Event Review: 13th Annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser

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Event Name: 13th Annual Empty Bowls Fundraising Event
Purpose:        Raise awareness and funds to address local homelessness and hunger
Hosts:             Catholic Family Center of Rochester, NY  
Location:       Eastman Kodak Theater on the Ridge, Rochester, NY
When:             Thursday, October 20, 2016, 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Cost:               $30 in advance, $40 at the door
Website:         https://www.cfcrochester.org/events/

I attended this event as a volunteer, to meet a requirement for my Event Planning class. The assignment required that I spend a minimum of two hours volunteering for a special event, and then submit a report detailing my observations, including a review of the menu, location, staffing, preparation/planning and overall experience. In addition I was tasked with discussing suggestions for improving the event, what was done especially well and what I gained from the experience.  Shown below are the highlights of my report. 

Event Overview

Empty Bowls is a fundraising event aimed at raising awareness and funds to fight homelessness and hunger in towns and cities across the nation. In its 13th year, the Rochester event is going strong.  Guests purchase a ticket to enjoy a simple but delicious supper of bread and soup, as well as desserts, live music and a silent auction. Area artists donate small bowls and original works of art to the cause. During the event, each guest picks a bowl to keep and can bid on the art work, if desired. This year’s event boasted close to 600 guests.

Venue

Easel Board at Registration Table, 13th Annual Empty Bowls
Easel Board at Registration Table, 13th Annual Empty Bowls, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The venue for this event was the Eastman Kodak Theatre on the Ridge, in the upstairs cafeteria.  This was a new location for the event, as they had outgrown the capacity of previous locations.

Parking was free and plentiful in a well-lit, adjacent lot.  I was pleased that two off-duty police officers were hired to aid guests with crossing the busy road on the dark and rainy night of the event.

The registration table was placed in the first floor lobby, directly across from the main entrance. This provided a convenient welcome area for guests to pick up or purchase tickets before being directed to the upstairs cafeteria, which was accessible by both an elevator and an escalator.

The 1100-seat cafeteria was spacious – cavernous actually. It was a good fit for the event, however, because of the available kitchen and cafeteria style service set-up.  Upon arriving two hours before the event start, I noticed that the space was truly a blank canvass, with bare white walls, high ceilings and lots of stainless steel and glass fixtures.  However, by the time the event started, staff and volunteers had miraculously transformed the space into a warm and casual, yet welcoming venue.

Food and Beverages

The menu was simple, but delicious and appropriate for the event.  The menu featured 15 hot soups from area restaurants and caterers, including.

  • Black Bean Pumpkin Bisque
  • Cream of Mushroom
  • Buffalo Chicken
  • Meatball Minestrone
  • Butternut Squash
  • Rajun Cajun
  • Pasta Faggioli
  • Creamy Tomato
  • Basil Bisque with Smoked Gouda
  • Italian Wedding
  • Autumn Harvest
  • French Onion
  • Cream of Chicken with Wild Rice
  • Autumn Bisque
  • Highland Cheddar Ale

Other items on the menu included fresh sliced baguette bread, packaged butter pats, and trays of assorted cold vegetables with dip. The brochure also mentioned tossed green salad, although I didn’t see that available to guests.

in-soup-line
Soup Service Line, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Coffee and Tea Self-service, Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Coffee and Tea Self-service Cart, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteers were encouraged to partake of the menu items after completing our assignments; I though that was a gracious offer. I tried three of the soups: Autumn Bisque, Black Bean Pumpkin Bisque, and Cream of Chicken with Wild Rice. I expected simple broths, yet these soups were much more than that.  My favorite was the Autumn Bisque – it was creamy, hearty and satisfying.  Filled with tastes of fall, this bisque had a unique squash taste that brought back memories of Thanksgivings past. The Cream of Chicken soup was rich and tasty as well.  The Black Bean Pumpkin Bisque was not what I expected, but still a nice treat.  It was thicker than most bisques though, bordering on a stew. I especially liked that many of the soups featured a fall theme, which fit perfectly with the time of year and the décor. The bread was fresh and soft; a great accompaniment to hot soup and perfect for dipping into the thicker soups and bisques, or topping with butter.

Dessert: Custard with cookie cigars, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Dessert: Custard with cookie cigars and chocolate chips, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Let’s talk about the luscious desserts.  The event coordinator explained to the volunteers that the desserts were to be served to each table this year, to avoid last year’s dessert table stampede.  That piqued my interest – what was so great about the desserts that they had to be cautiously served?

First, the variety of desserts was impressive. They ranged from custard with cookie cigars,  and pudding, to brownies, and a myriad of cookie options.

Second, the desserts were phenomenal – admittedly, I tried most of them and can attest that none disappointed! Before the servers could even walk a few steps, they were stopped by guests who wanted two or three of each one.

