Archive for the ‘Food Festivals’ Category
On Saturday, January 21, 2012, I went to the Kids Food Fest to be a culinary volunteer. Co-sponsored by Share Our Strength and the James Beard Foundation, the festival was created to get kids interested in food and teach them healthy eating habits.
The event was a two-day affair in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. It was a snowy, cold day and while it brought out the skaters to the ice rink (CitiPond), it kept away a lot of visitors from the festival, which was a shame. They had prepared for 50 children per event, and the numbers were nowhere near that. The most kids I saw at any demo/performance were perhaps 20. But there was a nice cross-section of kids. They ranged in age from toddler to teen; they were black, white, and Asian; and I even saw a couple of kids who, I had reason to believe, had two daddies. These are all good things.
Although there was a lot of frenzied running around, it seemed that they really didn’t have a whole lot for the volunteers to do. I tried to brave out the cold in my chef jacket, in an attempt to maintain a professional appearance at all times. I even helped deliver trays of prepped foods from the event services pavilion to the main building, where they were doing other demos, with no coat.
After a while, another volunteer and I were assigned to the stage tent to help out with the demos. The stage tent was one of those temporary metal-and-Plexiglas structures, and although they had heaters in there, it was absolutely freezing. Over time, I slowly donned parts of my outwear: first my gloves, then my hat, and after about 2 hours, I couldn’t take it any more and finally put on my coat. And despite the fact that I was wearing my snow boots, my toes were frozen after several hours. I eyed the main building, a café/lounge called Celcius, with envy, wishing that I’d been assigned to the demos in there.
The first demo I assisted in was “Avocados From Mexico: Guacamole Mashing with Cricket Azima.” Cricket Azima is a co-founder of the Kids Food Fest and The Creative Kitchen. I had gone in with my knife roll across my back, kind of like an arrow quiver; Cricket told me to put the knives down so as not to scare the kids (not that they would have known that there were knives in there.) Kids were given plastic bags with an avocado and some tomato. The other volunteer and I handed out the bags, along with limes, cilantro, and salt. The kids squeezed the limes into their bags (or their parents did), pinched off the cilantro leaves, and grabbed a pinch of salt, sealed the bags, and then squished everything together with their hands. Then they got to eat it with sweet potato chips.
Next up was “Table Time with Mr. Manners,” hosted by Tom Farley, an etiquette specialist. He engaged the kids in a talk about table manners and the kids’ answers to his questions were pretty cute. For example, he asked them to name some bad table manners, and one kid responded, “No spitting on the table.”
I was interested in “Akiko Thurnauer: Japanese Onigiri Rice Balls,” Chef Akiko and her sous chef taught the audience how to make Japanese rice balls by hand and by using a mold (which actually yielded rice rolls). One of the ingredients she used was red shiso, which is often referred to as Japanese basil. It did have a basil-like flavor, crossed with maybe oregano. Green shiso, also called perilla, is part of the same as basil, but red shiso is another type called akajiso, and is used to dye umeboshi, which are pickled ume plums. (We used a lot of umeboshi paste and vinegar quite a bit at The Natural Gourmet Institute. The medicinal benefits of umeboshi is the subject of another blog. Stay tuned.)
I took a break during “Circus Balancing,” as it did not require any culinary assistance. Cricket was up next with “Snack Time Choices.” At that point, I could no longer feel my toes and decided that 6 hours was enough for me.
All in all, it wasn’t the culinary experience I’d hoped it would be, but it was educational to see the behind-the-scenes activities of an event like this. Well, at least I got a few Clif Bars out of the deal.
If you love cheese find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin, you must go check out the Third
Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Annual Festival. It will take place at the Monona
Terrace in downtown Madison, November 4-5.
This festival will feature cheeses and cheese recipes from various Wisconsin farms at more than a dozen events. There will be creamery tours, cheesemaker dinners, tastings, seminars, and cheese pairing classes (craft beer, wine, rum, and scotch!).
It really sounds like fun. I wish I could go.
For more info, click HERE.
I volunteered to work on several of the days but they only scheduled me for one day, the 2nd (I found out only later that I could have shown up for the other days anyway). So, Sunday, I went to the volunteer tent on 10th Avenue and 15th St. It’s such an interesting area. It’s the border of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, which is becoming the chic neighborhood for the young and well heeled. As you walk from the more easterly part of Chelsea, the atmosphere begins to change. From beautiful, well-maintained brownstones and charming little restaurants, it begins to take on the aura of what you would expect of a meatpacking district: industrial, gritty, and stark. Soon, you reach the overpass and the West Side Highway. Tucked into the little side streets, though, are the original cobblestone streets, remnants of Old New York, and tough as hell to drive over.
What fascinates me about this area, however, is that it’s become the depository of haute designer boutiques. Some designers who have outposts here are Stella McCartney, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Alexander McQueen, who designed those nutty shoes Lady Gaga wears in the “Bad Romance” video and who committed suicide last year. This has become known as Gansevoort Market. On 9th Ave., is the Chelsea Market, a gourmand’s Emerald City.
But I digress. From the volunteer tent, we went off to Pier 57 on 11th Ave. Security was tight because apparently they’d had some sort of issue (I guess that’s how you know that chefs are the new rock stars!). This was the Grand Tasting, where restaurants, wineries, and food producers got a chance to show off their goods.
