It didn’t just taste like fall. There was a particular smell in the air. One gaze through the crowd allowed me to catch sight of Eagles jerseys, scarves and mellow colors. Even a close listen resulted in the sound of ruffling leaves and an occasional chilling breeze through the trees. Regardless of all the senses at play, I was present for my most treasured one of all; tasting.

The Junior League of Philadelphia’s Taste of Fall gathered a variety of unique vendors and cheery crowds in Fairmount Park on Sunday, October 14th to support their Apple a Day Program, which strives to create a positive impact on the health and wellness of adults and children in the Philadelphia area through food education and distribution. Even a few die hard football fans were pulled from the coziness of their couch, only to find a better kind of comfort under the inviting white tents pitched near Smith’s Memorial Playground and Playhouse at this third annual event.

Guests of all ages were naturally dispersed throughout the event area. Of the 550 attending, most children bunched near the face painting table but a few more were found re-visiting the dessert tables. Adults also seemed to take a liking to Kathy’s Just Desserts. She offered a heaping pile of homemade classics. The sweets reminded me of the type I always overindulge on during the holidays, in order to prepare myself for the nap that follows dinner. However, there was no sleeping allowed after this particular helping—just more food and drink to conquer.

Another dessert vying for the limelight at Taste of Fall was the hand torched s’mores from Feastivities events. The miniature graham crackers were coated in chocolate and three topping varieties, while daintily held up by clothespins. Guests could choose from toasted coconut, fish food and cracked nuts before the classic treat with a twist was dipped in homemade marshmallow fluff and torched to perfection on site! Although the campfire snack brought back wonderful Fall memories, there was still one other dessert that did me in.

Maybe it was because I’m a sucker for cupcakes, but I couldn’t seem to pull myself from Nutmeg’s table and their crafty cupcake display. Even before snagging a taste of their special Vanilla Bean offering, the mini morsels had my undivided attention. When I finally bit into the moist treat and glanced closer at the menu, I saw this particular item was made with a little help from their friends at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The cakes and frosting for the cupcake were crafted from vanilla beans soaked in Art in the Age’s SNAP Liquor. There was a pleasant zing at the tail end of each bite that made you want to take a million more. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with endless chomping intentions because that selection was gone in the blink of an eye.

I was in a bit of a backwards trance and oddly decided to sample sweets prior to any other offerings. However, there were plenty of fall flavors up for grabs once I snapped out of it. I sicced my appetite first and foremost on Lasorda’s homemade pasta fagioli. It was everything I knew about comfort food growing up and tugged a very special chord on my heartstrings. Michelle Lasorda was serving bowl after bowl to the eager attendees. I found a moment to compliment her recipe, which seemed to be an exact replica of what my Nonna still makes today. Authentic is not just a word they aimlessly throw around over at their Exton Italian eatery.

While I managed to turn myself around on the food track and start back at the beginning, there was still something missing from my tasting extravaganza. The cuisine just needed a little washing down but the Junior League of Philadelphia anticipated such a need and put together a fine line-up of sips as the solution. Tri-State Liquors brought a nice selection of red wines and The Original Pumpkin Cream Liqueur from Pennsylvania Dutch to keep in line with the fall festivities. The thought of cream liqueurs have never settled well with me. I braved a sip of the thick juice anyway. It was more pleasant than I expected but seconds were not necessary. Plus, there were plenty more adult beverages that I planned to deliberate.

My libation observations continued with Flying Fish’s seasonal craft beer, the Oktoberfish. It’s name didn’t evoke the most appetizing thoughts but I assure you this brew was in no way seafood flavored. Instead it carried the usual fest beer characteristics with a little less spice,  which I was happy to see. The New Jersey brewery was also slinging their citrusy Exit 4. Both seemed to be crowd pleasers. The mixed drink options were of the highest caliber for cocktail drinkers who found themselves at Sunday’s event. St. Germain served up a revitalizing mix of their French liqueur, champagne, club soda, fresh lemon juice and a blackberry garnish. For me it played off another factor of fall, the part where you miss summer. Still, it was highly enjoyable and a longed for item at the event, but not without competition. Philadelphia Distilling always draws a crowd with their Absinthe and Taste of Fall was no different. While grazing through the crowd I heard absinthe mentioned several times and caught a few nods toward the vendor’s table. It’s not an annoyance. Their meticulously crafted spirits deserve the attention.

In between the various beverages and a few refills of St. Germain’s cocktail, I was able to snack my way through most of the fall flavors, less for Elevation Burger who maintained a line the whole time and came up empty handed when it was my turn. The 100% organic, grass-fed and free range fast food joint has a location only ten minutes from my apartment so it wasn’t severely depressing. There were plenty of other bites to subdue the temporary sadness anyway.

I bounced to FreshaPeel Hummus!’s table where all the chickpea dips a girl could dream of, including Pumpkin Delight, were displayed with pretzels, pita crackers and other edible utensils. Sage Catering served a heaping pile of sweet potato mash with lemon arugula and shredded short ribs. I followed both of those tasty offerings with Couch Tomato Cafe’s turkey chili, chicken & waffles, and tomato pie.
When my stomach refused to stretch any further, I had to sadly refuse Cricket Catering. Their trio of chafing dishes were overflowing with an aroma that’s only enjoyed one other time of the year and that’s at Thanksgiving. Ka’Chi Truck was also conveniently parked before the tent’s main entrance dealing out Grilled Kimcheese and Squash Soup for the hungry masses. I was no longer part of that crowd.

With my appetite satisfied and live tunes to take in, I strolled toward an isolated table outside of the tent. It was Greener Partners who I found situated behind a farm fresh display of jarred goods. After peering at their tempting tomato sauce, jams and other fruity creations, I settled on the Asian Pear Sauce as a take home treat. Maybe my belly couldn’t fit any more at the time but that wouldn’t stop me from tasting a little bit of fall back home. As far as the full blown Taste of Fall experience? I’ll have to wait another year for that one but certainly plan to return and support the Junior League of Philadelphia’s Apple a Day program come 2013.

All photographs credited to Angela Corrado. View more scenes from the Junior League’s annual event by clicking HERE.