Coffee and Tea Self-service, Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Coffee and Tea Self-service, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella

In addition, guests were treated to self-serve coffee, tea and water via a quaint, free-standing beverage cart.

Décor

A fall theme dominated the décor for this event. For the first few hours of my volunteer experience, I was tasked with creating 40+ fall-themed table centerpieces, using a variety of real and manufactured décor items.  As resources were scarce, I was instructed to make the centerpieces simple, yet attractive.  Shown below are a sampling of my centerpiece creations.

Table Centerpieces waiting to be placed on tables, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Table Centerpieces waiting to be placed on tables, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

In addition, the “Empty Bowls” theme carried through the event via logo tablecloths and logo aprons worn by the staff and volunteers.

Entertainment

Musical Entertainment, Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Musical Entertainment, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella

A four-person band entertained guests throughout the evening, with live music and song. Unfortunately, the band was not identified in the event marketing materials or within the event.  I enjoyed their sets of music and think that they provided nice background music within the rather noisy space.

 

Silent Auction

The Silent Auction was the breakout star of this event.  Area artists donated small bowls, original works of art, retail items and a few antiques, making this auction one of the most diverse I have ever seen.  Several dozen items were available for bidding via bid sheets placed next to each item. Bidders wrote in their bids and then waited to see if anyone wrote in another bid – this led to some obvious malingering (stalking?) as several persistent bidders offered a series of increasingly higher bids, in hopes of winning their favorite item. Staggered bid closing times among the tables helped keep the auction moving along.

Table of donated bowls for silent auction, Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Table of donated bowls for silent auction, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Silent Auction, Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella
Silent Auction – table of donated items, Photo Courtesy: Andrea Montanarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Auction - Gift Basket, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Silent Auction – Gift Basket, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Silent Auction, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Silent Auction – Garment, Photo Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another part of my volunteer experience was to assist with the silent auction by ensuring that guests did not pick up or handle the action items. This was a very difficult job because most bidders wanted to touch the items. However, I did enjoy watching bidders try to outbid each other with written bids – a little bidding competition certainly makes for great fundraising.

Overall Experience

I really enjoyed this experience, both as a volunteer and as a guest.

Part of my Event Planning class paper included an analysis of what was done especially well, suggestions for improving the event and what I gained from the experience.

The CFC team did a great job with this event, doing many things quite well, such as:

  • Offering hundreds of ceramic bowls – as I helped unpack the donated bowls, I was surprised by the sheer number of them.  In addition to choosing a bowl to take home as part of the admission price, guests could also purchase additional bowls for a $20 donation.  Guests certainly had a staggering variety of bowls from which to choose; a friend chose a dog bowl, for example.
  • Tasty soup – the soup was tasty, hot and plentiful (in amount and number of choices).
  • Excellent service – all of the volunteers were kind, courteous, helpful and efficient.  A spirit of helpfulness and generosity pervaded the event.

Although the event was a huge success, I have the following suggestions for making it even better next year:

  • Identify the band – they were integral to setting the tone of the event, yet I did not see them listed in the brochure and there was no signage to identify them.
  • Promotional videos – place small screens throughout the venue, showing a video about CFC and what they do.  With this, CFC can inform guests about their services.
  • Recipe book – compile the soup recipes into a simple recipe book and offer it for sale at the event.  A friend who attended the event suggested this idea to one of the organizers and it was well received. The only catch, she was told, is that some of the restaurants/caterers may not want to divulge their secret recipes.
  • Amp up the event description – the event was advertised as simple supper, yet the meal really was quite hearty. I suggest repositioning the advertising to show the event as simple, but the supper as hearty and satisfying.

In addition to the warm feeling of being helpful to others, I also learned the following about the job of an event planner:

  • Be ready to do whatever is needed.
  • Start earlier than planned because most tasks will take longer than you think.
  • Make do with what you have because there seldom are funds to acquire more resources – reuse and recycle.
  • Please and thank you (and a sincere attitude) go a long way

I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event!

***

Event Review: Second Annual Webster Garlic Festival 2016 (Webster, NY)

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Event Name:  Webster Garlic Festival
Purpose:        Webster Miracle Field: an adaptive field for athletes with developmental and physical challenges. Rochester Beep Baseball.

Hosts:             Webster Kiwanas, Webster Lyons, Webster Rotary    
Location:       Webster Parks and Recreation 1350 Chiyoda Dr,  Webster, NY  
When:             September 10 and 11, 2016 (Sat: 10am-6pm, Sun: 10am-5pm)
Cost:               Adults: $5, Children under 16 free
Website:         www.webstergarlicfestival.com

Event Overview

This second annual, two-day event celebrates everything garlic, with over 80 indoor and outdoor booths featuring garlic vendors, arts and craft vendors, and garlic-infused food products, as well as food and beverage vendors, musical entertainment and cooking demonstrations.   If it’s related to garlic, you’ll find it here.  This is a fun community event which not only celebrates all things garlic, but also supports the community through donations to initiatives such as Miracle Field, an adaptive sports filed for athletes with developmental and physical challenges.

