Thursday, May 8, 2014

The 2014 Taste of Marietta Food Festival!

AKA, Sample Size-A-Palooza '14! Featuring  Lobster Nacho Dip, Indian Food off the Back of a Truck, Alleged Aussie Treats, DEEP FRIED BROWNIES and Arguably the Best Shrimp Anyone Has Ever Eaten, Ever!

When you are in your teens and early 20s, nothing is cooler than rock and roll concerts. You get to bang your head to music played at near supersonic jet volume levels while smoking the weed, drinking the beer, and possibly making out with the occasional pseudo-punk hoochie mama. Indeed, such as the veritable essence of youth, and for a few years at least, such is the only thing in life that matters.

But then, something happens. As you get closer to being 30 than 20, all of that rocking and rolling nonsense suddenly becomes a lot less fun than it used to. Seemingly out of the blue, you realize just how dumb it is to spend upwards of $100 American to stand out in a field with a bunch of chain smokers high on molly while bands you liked 20 years ago lifelessly trudge through all of the tunes you know they hate themselves for even writing for hours on end.

If there was ever a concrete symbol of the passage from young adulthood to adulthood, it's the moment where you consciously realize that you enjoyed your pre-concert meal more than you did the concert you actually attended. My own spiritually transcendent epiphany, dear readers, was thoughtfully and eloquently spelled out for you last year

With nary a remorseful cell in my body, I can say with all authenticity that I much, much prefer events like the Taste of Marietta food festival to things like Music Midtown -- or the much-ballyhooed Counterpoint music fest, which, as fate would have it, was going on at the exact same time as the 2014 Taste celebrations. The leisurely pace, the fact that you're not being bombarded by loud noises, the ability to actually wind your way through the crowd, not to mention the fact that prevailing odors are actually pleasing scents as opposed to the B.O and Natural Light aroma of most concerts -- all aspects that CLEARLY make food festival forays much, much more enjoyable experiences in my humblest o' opinions. 

The 2014 Taste of Marietta Food Festival, you may be pondering? Well, it's an event not unlike the Street Food Festival that occurs annually in Atlanta -- except there's less people, more diverse food, no entry prices and you can actually buy dishes in convenient sample-sized form instead of being asked to shell out $10 for an entire taco platter. And also, they have gigantic cups of Greek Yogurt on display, too. 

There was also a giant inflatable bag of Nature's Choice bread, too, but alas, I never got around to snapping a pic. Hey, there was actual food to try out, and since my Gaelic genes only allow me to stay out in the sun for about an hour before bursting into flames, I suppose you understand its exclusion.

For those of you unfamiliar with Marietta, its a mid-sized city just outside of Atlanta. It's probably best known for being home to a gigantic chicken, although I always tell people it's the place where the T-1000 grew up. Such a tidbit, unfortunately, is regarded with far less enthusiasm from out-of-towners, so it seems. 

So, there's this thing in Marietta called "The Square," which is home to about a million billion restaurants and this old ass theater that sometimes shows public domain zombie movie marathons. It's also the alleged site of a Doobie Brothers mini-riot in the late 1970s, but for the sake of historicity, I cannot confirm or deny said allegation fully. Anyway, the Taste of Marietta festival was held in a gigantic, cordoned off block of the Square, where a good hundred or so vendors -- mostly, restaurants, but also a few weird ones, like a Harley Davidson booth, of all things -- were lined up like dominoes. And since it's an election year, there were a whole bunch of local politicians and their sycophants out in full force. Ironically enough, most of their makeshift gazebos were situated adjacent to a row of Port-a-Johns, but I digress

Of course, there was a lot of family-friendly (read: white people-centric) stuff going on, like a menagerie of inflatable kiddie attractions and a couple of high school garage bands, whom serenaded disinterested passer-byers with ancient Led Zeppelin and Van Halen numbers. So, yeah, like I was saying...plenty of whiteness going on today, for sure. 

Instead of giving you a standard photo essay, I reckon it would be easier -- and more informative -- if I just gave you folks a mini-review of each foodstuff I tried out. Break out the Maalox, amigos: reading this post from here on out may just give you a rad case of indigestion

First up, we've got this exquisite lobster corn cheese dip from Red Sky Tapas Bar, whose big claim to fame is that it's kinda' close by the neighborhood dollar theater. Or maybe they don't highlight that fact at all, but it doesn't really matter: this stuff is great, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sure, sure, it looks like something a cat may have barfed on a Persian rug at first glance, but I assure you, this stuff is actually quite delicious. I don't know why, but it kinda' reminded me of a beef taco from Taco Bell; despite containing virtually none of the same ingredients (I'd imagine, anyway) the lobster queso spread was virtually identical in taste and texture to a pureed XL burrito. Oh, and the complimentary nacho chips, and the translucent, logo branded cup they gave me? Really, really nice touches, even though I ended up chunking the cup into a refuse bin five seconds after finishing the sample. Hey, forces of habit are forces of habit, after all. 

