As I've gotten older, I've become less enthusiastic about being in crowds. So imagine how I felt, when a few of my News-Sentinel colleagues hit Junk Food Alley for the Three Rivers Festival kickoff – there were scarcely 10 attendees.
We decided to divide and conquer the alley. And, surprisingly, we all chose different things.
Rain thunder, lightning didn't deter our mission to sample as many of the exotic eats as we could. When we took cover in the park pavilion to begin our communal meal, I soon found out that someone had bought chicken feet.
When one of my colleagues bought them, the vendor said, “Chew what you can and spit out what you can't.” Good advice – three of us couldn't stand the gristly texture and there was no taste. The buyer ate one foot, but that was enough for him. We agreed that you're not craving chicken feet, you're paying for the experience of eating them. And it's something gross to mention to the rest of your family at the dinner table.
Among the other goodies we sampled:
Pulled pork sandwich: Everyone loved this. The meat was tender and the barbecue sauce had a pleasing flavor. It wasn't spicy, either. It was perfect.
Deep fried pickles: I really liked these. Dill pickle spears were dipped in a light batter that when cooked, was bubbly and thin. The pickles maintained their crunch through the frying process. The jalapeno ranch dip sent these gherkins over the top.
Taco salad: This seemed like a small portion for $7. My colleague enjoyed it but said It needed more taco chips.
Loaded tater tots: These spuds were topped with sour cream, bacon and cheddar cheese and proved to be very filling.
Enchilada funnel cake: I wasn't too sure about this combination at first, but it turned out to be one of the best things we tried. A cornmeal funnel cake was dusted with enchilada spices, then topped with cheese sauce and chorizo. It was a good communal snack.
Candied nuts: The aroma is what greeted me as we strolled down Junk Food Alley. I bought a small order and it was served in a paper cone and was warm – very comforting on a stormy day. The amount of candy coating was perfect. I liked them so much that I had to go back and get another order to bring home.
Chocolate-covered bacon on a stick: We had mixed results on this. The smooth texture of the chocolate with the crispy bacon didn't really gel. We liked the flavors, but the bacon left a heavy aftertaste. It was tricky to get off the skewer and I was worried that if you ate off the stick, you might stab yourself with the skewer. I would skip this.
Chocolate covered strawberries on a stick: Who doesn't like chocolate and strawberries? This was our favorite sweet treat. Our order had five delicious strawberries, dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate. I craved them the rest of the day.
Chocolate-covered maraschino cherries on a stick: Again, the skewer can be troublesome. If you are the only one eating this, you can bite off the cherries from the the stick. If you pull off one berry at a time, you'll have to assume the risk that you might send a cherry projectile onto a friend.
Pina colada shake up: This was a disappointment. There was next to no pina colada flavor. This is another item I would give a pass to.
Lemon shake up: This is one of my favorite things at any festival. The lemon flavor clears the palate for the next deep fried or chocolate-coated wonder. My only wish is that there would be more liquid in the cup – especially at $5 a pop.
As I've been writing this, I've been munching on another festival staple I brought home – carmel corn. Sadly, the flavor isn't as complex as other carmel corns I've had in town, and there weren't many peanuts in my bag.
Despite the weather, we had some tasty and unusual food. If you look forward to Junk Food Alley every year, by all means, go and have your favorites and enjoy the sights, smells and tastes. For me, I'll be enjoying my lemon shake-up even if I have to dodge the raindrops.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Laura Weston-Elchert at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 461-8468.
Three Rivers Festival's Junk Food Alley
Where: Headwaters Park
When: July 7-15
Deep fried pickles: $7
Vegetable basket: $8
Carmel corn, small: $4
Pulled pork sandwich: $7
Chicken feet: $3
Loaded tater tots: $7
Taco salad: $7
Funnel cake: $6
Enchilada funnel cake: $10
Candied nuts, small: $5
Lemon shake-up: $5