Venue

Moved from its inaugural location, this year’s event took place at the Webster Recreation Center in Webster, NY.  The recreation center was a great venue for this event, as it allowed for both indoor and outdoor vendors, as well as an indoor space for cooking demonstrations.  With the majority of vendors inside, they were well positioned in case of a washed out weekend.

Parking was plentiful, in a large lot across the street from the venue.  Organizers provided a school bus to transport attendees from the parking area to the front door of the recreation center, and back again. Although it wasn’t that far of a walk, that was a nice convenience.

All About Garlic

There was no shortage of garlic here.  Over 15 farmers and growers displayed their bounty in booths both indoors and outdoors. I was surprised that there was such a plethora of garlic growers in our area in Western New York State. There was bulk garlic and bags of garlic, baskets of garlic and bushels of garlic.  At one vendor booth (photo below), half-pound bags of garlic sold for $7.50 each.

Bags of garlic for sale, courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Bags of Garlic for Sale, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 - Bulk Garlic for Sale, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Braided Bulk Garlic for Sale, Courtesy: http://www.webstergarlicfestival.com
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 - Garlic for Sale, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Garlic for Sale, Courtesy: http://www.webstergarlicfestival.com

As we wandered through the booths, both indoors and outdoors, I noticed that there were so many different types of garlic. This was news to me, as I had only every heard of a few varieties.  I did some research (www.rodalesorganiclife.com) and learned that there are two main types of garlic – hardneck and softneck.

Hardneck Garlic - fewer cloves, no central stalk, Courtesy: Mother Earth News via www.food-hacks.com
Hardneck Garlic – fewer cloves, no central stalk, Courtesy: Mother Earth News via http://www.food-hacks.wonderhowto.com

Hardneck Garlic: This type of garlic requires a little more finesse and attention than the softneck variety. However, it is colorful, offers a variety of flavors, and produces a flower stalk or scape, which is great for cooking.  Hardneck garlic also has a hard, woody central stalk and 4-12 cloves in each bulb. This is the type of garlic most often found in grocery stores. It is most popular in the Northeast and Midwest areas of the USA and in Canada. Purple Stripe, Porcelain, and Rocambole are all types of hardneck garlic.

Softneck Garlic - more cloves and a central stalk, Courtesy: Mother Earth News
Softneck Garlic – more cloves and a central stalk, Courtesy: Mother Earth News via http://www.food-hacks.wonderhowto.com

Softneck Garlic:  This type of garlic does well in a range of climates, keeps longer in storage,  matures faster, and is more productive than the hardneck variety. Also, its cloves are easier to peel, and its stems are easier to braid.  This type of garlic is most often found on the West Coast and Southern areas of the USA.  Artichoke and Silverskin are types are softneck garlic.

The festival brochure included the following information about garlic, which I found interesting and wanted to share with you:

“Garlic is a flowering herb commonly grown for its edible bulb, which is divided into smaller sections called cloves. Garlic cloves can be consumed or used as seed to propagate more garlic. It must be planted during the fall, as the cloves must be chilled for several weeks before they will germinate and grow in the spring. Garlic requires little care to grow, and will produce large, flavorful bulbs the summer following planting.”

Garlic Cooking Demonstrations

In addition to looking at garlic and smelling garlic, we also had the opportunity to taste cooked garlic.  This festival featured cooking demonstration and tastings hourly, throughout the day. My friend and I attended two of them; one for Bruschetta Garlic Bread with Mozzarella and the other for Garlic Scape Pasta.

Garlic Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Garlic Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The Bruschetta Garlic Bread with Mozzarella recipe demonstration was simple, but the taste was complex. Chef Austin from Wegmans Food Markets demonstrated this recipe.

He first combined fresh garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper, to make a paste and then he spread in on toasted garlic bread.  He then topped that with thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, with arugula on top.  Finally, he drizzled balsamic vinegar over the top. It was delicious and so easy!

Another cooking demonstration featured Garlic Scape Pasta, which uses the scapes (green stalk growing from the garlic above ground) as a featured part of the dish. Karen Collins of Webster, NY demonstrated this recipe.  She combined cooked pasta with a mixture of sautéed garlic scapes sautéed in oil, with wine and tomatoes.  It was a hearty dish and quite tasty. However, I most likely would skip the tomatoes and serve this dish with olive oil and maybe white beans.

Although I didn’t attend the third demonstration, Karen Collins also demonstrated a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto. The recipe called for combining the following in a food processor and processing until smooth:  1 cup garlic scapes (cut into 1/4″ pieces), 1/3 cup walnuts, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt and a pinch of black pepper.  This pesto would be great on sliced baguette bread or over cooked pasta or roasted vegetables.

