As soon as we got in the car, Jasper started screaming bloody murder and the rain picked up from a drizzle to an event dampening light shower. I could see the headline, “Rain Wets Broad Street’s Appetit.” We debated turning around as I became increasingly pessimistic. Sneaking in the back way (Two Street), we parked next to the Wachovia, but forgot to get cash at the ATM. “I’m sure they’ll have cash machines at this thing. After all, Broad Street is revitalized.”
Well, there were no ATMs and the vendors only took cash and the rain started pouring and Cous Cous didn’t have mock chicken tagine, and… is that Jasper crying? No. It was my tantrum this time. I imagined Broad Apetit being small and pathetic, but it was big and impressive (and crowded!). Nothing pleased me. This was a foodie pity party in the making. Then, we tried the grub and everything changed. The clouds parted (intermittently), hunger pangs subsided, crankiness waned, and Jasper slept for the duration. By the end, we had spent $21 on food for two and we were obscenely stuffed. Cha-ching! It was like a cross between a gourmet State Fair and playing Top Chef judge for Richmond’s most popular eateries. Here’s the rundown on our purchases:
Cous Cous: Vegan spanakopita w/tofu and nuts
I went for the mock-chicken tagine, but they didn’t have it. Instead, they offered a phyllo dough triangle stuffed with tofu, nuts, and all sorts of tasty goodness (no clue). Since my wife and I were splitting everything, I made a fauz-paz by asking for two pastries for an extra buck. Not a cool move on my part. Every food item had a set price of $3. I learned and adjusted quickly.
Six Burner: Scallop ceviche with watermelon, cucumbers, and jalapenos
It was bay scallops, which bring out the snob in me. I love ceviche, but I thought the juice was a little too light (needed more lime/jalapeno). Karen liked it though. And she’s really skeptical about savory watermelon dishes.
Comfort: Deviled egg w/curry sausage and watercress. Fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce
This was Karen’s one meat treat and she dug it, although she doesn’t usually like sausage that much. I decided that I’ve never had a deviled egg that was either good or bad. They’re all just fair to middling in my book (including Comfort’s). The fried green tomatoes were awesome, but the portion was especially small. We make these at home as soon as we’ve got unripe fruit on the vine and our sauce is about the same as this remoulade.
Hidden Treasure: Parmasan and pepper crusted salmon atop a tomato and pecan risotto
These folks were not busy at all, but the food sounded good. They heaped it on the plate, which pleased us both. Karen said the salmon was fishy, but I thought it was all tasty enough, especially the roasted pecans in the risotto.
Enoteca Sogno: White bean and tuna salad
Karen loves white beans and after one bite she was insisting that we make this to take to work for lunch. The tuna was scant, but Karen confessed to eating a big chunk before I got the plate. Lemon juice and olive oil tossed with bitter greens. Mmmmmm… I’ll soak those beans in roasted garlic spiked broth and lunch will be extra special.
Louisiana Flair: Beignets with Mississippi blueberry sauce
After hitting Cafe du Monde 3-4 times during Marti-Gras in 1999, I have been pining for another authentic plate of fried dough N’awlins style. Can Can? Not even close (although serviceable with their strong coffee). These little puffs really took me back. Straight out of the flyer, steaming when we ripped them open, and they melted in our mouthes. The cinnimony blueberry sauce was likewise addictive.
Stuff we really wanted to try, but they ran out or we didn’t want to brave the line:
- Savor: Java Tempehwich
- 1 North Belmont: Coffee smoked scallops
- Tarrantino’s Pizza: It looked like NY style and I saw several people using napkins to mop the grease off the top of each slice. Mmmmmm…
- Personal Chef to Go: Blue corn crusted West Indian curried lobster and crab cake
- Tarant’s: We’ve never been, but the chalkboard sign out front made us want to walk right in with full stomachs and try the fish tacos.
And the winner is:
Karen said the beignets were her fave. Yeah, yeah. Everyone loves dessert. Of the savory foods, what was the best? It was unanimous. The flavorful phyllo pastries at Cous Cous knocked our socks off. And I’m not giving the prize to these folks cuz it was my first bite of food and they bent the rules for me, by selling me an extra pastry. It was simply satisfying as hell. There was a plate of cous cous involved too, but neither of us are wild about that stuff in general (although I ate every bite). The lunches I’ve had at the restaurant haven’t impressed me that much, but I recognize that they’re gaining in popularity for a reason. Maybe it’s time that Karen and I give Cous Cous another try.
Runner up goes to: The three dollar plate idea. We tried seven things and split every one of them. An affordable way to satisfy many curiosities; just the way I like to dine. They say the event is going to be annual. I think it should be weekly (not feasible, I know). About 5,000 people showed up and many of the yummiest sounding dishes were all gone half-way into the day. So, kudos to those who pulled this together.
As I write this, NBC12 News at Eleven is showing footage of a throng of white people milling about downtown carrying little plates of food. The newscaster is explaining that Broad Appetit’s goal was to bring people downtown who don’t usually venture there “and push the crime out.” WTF? My gluttonous impulses do not make me a superhero crime-fighter. Is it just me, or is there a bit of a message embedded here? I understand the downtown revitalization theme, but the blocks between Belvidere and 1st Streets aren’t especially dangerous. I counted 10, mostly non-violent crimes on the Broad Appetit stretch of the street so far in 2008. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broad Appetit’s promotion was similar to the outreach effort for the Charrette’s first installment, resulting in a mostly white turnout, but maybe NBC12 was putting words in the mouth of the event, by labeling “crime” as the issue (it’s really a white fear issue). I dunno, it just seems like that same old racial polarization and crappy Richmond media spin. Nonetheless, the food was damned good.