Posted by lemonjelly on:
Opening night while dignitaries, celebs, attendees and media were stampeeding up to the Arlington for the opening film, I was engaging the friendly door guards at the site of the after party within Paseo Nuevo. Amongst the ambiance of glowing blue and red lights I found my prizes: the nibbles offered up to the party attendees.
The SBIFF restaurant sponsors have always intrigued me. What do they serve? Is the sponsorship worthwhile? Do people even eat when they're wearing flashy whisper-thin frocks and gowns? Enquiring minds want to know.
First, the scene. All the drink and nibble tables were spread out between the open spaces and the side streets of the Paseo. The lighting created some challenges because much of the side street lighting was actually not working, leaving the restaurants' tables in the shadows. The party-goers didn't seem fussed, at least, and judging by the crowds packed around the tables, everyone was famished.
The popular offering was soup! There were three soup stations put on by different restaurants. Pascucci offered a hot creamy sweet potato soup, which was all round enjoyable, and served at just the right temperature.
My favorite soup came from the Organic Soup Kitchen, a non-profit organization commited to dishing up nutritious healthy meals to the homeless. Tonight they offered a fresh coconut yam soup, based on a recipe that became a favorite of Humphrey Bogart's in the 1940s while filming Casablanca (see how they tied their dish to film?). The soup tasted clearly of fresh coconut, thin and delilcious. I had taken a pre-filled cup, which had cooled to lukewarm, and even still it was a very pleasant soup to drink. The OSK folks working there were also one of the friendliest bunch, mainly because there was enough of them at the table to dish out soup while engaging people in conversation.
The third soup I tried came from the Hob Nob folks. They've been around for ages, first as the high end Epiphany and later as the tavern lounge style drinks and nosh that Hob Nob is now. They offered a spicy artichoke soup, served piping hot. At first sip, the flavor seemed overly salty, but once the soup had cooled down a little I realized this was the spicy element.
Hob Nob also prepared meatballs for snacking. They were tasty, but the meat's coarse grind didn't make them the smooth tender meaty treats they could have been. There weren't many red meat nibbles offered at the event overall, so those were a good item to pounce on by meatlovers.
Over by the grand entrance to the party was Wahoo's, handing out slices of their Baja Roll - cream cheese, spinach, chicken and salsa rolled in a flour tortilla. I loved that they were nice bite sizes, and not that greasy on the fingers as long as the cilantro sauce didn't splatter. Wahoo's had a buffet selection of Mexican food, but these did look too complicated to carry around and I skipped sampling it. Wahoo's in particular seemed very familiar with the party-goers, I have a feeling they're the kind of people who sponsor other events and fundraisers in this town.
Marmalade Cafe and Chipotle win the award for Things Served on Big Chips. Neither are also local businesses, but both are actively engaged in lcoal community. I've seen Marmalade at other fundraiser tasting events, and Chipotle I think everyone knows by now is one of the most ethnical and green fast food companies around, and the only fast food company to garner a decent score on the Better World Shopper Guide for social and environmental responsability.
Marmalade handed out spicy ahi tuna, avocado and seaweed nibbles on top of wonton chips. I could eat more of those, except that I feared the chip falling apart on me, dropping the precious ahi into my décolletage. Oh, and I didn't have enough stomach space to sample multiples of the food available.
Chipotle served up carnitas with a creamy sauce and cilantro garnish. It was at this time I learned that wearing all-black puts me in the guise of looking like I work there. There was some confused song and dance when a matronly woman kept reaching for the dish already in my hand. Lady, perhaps a little too much Chopin Vodka? I made my escape to my photo studio aka the storefront of Baby Gap, and grabbed this last snap.
I decided the party was now far too heaving with people to safely chat with the restaurant sponsors and I pulled back to watch the whole affair. I noticed that all the plates, soup cups and cutlery were made with green-friendly recyclable materials and that bins for separating trash from paper from bottles were provided all throughout the venue. Very cool.
Also really cool was Andi, the SBIFF volunteer who helped me get the food samples, find good photography light, and clear away the leftover plates. She'd been volunteering for the event for six years now and kept an eye out for anyone needing assistance. Thanks, Andi, you rock!