Vendors: Food, Beverages, Arts, Crafts and Specialty Items

With more than 40 vendors offering arts, crafts and specialty items, there was a lot to see. Specialty food vendors included those selling oils, vinegars, snacks, mustards, honey and maple products. Specialty craft vendors (not garlic-themed) included those selling candles, soaps, baskets, jewelry, greeting cards and pottery. There were also a few home-party vendors such as Tastefully Simple and Pampered Chef.

Webster Garlic Festival 2016 - Outdoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Outdoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 - Indoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Indoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 - Indoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Webster Garlic Festival 2016 – Indoor Booths, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamburger purchased at the 2016 Webster Garlic Festival, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Hamburger purchased at the 2016 Webster Garlic Festival, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

 

Over ten food and beverage vendors, offered an adequate variety of lunch options, including grilled foods, sweets, kettle corn, custard and more.  I opted for an old favorite – a hamburger.  It was fine, but admittedly, my friend ordered a cheeseburger from a competitor food truck and hers looked better than mine. I was surprised, though, that there weren’t more garlic-themed foods to buy for lunch.

I saw in the festival brochure that there were also a few Garlic Garden Presentations, but I didn’t see when or where they were being offered. However, my friend and I chatted briefly with a seasoned farmer about growing garlic indoors. I want to try growing it in a pot inside my home.  Although there was a bit of a language barrier, I learned that I should plant one garlic clove per small hole and keep it moist throughout the winter.  I can plant them relatively close together (within a few inches) and don’t have to keep the pot covered. If I decide to try this, I’ll keep you informed of my progress.

Entertainment

If purchasing garlic, watching garlic cooking demonstrations and perusing craft vendors isn’t your thing, how about some entertainment? At the Webster Garlic Festival, attendees were treated to several bands playing in a tented area, amid picnic tables. Bands included  Vintage, Doghouse and Industrial Blues Band.  In addition, hourly prize drawings and a human mascot in a furry costume might also have kept you amused.

Packie the Alpaca from Lazy Acre Farms at the 2016 Webster Garlic Festival, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Packie the Alpaca from Lazy Acre Farms at the 2016 Webster Garlic Festival, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

One of the highlights was meeting “Packie” the Alpaca from Lazy Acre Farms. Packie didn’t have much to say, but he sure was cute, and a hit with the kids. Located in a penned-in area at the end of the vendor rows outdoors, Packie enjoyed the sunshine and casts of shade on his/her (?) face.

Overall Experience

I enjoyed my first trip to the Webster Garlic Festival. I liked that it was small enough to see everything in a few hours (or less), yet large enough to have something for everyone. Also, I liked visiting booths both inside and outside; even with the very warm weather, we enjoyed a strong breeze off the lake.  The venue was large enough to handle parking needs, and the availability of a free shuttle was a nice touch. For those who don’t love garlic, there were other craft vendors as well.

While the variety of garlic vendors was impressive (bulk garlic an pre-made condiments, etc.), I was disappointed that there weren’t many cooked garlic foods for sale from the food trucks.   I also would like to see more cooking demonstrations next year – that was the best part for me!

As this festival grows (this is only the second year), I imagine that they will continue to expand their offerings, and continue to help local charities in the process.

Sources: http://www.webstergarlicfestival.com, http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com, Mother Earth News via http://www.food-hacks.wonderhowto.com

***

Event Review: Devour Rochester Wine and Culinary Classic at the Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester, NY)

Devour Logo(M)

Event Name:  Devour Rochester Wine and Culinary Classic
Purpose:        Celebrate creative forces behind the culinary renaissance in Rochester
Location:       Memorial Art Gallery
When:           Saturday, May 30, 2015 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost:             $25 to attend ($15 via Living Social), free parking

Event Overview

Unfortunately, this event was not at all what I expected. Had I paid the full admission price of $25, rather than only $15 via Living Social, I would have been really displeased.

The employees of the Memorial Art Gallery events office were quite helpful in answering my questions about the event, in the weeks earlier.  However, I don’t think that they accurately represented the theme of the event. The event marketing invited guests to, “come and experience food artisans, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and epicurean purveyors.”

I had an inkling that this was not going to be a good time, when I saw guests leaving the event as my friends and I entered, less than 45 minutes after it began.  We spent 35 minutes being jostled from table to table, angling for a spot to get a single sip of wine or mere morsel of food in the overheated event room. There were six scheduled lectures, but we simply did not see or hear any of them.  Finally, we gave up – it just wasn’t worth it. We found a cool spot near a room air conditioner in an adjacent hallway and then decided to call it quits.

This was the second annual occurrence of this event. Had it been their inaugural outing, I could have forgiven some of the logistical and thematic issues. However, I couldn’t help but wonder – if this was the second year, when I would have expected improvement, how much worse was the first year?

