Food Festival: Broad Appetit

Sunday was Richmond's annual food festival - Broad Appetit. The festival is focused on local food, wine, and organizations. Also, vendors/restaurants sell samples of their food for $3 a plate. I've been the past two years and loved it, but this was my first time going to a food festival and being gluten-free. Being gluten-free at a food festival can be a bit difficult, but here are some tips that I think can help you navigate the endless sea of food booths:

1. Plan: If you can get your hands on menus prior to the festival, do it! It helps to have a strategy.

2. Go Early: We went for the first few hours of the festival and it was great. No one was sold out of anything (always good), the crowd was a bit more managable and we were able to talk with vendors and ask if dishes were gluten-free. It can be a bit anxiety inducing to try and talk to someone about a dish being gluten-free when there is a mob behind you and the staff is moving at the speed of light.

3. Set Reasonable Expectations: Go in knowing that, for a variety of reasons, the majority of dishes at a food festival are not going to be gluten-free. A few reasons - most vendors sell things that can be eaten while walking around (think sandwiches, wraps, etc.); deep-fried things are always a hit; there are few places that cater to gluten-free fare.

These tips definitely helped me have an amazing time at Broad Appetit - having someone with you who knows a ridiculous amount about food and cooking (like what the base of a sauces is) is also very helpful. We ate way too much and bought a few things to take home. Here's a recap!

Reginald's Peanut Butter: Since nut butter is one of my major food groups, we started out by sampling some delicious nut butters from Reginald's Peanut Butter. This company truly is the best thing since peanut butter. The folks working the booth were super friendly and informative and let us sample a variety of flavors. We tried the CashewNilla Butter, The AppleSin butter, the Hazenult Amaretto butter, and the NanaHoney butter. All of them were fantastic and we took home a jar of the NanaHoney butter. If you're in Richmond, find this company ASAP. You need this peanut butter.

Mezzanine - Pork/shrimp meatballs with green papaya salad: I had this dish without the sauce (it contained soy sauce) and it was pretty good. The meatballs were really juicy and I always love green papaya. Overall, it was good.

Petites Bouchees - chocolate & espresso buttercream/ hazelnut salted caramel/dark chocolate black currant ganache/ dark chocolate peanut butter ganache macarons: These macarons were one of the highlights of my day. I really, really like macarons and they are naturally gluten-free, if made in the traditional French way. We bought four macarons and had two at the festival and ate two in the car when we were leaving (no pictures, sorry!). Every single flavor we had was delicious but my favorite was the dark chocolate black currant ganache - it literally made my day. I will definitely be buying some of these in the near future.

Lehja -mango glazed prawns with spiced beet puree and mango and five bean salad: This was the best dish of the day by far. Lehja is an upscale Indian food restaurant and we had no idea it even existed! I LOVE Indian food and am a bit snobbish about it (part of my family is from India - I can't help it) and this was the best Indian food I've had in Richmond. It had such clean, bright flavors that are hard to come by in Indian food. We are already planning a trip there.

Culinard - Duck BLT: Brad's culinary school was at the festival as well so we stopped by the booth to say hi and Brad got the duck BLT. Obviously, I couldn't eat it but he said it was amazing! Although - how can something with duck and bacon not be good? The crowd also seemed to be loving it!

Lady Nawlins - cajun smoked corn: Lady Nawlins is a new Cajun restaurant and we were really excited to try some of their food. We literally got a whole corn cob that was slathered with a cajun aioli - it was awesome! This dish was a team effort - Brad held the corn, we took turns taking some bites, and I was on napkin duty. It was super messy but delicious!

Nile - spicy minced chicken: I've been to Nile before and had the most amazing Ethiopian food with their signature teff sponge bread that I adore (and yes, it's gluten-free!). Brad had never tried Ethiopian food so we got a plate of their spicy minced chicken to share. It was delicious, as always, and super spicy.

Bearer farms honey: After eating way too much, we ended with tasting some local honey from Bearer farms. It was so so so good that we bought a jar of it to take home. I love local honey and this honey has incredible flavor!

Overall, we had some seriously awesome food and brought home some tasty local treats. I love Broad Appetit and it was surprisingly easy to navigate and eat gluten-free.