The restaurant representation was quite complete and my mouth was watering as I walked to the food ticket booth. The layout of the Festival was the only issue - It was set up on Pennsylvania between 9th and 14th with all of the booths facing out so that crowds and worker golf carts were stuck between the street and the sidewalk. Talk about a traffic jam. There were also portions blocked off for VIP concerts, alcohol tents, smaller food sections - it was like a maze. I really don't know why they don't just set it up on the mall where the National Book Fest is but unfortunately, it's not up to me. I'd like to live in a world where everything is actually up to me...but I digress.
My boss mentioned that the Festival can be a huge waste of money - and I agree that it has the potential to be. Admission is free but every little thing is sold with tickets. You have to have separate tickets for food and alcohol (10 for $15 and 20 for $25), a bracelet for day concerts (increased price) and an even more expensive ticket for the night time concerts. The food tickets were a good deal - but the alcohol tickets were a total waste. 1 ticket for a shot of beer and about 5 tickets for a regular plastic cup size. If you're that keen on getting buzzed outside, I recommend going to sit at one of the bars along Pennsylvania and watching the festival from the sidewalk.
I went to the festival solely for the food, so I don't think it was a waste for me at all. I did the 10 food tickets deal and (always worried that I'm not going to eat enough) I thought I'd have to go back for more. The food price ranged from 2 to 6 tickets. To maximize efficiency, my plan was to only try food that was 2 tickets or less - allowing me to try more things with my 10 ticket budget. The plan worked great! And by the end I was stuffed!
I was so excited (and not used to being a foodie blogger) that I forgot to photo-document the first few dishes I had. But below are some descriptions and pictures of what and where I ate.
I started with a cheese, tomato, bacon sandwich from Wicked Waffle. Their shtick is that they refuse to serve waffles with butter and syrup. Wow, was it amazing. I've never had such a light flaky waffle before. My accompanying taster, Amanda, had the Nutella and banana waffle. I don't like bananas, but she said it was incredible. I will definitely be frequenting the Wicked again.
Next I got a shrimp po' boy slider from Puddin'. It's a cajun restaurant. The slider was ok - but practically hailing from New Orleans, I have pretty high standards for le po' boy. This one had cole slaw and a remoulade sauce and was not served on french bread. Weirdest lil' po' boy I've ever had.
I went back later and had the bread pudding. It's the best dessert I've ever had in my life, hands down. It just melted in your mouth.
Puddin' Bread Pudding
Next I went to the Ping Pong booth, a new dim sum restaurant in Dupont. I walk by Ping Pong almost every day and the food presentation is intriguing enough that I've been dying to try it. I ate a little chicken puff and it was quite delicious.
Then was the greatest sample of the day. CoCo Sala. I think their hook is that all of their dishes have chocolate. I ate a little Mac and Cheese tart with chocolate covered bacon on top. It was a dream come true. I have previously had praline covered bacon, but you haven't lived, or really clogged your arteries, until you've had chocolate covered bacon. After all of these hikes help me lose a million pounds, I'll be going to CoCo a lot more frequently.
Just ignore that Chococovered Bacon looks like Mr. Hankey
After my ten tickets were done I was SO happy I had not indulged in the 20 ticket deal. I don't know how I would have eaten another bite. I also wound up being quite happy I didn't waste my money on alcohol tickets. The festival was a great DC experience overall and quite a deal, since going out to all of these restaurants could get quite pricey.
I ate, I saw, I conquered. Then I rolled my little body home.