Venue

Memorial Art Gallery, South Side, Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Art_Gallery
Memorial Art Gallery, South Side, Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Art_Gallery

The Memorial Art Gallery is certainly a beautifully ornate and wonderfully elegant venue. Too bad it was so poorly utilized by this event.  The event was held entirely upstairs in the ballroom and the adjacent ante-room. Unfortunately, the historic building just could not handle the air conditioning requirements of so many people in a confined area. Guests and vendors alike were overheated, sweating and therefore, cranky.

The acoustics weren’t much better. Music was provided by the Bill Tiberio Quartet, but the acoustics were so bad that we could hardly hear them. Every now and then, a raffle ticket number was called and we all looked at each other inquisitively…”did you hear that?”…”what number was that?” Muffled and weak, the speaker system was more frustrating than helpful.

Food and Wine

Where exactly was the food at this event?  Touted as a Devour Rochester, my friend described it better as Nibble Rochester. The organizers advised that there were 15 beverage vendors and 7 food vendors. The few food tasting tables which I observed were overrun with impossibly long lines of hungry guests.  Each guest was given five drink tickets and five food tickets to redeem during the afternoon. I couldn’t find five food tables. Even so, the vendors weren’t even collecting the tickets among the mayhem and disorganization.

I tasted only two food items…one was tabouleuh from Hart’s Local Grocers and the other was a sample from Eat Me Ice Cream. Interestingly, I had tasted both of those food items at an Open House event at Hart’s Local Grocers a month or so before…for free.  The gentleman at the Hart’s Local Grocers table was friendly and polite. In contrast, the woman at the Eat Me Ice Cream table was just plain miserable. She didn’t speak, smile or even acknowledge the guests. In fact, she was actually scowling, as if she was angry about being there. I had the same impression of her at the Hart’s open house.  I know it was hot in there and very crowded, but that is no excuse to be rude. My advice to her is to force a polite smile and actually be friendly to her future customers. Otherwise, like me, they won’t be your future customers. Otherwise, why participate in the event as a vendor?

I heard rumors of a few other food vendors, including one offering cocktail meatballs (which ran out only an hour into the event) and another offering cheese and crackers. I had to laugh when I saw one food vendor table offering crumbs of cheese – literally crumbs – for which we were given a toothpick to pick up a cheese crumb from the table. A sad reward for enduring a long line and getting bumped and elbowed along the way.

Let’s talk about the wine tasting. Squeezed into a group of guests standing in front of a table, holding out my glass for a splash of wine is not my idea of a wine tasting. It’s wine herding  – uncomfortable and not exactly sure why I am following the people in front of me.  It was too crowded, too hot and poorly set up.  There was no thought to traffic flow or guest comfort.  As for the wine itself, I admittedly am not a wine connoisseur. I tried a few tastings and found them ok. However, my two friends, who are much more knowledgeable about wine, reported that the wine which they were able to taste was not that great. Shocking.

Food Trucks

I didn’t expect to have to buy my lunch after paying admission to the Devour Rochester food and wine tasting event. But, that’s what my friends and I did, because we were hungry! There were only four food trucks from which to choose – Brick n Mortar, Macarollin’, Le Petit Poutine,  and The Meatball Truck. They were all banished to the back parking lot, with no signage or promotion from the event workers. We had to search out the food trucks ourselves.

Food container from Le Petit Poutine Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Food container from Le Petit Poutine Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

So, we ventured outside to get some food, which we then brought inside and devoured at a table on the main floor of the art gallery.

The highlight of the day was the hot and hearty Poutine ($7) from Le Petit Poutine food truck. This was my first introduction to poutine and I really enjoyed. All three of us enjoyed these French fries with cheese curd, covered in gravy. It was satisfying, filling and really delicious. The best part was the gravy, which I tried to drink as I finished the meal! The servers at this food truck were friendly and personable. I would definitely seek out this food truck in the future.

Poutine from Le Petit Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Poutine from Le Petit Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Winners

Shown below are the 2015 Devour Rochester winners:

Best in Show Red: Heron Hill Cabernet Franc
Best in Show White: Black Willow Classic Diamond
Best in Show Distilled Spirit or Brew: Iron Smoke Apple Wood Smoked Whiskey
People’s Choice Award Beverage: Merritt Estate Winery
People’s Choice Award: West Edge Restaurant & Lounge

The Best in Show awards were determined by four judges, while guests voted for the People’s Choice winners.

Overall Experience

You already know that I did not enjoy this event, other than the poutine and the company of good friends. The only other semi-redeeming aspect was a quick walk through the gallery gift shop and the art gallery exhibitions, which was included in the event admission price.  The event “gift” bag (made of a flimsy fabric) contained only a complimentary wine glass and the food and wine tickets. One of my friends mentioned that she might use the bag as a lunch sack.

