Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flower and Garden Fest 2014: Round Four

The final round was upon me, last weekend. Hot and humid. I gathered my trusty Fest-ing pal and off we set for tasty treats and regular ventures into air-conditioned spaces, because did I mention it was hot? For real. Hot enough that I honestly nearly passed out at one point and needed to retreat to Innoventions for some extended cooling. (Huh. So *that's* what Innoventions is good for!) At first, I felt bad that I was out playing with my friend, while T was back at the homestead, slaving away over our bathroom remodel project...but then I realized he was in an air-conditioned bubble of coolness and would have been hellishly miserable being in a crowd of people, sweating in all the places. Even if he was hard at work, he was much *much* happier.


Sweet Potato Cinnamon Waffle with Pineapple Soft Serve.

Have. Mercy. Just a hint of spice, far more mellow and subtle than the "pumpkin spice" trend of the past few years, and the barely creamy, sweet-with-a-hint-of-zing signature Dole Whip was unexpectedly yummy. I mean, I wasn't worried or anything (c'mon, it's DOLE WHIP), but I couldn't quite conjure up what I thought it might actually taste like. It was just exactly perfect, both the complimentary flavors *and* textures. It was apple pie a la mode's summer-y cousin. (Remember how I said it was hot? That photo is not out of focus. In the time it took us to gather a spoon, a couple of napkins, walk about twenty steps to a bench, and get my camera in hand, the perfect soft serve swirls had melted into smooth surfaces and little pineapple rivers.)

Taste buds were awake! Bee line due...ummm...I have no internal compass. It may have been west. Ish. Whatever.


Pickled Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Cream, Mizuna, and Pistachios.

I'm a childhood fan of pickled beets. I still find myself getting a hankering for my Gram's (which I have very nearly recreated). Needless to say, this dish was going to be on my list. The beets were perfect. A little tang from the pickling balanced nicely with the goat cheese cream (sort of like a thinned out sour cream with additional zip). I had never even heard of mizuna before, but it was a fairly mild baby green (read: it was a vehicle for the cream) and the nuts provided crunch, but the beets and the goat cheese cream were the stars of the show.

Ghost Pepper-Dusted Tilapia with Crisp Winter Melon Slaw and Mint Oil. Redbridge Gluten-Free Sorghum Beer.

Now, this is where tag-team fest-ing has its biggest benefit: The Swap. More room to try more stuff when you're only eating half! Despite its name, this one was more bark than bite. The ghost pepper provided just a little bit of back-of-the-throat heat without scalding anything important. (That would be a bad move when you have a whole bunch more to taste.) The slaw was tasty and cool -- a contrast in temperature and texture -- and I kind of wish I had paid better attention to the menu, because I have nothing to really share about "winter melon," other than it makes a tasty slaw. I didn't even taste the mint oil. STOP THE PRESSES. That beer up there? I actually liked it. (It was super light and very mild and not at all yeasty. So there you go.) I don't even know who I am anymore.

Contemplating the upending of all I thought to be true about myself... (Daniel had some things I didn't share in the mean time) ...we descended upon...


Caprese (Fior di Latte mozzarella, roasted peppers, olio verde). White Peach Bellini (Prosecco and white peach puree).

His (with a Moretti Lager) and hers (with the Bellini). Because some things can't be shared. Not even in the name of high value stomach real estate. Every caprese I have ever had has been the classic version (tomato, mozzarella, olive oil, basil). It's probably one of my favorite things on earth. So there was some mild trepidation-laced curiosity on my part, but I do like roasted peppers, so I figured it would still be ok. And it was. Because when you involve things like a slab of mozzarella and some fresh basil, it's difficult to go wrong. I will leave my criticism simply at the fact that this salad should get its own name, and that's all. The Bellini was a repeat from last year. Sweet white peaches and bubbles? Just right for cutting through the robust flavor of roasted peppers and the olive oil coating on the tongue. Also? Bubbles. (By the way, I took a sip of that beer, and *no*. Whew. My world stopped tipping in a scary direction.)

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay...


Macaron a la Fleur d'Oranger (orange blossom macaron with white chocolate ganache).

I had never had a macaron before. God's honest truth. I could pretend to tell you about textures and details, but it would all be fabricated, because my internal monologue went something like this: "Umm. Yum. Orange creamsicle. Yum. Slurp. Gulp. Yes. More. Yum. Oops, save the last bite for Daniel." By the way, my personal rule of "thou shalt not combine citrus with chocolate" does not apply to *white* chocolate. That creaminess may partner with all the citrus it likes. Yum.

And then we were full, so we decided to ride some rides (Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land, in case you wondered), before I determined that I had space for just one more thing.


Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and Pretzel Crunch.

I'm going to be honest. I had some healthy skepticism regarding bacon in my dessert. I still haven't tried any chocolate-covered bacon, and my bacon consumption has been limited to appearing in actual meals. So, wielding my plastic fork, I took a bite-sized cross section, taking care to have representation from each component. The best thing I can compare it to, taste wise, is pancakes with maple syrup with a side of bacon, presenting in the form and textures of a frosted cupcake. (The pretzel doesn't fit there and I'm still unsure of its purpose, but whatever.) The more I ate, the more I liked it. Like we say at my house: you either like bacon or you're wrong.

Remember how I said I had room for just one more thing? Well, I still had something else on my list to try. I had to tack it on to the next day though, for fear of exploding, so consider this a really (really) long intermission.

::intermission music playing::
(For effect, you could go get yourself a snack or something.)


Confit de Canard, Pommes de Terre Sarladaise (pulled duck confit with garlic and parsley potatoes). La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush (Grey Goose Orange Vodka, St Germain Liquor, white and red cranberry juices).

I'm going to work in reverse here and talk about the slush first. Mostly because (as you can see in the photo), I sucked a bunch of it down on the way to where we camped out to eat (when it was handed to me, the slush was mounded up higher than the rim of the glass). Remember when I said it was hot? Well, if I thought the Dole Whip succumbed to the heat quickly, that was nothing compared to this slush which was melting literally before my eyes. I couldn't risk cup overflow, so I took one for the team. (What? Why are you rolling your eyes at me like that?) This was another revisit from last year. I always love the French slushes from the Fests. This one is more fresh and delicate than her Food and Wine Fest counterpart. Ok, that's a lot of talk about a rapidly melting beverage, when I really need to talk about the *food*. That duck was incredible. Bordering on life altering. We split it and just kept taking bites and giving one another this wide-eyed stare (we would have been jaw-dropped, but that would have been gross -- we aren't animals, you guys!) of delighted amazement that, if it could talk (its mouth was full and that's impolite), would have said "Can you even believe this? So so good. Not even sure it's legal to be this delicious. Pass that fork, I need more." (Actually, that last part we may have actually said, since, you know, our mouths would have been empty at that point.) The duck had so much flavor and it was so tender, it practically melted in your mouth. Combined with those thin slices of potato heaven, perfectly seasoned and crispy around the edges in exactly the most perfect way. I am not even kidding you when I say I am salivating right now, just *writing* about it. I might be willing to fight you for this dish. If I had had more room at the time this was consumed, I might have given Daniel the Gollum-reaction, stabbing at him wildly with my fork, and telling him to get his own because myyyy preeeeecioussssss. Look. Just *look*.

And then we were so full. And it was hot. And after some necessary cooling in aforementioned Innoventions air conditioning, we rode Test Track. And I made a ridiculous face for the camera. I am a dork. The end.

I'll be back with my Best of the Fest post.

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