The Enchanted City: Trial By Combat
Have you visited The Enchanted City?
This is the annual steampunk and fairy-themed street festival in Troy, where the city is transformed into a magical place populated with all kinds of fanciful characters. Some are kind, and others maybe less so. But there is something for everyone over the course of the event.
Last year through Yelp I helped to organize a kind of Victorian culinary stroll. Local restaurants were challenged to create Victorian-themed bites that they sold for a mere pittance, and were then judged by a roving band of Yelp Elites. Marla Ortega at The Illium Cafe won with her duck pot pies.
This year, the festival is getting bigger, and the culinary challenge is increasing as well. Thanks to my role with Yelp I will once again be involved, although metaphorically I’ll be wearing both of my hats. In actuality, I’ll most likely once again don my powdered judge’s wig.
Beyond the spectacle of it all, there will be something very exciting happening with local food.
A few brave Troy restaurants have stepped up, and are putting their chefs to the test. The Illium Cafe is back to defend its crown, but there are a host of new competitors looking to make a name for themselves in The Enchanted City. Next Level at The Ruck, B-Rads, La Petite Crêpe, and Sweet Sue’s (with guest chef Josh Coletto) are all in contention.
During the festival, all of these restaurants will have food to sell the hungry denizens of The Enchanted City. Each place will have its own booth in a restaurant alley of sorts, selling whatever they imagine will entice the crowd. And that would be great on its own.
But at 2 o’clock, the chefs are mine.
I’ll have a small team of judges, comprised of members of the Yelp Elite Squad. And together we’ll select a basket of goods from the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market. What could be better than a basket of local, seasonal foods?
Well, at 2 o’clock, the chefs will have 45 minutes to convert that bounty into something mesmerizing for the judging panel, in full public display. Hopefully you can come and help cheer on your favorite Trojan chef. Or maybe you want to cheer on the judges. That would be fine too.
Mark your calendar, because the date of the big event is Saturday, August 27.
I’ve already spoken to some people about this, and their inclination was to try and torture the chefs with some ingredient that would be difficult to work into a dish. However, I think it might be more interesting to provide the chefs with a basket full of amazing produce without any intentional curveballs. Then, the difficult thing will be making a dish that stands out when everyone is using the same gorgeous ingredients.
Both require some culinary creativity. But one is about adjusting to the unexpected, and the other is about bringing the basics up to the next level.
Ultimately, I’m the lead judge, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.