Recommendations

I would not recommend attending this event next year, unless the organizers implement some major changes.  Here are some suggestions for next year’s event, which is already on the calendar for Saturday, May 28, 2016:

  • Spread out the vendor tables throughout the upstairs and downstairs of the beautiful gallery, to allow more room for guests to mingle and discover each offering.
  • Balance the number of food vendors with the number of wine and other beverage vendors.
  • Improve the acoustic system so that guests can hear the music and announcements, such as raffle ticket numbers and demonstration announcements.
  • Either enforce the food and drink ticket system or drop it all together. It only caused guests to clumsily fumble to find the tickets.
  • Provide each guest with a listing of each vendor, shown on a map of the area as well as a schedule of the time and place of each demonstration.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and air conditioning, or consider an outdoor event during cooler weather.
  • Post all raffle ticket winning numbers on an overhead screen or other central area, where guests can check their tickets.

While I understand what the Devour Rochester event organizers were trying to do, I think that they failed in providing the experience which they advertised.  Better luck next year.

 ***

 

Event Review: Food Truck Rodeo at the Public Market (Rochester, NY)

Food Truck Rodeo
Rochester Public Market – Food Truck Rodeo – “Local Food, Local Brew and Local Bands”

 

 

Event Name:  Food Truck Rodeo at the Rochester, NY Public Market
Purpose:        To engage and excite Rochestarian’s about our local food truck industry
Location:       280 N. Union St., Rochester NY 14609
When:           Wednesday, May 27, 2015 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Cost:             Free admission, limited free parking, some paid parking

Event Overview

In addition to selling fresh fruits and vegetables year round, the Rochester Public Market has several fun and interesting events throughout the year. This particular event featured a round-up of over 30 local food trucks serving up their unique cuisine. A local band provided the music and guests were encouraged to bring their own tables and chairs, and stay a while to enjoy and evening of food and music.

The Venue

The Rochester, NY Public Market is located in the northeast quadrant of the city, at 280 North Union St., approximately three blocks north of East Main Street. There are several free parking lots nearby, including off Railroad Street and Trinidad Street and in the Market District and Marketview Heights neighborhood. In addition, there are a few private, fee lots. We were very lucky to get two parking spots directly across the street from the main entrance, in one of the free lots.

On the market grounds, there are three sheds, two covered open-air sheds and one enclosed shed. The food trucks were parked in the open air sheds, facing inward, towards the center grounds, where the band was playing and patrons were enjoying their food.

Music

Each Food Truck Rodeo at the Public Market features a local band. The music for the 2015 series is generously arranged by Rohrbach’s Brewing Company. For this event, the Dan Eaton Band provided the music, playing original American rock & roll songs. Set up on a stage in the midst of the venue, they were a lively and talented addition to the evening.

Food and Beverages

With over 30 food trucks, and several resident food purveyors, it was a challenge to choose my dinner for the evening. I finally settled on a bowl of mac and cheese and a grilled chicken sandwich, from separate vendors.

The Original Mac & Cheez Food Truck
The Original Mac & Cheez Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

My mac and cheese was served by The Original Mac & Cheez food truck. Displayed on the posted menu as Meat Lover’s Mac and Cheese ($8), I expected a traditional looking macaroni in a cheesy sauce, with ground beef added. At least that’s what I was told by the underage worker manning the food window (I would guess he was about 11 years old – is that legal?).  However, what I was served instead was penne pasta in a red tomato sauce with tiny traces of shredded meat and just enough cheese to pass it off as mac and cheese. It tasted just ok, but it was not at all what I was expecting based on the menu description. And, for a whopping $8, I expected to see a lot more meat, any meat really, in this small bowl of pasta. This choice left me asking, “Where’s the meat?” and “Where’s the cheese?”

Against my better judgement, I also ordered a “large” bottle of water ($3) from the same food truck. Next time, I will be sure to take advantage of the event rule that each person may bring in one sealed bottle of water each.

Meat Lover's Mac and Cheese from The Original Mac & Cheez Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Meat Lover’s Mac and Cheese from The Original Mac & Cheez Food Truck, WHERE”S THE MEAT?  Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

Feeling disappointed by my first failed food choice, I wandered among the food trucks, looking for my next tasty morsels. However, the lines at the most popular food trucks were very long (20+ people each), and the heat and the crowd was starting to get to me. So, I based my next pick simply on the length of the line, knowing full well that no line either meant that there was an issue with the food or the price (or both), or that the offering was not unique enough for this foodie crowd.

Mr V's Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Mr V’s Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

I chose Mr. V’s for the sole reason that there was no line, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Luckily, the food was great and the prices were even better. I chose a Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($5). What a deal! My guess is that their no-frills approach (more of a stand than a food truck) helps keep their prices down.

