before people started filling up the space.
I dropped a pea-sized amount onto my tasting spoon, and slurped it in one swoop, as we made our way to the next set of tables.
The heat slammed up my sinuses and choked my throat.
Hot, hot, hot.
I started coughing, instinctively looking for water but seeing that we were nowhere near the drink vendors. I kept walking. Tears fell down my face — not because I was dying and could hardly breath — but because that sauce was so damn hot my eyeballs were screaming.
“Your ears are so red.” My friend commented as I coughed some more. I wiped the tears from my cheeks.
We arrived at a vinegar booth. “Garlic vinegar shot?” the man asked.
He handed a thimble-sized cup to me and out of respect, I took it without declining. The vendor watched me as I turned to our friend and we downed it in one gulp.
I would recommend if you don’t like to drink vinegar to begin with, not to add garlic on top of it. It was not a pleasant taste, but I imagine on a fresh salad (when your taste buds aren’t burning from Mango Caribbean spice), that I probably would’ve enjoyed it.
So you can imagine, that when I approached the table of the Indian vendor of Atina Foods and he offered me a spiced mixture I asked, “Is it spicy?”
He laughed, “What do you mean by spicy?”
“Is it hot?” I could still feel the mango sauce at the back of my throat. “Does it burn?”
“Ah,” he said, taking a scoopful of diced green vegetables (was it pickles? Green beans?) clumped with spices. “No, these are spicy as in using many spices. But not spicy as hot or painful.”
I was still skeptical — as my Indian coworkers would say something is “not spicy” but I would still sweat and choke from the heat.
But, I survived the Mango Caribbean sauce, how much hotter could this relish-looking mixture be?
Luckily, not hot at all. The spices were bold and powerful. If you didn’t have a better adjective, one could say that the seasoning is “spicy.” In reality, it was a flavorful helping of ingredients unfamiliar to me, yet tasty.
Co-founder and husband of the married team behind Atina Foods, Suresh explained the medicinal benefits of the ingredients and spices Atina prepares, following the, “Traditional upbringing in Kerala, South India, ancestral home of Ayurvedic health practices and a place where one considers food as medicine eating for health is a practiced custom.”
The drink I tried was an unlabeled bottle. Somewhat sweet and rich with spices — it’s meant to help with digestion.
Like Paul of Old Saratoga Spice Rub, Suresh spent time with our group, explaining the products on his table and answering any of our questions. He even posed with his wife for this photo (see was a good sport!)
Pulled Pork Lunch
It was noon and I was sunburned.
Down past a covered pavilion was the stretch of food trucks and stands. You could buy every food imaginable: Brick oven personal pizzas, homemade pierogi and stuffed cabbage, gyros, waffle sticks, Dutch French Fries, garlic ice cream, BBQ sandwiches, and more.
I wanted some non-garlic food for lunch, so our group agreed upon pulled pork sandwiches. For $8 you had a heaping serving of pulled pork on a squishy roll. You could add your own amount of sauce (sweet, spicy, or mild). I made sure to select sweet, and then smothered my sandwich in it.
Our group also shared cheese fries — which had a creamy Velveeta topping that shocked me. And finished our lunch with apple cider and concord grape slushies. It was a 9/10 meal all-around.
We ate lunch at wooden picnic tables in the shade. A live band played music from the stage behind us. Groups of people lounged in the grass, on wooden bleacher-seating, and at the base of trees.
This section of the garlic festival was a blend of crafts, vendors, and food. Though we explored all the garlic vendors and food, we didn’t have the stamina to walk the miles of craft stands. These were the “crafts” that were available to purchase from the farmer’s stands.
I spent most of my time at the honeybee stand. One of the bee vendors displayed the actual honeybee hive. The two panes of glass allowed you to look in on the hive as they worked. Medium-sized holes along the side of the wood frame allowed the bees to enter and exit the hive.
Next to the bees was another pesto stand. I avoided the pesto line and sampled some dessert dips like pumpkin, cheesecake, and crème brûlée.
Around the bend was a woman with colorful, woven wicker baskets. We watched her as she dunked them in her bucket of water. Handmade aprons for sale hung behind her.
We completed this littler loop of vendors — where we sampled flavored balsamic and oils. My favorite balsamic was the blood orange and fig.
My Favorite Table Arrangement
While I loved the bees, garlic treats, and decorative stations, I nearly screamed when we saw this beautiful sun-glazed display:
A table layered with bread, cheese, and cured meat? Yes, please.
This table reminded me of my trip to Little Italy. Friends from our group asked, “Did you want anything here?” While the table was beautiful and offered some of my favorite foods, I skipped it, as these are Italian foods that my family eats frequently, and I wanted to save room for more garlic creations.
In all, my first garlic festival was full of fantastic foods. I enjoyed speaking with the vendors who took the time to share the vision behind their product and the food that they create.
Seeing the thoughtful displays and the collective love of garlic made for a wonderful event. I was happy that we spent several hours at the festival and still didn’t see every booth. Two days would be the perfect amount of time to explore the food and craft vendors.
I would highly recommend that if you love garlic and are within driving distance to the Catskills, that you make the trip for a weekend of garlic!
Have you been to the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival?
Have you ever been to the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival? Do you have a favorite festival that you like to go to every year? Tell me about it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!