4th annual Taste of Rio Rancho today

Skip the long lines but still get to sample the tastes from far and wide that converge in Rio Rancho.

The fourth annual Taste of Rio Rancho is set for today at Santa Ana Star Center, with 26 local restaurants offering free samples of their dishes.

For the first time, 250 “pre-taste” tickets are available. Holders of those tickets gain access an hour early, at 4 p.m., to taste the food without long lines and to have a better opportunity to interact with the restaurateurs.

“We also wanted to be able to appeal to more people,” said Rio Rancho Convention and Visitors Bureau Manager Matt Geisel.

Geisel said the pre-taste grew out of feedback from consumers and restaurateurs, while some individuals had said they wouldn’t come because of long lines.

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Pre-taste tickets cost $15, while general admission costs $10. Children age 5 and younger are free.

This year, the options range from Namaste’s Indian food to Aldo’s New York Pizza, and from Fat Squirrel Grille and Pub’s Irish food to CafĂ© Bella Coffee and Matheson Winery offerings, according to a news release from Star Center manager Global Spectrum.

“I think the big thing about Taste of Rio Rancho is it’s an opportunity for Rio Rancho residents to discover and rediscover all the diverse dining options in the community,” Geisel said.

He hopes the event will encourage people to dine in Rio Rancho, generating tax dollars for the city instead of letting that money go to another city.

General admission is at 5 p.m. and judging is set for 6-7 p.m. with celebrity guest judges Brittany Flowers and Chad Brummett from KASA Fox 2 News, according to the news release.

About 2,000 people attended last year, Geisel said.

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