Here’s Aaron with his cafeteria tray (see #5, below).
We’ve very excited at FiTR today, because tonight is Choice Eats, an event we plan for all year long. This is the sixth annual version of the festival, which has been improved every year since the beginning. Now we have 86 restaurants, bakeries, and candy kitchens participating – and the roster varies every year, so there are always new things to try in addition to old favorites. As the actual event goes down, we participate, too, scurrying among the booths and collecting our own roster of snacks, treats, and beverages. Here’s some advice we can give to Choice Eats newbies as well as veterans, some of it obvious, some not so.
Flaming up a s’more
1. Pace yourself and relax. The event lasts three hours, and even if you arrive late, there’s plenty of time. Booths rarely run out of food and usually not till the last half-hour. When they do, there are plenty of other booths to choose from. And, as my grandmother told me about once a week when I was a kid, chew your food slowly, you’ll digest it better.
2. Challenge yourself. There will be many booths distributing things you love but are already familiar with. Make sure that, on several occasions during the evening, you pick something that’s new to you, even strange. We have many forms of ethnic food that remain relatively obscure to the general populace, all of them chosen for their absolute deliciousness.
3. Don’t drink too much too fast. One of the unique features of Choice Eats is the diversity and freeness of the alcohol. To most of us, that’s something of a challenge to not get distracted by the booze and turn the festival into nothing but a three-hour open bar at, say, a nephew’s bris or niece’s quinceanara.
4. Meet some new friends. One of the things that unites Choice Eats attendees is their affinity for high quality eats and dining adventures. So they constitute an affinity group much more highly defined than anything on the internet. Take some time to meet people who enjoy the same interest in food. Get married (or not). Reproduce. Create a new generation of Choice Eats participants.
5. Bring a tray. Last year, or maybe it was the year before, we started seeing colorful trays appearing on the Choice Eats main floor. You know, the kind you used to get in cafeteria lines at school. We think the inventor of this technique was a foodie of our acquaintance named Aaron Suguira. But it’s an idea that could occur spontaneously to anyone. It means that, instead of juggling a couple of dishes and napkins and beverages with only your two hands, you can collect several items from different tables and array them all in front of you, eating and carrying as you go. Two people can share a tray and create a defacto airborne table.
Bonus Advice: Behave counterintuitively. Eat desserts first, when the dessert lines are empty, eat savory dishes later, when most folks are heading for desserts. Instead of picking the longest line on the assumption that that is what everyone wants to eat, pick the shortest, on the assumption that nobody will know till the end of the evening which tables offered the most exciting food.
Other suggestions welcome in the comments section. See you tonight!
Choice Eats in full swing
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 19, 2013