“Try a taste of this,” and, “this is so good,” were often-heard comments as hundreds of people enjoyed a Saturday morning sampling freshly prepared dishes in the inaugural Tailgating Throwdown cook-off contest at the downtown Red Stick Farmers Market.
The event featured 20 “tailgating” booths that filled two blocks of North Fourth Street with tantalizing aromas and mouth-watering dishes.
The booths, hosted by a wide variety of organizations and clubs, served offerings ranging from “Beat Bama burgers” to very complicated dishes such as Rosemary lemon crustini with fried alligator sauce piquant.
All dishes had to include at least two ingredients purchased from the 55-booth Farmers Market, said Darlene Rowland, a development director with the Big River Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance.
“We wanted to build community awareness that the market is here and that it includes much more than just produce,” Rowland said. “We have meats and seafood and cheeses — all produced here in Louisiana. We actually inspect the farms before they can sell here.”
Visitors purchased $15 plastic bracelets that paid for all their samples and qualified them to vote for “Best Use of Local Ingredients,” and “People’s Choice Award.”
A third trophy, “The Judges Award,” was decided by celebrity judges Poppy Tooker, a New Orleans chef, food blogger Jay Ducote, Advocate Capitol bureau editor Mark Ballard and WAFB anchor Donna Britt. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne emceed the awards ceremony.
Team 10 from the Louisiana Culinary Institute was serving the rosemary lemon crustini with fried alligator sauce piquant along with several other dishes. Chief instructor Colt Patin said their two groups of four students each purchased $50 of fresh produce for three dishes and the recipes would be posted on the school’s website next week.
Brad Axelrod and his son Sam, 11, were also eating their way down the street toward the State Capitol.
“We come down here every weekend — Sam grew up here,” Brad Axelrod said. “I think this is the best special event they’ve ever had here.”
Back at the judging table, Britt said she was very impressed with all the samples, especially the grilled goat meat and goat cheeses.
“The elephant chili was good,” Britt said, “and I loved the Italian cream cake.”