Sunday, June 5, 2011

Walk Your Broad Appetit a Little Further

I'd like to put in a request to the festival gods to give us today's weather for all future Broad Appetits.

Unlike the past three years, I was not in attendance when the festival began at 11:00, but they managed to start without me anyway.

Breezing by Ettamae's tent, I stopped to say hello to Chef Matt, not realizing that they were a participant.

In fact, Matt had  spent yesterday (after making our brunch) making 800 tea biscuits for his shortcake. That's major participation, I'd say.

I was meeting a favorite couple and killed the time by stopping by Bistro 27's tent for a refreshing start to my eating adventure, the crab and watermelon gazpacho.

Chef Carlos told me he'd spent five hours hand-chopping for the cold soup. After one bite, I told him his time was well spent.

The crisp mixture was punctuated with nice-sized lumps of crabmeat, not flakes, and the sweetness of the watermelon contrasted beautifully with the crispy veggies.

Our first stop was at Acacia's tent to see what exotic thing they might be offering. Softshell salad looked good, but I've had so many lately.

Ah, but Chesapeake stingers were more like it. They were offering Stinger sliders with Asian slaw, so I had to taste one.

I got a lesson along with my slider, learning that rays are an invasive fish of ever-increasing numbers. Wisely, they are now being caught and served in restaurants.

The meaty fish had a veal-like texture and under the crispy breading were impossible to identify. Yes, I ate a ray to help save the bay. Put a gold sticker on my forehead.

Overheard as we walked, "Richmond's cool. They have the best restaurants!"

I finally got to taste some of the highly recommended food from Lejha, a restaurant still on my must-visit list. The savory mango-glazed prawns with five bean salad was to die for.

Any number of people told me it was one, if not their favorite, dish today and I was in agreement. A huge bean lover, I could have eaten much more of that savory combo with the succulent prawns.

Impressive in a different way was Amour Wine Bistro's tasting menu plate containing three tarts.

There was a salmon mousse tart (my favorite and beautifully delicate in flavor), a grilled duck tart mixing sweet and savory and a fruit tart with blueberries. It was a steal for $3.

On my way into the festival, I'd run into Balliceaux's owner, who told me not to miss their offering, so I took her advice.

The smoked bluefish dip with crispy pitas and house-pickled okra, radishes and onions came with a shot of William's veggie bloody Mary.

Having had smoked bluefish in one form or another at Balliceaux before, I was not at all surprised about how good the dip was.

But as my friend pointed out, the crispy pitas were far superior to most pita versions and the pickled okra and onions perfectly executed.

Both of us had grandmothers who pickled and so we know from good pickling. Too much vinegar and all subtlety is lost; these were textbook tasty.

Also overheard but not completely understood because I couldn't see the food, "It's good but it's sickening."

One friend insisted on a stop at Ma-Musu's for sweet fried plantains, a treat I'd never had before. They were a tad much for me, but she didn't mind finishing them off by herself.

We took a break at 27 for a drink (as did the Mayor, who was looking quite casual today) and to meet up with a couple of local mixologists to talk about what we'd eaten and, what else, cocktails.

Me, I had vino verdhe and put in my two cents worth about what I'd recently read about muddlers and muddled drinks. Mixologists take that stuff very seriously.

We left there after a pleasurable spell watching the parade of humanity outside 27's plate glass windows. We could not resist commenting on the surprising number of girls wearing boots in this weather.

Boots with shorts, boots with sundresses, but boots in June?

Not only did it look ridiculous, but what must those boots smell like after endless loops around Broad Street? Inquiring minds wanted to know (and ridicule).

We made our last stop as a trio at Shindigz for the cake recommended by a friend I'd run into who'd recently returned from two weeks in France.

He said he was having a difficult adjustment to RVA after the wonder of French eating and drinking, but that the cake at Shindigz was easing the transition for him.

Their classic chocolate cake with frosting was covered in caramel sauce and sprinkled with fleur de sel for the ultimate sweet and salty dessert. We all three swooned over it.

It was at that point that I'd had my fill and said my farewells. I did run into a nearby restaurant owner heading to the festival as I walked home and he gave me the opening I needed to get on my soapbox about the event.

Broad Appetit has my full support. I love having all the visitors in my neighborhood. I think it's a great way for restaurants to offer a taste of their food and hopefully make people want to return for a full meal.

But here's my offering for the Broad Appetit suggestion box.        S-p-r-e-a-d   i-t   o-u-t.

It's ridiculous that more than sixty restaurants are crowded into a three-block stretch. Why doesn't Broad Appetit encompass the entire Arts District?

Why doesn't it begin at Belvidere and got to Foushee? It would be so much less jammed up and crowded if there were spaces between tents instead of having them shoved up against each other.

With all the strollers and people with dogs and small children, it becomes impassable and unpleasant waiting in lines because of the proximity of one tent to another.

Let's give everyone some breathing room and include more of Broad Street for more leisurely strolling and an opportunity to include more of the neighborhood.

Given how much people eat at Broad Appetit, the extra walking isn't going to hurt anyone.

We can call it the Broad Appetit Promenade and make a day of it. All in favor, raise your spork.


  1. thank you for stopping at Amour Wine Bistro tent for the 3 course menu :)
    too bad we couldn't offer a wine pairing
    with a finish with a sparkling for a bubbly afternoon
    it's always so great to see you and read you.
    Great job!

  2. Bubbles would have been the only thing that could have made your tasting better!

    After I finished mine, I sent three friends over to get their own and they all loved it as much as I did.

    So pleased to hear that you're reading me.

  3. Sorry, but I love it when women wear boots with shorts and sundresses. I couldn't care less about the odor.

  4. It just seems like a really hot choice in this weather...