Sunday, October 25, 2009
After a somewhat harried trip up the 5, I finally found my hotel behind an alley after driving around for what seemed like forever. It was kind of deserted, but I was shown to my room by a chatty bellhop. He said, "You're here for the Food festival? You know Anthony Bourdain stayed here when he was filming and watched porn all night long. You should have seen his bill!" Hmmm. I must admit the rooms are stimulating, with their funky chairs and profusion of velour.
The next morning I was all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for some serious grub. Saturday promised to be a gorgeous day of music, cooking demos, live music and feasting. Unfortunately, the best laid plans...There was a line. The line stretched for blocks and blocks and blocks. Seriously, the line was like a mile long. I pulled the press privilege and went in the side. I don't get paid, there has to be a little perk now and then. I think I would have turned around and driven all the way back to LA if I had to stand in that line.
The first restaurant I hit was South Side BBQ but the payment system was all wacked. You got a bracelet onto which you charged money. Vendors swiped the bracelet and it deducted the money. But my bracelet wouldn't work. I went up to the front and it was a madhouse. None of the bracelets worked. Volunteers feverishly messed with electronic card readers as the crowd grew more and more agitated. I returned to to apologize, and they just gave me the BBQ (LOVE you, South Side !!!)
The anticipated crowd of 2,000 people quickly grew to 8,000. With only 20-something booths, it was a recipe for disaster. Waits to get in to the festival were over an hour and waits in line for food averaged 45 minutes.
Many people blamed insufficient supplies, but it seemed to be more of a matter of distribution. The only items that ran out were pastrami and cheesecake. If there had been more counters around the event, like three Anchor hot wings stands, and sufficient staff for the additional booths, the waits might not have been such an issue. Another ten vendors or so would have helped too. Foodie paradises like New Orleans and Chicago were underrepresented.
Still, those who chose to make the best of it had fun anyways. People made new friends in line, shared food with each other, and were treated to some great demos and music. Hopefully next year the kinks will be worked out, and as Ed put it so well in his official apology, ""If you could find it in your hearts to think of this as our first pancake, that would be great."
There wasn't much to do about food until they figured out the bracelet problem (they eventually dumped the idea altogether). They had 2 stages - a small stage for food demos, and another for a concert, a burger cookoff and "big name" food demos.
Ed Levine, in a kind of amusing pose.
The lines were crazy
These nice girls were waiting near the front of the line
And they were nice enough to get me a sandwich and wings. I know, I'm a terrible, terrible person. But you would have done the same. God, that sandwich was so good, even if obtained by evil means. These wings were amazing.
People loooove Guy Fieri and he really brought some energy to the event. He was playful with the audience, pretending to squirt kids and really interacting with them.
They seriously love him
They want to MARRY him