Eat, drink, shop, walk: Taste of Pearl

Hadley Vandiver | Boulder Weekly

Considering the fact that Pearl Street restaurants, wineries and boutiques hardly ever get any business due to their unfortunate location, Downtown Boulder Inc. decided to host the event Taste of Pearl to help draw visitors to this neglected area of town.



The point of Taste of Pearl, which will be held for the third time this Sunday, April 22, is to draw people out for an exploration of the many offerings of Pearl Street. They might just discover something new.

The already sold-out event features food from 15 different restaurants and wine from 15 Colorado wineries hosted in 15 retail stores on Pearl. It goes from 2 to 6 p.m, and this year will host around 600 attendees.

“It’s not a typical food and wine festival, where you’re just under a tent or in a big room with a bunch of tables,” says Terri Takata-Smith, director of marketing and communications for Downtown Boulder Inc. “This one is really unique, because it’s a four-hour event, so people have time to leisurely go from location to location and spend time exploring everything that the host business has to offer.”

Ulla Merz, who owns the Bookcliff Winery with her husband John, summed up the best things about Taste of Pearl in just a couple of sentences.

“Food and wine are much better experienced together,” Merz says. “And don’t we all love shopping?” Bookcliff has been participating in Taste of Pearl since its inception in 2010, and its owners get a lot of enjoyment from the event. John Merz was the first to experience it.

“That first year I didn’t go with him; we thought it would just be a little thing,” Ulla Merz says. “But then he called and asked me to come down and help. Pretty soon he said he wanted to take just a little break to go check out some of the other food and wine. I didn’t see him again until the event was over.”

Merz says that the laid-back environment of the event makes it something that everyone involved can have fun with. The event organizers keep that laid-back atmosphere in mind in their planning of Taste of Pearl.

“We don’t want to force people to buy something while they’re having a fun afternoon,” Takata-Smith says. “When you attend, you get a 10 percent off card for all of the retail stores that’s good for a week. We recognize that these people are busy sampling the food and wine, so they might not necessarily also be shopping.”

The $60 price tag for the event might have deterred some people, but that didn’t seem to have any effect on ticket sales, which sold out more quickly this year than in previous years. Boulder’s wealth of foodies, wine lovers and impulsive shoppers might have something to do with the large ticket sales.

“There are a lot of people who are really interested in food, a lot of people who are really interested in wine, and a lot that are really interested in shopping, but they don’t always overlap,” says Kevin Natapow, owner of Momentum, a store participating in Taste of Pearl. “So people who are big foodies come down to try out different restaurants, and then they discover different parts of town that they’ve never been to and different stores that they never even knew existed. The event really makes those connections.”

The options on Pearl Street do tend to make it the perfect candidate for a hip, cultural event, even if the businesses are hardly lacking in attention.

“The restaurant scene has just exploded here in the past few years,” Takata-Smith says. “In addition, we have a really strong retail mix. We wanted an event that would incorporate all of our businesses downtown in a broader way.”

With the speed at which Taste of Pearl sold out, it seems that the event’s organizers have succeeded in making it the “cool” thing to do. The emphasis on Boulder businesses means that Taste of Pearl fits right into the city’s love of everything local.

“It’s on Earth Day this year, and we’re really excited about our pairing with Leaf [Vegetarian Restaurant] because they are really into the local, farm-to-table movement,” Natapow says. “We want to encourage people to shop locally, to eat locally, to drink Colorado wine. It’s really making that further connection beyond just tasting good food, but thinking about where that food comes from.”

If you weren’t quick enough to grab a ticket, don’t worry. You can still eat, drink, shop and walk along Pearl Street any time. You just won’t be doing it the cool way.