Although I was offered various toppings at no additional charge (peppers, onions, etc), I chose to get it plain. I then added a spoonful of green, dill pickle relish. Served on a fresh, hearty roll, this grilled chicken sandwich was tender, moist and delicious – a good choice!

Grilled Chicken with Dill Relish from Mr. V's Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Dill Relish from Mr. V’s Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Tuscan Wood Fired Catering Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Tuscan Wood Fired Catering Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

While I was scoping out the food truck with the shortest line, my friend patiently waited for her food to be prepared by the folks at the Tuscan Wood Fired Catering food truck.  They were parked at the entrance to this funky, horseless rodeo. I knew that she must have really wanted to try their food because we went back there after making a pass around the entire grounds of the market, to survey all of the offerings – a good idea if you go.

She started with Arancini ($5). Arancini (translated “little oranges”) are stuffed balls of rice, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. They are often stuffed with cheese or a mix of cheese and a vegetable, or whatever else you might like.

She said that it was delicious and that she really enjoyed it. The portion was generous, about the size of a tennis ball, and topped with grated cheese. I liked the presentation, using black and white checkered serving paper in a paper tray, adding a touch of outdoor elegance. Next time, I’ll give the arancini a try!

Arancini from Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Arancini from Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

In addition, she later ordered a personal pizza from the same food truck. This Pepperoni Pizza ($8) looked really good. She said that she especially liked that cup pepperoni. Cut into eight small pieces, this was also a generous portion size, about the size of a frisbee. I liked that it didn’t look greasy, yet it was still flavorful.

Pepperoni Pizza from Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog
Pepperoni Pizza from Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza Food Truck, Courtesy: Food Mingle Blog

The Atmosphere and Experience

Did I mention that this was my first trip to the Rochester Public Market, ever? Yup, I know – after living here all my life, you would think that I would have visited it several times previously. So, this event was not only my introduction to Food Truck Rodeos, but also an introduction to the Rochester Public Market.  I enjoyed both!  The market really is a medley of people and personalities. Although I didn’t get to see it as one would during a weekend of typical fruits, vegetable and flower selling, I did get the gist of it. Although I love the idea of the market, I do prefer visiting my local town farmer’s market, which is just minutes from my house, with easy, no-hassle parking.

The Food Truck Rodeo, however, was an experience I would definitely want to have again.  After being cooped up all winter, and bundled up from the cold, it was nice to be outside, enjoying the weather and the sights and sounds of summer. With such a wide assortment of food to choose from, there is something for everyone. I would recommend that you come prepared with a table and chairs, as picnic table seating is very limited. Most people seemed to have found a spot to camp out for the evening.  The atmosphere was fun and festive, filled with friends, families and favorite foods.

Overall Impression

Yes, I would recommend the Food Truck Rodeo at the Rochester Public Market, for a fun night to relax, enjoy live music and partake in local food truck fare. With no admission fee and a good chance of parking for free, it is a fun time at a good value. Pick your food truck vendor carefully, though, as the quality and value fluctuates greatly from truck to truck. Oh, a bring a chair and your own sealed bottle of water, too.

Shown below is the schedule of Food Truck Rodeos at the Rochester, NY Public Market for the balance of the 2015 season:

  • Wednesday, June 24 – Music by Creek’s Edge (Acoustic duo performing Americana, Classic Roots, Folk).
  • Wednesday, July 29 – Music by The Tommy Brunett Band (A craftsman and songsmith mixing old-school country, great story telling and rock and roll).
  • Wednesday, August 26 – Music by Significant Other (Originals and adapted covers).
  • Wednesday, September 30 – Music by Donnibrooke (Country, rock, and everything in between).
  • Wednesday, October 28 – Music by Genesee Valley Band

 


About the Rochester Public Market

Rochester, NY’s city-run Public Market has served the community at its 280 N. Union Street site since 1905. Vendors offer fresh produce, ethnic delicacies, specialty items, general merchandise, and more, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 52 weeks a year. In addition, a variety of local businesses (cafes, food stands, coffee shops, florists, specialty food purveyors, breweries, etc), can be found on Market grounds and in the surrounding Market District.

It is also open on some other days and hours before and after holidays, and for special events, such as the Food Truck Rodeo. See the Special Events page

Market Matters is a monthly publication focused on Market products, vendors, special events, etc. Sign up to receive the newsletter on the Market Matters page.

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Event Review: Super Foods Showcase and Tasting

Super Foods, Courtesy: WordPress.com
Super Foods, Courtesy: WordPress.com

Event Name:    Super Foods Showcase and Lecture
Purpose:         Identify, discuss, prepare and taste Super Foods
Sponsor:         Sponsored by Gates Public Library, presented by Larry Bauld
Location:        Gates Public Library, Rochester, NY 14620
When:             Saturday, April 25 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Cost:               Free, pre-registration required

Event Overview

Larry Bauld, Culinary Instructor, showcased Super Foods – foods that are dense in nutrients and antioxidants and provide many health benefits. He expertly discussed a list of Super Foods and prepared three recipes using several of them. Each of the 25+ attendees sampled the recipes and discussed Super Foods.

