Sunday, June 7, 2015

Broadly Speaking

Broad Appetit, you're getting tedious.

With each year that you crow about the plethora of participants - "a record-breaking 75 restaurants" this year, you claim- are we not supposed to notice the amount of "filler" fair food options such as gyros and fries taking up space? Or the absence of some past favorites like Acacia and Magpie?

And what about the layout? You'd expect that more participants would mean the festival would extend another block or two instead of practically stacking booths on top of each other, with lines winding into each other and confusion about whether or not a person is in line for the desired place.

More than one person mentioned the need for a separate lane for those with strollers and dogs, two demographics that snarl foot traffic and seem oblivious to the back-ups they're causing. Why do people even bring small children to an event like this? All the ones I saw looked sunburnt, sweaty and miserable as their parents tried to cajole them into eating something the kid didn't want.

Since I'd not even been up an hour when I got to Broad Street at 11 a.m., I began with Lucy's corn fritters with jalapeno sour cream, not exactly breakfast but at least a distant cousin of doughnuts, and a hot, crispy and flavorful start to the day.

Amour had the ideal brunch dish: savory ham, mushroom and duck bechamel crepes and a vegetable crepe for good measure. The owner looked particularly dapper cooking crepes in a beret and I know he was wishing he could pour me a glass of French cider to pair with my crepes.

At Comfort, I had a drumstick of fried chicken with butterbean honey and a side of strawberry/rhubarb slaw, a slaw that tasted like May. As I sat in the shade eating, a mother tried unsuccessfully to convince her two youngsters that they wanted the fried chicken, which they both refused with hands over their mouths. Dad left in search of cheese pizza.

Family Meal, Brian Voltaggio's new spot at Willow Lawn (which I've yet to visit as I'm not especially attracted to eating with families), was offering deviled egg samples, so I nabbed one, enjoying the mixture of yolk, cream cheese, hot sauce and Dijon mustard with bacon on top.

Curious about the FeedMore Community Kitchen booth, I selected mesquite-marinated southern fried pork spareribs with spicy maple glaze and watermelon slaw. Honestly, I have no need for my ribs to be fried, but that slaw was one of the highlights of the day, peppery, refreshing and packed with complementary flavors.

After five savory dishes, I was ready for sweet and found it at the new Belle & James booth, a place that won't even open for a couple more months. They were giving away t-shirts to early customers, so I chose the tank top along with a piece of chocolate and buttermilk layer cake with buttercream frosting, a multi-layered treat that tasted like my Richmond grandma used to make.

Making my way through the mass of humanity was not without its humorous moments.

At the Mosaic booth, they had a yard-high red blown glass bottle adorning their table, causing a young man near me to observe to his buddy, "Check out that bong."

I passed two different women wheeling their little dogs around in strollers, more reason for that separate lane, just so normal people don't have to see such nonsense.

Wine drinkers could choose from Wine on Tap's various selections (not one was Virginia wine) and for the truly tasteless brave there was a tent for wine slushies, but of course the longest lines by a mile were for the breweries, all of which were from Virginia. Anyone else notice this disparity in local liquid sourcing?

After four laps, I'd only seen a handful of familiar faces beyond those working the booths and I was full enough. I still had half a piece of cake left, so I got a new fork and took the cake to one of the volunteers on the side street that leads to my house who seemed thrilled to have it.

There, that's done.

Back home, I changed into my new Belle & James tank top, shorts and Nikes and made my way through the endless neighborhood traffic jam (so many suburbanites trying desperately to parallel park in Jackson Ward) to escape for a 5 1/2-mile walk to Chapel Island, a welcome respite for the mayhem on Broad Street.

Don't get me wrong, I had several very tasty dishes and at $3 a pop, the price is right. But the truth is, despite living two blocks off of Broad Street, I only bother with this event because I have to, because I write about food and need to be there.

I saw that a friend just posted from Broad Appetit, saying, "Enjoyed this so much more a couple of years ago when it was smaller and not as crazy."

What he said. Where's the suggestion box?

1 comment:

  1. Was planning to go for my inaugural BA experience, but glad I saved my energy for a delightful wine dinner instead! Think I'll wait until they get their act together.