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By Bill Parry

The Taste of LIC celebrated its 10th anniversary Tuesday night with a record 66 restaurants, wine shops and breweries taking part inside a 9,000-square-foot festival tent pitched on the Plaza at Gantry State Park. The cultural and culinary event raises over $100,000 annually to support programming at the Obie Award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater, which fosters the creation of new work in a variety of disciplines, including dance, music, multimedia and the visual arts.

“As a nonprofit without deep pockets we had a need for fund-raising, but we also wanted to bring this fabulous community of hardworking people together,” Chocolate Factory Founder Sheila Lewandowski said. “All the local businesses and the art community support the event and enjoy this celebration of Long Island City.

Nearly 1,000 attended this year, tasting samples from a variety of restaurants, including first-time participants such as Dutch Kills Centraal and Tacuba Mexican Cantina, and Michelin Star award winners Case Enrique and Alobar.

“This is our fifth year here,” Alobar owner Jeff Blath said. “In fact, we took part that first year before we opened the restaurant. It’s a great event to be a part of because you get to socialize with your customers in a different environment.”

Several restaurants that participated this year were among the 12 that were part of the first Taste of LIC, which took place inside the theater. Manducatis Rustica, Tournesol, Manetta’s and the Creek and the Cave have participated each time.

“The community, and Sheila in particular, have done so much for the Creek that it’s our way of giving back,” the Creek and the Cave owner Rebecca Trent said, while restocking her display table with aromatic California-Mexican cuisine. “Everyone gets exposure from this so you want to present well, but let’s face it, there’s no restaurant in LIC where you’ll have a bad experience.”

LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin agreed that the Taste of LIC is great both for the establishments and the whole neighborhood.

“LIC has never tasted better and there’s never been more to taste,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful way to promote the neighborhood, and not just the food, but the 30-plus cultural institutions as well.”

Rob Basch, the president of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, believes it’s a win-win for everyone.

“It’s great to get all the restaurants and vendors under one tent at the same time and it’s great to see all the people out here enjoying the night. It gives you a great sense of this neighborhood’s vibrancy.”

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