Monday, September 23, 2013

Our First Food Festival

Hello!  It's been a while!  I apologize for not updating more frequently.  Unfortunately, I started a new job last year that has taken a lot of my time and Schmambs has gone back to school, so that has left little opportunity for us to get together to get together and cook like we used to.  Instead, I've been left to my own devices to forage for food.  And by forage, I mean live on take-out.  Although I have mastered an amazing Minestrone soup, which one of these days I'll have to post for y'all.  

However, in anticipation of the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival that Schmambs and I are planning on attending next Sunday, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start the blog up again.  For those of you who aren't local, Phantom Gourmet holds a food festival near Fenway Park where they shut down the street and local vendors come and give out samples of what they have to offer.  It is a foodie's heaven.  I'll admit, last year, we tackled the food festival like amateurs.  We fasted before the festival, thinking we would have room for more food.  (We ended up getting full a lot quicker because of this error.)  We allowed ourselves to be pushed out of the way by other festival goers who were too impatient to wait in line, even though, everyone was going to get their free samples.  We didn't bring purses big enough to stuff all the take-home freebies.  The list goes on.  Now that we have one festival under our belt, we know how to handle ourselves this year.  Schmambs is taller and more intimidating so her job is to keep people at bay while I utilize my short stubby legs to dash in and grab our samples.  We hope that we will have a lot more success this year and able to hit a lot more vendor booths this way.

We didn't realize how big the event was until we walked through the entrance gate and we were greeted with this sight.  You literally had to shove people out of the way to get to where you wanted to go.  If I learned anything at all, it's that you should never get between people and free food.  Doing so could lead to a utter chaos, which at times, we experienced.

It's not fair that we keep all the delicious foods that we tried to ourselves, so today, I share our awesome finds with you.

This was one of the first items we tried.  It was shrimp in some type of sauce.  Unfortunately, with so many vendors, I forgot to take notes on where it was from.  This year, I will be bringing a notebook with me to keep track and therefore be able to tell you where to venture to get a chance to taste some of this stuff yourself!

Meatball and sauce from Teresa's Italian Eatery in Middleton, MA.  It was good, but it's nothing I would write home about.  In all honesty, I prefer Schmambs' homemade meatballs.  And I'm not just saying that because she's my best friend.  I can taste the love that went into making them in hers.  There was no love in this meatball.  Just mass production in an effort to advertise and hopefully get new patrons in their restaurant.

Chicken finger from the Chicken Connection in Haverhill, MA.  I would advise you to stay away from here.  It was soggy and kind of bland.  I don't know if it was because they had been sitting under their tent for a bit before it ended up in my hands, but I wasn't impressed.  I'd actually rather go to KFC and get myself some original recipe chicken strips.  But to be fair, I'm also not a huge fan of breaded chicken.

Sal's Homemade Potato Chips produced out of Bolton, MA.  I am a salty person and absolutely love potato chips.  These chips were phenomenal.  Since we were at a food festival with fresh hot food, these chips ended up coming home with me once all the other food had a chance to settle in my belly.  I was a little upset that I hadn't grabbed a couple more bags when we were there.  They are not like the chips you would find in your average bag of Lay's Potato Chips.  These are crunchy and a bit on the saltier side.  I've found them at a local store near my job and have purchased on a few occasions.  The price point is a bit high for the amount of chips you get, but well worth it.  It's the price you pay for "gourmet", I guess.

Now, this was a fabulous find.  Prior to the festival, I had glanced over the list of vendors that were expected on-site and when I saw these guys, I thought they were going to have actual cheesecakes.  You know, like the sweet stuff made of cream cheese and topped with cavity inducing sweet treats.  Boy, was I wrong!  And for once, I was okay with being wrong.  This is a bacon & clam cheesecake from Wicked Kickin' Savory Cheesecakes in New Bedford, MA.  Think of it as being quiche-like with a TON of flavor.  Plus there's bacon in it, and we all know how I feel about bacon.  I don't see them on the list of this year's vendors, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will somehow magically show up and maybe give me a cheesecake to myself.

This was a nice twist on guacamole.  Mediterranean Guacamole from Mezcal's Tequila Cantina in Worcester, MA.  They threw in a little sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.  Schmambs and I love a good guac and this was out of this world.  We're not terribly far from Worcester and we've been talking about taking a trip down for a Foodie Road Trip, but due to our schedules, it hasn't happened yet.  One of these days...

Lemon Sherbetter made by Gaga.  A creamy ice cream-like sherbert.  That's the best way I can explain this.  In a festival where most of the food we were trying was hot or room temperature, this was a nice treat. I've never seen this product in stores, but then again, I haven't been looking.  I don't need an ice cream that is "better" for me.  I'll stick to my Haagen Dazs thankyouverymuch.

