Monday, August 11, 2014

Taste of Broadway 2014

I don't know about you guys, but when a culinary extravaganza is coming to the area, I get excited. Really excited. The hours before I leave work and walk down Broadway, I'm imagining streets filled with wonderful smells and sample portions of deliciousness; my mouth is constantly salivating. Needless to say, when Taste of Broadway came around, the salivary glands were functioning on high.

Upon my arrival at Taste of Broadway, I purchased the "tokens" (one token = $1)  necessary to buy food from the vendors and discovered something completely maddening. When I purchased my tokens, I was told that if I wished to enjoy alcoholic beverages, I would have to be wearing a wristband that I would have to purchase for one token ($1). Meaning I would have to pay $1 to wear a wristband proving that I was of legal drinking age, even though I had a perfectly good driver's license with me FOR FREE proving I was of legal drinking age. I can understand the logic of the wristbands, speeding up the process for those buying beverages because vendors wouldn't have to look at every I.D. But paying $1 to prove I can drink, especially when all the beers were then 5 tokens ($5)? That was a bit ridiculous. Even more so considering the person who sold me my wristband didn't even check my I.D. to make sure I was legal to drink. The wristbands should have either been provided for free, or the beers should have been 4 tokens instead. I know the high cost of the beers kept me from purchasing a second one. Bad move by the committee's part on that one. If that is the case next year as well, I certainly won't be buying drinks.

Back to the main event of Taste of Broadway: the food. I walked down one side of the vendors, perusing my options and mentally making note of the ones to come back to. My first stop was a bit of comfort food from NorthBrook Country Club. I had never heard of NorthBrook before, but they were offering a Wisconsin grilled cheese with bacon that looked hard to resist.

The quality bacon was done perfectly, the toast was very average, but the cheese hadn't quite turned to a coagulated state, which is always a bonus. However, I paid either 2 or 3 tokens for a piece of grilled cheese that could fit in my palm. The quality to cost ratio didn't add up in my book. 

My next stop was The Bottle Room's booth. They had an Ahi Tuna taco that caught my eye when I walked by. I'm a sucker for properly cooked Ahi Tuna. I had never eaten at The Bottle Room and had heard mixed reviews, so I was definitely keeping my eyes and tastebuds open. 

The taco was wonderful. The generous portion of tuna tartare mixed with the fresh vegetables, the cilantro, and the lime sauce was very pleasing, and honestly, a welcomed surprise. The owners of The Bottle Room are friends of mine, and I am so relieved to see they have quality people in the kitchen that match the quality of the people in the front-of-house. Granted, I only tried one dish, but I will most definitely be back to try more. If I had to pick on something, I would say the cilantro bordered on excessive, but I didn't find it offensive. Bravo to The Bottle Room!

Walking down the row brought me to CasSandra's booth. Once again, I had not had the chance to eat at CasSandra's yet, but my dad had given it some high praise, so I thought it worth a stop. For those of you who don't know, my dad is a fellow gastronomic with a far more experienced palate. I ordered the paella, a dish of seafood, rice, and spices, which looked hearty and filling.

For those of you who don't know, traditional paella is served with the shells still on the shellfish. As you can see above, this paella was served in the traditional manner. However, I think the type of event should have been taken into consideration before deciding to stick with tradition. Taste of Broadway isn't an event where there is ample room to sit down, use a fork and a knife (or even your hands), and remove the shells. People are walking around and shoveling food in with the nearest utensil. Besides holding their plate in one hand, they have a beer in the other, a camera around their neck, a phone attached to their ear, etc. This type of juggling is not conducive for removing shells. I had to give up and stick the whole shrimp in my mouth, chew through the shell, and spit the shell out. It definitely took away from enjoying the flavors and the dish itself, which was quite lovely once I got past the shells. In this case, I would advise leaning away from tradition and letting the great flavors of the dish bring people into the restaurant, where customers can be shown the traditional styles. 

My final stop was at OJ's Midtown Restaurant's booth. I had never heard of OJ's before, but they were serving a chocolate raspberry dessert that had caught my eye from the beginning. I definitely wasn't disappointed.

The raspberries were fresh, the chocolate ganache top was perfect, and there wasn't too much filling. It was an excellent end to the event.

My overall experience at Taste of Broadway left me wanting more. Not more food, I was definitely stuffed when I left. I think perhaps I built up the event in my head more than I should have. I was hoping for more creative dishes in greater variety, better prices, better music, and an all-around more satisfying experience. I had a chance to talk with one of the judges from the event. This judge mentioned that Hinterland had a wonderful dish (how I missed this, I will never forgive myself!), as well as Cheesecake Heaven and OJ's Midtown Restaurant, which I wholeheartedly agree. Still, I found myself quickly looking for an "out" when my attention was wandering. I have to say, I think that once I had devoured the tuna taco from The Bottle Room and had the chance to lick my plate clean from OJ's, the best part of my night was sitting down at the Lorelei and sipping on a refreshing mojito. Better luck next year, Taste of Broadway, or at least I hope so!

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