Larry Bauld has over 20 years of retail food experience. He has worked with organic produce, natural foods and supplements, and seafood.

Super Foods

What exactly is a Super Food? Our friends at wikipedia.com offer the following:

“The Macmillan Dictionary defines ‘superfood’ as a food that is considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions.”

“The Oxford Dictionary definition states a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”

Some people criticize the use of the term Super Food as merely a marketing tool to sell products. I am not endorsing or recommending that you eat these foods – I am merely sharing with you some information which I found interesting. I would urge you to check with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietician before making any changes to your food plan.

Here are a few definitions of terms used in describing some of the super foods:

Antioxidants -are substances found in plants that soak up free radicals like sponges. They neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries and contribute to chronic illness and aging.

Free Radicals – are a byproduct of normal cell function. When cells create energy, they also produce unstable oxygen molecules. These molecules, called free radicals, have a free electron. This electron makes the molecule highly unstable. The free radical bonds to other molecules in the body – causing proteins and other essential molecules to not function as they should.

Probiotics -live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. They are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Shown below is the list of Super Foods provided by the instructor, listed in no particular order:

1. Greek Yogurt

  • Includes lots of protein and probiotics, improves digestion and bolsters the immune system
  • A great healthy substitute for sour cream, cream cheese and mayonnaise

2. Quinonia

  • One of the few grains or seeds that provide all nine essential amino acids which our bodies cannot produce
  • Contains 8 grams of protein per one cup serving

3. Blueberries

  • Filled with fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds
  • May improve memory

4. Kale

  • provides more antioxidants than any other fruits or vegetables
  • great source of fiber, calcium and iron

5. Chia

  • contain the most essential fatty acids of any plant
  • loaded with magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium

6. Oatmeal

  • high in fiber and antioxidants
  • shown to help lower cholesterol levels, aid in digestion and improve metabolism

7. Green Tea

  • contains EGCG (epigallocatechin), a phytochemical that slows irregular cell growth

8. Broccoli

  • exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and folate (which can reduce the risk of heart disease)
  • packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber

9. Strawberries

  • high in vitamin C (1 cup satisfies your daily vitamin C requirement)

10. Salmon

  • high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • may also protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV rays

11. Watermelon

  • low in sugar and low in calories
  • high in vitamins A and C
  • includes lycopene, which could help protect the body from UV rays

12. Spinach

  • 1 cup contains the recommended daily dose of calcium and enough vitamin K to prevent bone loss
  • high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories

13. Pistachios

  • naturally cholesterol free and high in protein, fiber and potassium

14. Eggs

  • low in calories at only 70 calories each
  • great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health

15. Almonds

  • the most nutritionally dense nut (the highest concentration of nutrients per calorie per ounce)
  • high in fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin E magnesium, and iron

16. Ginger

  • a natural remedy for an upset stomach and unwanted inflammation

17. Beets

  • contains betalains (the purple pigment) which may fight cancer and other degenerative diseases
  • high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

18. Beans

  • packed with fiber, folate, and magnesium
  • may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers
  • high in protein and low in cholesterol

19. Pumpkin

  • contains high amounts of antioxidants and vitamins
  • contains beta-carotene, a pro-vitamin that the body converts to vitamin A, best for eye health

20. Apples

  • low in calories and high in fiber
  • Red Delicious varieties contain the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of all apples

21. Cranberries

  • helps fight inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve oral health
  • may help prevent ulcers and yeast infections

22. Garlic

  • used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease
  • garlic extract may treat yeast infections in women and prostate issues in men

23. Cauliflower

  • contains glucosinolates, a phytochemical shown to prevent damage to lungs and stomach by carcinogens
  • may also prevent hormone-driven cancers like breast, uterine and cervical cancer, due to its interactions with estrogen

24. Leeks

  • contains organosuphur compounds, an immunity boosting nutrient

25. Lentils

  • high in protein, iron and other essential nutrients
  • could help protect the digestive system from stomach and gastric cancers

26. Cucumbers

  • high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories
  • high in vitamin A and C and fiber

27. Coconut

  • high in fiber and omega-6 fatty acids
  • contains a number of antiviral and antibiotic properties, including lauric acid (an anti-bacterial)

28. Dark Chocolate

  • shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
  • high in antioxidants

 

Recipes

The three recipes which the instructor prepared were:

  1. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
  2. Blueberry-Ginger Bellini
  3. Coconut Dark Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn

Stay tuned for posts of the details of each of these recipes, including photos!

 


 

Sources: Alan Bauld and http://www.wikipedia.com and longevity.about.com and webmd.com

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