After receiving our VIP bracelets, we were given our VIP “plate”—a frisbee with the Serious Eats logo on it. Not only was this good marketing, but along with the recyclable drinking glasses, it helped the Serious Eats crew keep the festival’s environmental impact very low compared to other food festivals.
While we waited for the festival to start, Serious Eats writers Adam Kuban and Ed Levine walked around handing out bottled waters while chatting up the anxious attendees. In addition, staffers walked around with trays of Sullivan Street Bakery’s Strecci. The Strecci was made from their pizza bianca dough, coated in olive oil, lightly salted and was topped with delicious cherry tomatoes. Feeding the line was a smart move by Serious Eats, and the crowd loved it.
Once the clock struck noon, Ed Levine stood at the gate of the festival with a big grin on his face. He thanked us all for coming and asked if we were excited to get our sandwich on. The crowd responded with a resounding “YES!”
I was personally most excited to try Serious Eats’s own J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s famous In-N-Out, Telway, White Manna Ultimate Animal-Style Slider Mashup. It was the number one reason why we arrived so early to be first in line. As soon as Ed Levine gave the green light, I ran to Kenji’s booth as he cooked his first official batch on two portable flat-top grills. He used the Telway cloth towel method to steam the sliders, which were essentially prepared White Manna style where the beef and buns are griddled over a bed of onions and topped with melted American cheese and pickles. Kenji prepared an In-N-Out style sauce for these sliders, similar to their famous spread. The beef was perfectly seasoned and the sliders delicious. Chris commented that the onions weren’t as charred as he would have hoped due to temperature constraints of the portable grills, but I loved them nevertheless.
After the delicious sliders, we indulged our love for pork products with Gramercy Tavern’s House-Smoked Ham & Cheese. This delicious “ham and cheese on crack” was topped with pickled vegetables and garlic aioli. The bread was perfectly crusty and chewy, and the attention to detail on the ingredients was amazing. I for one, can not wait to go to the Gramercy Tavern to eat this sandwich again.
The next sandwich that we tried was the Locanda Verde Lamb Meatball Slider. Wow. These sliders are topped with Caprino cheese, which is an Italian goat’s milk cheese that pairs perfectly with the lamb. Then, a pickle is added for crunch. The mini buns were delicious as well. It’s very hard to say whose slider we liked better, because each was fantastic in its own way.
After three sandwiches, our bellies were starting to get full so it was time for a dessert break. While Brooke and Chris opted for the Bea Arthur from Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, I went for a lighter Blueberry Apricot flavored popsicle from People’s Pops. This was not your average popsicle, as it contained chunks of fresh fruit and serious TLC. They were in love with the rich vanilla cone topped with dulce de leche and coated in ‘nilla wafers.
Enjoying the “sweet” theme, our next sandwich choice was the Peanut Butter & Co Elvis—peanut butter, banana & honey with optional bacon. Having had plenty of meat already, we skipped the bacon. The sandwich is grilled, giving it a nice buttery crunch. For anyone who grew up eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, this version no doubt brought back wonderful memories of childhood.
The last sandwiches we tried were the Salumeria Biellese’s Culatello with grilled peaches and mint followed by the ‘wichcraft Grilled Pork Belly topped with slaw. The mint popped on the Culatello so it was very refreshing, and it also had proscuitto which paired well with the peaches. We weren’t overly excited about the bread ‘wichcraft used in comparison to some of the other sandwiches, so we ended up eating the pork belly and slaw without the bread.
Stuffed and unable to eat anymore, Brooke and I enjoyed palette cleansing glasses of Montinore Estate Pinot Gris to close an excellent festival. Chris consumed a glass of Firestone Walker Brewing Company Double Jack Imperial IPA—he couldn’t say enough about how delicious this craft beer was.
Beyond the unlimited culinary and beverage treats, we were struck by how laid back the festival was overall. The VIP bracelets helped in skipping a few lines, but for most vendors they weren’t even necessary. Adding to the attendee-first vibe, staffers were always walking around handing out water and even cooling us down by spraying mist bottles. For entertainment, Drew Citron played multiple sets of folky pop music while we relaxed in lawn chairs. Many people brought blankets to spread out all over the lawn. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, there was huge consideration taken to minimizing the festival’s impact on the environment, and it showed in how little garbage the festival produced. We saw Ed Levine on our way out and Chris gushed at how well run the festival was. Ed was not only pleased, but told us he hopes to see us when they do it again next summer. This was music to our ears, as we are looking very forward to going back in 2012.