In the case of most trilogies, the third edition of a Hollywood picture series is often the weakest [See: Return of the Jedi]. Fortunately for foodies, festivals are not subject to that rule of thumb. As such, and to the delight of the masses, the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival returned yesterday in expanded form over at the Westside Provisions District. After a ragger of an event in 2010, I was all over this like a Cabbage Patch Kid in a tomato patch.
For those unaware, the festival is a slam dance mash up of booze, grub, and music that showcases both Atlanta chefs and that little round red ball of seedy goodness. Oh, hello belly … you are looking an awful lot like a tomato right now. Hosted by JCT Kitchen and sponsored by Georgia Organics, this year’s festival was the first to span both sides of the WPD bridge and went off in fine form. Despite young evil doers and their attempts to sway me with hints of pork festivals far far away, and obscene amounts of food, and a World Cup match to compete with, The Attack of The Killer Tomatoes was a whole lot of Deep South goodness.
As far as the overall experience, things took a dramatic step forward in 2011. With two points of ingress and a larger playing field, people had a much easier time navigating the festival than in previous years. Georgia Organics was also super smart to introduce a menu that listed both the food and the location of each chef and mixologist. Lines were deep and the food went fast (most were done by 3pm after just two hours). Though we showed up right at the opening and moved through lines like eager beavers, we missed out on a handful of samplings. Having heard that several restaurants went through between 700 and 900 portions in just two-hours, that last point is no surprise. I’m half thankful – had I had to taste everything put out – I’d have exploded.
Though I *think* it would have been possible to space out some of the tables a little better, moving around wasn’t the elbow competition I expected given the expanded lineup of participants. And save for the sparse number of compost receptacles and a notable reduction of restaurants from elsewhere in the Southeast, the 2011 Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival was a pretty flawless experience from the consumer side. And now onto the good stuff. Space, time, *cough* alcoholic consumption, and lack of desire prevents me from recounting each of my steps. Still, Team Buddha (a conglomerate of Susie Washing Machine, GI Joe, and Kandi Slice) had a fun time, so here’s a little bit of eye candy for ya.
Across The Bridge
Donald Sargent of Morelli’s Ice Cream put up a killer little treat. In typical Morelli’s fashion, Sargent successfully played with expectations. Instead of a more expected edition of tomato ice cream with basil accents, they put out this olive oil basil ice cream with tomato compote. Sargent was rewarded for his efforts with a special mention from the judges.
I would have loved to have seen a reward for bested dressed, as there was a lot of stiff competition. Case in point, Callie Schlosser donned a tomato sun dress. Joined by Jerry Slater, the team from H. Harper Station posted a tomato and inspired concoction they dubbed “The Girl From Ipanema.” It had a bubble tea thing going on … neat!
Hector Santiago showed up with his Pura Vida/Super Pan team. They put out this “montadito de tomates.” Powered by heirlooms from Farmer Jeff, this wrapped nibble included house cured pork, fresh tomatoes, and tomato gochuajang. The latter was a riff on Korean hot pepper paste. For their spread, Hector and gang received the Best Presentation award. They were also the only team to take two awards, as the People’s Choice for best drink went to Paul Calvert and Raul Aparcana.
Other points of interest “across the bridge” were some tasty tomato sausage bites from chef Josh Hopkins and a refreshing strawberry & tomato bastida from bartender Heather Miller, both of Abattoir. There was also a nicely plated caprese from Ormsby’s, carefully assembled tomato biscuits from Woodfire, and tomato braised lamb cheek from Kevin Rathbun.
JCT Bar And Upper Courtyard
Taqueria Del Sol corporate chef Eddie Hernandez put together a tomato and cueritos tostada. Taker homer of the People’s Choice for best dish, this round tortilla was topped with W.A. Hennessey Farm tomatoes, cueritos (pickled pork skin) relish, and habanero aioli.
Floataway Café was one of the more adventurous participants with their tomato & charred watermelon pops. The judges awarded Andy Carson of Bacchanalia, Floataway’s sister restaurant, with best taste for his table of goodies.
While Miles MacQuarrie of Leon’s Full Service was busy dishing out a tequila and tomato based beverage that captured the award for best cocktail, the crowds were deep for the tomato ceviche from ONE Midtown Kitchen and the heirloom marmalade crostini from Bocado.
JCT Kitchen and Lower Courtyard
While the Spazmatics rocked out on stage in getup just like last year, Cooper Miller of the Feed Store rocked out his tats, both temporary and permanent (also in B-Smooth’s vastly superior early picture set). Miller’s heirloom salsa gelee with shrimp ceviche, tortilla powder, and micro cilantro was the most ambitious attempt of the day.
Bruce Logue of La Pietra Cucina, you might remember is scheduled to move on, put out some beautiful tomato brudos, one cucumber infused and one straight up (I’ll leave you to figure which one is which).
Other opportunities to stuff my gullet came from Miller Union, out in full force with a shrimp and rice grits plate dish powered by Love is Love Farm and some drinks from Mixer of libations Stuart White, Watershed’s Tomato Royale with Cheese and some Hot & Hot Fish Club’s Florida hoppers over an Heirloom tomato salad. Unfortunately reduced to a vegetarian offering by the time we got there (it was seriously busy folks), at least @AngieMosier got a picture.
Until We Meet Again
Though this fun filled festival got a little creepy at times … after all, dudes sporting safety helmets were playing loud music and this mysterious dude looked like he wanted to pummel some folks … it’s a microcosm of what Atlanta’s food culture is all about. Oh, I suppose I should clarify that the above person, while appearing to be the bastard offspring of Dog The Bounty Hunter and Patty from The Jerk, is actually the affable Andy Minchow of H+F; still, it was a sharp departure from their more playful attitude last year. [You’ll see that same girl’s ribbon in the shot above, although, she was sans tomato uni]. But nonetheless, Minchow’s costume helped his guys bring home the award for best booth.
So we can safely put the 2011 Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival to bed. If you missed it … sorry. If you didn’t get to taste everything … join the club. And if you didn’t have fun … well that’s a surprise. Now I’m off to bed, likely to encounter some Dr. Suess like hallucinations of large floating tomatoes during some REM cycles. I’ll let you guys know when (and if) I actually eat again. If you still want more, be sure to check out The Attack of The Killer Tomato flickr set, which has a lot more images from the event.