We were given a stack of assignments to choose from and I chose to work with Marble Lane at Dream Downtown restaurant. The special dish they were preparing was Guinness-Braised Kobe Short Ribs on Cheddar Biscuits. And, boy, was that Kobe popular! From about 12 to 5 p.m., I worked non-stop scooping the hot, shredded beef onto a portable flat-top grill, adding jus and salt, then doling it out among the split biscuits, which had been warmed. At various times, I also dotted the biscuits with horseradish sauce and sprinkled chives onto the finished product. The cook I was working with was getting bin and bin of biscuits as needed, sprinkling micro greens at the end, and did the sauce thing initially. When I approached the stall, the guy was really busting his hump and I think I relieved him a little bit. In total, we probably made hundreds of little sandwiches. HUNDREDS! The demand never stopped. Luckily for me, the vendor right next to us was a winery (I’m sorry that I can’t remember the name, but I was busting my own hump), and the guys were really nice and gave us some really lovely Prosecco to try. Thanks, guys.
Five o’clock arrived and I couldn’t believe that 5 hours had passed and I had not taken single break. Not to walk around, not to schmooze, not even to pee. When I emerged from the cave of beef, I realized that people were heading out and vendors were shutting down. I was so busy working, that I had not stopped to actually enjoy the festival! I was probably to only schmuck to do that. And my back was to the public the whole time, so I didn’t even get to see people. I kept hearing Guy Fieri’s voice at the demo stage and I wanted so much to go over there, but I stayed put. I didn’t want the people of Marble Lane to think I was a wuss or a shirker. Executive Chef Manuel Trevino, was really sweet and offered me dinner sometime soon. I really look forward to that.
I said my goodbyes to the guys I was working with and quickly made my way down the aisles, grabbing every sample I could get my hands on, from cheese to chocolate to wine and even pasta. I had some very interesting alcoholic drinks. Don’t ask me to name anything because I was working my way around like a bolt of lightning before everything was gone. I grabbed some blood oranges, which are still waiting to be turned into blood orange martinis.On my way out, I heard applause, so I followed it. There was a stage area near the entrance and someone had just introduced Anthony Bourdain, who came out and sat in a chair. Presumably, it was going to be a chat session. I wanted to stay, but I had another agenda in mind.
I headed back over to the volunteer tent to get directions to the very last event: The after-party hosted by Guy Fieri at his “Garage” on 15th St. I was volunteering my time to work that event, too, in the hopes of getting to meet some people. Two of my classmates had volunteered, too, and they met a bunch of Food Network people. I, on the other hand, had met no one. One of my classmates and I managed to get into the “kitchen,” where food was being prepared for Guy’s private party. The kitchen was really just a big studio space, set up with a food prep station by the caterer. As best as I can remember, the menu consisted of bruschetta that we brushed with a variety of barbecue sauces Guy came out with, and topped them with flank steak (at least, I think it was flank), sliced thinly by the catering staff; sliders of beef and slaw; and warmed tortilla chips with salsa. We all worked very hard to get everything done on time.
Aside from trays coming back because Guy either wanted them warmer or with more meat, everything went pretty smoothly. Shouts of “He’s coming up. He’s coming up!” kept getting me all excited, but he never came up to see us, which sucked. Later, when the work was over, I went downstairs to the main party and watched him onstage as he said some stuff. Although he did thank the volunteers and said that none of it could have happened without us, I felt gypped that I didn’t get to meet him or anyone. My friend and I stood there, trying to unwind with some apple martini-type drinks we’d grabbed and realized that that was pretty much it for us. Anne Burrell passed by, as did Claire Robinson from Food Network Challenge, but that’s as close as I got to any of the FN chefs.
I couldn’t stay for the party because I had to be at work the next day and it was already close to 11 p.m. I guess I’ll have to wait until I become a celebrity chef myself to meet any others. C’est la vie.
And that was my big, wild experience at the Food Network Food & Wine Festival. I didn’t even get a souvenir. If I get to do again next year, I’m going to do it right.
A great opportunty opened up for me–and chefs/chefs-in-training all over NYC–to volunteer at the Food Network NYC Food & Wine Festival. The festival is from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, 2011, and benefits Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, great organizations in the fight against hunger.
Events will be taking place throughout the Meatpacking District, on the West Side, and many celebrity chefs will do demonstrations, dinners, wine seminars, tastings, and more. I’ll be working at the ShopRite, KitchenAid/Buitoni event. It should be a lot of fun and I anticipate learning a thing or two.
If you’re interested in attending any of the events, tickets are available directly from the festival site. Hope to see you there!
Who doesn’t love a party? And who doesn’t love peanuts? (Okay, I actually know someone who hates peanuts, but who cares?) Put them together and you get the South Carolina Peanut Party. This festival, celebrating the protein-packed legume, has been going on for 30 years.
Peanuts have been produced in the town of Pelion for more than a hundred years and after the peanuts were harvested in the fall, peanut-boils were held throughout the town. Today, they continue this tradition with a festival.
The Peanut Party takes place August 12 & 13, 2011
Friday; 5a.m.-11p.m.; Sat. 8a.m.-11p.m.
at 951 Pine St. Pelion Sc 29123; Pelion Community Center. Across from the fire station and next door to Shumpert’s IGA.
No gate fees. Palmetto Amusement Ride costs: armbands ($15).
Events and Attractions:
Blessing of the Peanut Pots
Arts and Crafts
“Peanutty” Cooking Contest
Library Book Sale
Peanut Party Parade
PB&J Eating Contest
Dance Techniques Troupe
Peanuts Your Way Tent
I’m interested in that last one. The possibilities are endless.
I won’t be there but if you are, let me know how it goes.