The scene at the first annual Fooda Fest was, in a word, familiar.
A crowd of Fooda customers, vendors and employees congregated around tables featuring signature dishes from the 5 restaurants that were voted best in the city by customers a couple of weeks earlier.
Each table proudly featured a sample portion to promote their dish of choice, and a sign listing off the more complex ingredients that the average consumer might shy away from. But not these eaters. In fact, there was not much sign reading at all. Choices were made based solely on the smells emanating from the catering chafers and memories of past lunches ordered.
Guests noshed, and drank, and chatted with each other in between bites and nods of approval. The general consensus was, yes, everything was as delicious as usual from these all-star Fooda vendors.
We think our clients and employees are some of the world’s foremost professional eaters. So when it came time to choose the city’s top Fooda vendors, we knew we could put the task of deciding in their capable hands. After months of ordering, weeks of voting and a long deliberation – the following restaurants were chosen by Fooda users:
Honored for the second year in a row was Maria’s Brazilian Kitchen, a one off brick and mortar restaurant and catering operation serving up traditional Brazilian food from tried and true recipes. Owner of Maria’s, Brad Kollar, took a break from serving up Coxinhas and chocolate truffles to address the crowd and give his acceptance speech. In addition to thanking everyone for their business, he recalled tales of the restaurants namesake – his mother-in-law Maria. She lives back in Brazil and finds so much joy in the fact that people are enjoying her recipes a whole world over. The crowd listened with thoughtful intent, soaking up every word, and by the end of it we all knew that the next time we had Maria’s baked chicken for lunch we would savor it a little slower.
In addition to the delicious spread from Maria’s….
Blackwood BBQ showed up with delicious pulled pork sliders and little tin foil ramekins of 4 cheese mac with a bubbly panko crust. Their set up even came complete with 3 of their signature sauces for everyone to taste. Kansas city style with a spicy kick, Chicago sweet heat that is, dare I say, mild sauce reminiscent ala Harold’s Chicken Shack, and North Carolina mustard based sauce that, though not thick and red like you’re used to seeing – was tart and complex and delicious.
On the other side of the globe, room, and flavor spectrum was Thai 55, who served a special Indonesian chicken and shrimp curry flavored with dried cherry, mild curry paste and coconut milk. The curry was thick with large succulent shrimp and pieces of chicken, served over fluffy white or brown coconut rice. They really went all out to show our best Fooda customers a good time and provide them with a hot delicious meal. The curry was so rich and portions were so generous, one serving had me teetering on the edge of full. Next time I need something warm, comforting and filling, I’ll know exactly where to turn.
Perhaps one of the most popular vendors of the night, was Mercadito. Mercadito is a River North staple serving up delicious tacos and street food inspired by Mexican fare. And not just any tacos. Delicious as the traditional cilantro and lime pairing may be, these tacos had como se dice, the works? I’m talking chicken tinga, rice and beans, crispy onions and potatoes, crema, and salsa verde. This handheld beauty was served up with everyone’s favorite summertime street food snack, elote. If you don’t know and weren’t at Fooda Fest to try, elote is roasted, buttered corn, made to a salad of sorts with the addition of mayo, lime, and chili. It is traditionally served on the cob, but for the sake of convenience and conversation, Mercadito was kind enough to prepare a spoonable version for us all to enjoy. And enjoy everyone did.
Pita Heaven, representing for the Mediterranean food set, was the last in the long row of vendors, but that didn’t hinder them at all. The smells of fresh baked pastry, leek and onion from the spinach pie enticed customers over to their side of the room where they were greeted with a familiar and not-so-familiar favorite paired together on one plate. Anyone even a little familiar with traditional Greek food has probably tried spanakopita – the beautiful mixture of feta cheese, spinach, onions, leek and dill wrapped inside phyllo dough and baked until warm and flaky. But you may not have tried Dolma before. Dolma is a delicious seasoned ground beef and rice mixture wrapped up in marinated grape leaves. The textural contrast, flavors and bit sized popablitily of their snacks made them a crowd favorite and kept people coming back for more.
All these delicious food options were complemented by a bar masterfully manned by the good people at Craft Yours. They mixed up signature cocktails made with blueberries, maraschino syrup, sage, lime and vodka – and wine and beer pairings to compliment all the small bites. The friendly and knowledgeable bar staff kept the drinks coming and ensured that everyone was having a wonderful time.
By the end of the evening, everyone involved had made new friends and had a new favorite lunch vendor – mission accomplished!
We truly couldn’t do it without you, our amazing customer base and wonderful vendors. Here at Fooda, we strive to improve the lunchtime experience for everyone involved, so it is truly exciting when we can connect everyone for a good time. Thank you all for being such discerning foodies and helping us grow order by order.
See you at lunch!
– Team Fooda