Before I get started with the festival, I want to plug Brave Public Relations. I have attended enough events and witnessed enough "PR Girls." If you don't know the type, these are pretty, made-up recent college grads that usually run booths at fairs around the city, waiting to get impregnated by some Buckhead execs and take early retirement as a house-wife. OK, that is an enormous and possibly erroneous generalization, but I dare you to witness these types at the next festival you attend and not have a similar thought. The reason I mention this stereotype - the girls from Brave Public Relations, unlike most PR girls I've encountered, were on their shit. There was no line at the media tent and they were quick to get me in - despite not using my name. So, props to them.
Much like Restaurant Weeks, I shy away from food festivals. Usually, the quality of food is lesser than what's served in restaurants and the crowds inspire me to hate humanity. Also, the experience usually doesn't warrant the expense. So when I was offered free admission and food tickets, I jumped on it. Here's a brief synopsis of Taste - restaurants, cooks and food products set up booths all up and down Technology Square. There are cooking demos off to the side.
Attendees use tickets to "purchase" food from the different businesses.Overall, I thought crowd management was terrific with very little wait time, if any at all. One complaint - food ticket sales. Taste sells tickets in multiples of 10 - I only wanted 2 extra tickets so I could try one other thing, but that wasn't a possibility.
Jim 'n Nick's Enormous BBQ Competition Sized Space
My strategy going into the festival was to try places that either I hadn't been, made an ambitious offering, or give a place I didn't like another chance. So below were the offerings and my thoughts:
The Spence offered arancini with some morcilla. The sausage wasn't readily apparent in the dish and the accompanying salad, while visually dressed, tasted of nothing. It was nice that they were freshly frying the arancini at the booth, but the dish was nothing special.
Next stop was 1Kept - a spot I had heard countless good things about from a trusted source. This might have been the best dish I had during the day - pork tenderloin, with grits, what I thought were cranberries (said cherry/orange compote on their display). The tenderloin was really fatty, but really delicious and everything melded as it should. Fat, acid, sweet, and tang. Could have benefited from some crunchy texture element.
Since I only had one ticket left at the end, I came back by 1Kept and grabbed these deviled quail eggs. They were simple but good.
Probably my favorite restaurant in Atlanta (and one I visit with unfathomable frequency), no. 246, had what sounded delicious on paper - baked pasta with ricotta and meat gravy. And I'll admit, it was tasty - just a textural misery AKA overcooked pasta. It was just mush. But the accompanying salty bread and fresh ricotta was fantastic. This dish was clearly not representative of what their kitchen is able to achieve - which is a shame.
Another lackluster bite was served by Article 14, a duck confit slider. I'm going to say this - if you serve duck confit, there needs to be a crispy element, a fatty tender element and tons of flavor. This half-dollar sized sandwich had none of the above. It did have a nice, sweet jam/compote.
I managed to grab all of this, some free samples and witness a cooking demo in a little over an hour. I wanted so badly to have some High Road Craft ice cream (cause it's amazing) after all these savory bites, but the 10 ticket minimum purchase thing got in the way. So clearly, Taste is an enjoyable, well-run event. What it comes down to is how much you're willing to spend on food that won't be as good as dining in at a notable restaurant?