Though I suppose its only natural for one to have suspicions about the inherent quality of Indian cuisine on wheels, the Bollywood Zing! food truck actually had some pretty good food. There were only half a dozen or so trucks of the like at the festival, and this was far and away the most appetizing-sounding -- and on top of that, it's not like I'm likely to find that many other vegan-friendly dishes on display here or anything.

Ok, so it's a little bit too big to be described as a sample tray, but its definitely not a full restaurant-sized serving either. I'm not sure if I should give the truck operators bonus points for adding the extra grub or detract them from disobeying the "sample portions only" diktat, but at the end of the day? I got me some delicious chana masala, which in addition to being filling and flavorful, was given to me by a man with a very pronounced, albeit suspicious, Australian accent. If you think either of those things are negatives in my book, you haven't been paying  good attention to the blog, clearly. 

They really ought to give me a Pulitzer for this picture. If I had a million words to say about the Taste of Marietta food festival, and even the contemporary American South as a whole, I don't think anything would do as succinct a job of explaining everything you need to know than this solitary photograph. I mean, god-damn, would words even suffice regarding such a sight?

For those of you wondering, this is the brainchild of an organization called "Deep Fried Brownies" -- what they lack in creativity, I reckon they more than make up for in sheer descriptive accuracy. Indeed, the above picture is the eponymous foodstuff, a flash fried, chocolate square treat doused in confectioner's sugar -- and yes, you are not alone if you're thinking to yourself, "man, that thing looks a lot like Meatwad from 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force.'"

And here's the brownie circuitry that belies the carnival fair exoskeleton. It's pretty hard to describe what the actual dish tasted like, because it was comprised of such strangely parallel textures. The outer layer tasted more or less like your standard funnel cake, but the brownie itself -- perhaps inundated by the granules of powdery sugary, tasted almost acidly sweet, if that makes any sense. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but at the same time, it also tasted so gustatorily unusual. Indeed, my curiosity is piqued for their "Fried Oreos," and then some.

As a huge fan of marsupials and related marsupial iconography, I was really, really stoked to try out the Australian Bakery Cafe. That is, until we got to the booth, and we're told they we had to wait ten minutes at the least in order to pick up a warm entree. As such, me and Mrs. IIIA said "to heck with it, mate" and picked up their cheapest dessert item instead.

The above delicacy, I was informed, is something called a "Lamington." Basically, it's a chocolate sponge cake with a heaping dusting of coconut flakes atop it. As arguably the best Little Debbie snackcake Little Debbie never made, I had to give this one a big thumbs up...even though if they would've shape it like a koala, it would've been my favorite foodstuff ever.

And lastly, we come to this delicious offering from Seed Kitchen & Bar, which is one of the ritzier Marietta locales. Over the years, I've had some great shrimp entrees, but this tangy blend, with just a bit of an orange sauce taste and tincture, is quite possibly the single yummiest I've ever tried. And, because convenient allusions are the hot "in-thing," the name of the dish was "Tybee Island Shrimp" -- a locale long-time IIIA readers should be very familiar with

Needless to say, I motherfucking love events like this, and I'm sure my sardonic and profane celebration of its foodstuffs will be received warmly by the restaurateurs I've profiled and reviewed today. Indeed, they may even give me a discount pending I give their full offerings a try sometime, which I think we all believe they most definitely should, for sure. 

All kidding aside, I could've spent hours at this thing, just nibbling and gnawing away on the various, miscellaneous food items on display. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed this event more than the super-huge food truck gala held in Atlanta last-year -- of course, I'm sure the free parking and lack of an entrance fee plays some part in that opinion, but still

To summarize, I reckon? The Taste of Marietta Food Festival is awesome, there's apparently a ton of great eateries in the area, and if you like to nom on stuff and have at least $20 in your pocket, it's probably an event worth your time and energies.Well, as long as you live kinda' close by: I mean, it would just be stupid as shit to fly in from Montana just for this, after all.


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