Hitting this year’s Broad Appetit, we went early to beat the crowds, brought plenty of water, wore a thick layer of sun screen, and timed our visit prior to Jasper’s nap. Just before leaving the house, we accepted an invitation to 5:30 dinner, so we had to eat early and fast enough to be hungry again five hours later.
Having attended the past two years, with my wife designing their map and schedule two years running, I felt like a Broad Appetit veteren, versed in the art of hunting and gathering for effective gluttony, aka, ‘the slow dude movement.’ Pace yourself. Avoid needless carbs, etc. And yet, with family in tow, I ran through the event like a kid (on Ritalin) in a candy store.
Small Blurbs for Small Plates
Waving to Chef Andy at Cafe Rustica was the first order of business. He was offering a gourmet corn dog… okay, it was a local bratwurst battered and fried on a stick. Karen reluctantly took one. It looked like a real commitment of meatiness and it was. Tasty, but too much to finish considering all the options. But, we did return for dessert.
Since the meat stick was my wife’s deal, I stopped at Cous Cous and got a phyllo pie with nuts and tofu inside. They called it b’stilla. In past years, I had it and said ‘b’stilla my heart,’ but this time around, the single unadorned triangle seemed a little stingy for $3. At least it whetted my appetite.
Next, we diverted into dessert: Veronica’s Petites Bouchees. I’ve hyped her bakery magic enough already. If I had one wish, it would be to see these tasty macarons available in the refrigerated case at a local gourmet shop somewhere downtown. But, what can I say? I’m a dreamer. (peeps. make it happen)
Around this time, I passed Acacia’s stand. Even at the early hour, the excitement for their softshell crab sliders was evident in the line, 6-8 people deep. However, I counted nearly 10 different sliders on Broad Appetit’s menu and wasn’t having any of the ubiquitous (even if appropriate) dish. Also, living so close to Acacia and avoiding softshells since this encounter, I’d like to partake of their prix fixe or awesome fish entrees at Cary and Robinson instead of this small plate affair.
Still savoring our macarons, I popped by Balliceaux booth for a Lamplighter Thai iced coffee (passed on their slider). I know we’re supposed to reduce our emphasis on value, but all that ice left me with four big sips of strong and cold coffee. Just sayin. Also, about this time, Karen and I checked in with each other about feeling generally underwhelmed by the food and hoping for better stuff to come along (it did).
Last year, I was floored by Sensi’s berries and zabayon. This year, their crab beignet had people talking before the event even began. And, it was good. But the filling more so than the spongy dough. Assuming they made them ahead, they didn’t fare well under the heat lamp. On the other hand, the eggplant caponata crostini was delicious! This all sat atop delicate and wonderfully dressed arugula. A highlight for me and Karen both.
By this point, I realize that I am spending money uncharacteristically freely. But, it’s a passing thought. Hey, I can’t make it to all of these places the rest of the year, so this is my shot. Laissez les bons temps rouler.
Sauntering up to the Tastebud’s American Bistro booth (no line or fanfare), I explain that I’ve heard nothing but good things and hope to visit one day. Then I took a Thai pork curry and crepe back to Karen. My taste was a thumbs up. Yes. I tasted the pork. I’m too fascinated by flavors to be an absolutist about my vegetarianism. Consider it my meals tax on everything my wife eats (she doesn’t finish most things anyways). Anyhow, this dish was about to get overshadowed.
While I was bringing Karen one pork dish, she had giddily procured Six Burner’s grilled porkbelly with Asian sauce and summer slaw. She wanted to know what the big deal is about pork belly and Six Burner’s relatively new meat-centric chef. One taste is all she needed. “Holy shit, this is good.” I didn’t hear another word out of her until the plate was clean. Later she explained how the sauce was sour and pungent, just the way she likes it. Pigs of the world, go on a diet, or Six Burner is going to trim your fat (cute) bellies. Not to gloss over the accompanying summer slaw, but the ginger limeade that Six Burner was slinging was our favorite drink of the day.
When Jasper got too crazy to contain (he slept bad the night before), we let him out of the stroller and Karen sent me back to get some orange-vanilla Italian ice from I dunno which vendor. That’s when I ran into Ed from Richmond Goodlife (who I hafta thank for this mobile menu of dishes). Ed let me taste his fried wild mushroom risotto cake from Bistro 27. It may have been stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, but I found it dry and starchy in a bad way.
Popping by Olio’s booth, I thanked Jason Savedoff for letting me take some of his “00″ pizza dough to a woodfired pizza party (it was very good stuff). Since truffles were advertised, I had to have their adult mac’n'cheese with jumbo lump crab. The truffley aroma was awesome, but Karen’s pregnancy-induced hyperactive sense of smell means I can’t bring it around her. My portion had plenty of crab, but by this point I was feeling too gluttonous to really get into something this heavy. Also, the scorchingly hot weather might have affected the morney sauce, making it oily and a far cry from the gazpacho that I had started craving.
But wait, there’s more. Karen had a plan from the beginning to return to Cafe Rustica’s booth for the chocolate mousse. So, she went off and came back with it. The flavor was intensely cocoa-centric and rich with whatever dairy product is so effectively used in a mousse. Nearing the end of it, we surrendered it to Jasper, so he’d stay in his stroller.
No Mas. No Mas.
On our way back to the car, I pulled out my remaining $5 and bought Karen some jerk chicken wings from Carena’s and a Ting soda to boot. Those were for later in the day, should she get peckish (on the command of the little boy in her belly, due Oct 12th).
I’m not gonna give superlative type awards that are clearly laid out with bullet points. The praise is pretty well evident in the text here and I didn’t get to try everything (maybe 25%?). My wife and I each had our favorites. We went all out and enjoyed the ups and downs of the day. Everybody who attended had their favorites, and who’s to say we’re not all right? (#sensi caponata, for the win) The real winners are the restaurants that attract new business all year long because they impressed people during this big day. I expect Six Burner and Olio will be crowded places in the weeks to come. Sensi too. But, Tarrant’s turned me on to their pizza during the first Broad Appetit, and I didn’t even buy any. So, who’s to say who the big winners will be really. One thing’s for sure, extra big praise should go to whoever served gazpacho, the most appropriate dish for the sweltering weather.
UPDATE: From, event sponsor, Richmond’s Magazine’s twitter feed :
- Dish of year at BA acacia and its soft shell with stuffed squash blossoms
- Peoples choice award at broad appetit: bull and bear with crab and oyster spoonbread sliders
- Runner up dish of year at Broad appetit: gibsons and the Boursin buffalo sliders
- Broad appetit dessert winner was avenue 805 w sweet cream cheese and raspberry profiteroles
- Broad appetit healthy dish winner:mosaic with firecracker salmon over grilled fennel sweet potato and artichokes and beets
Broad appetit dessert runner up imperial catering with chocolate pate with strawberry coulis
- And finally the ambience award to ur’s culinary school at broad appetit
ps: Reinforcing my point about everyone having their own tastes, these matters can be really subjective, since we’re all considering different varibles/criteria. I didn’t hear a word about any of these contestants on Twitter or while walking among the crowd and rubbing elbows. However, Sliderpalooza lived up to its name (I just made it up), with Acacia’s generous expenditure of softshell crab sliders and Gibson’s repeat victory with their cheese stuffed buffalo sliders and the ‘People’s Choice’. Whoa. Maybe the scores were tabulated using a slide(r) rule?