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Taste of Sandy Springs

I vacillated several times while deciding what to do yesterday. I knew I was going to attend a food event of some sort, I just wasn't quite sure whether to try to make it to Ann's Snack Bar before Ann's departure, to check out Sweet Grass Dairy at Star Provisions, or to head to the Taste of Sandy Springs, where approximately 30 area restaurants set up in tents to vend highlights from their menus.

The line for Ann's is known to be insane at the best of times, and since this was the last weekend one could be absolutely certain of her presence, I figured we'd be standing in the hot sun for hours. For someone with rosacea, this is not a good thing. At the festival, at least I'd be standing in the hot sun consuming food, rather than merely waiting for food.

Getting to taste numerous small samples of things is one of my favorite ways to dine. Given that, and the fact that Sandy Springs was the closest option, the food festival won out. I slathered myself with sunscreen, experienced great chagrin over being unable to locate my straw hat, donned sunglasses, and bemoaned the fact that parasols are not in style.

What we ate:

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Red Onion from Alon's Bakery and Market
This was David's first selection, and it turned out to be one of the three best dishes we had all day. It reminded me of a Martha Stewart watermelon salad that my mom fixed probably about ten or twelve years ago. Tangy, creamy, and refreshing. I've enjoyed shopping at Alon's (it's the only place I've ever seen Hildon water for sale), and need to make a point of getting there for lunch sometime. Their sandwiches look promising.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Coconut and Mango from Giovanni's Italian Ice
This was the first thing I purchased. I'm not normally one to start with dessert, but it was at least 85 degrees on a nearly-cloudless day, and the sun was beating down on my head. Honestly, the flavors tasted a little soapy, but it was cold and that was the important part.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Pork Carnitas Taco from Teela Taqueria
Twice-cooked tender pork with corn, peppers, pico, cilantro, and onions.
David and I agreed that this was the very best bite of the day; it was also a good value for only two tickets. Indeed, I would have gone back to try the Fried Chicken Taco were it not for the ticketing limitation (more on this below). It's my understanding that they just opened at the beginning of May in the old Grape location in the CityWalk Shopping Center. I think festivals like this can be great exposure for new businesses: after trying a sample, we definitely want to get there for the full experience. Now they just need to get their web site up (the link above goes to their page on Urbanspoon).
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Maine Lobster and Crab Ravioli from The Tasting Room
Lobster and crab with Meyer lemon beurre blanc and tomato confit.
Decent, but perhaps the worst value at the festival despite the premium ingredients. I felt that three tickets was a bit much for a single ravioli. Additionally, there was just the tiniest trace of fishiness present. I'd excuse it and just chalk it up to the staff being out of their usual serving environment on a hot day were it not for the fact that my next bite, also seafood, managed to deliver delicious sushi despite the summer sun.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Crunch Roll from Nori Nori
Smoked salmon, tempura flakes, onion, and spicy mayonnaise.
I visited the location currently occupied by Nori Nori back when it was Badayori and before that, Minado. I've heard that the latest incarnation of their mega buffet is the best yet, and after this delicious bite (a very fair trade for one ticket), I can't wait to try it. According to their handout at the time of this writing, lunch is $14 on weekdays and $16 on weekends; dinner is $23 on weeknights and $25 on weekends. I'm ready to go!
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Basil Roll with Peanut Sauce from Café Sunflower
Julienned celery, snow peas, jicama, tofu, carrots, glass noodles and basil wrapped in rice paper, served with a sweet and spicy ginger peanut sauce.
All the ingredients were fresh and crisp. It was tasty, but you've probably had equally good basil rolls elsewhere.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Buffalo Chicken Wings from Charlie Mopps Public House
I didn't try these. David said they were okay.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Turkey Bacon Slider with Cheddar Grits from The Flying Biscuit Café
Turkey burger, cheddar, crisp turkey bacon, garnished with roasted red pepper mustard, lettuce & tomato.
This was definitely a good value: a very generous portion for three tickets. The turkey patty was just a bit dry, but still tasty, and the grits were creamy and satisfying.
From Taste of Sandy Springs

Chicken Skewer, Pork Skewer with Apricot Chutney, Lemonade and Walnut Brownie from Fresh 2 Order
Can you believe we got all this for two tickets? They also get points for being the only place we found that offered a beverage, albeit a tiny one. It has been ages since I've been to Fresh 2 Order, but I remember enjoying the few meals I had there (they arrived just shortly before we moved away from Sandy Springs). David said the chicken skewer was a bit dry, but my pork was just fine. They were touting the fact that they're now serving sangria, both white and red. I never say no to sangria, though my parents and the much-missed Gus Garcia's in Athens used to make some of the best. I look forward to trying their versions.
From Taste of Sandy Springs


Although the festival offered a nice variety of dining options, there was room for a bit of improvement on the management/administration end. For example, it was frustrating that they only sold tickets in blocks of ten ($10 for ten tickets). If you did three three ticket bites, you might or might not be sated, and you'd have a ticket left over unless you could find a $1 bite that interested you. In contrast, Taste of Roswell would sell you as many or as few tickets as you desired, and I bet they sold more tickets that way. Indeed, I've never seen a food festival that set a limit like that. We worked around it, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this annoyance. I did send an e-mail to one of the contact addresses suggesting that they change this next year, so I'm not talking about them behind their backs by stating this in my blog.

