St. Francis Xavier’s International Food Tasters Festival, Brunswick GA

This is Marie, making a contribution about a rather delightful annual event at my mother’s church, the International Food Tasters Festival. It’s been going on for 21 years as a fund raiser. The event started out rather small but has been getting bigger, and by this year there had to have been at least a hundred people in the room just while we were eating, including several of my mother’s friends who were looking forward to meeting me and my family. A few restaurants even participate in providing offerings. If I remember correctly, my mother made a few contributions towards the early, small events, but she has just been going to eat since then. That’s really more of the fun part as far as I’m concerned.

Some Cuban picadillo was the high point of this plate, which also includes some potato salad, kielbasa and carapulca.

From the top left, this is rosemary pasta, a roll, carapulca, saffron rice with peppers and a cube of cheesecake.

One of the things I knew to steer Grant towards was the blackened shrimp. There’s a really delightful contributor who brings a huge batch of them every year. I remember on one occasion the shrimp was actually cooked in a big black wok-shaped pot over charcoal outside the door, so the guy who brought it could serve right out of the pot. That was marvelous, but since everyone this time was using steam trays and the like I would gather that the rules have changed. The servers were even all wearing plastic gloves. It’s a shame to lose the fun factor, but cleanliness trumps fun when you start attracting the kinds of crowds that attended this event. It was a shame Grant couldn’t have seen that, but it was still quite satisfactory to see that he went back for seconds and then thirds.

The variety was quite good. The blackened shrimp of course got highest marks from everyone. I was the only one to try the plantains from the Jamaican stall except for Mom, and they were lovely. We shared the occasional forkful from each others’ cups and made recommendations if the item was too small or awkward to be easily sharable. Grant of course had to report to me how the kielbasa and other sausagy things were (reports were positive) but we all tried things that others didn’t. Which is as it should be.

Clockwise from the top: Chicken afretada, jambalaya, blackened shrimp and higado liver.

Clockwise from the top, this is adobe chicken, Singapore noodles, m’jadra and the blackened shrimp.

The kids both tried some of the soups and quite liked the clever presentation of the potato soup from the Irish table – it was in teeny little bread bowls made out of rolls. Julian tried to eat his as a finger food, which led to amusing results, but he said it tasted good anyway. Ivy got several of the desserts. I had a bean and peanut stew from Peru called carapulca that no one else liked but I thought was lovely. Other standouts included chicken afretada and a mango salad from a Filipino member, something called m’jadra, a rice and lentil dish from Syria, and a really good corn chowder, allegedly from heaven. Grant even had some hidago, not learning until much later that it was liver, onions and tomato sauce.

Almost all of the desserts were standard bake sale kinds of things except for the lace cookies which, while very pretty, are generally dry enough that you really want to cup of hot tea to go with them and since that was lacking I passed. I wound up with three servings of cheesecake anyway (two standard American and one Italian ricotta) and they were quite satisfactory. Grant was most pleased by the key lime cake.

Our son deemed the food “amazing, some of the best I’ve ever had.” He seemed most impressed with the ricotta cheesecake. Our daughter ate a bit here and there and then found the company of the other kids more compelling. Grant and I had fun comparing notes and making suggestions. Overall this was an excellent suggestion of my mother’s and continues her trend of offering good ideas.


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