DATIL DO IT!
Event dishes up spicy samples at fairgrounds
By JENNIFER EDWARDS
The following is a report by Jennifer Edwards from the St. Augustine Record.
Posted Here on October 25, 2010
Pictures in the first slideshow are credited to Lisette Villadoniga.
Pictures in the second slideshow are credited to Chris Bodor - these are from the Sauce Off!.
ELKTON -- One thousand meatballs and three stuffed pork loins slathered with datil pepper mustard.
Fratelli's owner Drew McCormick thought that would be enough.
But Datil Pepper Festival-goers begged to differ, eating it all up three hours into the event Saturday at the St. Johns County Fairgrounds.
"The only reason we had unhappy people was because we ran out of meatballs," Virginia Jones, an employee helping at the booth, said with a smile.
Fratelli's was one of 15 restaurants to serve up datil-inspired dishes next to the staccato lights and clicking rides at the agricultural fair.
And all of them were flat out of food by early afternoon after attendees -- an organizer said there were thousands -- paid $1 a sample to taste concoctions that included carrot-crab bisque and pulled-pork tacos.
"Not only is it a fun event but ... you can sample until you're sick, and it still won't cost that much," said Richard Villadoniga, a spokesman for event organizer Slow Food First Coast.
The samples held to a simple rule: It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that zing.
Villadoniga said restaurants had to incorporate the local pepper into their dishes.
He said the goal was "to pay homage to the datil pepper without being too spicy."
"The datil pepper is our special culinary item here locally," he said.
First Coast Technical Institute culinary student Brooke Butler was offering a datil chicken spring roll with datil pepper dipping sauce and a pulled pork taco with tequila lime barbecue sauce and Napa cabbage slaw.
The dishes didn't last long.
"I brought enough samples for 100 to 120 people ... and it's gone," she said around 1 p.m. "The spring rolls were gone in an hour."
Courtney Bodor, 17, was doing her part to help the "slow" food disappear quickly.
Seated at a picnic table drenched by the sun, she tucked away with gusto her pulled pork nachos and pulled pork taco.
She didn't want to come to the festival, she said, but the first bites rewarded her handsomely.
"I didn't really know what (the festival) was at first," she said as she bit down.
"It's really good."
Slow Food First Coast went from a booth at last year's festival to organizing this year's event and now is hoping to expand it, Villadoniga said.
He called the turnout from the public "great" and said he'd like to see more restaurants next time around.
"We're hoping next year to push it to 25," he said. "It's a great cause."
A portion of the proceeds will go to help establish a garden at every elementary school in St. Johns County, he said.
"We've got such a crazy obesity epidemic and diabetes epidemic," he said. "The school garden program is a great way to introduce (healthful, local eating) to kids and start the conversation."
|Best appetizer: Bubba and Gianni's pulled pork spring roll featuring a datil dipping sauce|
|Best entree: Hotshot Bakery's sweet, savory and spicy crawfish and crab cheesecake|
People's Choice Awards
|Best appetizer: Collage Restaurant's carrot/crab bisque|
|Best entree: Sunset Grille's shrimp and grits|