Perhaps due to the recession, or perhaps because of an increase in environmental consciousness in terms of producing less waste, there wasn't much swag, AKA branded freebies like mugs, pens, and so on. I'll do my best to recycle it. Here's a list of what folks were handing out (all menus were brochure-sized):

  • Evos: They weren't serving any food, but they were handing out menus. Based in Florida, this fast-but-better-for-you chain features grease-free cooking in the form of burgers, shakes, wraps, salads, and fries. Coming to the Prado soon.

  • Flying Biscuit: Full-color regular and catering menus.

  • Fuego Mundo: These folks aren't open yet for business, but this South American grill will open at The Prado on June 5th. They weren't serving any food at the festival, but they offered my favorite kind of paper: a coupon! Buy one meal and get the second one free. Yay!

  • Fresh 2 Order: They were distributing the only real swag bag at the event, and frankly, we were grateful for it. They included a small bottle of water in the bag; purchasing bottled water at the festival was $2 a pop. Inside the blue bag, which appeared to have been donated by a dental practice, there was a menu, a postcard advertising their sangria and specials, a buy-nine-get-the-tenth-free rewards card, a $2 off coupon, a lollipop, a ballpoint pen, and a couple of mints. Seriously, I'll visit them just for being so thoughtful as to include the water.

  • KC Pit BBQ: Full-color catering menu.

  • Nori Nori: Very nice full-color pamphlet including menu.

  • The Tasting Room: Full-color menus, plus a coupon for a free martini if you attended the special three-course event they were offering the night of the festival. We knew we'd be way too tired from being out in the heat to even consider it. We would have been glad to try it any other night, although, truth be told, David and I agreed that the evening's menu looked a little safe (Red and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho, Petite Filet Mignon and Fruit and Berries in Brachetto d'Acqui Gelee for $29; $44 with wine pairings).

  • Teela Taqueria: Double-sided photocopy of their menu.


In addition to all that, I was delighted to see Tastefully Simple reps there, and I am not ashamed to say that I bought two boxes of their Absolutely Almond pound cake mix. I'm a pretty good cook, but I don't bake well (though I have improved a bit in the past few years). I've always been pleased with the quality of everything I've tried, and this cake is my go-to emergency dessert when I get stuck with the sweet spot on the menu and have no time to fill it. Night before the work potluck? No problem. No eggs required! I'm not the kind for sales parties, and I don't feel like having a representative contact me to see if I'm out of something, so I generally prefer to order through the web site. Even so, I make a beeline for their booth whenever they happen to be at a local event.

I'm afraid we totally missed the silent auction. We saw the booth when we first arrived, but we were hungry, and didn't make it back around to see what they were offering.

Summary:
  • Best bites: Teela Taqueria, Nori Nori, and Alon's.

  • Best values: Fresh 2 Order, The Flying Biscuit, and Teela Taqueria (there was a *lot* of filling in that taco).

  • Best freebies: Fresh 2 Order and Fuego Mundo.


Overall, we had a lot of fun despite the heat, and special thanks to my beloved husband for being patient and holding the food while I snapped pictures.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
leighbc
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
I love Cafe Sunflower when I go (not over on that side of town that often). As someone who must eat protein with every meal, vegetarian restaurants can be limited. Not there - I can always find something really good with protein.

Perhaps we can do the Tasting Room or Fuego Mundo together later this summer?

Good review.

PS - Straw hats are 2.50 at Target right now. :)
pointedview
Jun. 1st, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we haven't been to Café Sunflower in ages 'cause D. maintains that the servers hit on me. :) I think he's making the story better, but whatever.

Yar! Or some of the options in your thread on Facebook. I just like trying new restaurants.

Thank you very much! Thought yours on Flip was, too.

That's a good price on a straw hat. Definitely less expensive than this one:

http://www.villagehatshop.com/scala_linen_band_swinger.html

Thanks for the tip!
nadalia
Jun. 6th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
Neat stuff. That taco sounds wonderful. I recently went to the Taste of Alpharetta and had a very good time too. Here's my review: http://nadalia.livejournal.com/tag/taste+of+alpharetta+2009
pointedview
Oct. 21st, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
nadalia, I just realized that I never properly thanked you for commenting here. Thank you, and thanks for sharing your Taste of Alpharetta thoughts. I'll definitely have to try to make it there in 2010!

PS, I posted my Taste of Atlanta 2009 thoughts here, with pictures.
nadalia
Oct. 21st, 2009 01:22 pm (UTC)
Great post about the Taste of Atlanta. My hubby and I don't get to eat out often, so when we do we want it to be a great experience. That fried mac & cheese thing from Dulce looks like heaven.

pointedview
Oct. 21st, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
I think we're definitely going to try Dulce sooner rather than later. If I can remember, I'll try to post over in the atlanta_eats community when we do. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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