I have been excited about this festival since the minute I found out about it earlier this summer. Who wouldn’t want to have most of your favorite local restaurants in one place at the same time? That’s crazy talk, right!
There have been and there is still a lot of buzz going around about the Yum Yum Fest in the local and social media. Here is how it went for me, a common mortal like most of us 🙂
Nice setting of about 30 food stands along Central Park. Some restaurants had more than one. We first walked around reading all the choices. Every booth had one dish so that made up for an easy ordering since most of the dishes were a mouthful of creative and descriptive names. Every restaurant also had the name of the local farm or vendor that provided their main ingredients written next to their names. Isn’t that awesome to know exactly where your food comes from? Then it was time to go get some tickets. $5 tickets, 1 ticket for anything you wanted, food or drinks. How easy and effective is that? Very easy and mostly effective since the ticket tent was right in the middle of the park.
Here is what we had – we did not share because our choices are usually not the same, but we did try each other’s food so we were able to taste a vast variety of all things 🙂
1) Avocado toast topped with homemade chorizo, tomatoes, Italian peppers and ricotta from Basett Street Brunch Club. First yummy bite of the day was absolutely a great choice. The chorizo was spiced and charred and it sort of melted in your mouth with the creamy avocado, then a little crunch from the toast. YUM!
2) Fresh Burrata with cherry tomatoes, basil, balsamic and micro greens from Pig in a Fur Coat – Super fresh salad on top of fluffy and creamy cheese, YUM! I am still dreaming about that burrata. It was soooo good!
3) Chickpeas fritter with cured and seared tuna from Forequarter – Ok this bite was insane. Forequarter is without a doubt my favorite restaurant so it is not a surprise that this one was one of my favorite bites of the day. The chickpeas fritter was a thin crunchy cracker topped with a smooth layer of some soft-paste deliciousness followed by layers of pickled salad-like mixture of fennel, onions, red Chiles, tuna and the most incredible use of green coriander seeds that burst in your mouth with every bite. Ok enough said… YUM YUM!
4) Bohemian Blue Cheese stuffed and deboned chicken wing with carrots and celery slaw on a pretzel bun from Midtown Pub. How is that for a mouthful? Told ya! This sandwich was heavenly amazing, the wing was so tender and bathed in a buffalo spicy sauce, then you got the gooey melted blue cheese coming from the center, and the crunchiness from the salad. Talk about re-inventing boring Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing and celery on the side. Amazing!!
5) Insalata Rifatta – Grilled beef salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, Chiles and mint from Osteria Papavero. This salad was superb, a party of flavors dancing in your mouth with a nice kick from Thai Chiles that you washed down with a refreshing bite of cool cucumber and that after taste of the mint. YUM! (Again)
6) Whole roasted lamb with sheep’s milk cheese cavatelli, Brussels sprouts, and delicata squash from L’Etoile. Well, this lamb was the star of the party. From the minute I saw the picture on twitter (below) I knew I had to have it. It didn’t disappoint at all. It was very tender and flavorful, melting in your mouth as you try to savor bites of squash with the soft milky cheese on top and the pasta. Overall this dish was very delicate and traditional. My only complaint would be that I wanted more lamb 🙂 This dish was super YUM!
— Tory Miller (@grazeletoile) September 7, 2014
7) Carnitas Tacos made with local pork, seasonal habanero fruit salsa, roasted poblano peppers, roasted tomatillo, local melon sauce with cebollitas and house made queso fresco from Salvatore’s – The never-ending line on Salvatore’s stand had us wondering if we should try them or not. I eat at Salvatore’s often enough but I for sure didn’t want to miss the tacos that everyone would be talking about. It was the largest portion we got. Two tacos per serving, perfect for sharing. Tacos were juicy, sweet & spicy from the melon sauce and the poblanos, with a little crunch from shaved radishes and a touch of citrus from the lime. Absolutely delicious, but they were tacos after all.
8) Garlic pork sausage, polenta, tomato-basil-onion salsa & petit Nuage cheese from Sardine – The pork sausage was seared in the outside. You could taste garlic but it was not overpowering or over the top. To me the best part of this dish was the creamy polenta, yum! With the fresh tomatoes salsa on top… Mmmmm. I wanted some more 🙂
9) Merguez sausage with heirloom tomato relish and smoked Harissa from Banzo – Served on a pita bread with a green sauce that was garlicky and delicious. The sausage was spicy and smoky. Yummy!
10) Semolina gnocchi with braised pork, greens, wiscopop gastrique and kimchi from Driftless Café – On this one I kind of got the leftovers of the finished dish because they ran out of greens and kimchi. Bummer! Well, what I got to taste of it was really good, although I am not sure I got any gnocchi either, the braised pork was perfectly cooked and seasoned well, although maybe a little bit too salty, but then again having the salad on top may have made a difference.
* I am glad we got there early. Tickets for the festival were sold out by 4pm and by 6pm some stands were already out of food.
* My biggest disappointment was that I miss out on the blueberry shortcake with coconut foam from L’Etoile. I was saving one ticket for dessert but ended up getting another savory dish instead because they were out.
* It was nice to see all the chefs/owners of so many local restaurants and their staff hard at work and yet everyone seem so happy to be there.
* Wine selection was nice, I enjoyed the Pinot Gris. There was a variety of crafted beer and a couple of wine drinks, including a slushy. Also free tap water was available, very nice for the hot day it turned out to be.
* The servings were big enough and worth every penny.
* Great work from the Madison Area Chefs Network connecting with the community. Being the first event I am sure that there will be things to improve on for the next time.
Very successful event, Madison has such a great food scene! I am so happy to be a part of this community!
I can’t wait for next year!!!!