Sunday, June 14, 2009

Waiting to Inhale: Our visit to The Great American Food Festival

On Saturday, June 13th I woke up groggy from being too excited to sleep all night. That's right. On this exciting day, my parents, Eric and I were going to get to romp around the Shoreline Amphetheater celebrating all things great about food and wine. We were going to go to the...drumroll please...GREAT AMERICAN FOOD AND MUSIC FESTIVAL! A self described celebration of great American food, chefs, musicians, and winemakers hosted by the Food Network's Bobby Flay and featuring Diners, Drive-Ins and Dive's Guy Fieri. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the Flay, Fieri or the Food Network...but seriously who could say no to participating in such an event?Unfortunately, what I had thought was going to be a celebration of food turned into an allegory of everything that is wrong with the Great American Food experience. The food was all quickly and unthinkingly prepared and thrown out to the ravenous hordes who cared less about what they were eating than with the fact that they were eating. I watched as people crammed entire sausages and bagels into their maws as they stood in line for chicken wings or endless (actually they did run out) cheesecake. There was no real respect shown for the chefs (only about twenty people in all sat around to listen to the demonstrations and they seemed to be there to either mock Bobby Flay or consume leftover demonstrations) or the winemakers (I saw someone actually pour a red wine sample into a white wine sample, just to get rid of the extra cup.) When we finally left, sunburned and sore, it was literally all I could do to keep my self from crying (anymore that is.)

All in all for me however, the real Great American Food experience was missing at the event. There were few, if any, local or organic vendors and zero vendors distributing information or education about food. As we stare into a future of morbid obesity and rampant diabetes, I can't say I am surprised. If we continue to accept a table where food is reduced to the mere consumption of calories, we deserve to suffer the consequences. I hope that over the next year, we can through blogging and conversation, change this mindset. I'd love to see Bobby Flay throw down with Bistro Burger, but I'd also love to see seasonal ingredients on Iron Chef every once and a while. Maybe my expectations are too high or I'm too judgmental, but if what I saw last night is a celebration of Great American anything, I think I might need to make a move.

And as always, we welcome dissent and disagreement, so please let us know what your experiences or opinions on the Great American food experience really is. I would certainly love to be wrong this time.

Recuerde, para el hombre no hay mal pan...

Hippo image courtesey of flickr user Carbonnyc

Gory details about the day after the jump

I packed up my water bottle and slathered on the sunscreen and ate a nice light pea and mushroom carbonara for lunch (the ticket price includes your first plate of food for free!) And I was so ready to get my grub on as we pulled into the parking lot across from the amphitheater. We made the dusty walk to the Amphitheater, talking about what demonstrations we wanted to see and what plate of food we wanted to try.

However, all my dreams were dashed once they took my ticket. The first thing that greeted us was a sea of people, mostly obese, standing in line waiting to inhale anything edible. The place was a madhouse of screaming children (anyone under six apparently got in free) and starving adults on their fourth or fifth plate of food (the next tier of ticket up from ours was an all-you-can-eat pass.) My parent's finally talked me into paying $12 for a beer and we made our way through the crowd to get to the actual amphitheater and found a shady place to watch the Burger throw down.

It was really fun to actually see Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell on stage (even though from our vantage point they each stood about two inches high.) And, we loved the way that the chef from Bistro burger made him squirm when he challenged him to a throw down. All of the chefs were from San Francisco, representatives from Mo's, Pearl's, Bistro Burger and Burgermeister put down some of the best plates of hamburgers that I could imagine eating and each were unique in their presentation. Pearl's rocked out a kickin' bison burger and Burgermeister topped their burger with triple cream brie! And the smells coming off the stage can only be described as heavenly.

After the Burger throw down, we decided to grab a plate of food and come back to enjoy the music of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Le sigh, it was not meant to be. My folks went to Tony Luke's to grab us a few Philly cheesestake sandwiches ($8) (whiz wit, of course!) And, Eric and I went to the Katz pastrami sandwich ($12) line. Fast forward to an hour later and Eric and I have moved up approximately two feet in line (mostly due to people abandoning the ship, not people actually getting food.) The sun is literally beating down on us, and we're all feeling a little bit sick watching people in line cram down food from the other lines while waiting in this line for either a pastrami sandwhich or a dozen chicken wings ($12.) Luckily my parent's had made more progress so we asked them to grab us a sandwhich and bailed after spending a total of an hour and fifteen minutes in line to no avail.

My folks grabbed two cheesestakes and two roast pork sandwiches (the vendors had all run out of sides by this point) and we headed over to the kitchen aid demonstration stage to pull up some lawn and park ourselves to eat the sandwiches. We each enjoyed half of a cheesestake and half of a roast pork sandwich while listening to Aida Mollenkamp demonstrate how to make tacos and agua fresca using kitchen aid equipment. After eating and lingering to watch the end of the presentation, we headed back past the pastrami and wings line. And yes, almost two and a half hours later and the woman who had been ahead of us was just placing her order. Bless her patience, I think I would have started to gnaw on Eric had I been forced to wait that long.

We didn't have much more in us at that point, so we headed toward the exit. But, on our way out, I had the rare opportunity to see a twenty something, bro-ish and bulky guy yelling "What do you mean they ran out of cheesecake? I love cheesecake, I need cheesecake!!" Ok, he actually used more explicit language in between those words, but I thought I'd leave them out for the sake of my soul. I could not believe that this guy was freaking out so much, especially when he already had an It's-It in one hand and a beer in the other.

As we left the amphitheater, it was all I could do not to jog. Seeing all of the grotesque obesity and food inhalation made me feel fat and slow. I wanted to run and do jumping jacks and become a vegan. And most especially, I wanted to get home so that I could eat some, shudder, yes vegetables! Because I am one of those crazy people who typically eat three to four times as many vegetables as proteins and so far I had been left out in the cold. Once we finally made it back home, Eric lovingly prepared some delicious whole beet soup for me with fresh beets from the back yard and all was back to normal.


hkydiva said...

I think you were mistaken about one thing. People were scarfing down food and not caring what they were eating because they were starving. Folks were in line at 11:30 to get in, in line to get a wristband and then in line to say, try to get some Pastrami, which meant some folks were in line for almost five hours without food.

You were right though, about there not being anything veggie like unless you consider the few onion pieces and some pickles I got with my $12 brisket!