By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Are you craving a culinary experience?

Delight in the delicious at the Taste of Sandy Springs. The third annual event returns May 30 in a modified format.

Last year’s food festival was held in conjunction with the inaugural Sandy Springs Bike Challenge and the final professional bike race of the USA Crits Speed Week Series. More than 5,000 people attended, a substantial increase from the 2,000 at the Taste’s 2007 debut.

But this year, after the bike event was held May 3, the Taste of Sandy Springs is only about savoring the scrumptious. While admission is no longer free, food tickets are half the price they were last year, encouraging the public to stay longer and devour more.

“We opted to separate the two events,” said event director Laura Valente of the Atlanta-based production company Premier Events. “We wanted to be able to expand what our operation was, as well as make it a little more central to the city market and to the people who want to come out and have a great culinary experience.”

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway will be lined with tents showcasing eateries, food-related vendors and family-friendly festivities. Those streets will be closed to cars to accommodate the open-air event.

More than 30 local restaurants — from fine to casual dining — will share their specialties with the public. Purveyors include Fishmonger, Boneheads and Breadwinner, a bakery that offers seasonal sweetbreads.

“We enjoy doing the festivals,” said Breadwinner co-owner Geoff Melkonian, who operates on Mount Vernon Highway with his wife and sister. “When you are in a small community like Sandy Springs, it’s just nice to get out and see everybody. We also get to feature new products and old products.”

The bakery will bring favorite loaves such as Lemon Poppy-razzi, Party at My Place pumpkin bread and Better Than a Bubble Bath Mocha Chocolate Chip, as well as new flavors and “a couple of surprises.”

“We’re very excited about it,” Melkonian said.

Other Taste highlights include the Gourmet Market, a new offering that features fine art and handcrafted items for the kitchen and home. Another fresh attraction is the Green Market, where people can purchase locally grown food products.

The event offers additional activities for kids this year, including interactive games and cooking-related crafts. Local musicians will perform.

“It’s going to be a great year for us,” said Valente, who also has organized the Taste of Atlanta and the Dogwood Festival. “I know a lot of people are anxious to get out and do some fun things with the status of everything going on in the world.”

Tickets are required for food samplings. Ten tickets are $10. In 2008, the same amount cost $20. Admission is $5, but children under 10 enter free.

“It’s actually a really great deal and a great way to spend the day because you get to try all these different restaurants and see which ones you like,” Valente said. “It’s a great budget saver. You can enjoy a lot of different things all at once.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit three youth-centered charities: the Sandy Springs Mission’s after-school program for poor children; the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, a project that provides books for kids in need; and Northside Hospital’s Mothers First program, which offers education and health screenings for young mothers.

To get more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.tasteofsandysprings.org, or call (877) 725-8849. If you purchase tickets by May 22, you get five extra free.