Who doesn't love a good chicken pot pie?  It's ultimate comfort food, right?  Well, the chicken pot pie's I've eaten in the past include a lot more than just gravy and carrots.  This is a sample of the Chicken Pot Pie's you can pick up at Harrow's Chicken Pies in Medford, Reading, Saugus, and Tewskbury, MA.  This batch had just been cooked so it was nice and hot, but look at it!  The only color you have is the orange from the carrots.  I like more veggies in my pies.  Give me some peas!  Maybe some celery for texture!  Heck, I've had some pies that have had small cubes of potatoes in it!  This was just disappointing.  I'll take it if it's free, but I don't think I'd spend money or effort to go and purchase one of my own.

You can bet everyone was taking advantage of these freebies.  Grilled clams from Summer Shack in Boston.  I'm not a seafood eater, so this was all Schmambs.  For a freebie, they really put effort in their presentation.  Schmambs said they were succulent and delicious as well as the chorizo, bean, and corn salad that accompanied the clams.  They'll be there again this year and maybe I'll be adventurous and give them a shot.  Otherwise, I don't think I deserve the title of "Foodie" if I'm not willing to step out of my comfort zone.  Plus, it was at Summer Shack a couple of years ago that I tried Alaskan King Crab legs for the first time and realized they are one of the most amazing things in the land of seafood.  
This may not look like much.  It's BBQ Chicken Salad from the All Star Sandwich Bar in Cambridge, MA.  I think these guys should've taken some pointers from Summer Shack!  I tasted more bread than I did chicken salad.  I'm not a fan of traditional chicken salad (mayo and I have a weird relationship) so this was a nice spin on a traditional dish.  

Prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich.  I don't remember who the vendor was, but it was all right.  I am not a fan of fresh mozzarella, so this didn't do much for my taste buds.  I think I took one bite and dumped the rest because it was between holding on to it and snacking on it or picking up the next intriguing dish at the next booth.

Doesn't this look delicious?  Don't get too excited.  Looks can be deceiving.  Shot Cakes in Burlington, MA was offering their Red Velvet Ice Cream Cupcake.  Well, there was no ice cream as far as I could tell.  It seemed like they pumped them with icing which ended up giving me a bit of a toothache.  The cake part was yummu, but the fact that I don't get dental insurance with my job would be an issue if I chose to indulge in more than one of these at any given time.

This chowdah inspired our first ever Foodie Road Trip.  Have you ever tried something that you can't get it off your mind for days after?  Clam Chowdah from Cabby Shack in Plymouth, MA is probably the BEST clam chowdah I have EVER tasted.  No joke.  It is stick to your spoon thick and c'mon, they drizzle some butter on top of each and every bowl.  It hadn't even been 72 hours after the festival that Schmambs and I made an impulsive decision to drive down to Plymouth about an hour and a half away (on a work day) all for a simple bowl of chowdah.  If that doesn't convince you that this is a must try, I don't know what will.

Do you like sweet potato fries?  I like them when they are cooked right and are crispy.  These BBC Sweet Potato fries from Boston Burger Company in Boston and Somerville, MA were neither.  They tossed them in a sweet cinnamon syrupy type concoction made them soggy, which is why a fork was required to eat them.  Even Schmambs who usually likes sweet potato fries couldn't handle them and they ended up in the garbage.  Pass!

I don't know about you, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for food.  I think I've mentioned that in previous posts (see Schmanksgiving Eggrolls) so I was excited for this Thanksgiving Sandwich from Diblasi's Cold Cut Center in Everett, MA.  It's your basic Thanksgiving sandwich that you can get a a variety of places.  There wasn't anything that made this stand out from others that I have tried, but it was still pretty tasty.  Plus, Thanksgiving in do you go wrong?  Answer.  You don't.

Have you heard of this new franchise called Cheeseboy?  They make grilled cheese to go.  This is their Tomato and Basil sandwich and it is scrumptious.  Schmambs is an excellent cook so she is able to recreate this at home, but those who lack cooking skills, like yours truly, rely on places as fabulous as Cheeseboy.  The only thing missing was some hot tomato soup to dunk this sucker in.  Lucky for us, they opened one in our local mall and we often find ourselves eating there, not just for the food, but the fun of watching them run the bread through these rollers to butter them up.  Good times.

Island Oasis has some of the best frozen mixed drinks out there.  This Strawberry Daiquiri was super refreshing since there weren't many beverage tents and you had to pay for anything you wanted to drink.  The only thing that would've made this better was if they had added some alcohol in it.  It was a 21+ event, so I don't know why they didn't.  Come on Island Oasis!  Spoil us a little!

This was the perfect dish to end our first food festival experience.  Beer battered mozzarella stick with sauce from Jacob Wirth Restaurant in Boston.  Some mozzarella sticks you get out there taste like breaded string cheese and the breading is soggy by the time it reaches your mouth.  Maybe they don't cook it long enough or it's the wrong kind of breading.  These mozzarella sticks were crispy on the outside and oh so gooey on the inside.  I don't know if it was because it was super fresh or because the people at Jacob Wirth just know what they're doing, but man oh man.  Hats off to the chef!

It looks like this year we'll be experiencing some of the same foods and some different foods as well.  We'll be sure to take tons of pics of everything, so stay tuned.