This past weekend was so tentative with the weather. Both Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be nasty, with rain forecast for the entire weekend, with particularly bad storms for Sunday. Somehow, we managed to avoid all that, and I got to have a nice outdoor day with my friend J on Saturday, we hosted a birthday party for H on Sunday morning, and once we were all tidied up after the party, the Boy and I headed over to the Mount Vernon Rec Center in downtown Del Ray for the Taste of Del Ray.
So – what is the Taste of Del Ray? It’s an annual competition between restaurants in the Del Ray neighborhood. Attendees buy tickets and get the opportunity to taste a sample from the restaurants competing. Each attendee gets a ticket that they use to vote for their favorites, and a panel of judges also judges the food. The Boy and I didn’t get a chance to taste quite everything (the lines were confusing and long due to the event moving inside because of the weather forecast). Here’s what we tasted, and what we thought.
As we walked in, we were greeted by a woman handing out cold treats from The Happy Tart – a gluten-free bakery – the trio of cookies filled with ice cream were a delightful relief after walking in out of the hot and humid day. I didn’t get a chance to find out exactly what they were, but it tasted like a chocolate chip cookie, an Oreo-esque cookie, and one with a fruit filling. Very tasty, and very sweetly presented lined up in their little container (Happy Tart would go on to win third place in People’s Choice – which doesn’t surprise me).
The Boy thought our first planned stop should be some of the higher-end restaurants, since they usually have great food, and their stuff can go fast. So we went to the Del Ray Cafe table, and found a cold avocado cucumber soup (cold being a good theme for a hot day). Cucumber is not usually my jam, but I do love avocado, so I gobbled it up. Pretty good, but not my favorite. But the judges loved it, and it won first place as Judge’s Choice!
We skipped over Chickpea and Del Ray Pizzeria (both of the lines were too long, and the offerings didn’t excite us), and instead got in line for Evening Star Cafe. This was another “fancy” restaurant, and I was really impressed by their offering – a strawberry gazpacho and a strawberry shortcake on a stick. Both were summery and refreshing, and this is the table that nearly got my vote.
Immediately following Evening Star was Los Tios. The workers at their station were very cheerful (as you can see from the picture), and their corn pudding biscuit thing was really good. I wish I knew what was in the sour cream, or maybe what kind they used as a garnish for their dish, but it was so bright and sweet and creamy, and I was convinced it must be something special. While the dish was good…it didn’t wow me. So on we went.
I skipped over Market 2 Market since I’m picky, and their entire little dish was chickpea based (I’m picky, I know), and instead popped over to the beverage dispensers hosted by St Elmo’s Coffee Pub. I don’t remember what kind of iced tea this was, but it was refreshing, with just a little bit of floral/fruit flavor. The Boy had a taste of their nitro-cold brew, which he loves.
The line for Pork Barrel BBQ was crazy (and apparently rightfully so – they took second place in both People’s and Judge’s Choice), so we skipped that and while the Boy visited the restroom, I grabbed a plate from Rosemarino d’Italia. The pasta witha pesto-sauce and sausage was very tasty, and I could see scarfing down an entire plate of it given the opportunity. I don’t remember if I let the Boy have a taste. If I didn’t, I’m very mean, but I think understandable given the conditions. 😉
As we made our way over to the Stomping Ground table, I heard people moaning in delight over how good their offering was. So we grabbed plates (it was surprisingly easy to get to after having waited in entirely too many lines up to this point), and dug in. It was a biscuit sausage and cheese ball with a sriracha aioli, and it was so so good. The Boy and I thought it was terrific, and he ended up giving them his ticket, and they would go on to (rightfully) win first place in People’s Choice!
At this point, we rejoined the mega-line that took up half of the gymnasium. But near the point where we entered, the Boy scooped up a glass of Nitro draft-latte from Swing’s. He took a sip, sighed, and then told me I needed to try it. I’m not normally a coffee drinker, but I understood why he said I needed to, because it tasted like cold melted coffee ice cream. Dangerous thing that – so when I said it was good after my sip, he said I should get my own. I declined, noting that if I start drinking this…I might start drinking real coffee too, and then I wouldn’t have my principles. In any case, this latte was good enough to win third place for Judge’s Choice.
After much waiting, we arrived at the spot the Boy had been anticipating – Bombay Curry (he *loves* Indian food). I thought it was smart move on their part to have both a cold and hot item, one sweet, one savory. The mango lassi was delicious and refreshing, and the chicken was super tasty as well. This is where I dropped my ticket (after much deliberation), because being able to give so many aspects of a restaurant on a small plate is impressive.
Our final stop for tastings was Cheesetique – a place that I’ve already made sure that you know I love dearly. Unfortunately, their offering didn’t really speak to me. I’m (again) super picky, and beets are not my thing, though I did try the soup and it was pretty good (for beets). I wish the sassy goat bite was more something…and less things sitting on a cracker. But if there was an award for table decor, they surely would have won. I wanted to cuddle those stuffed animals quite a lot.
So that’s it. We had a fun time, we got to try lots of different foods from local restaurants, and press up against hundreds of our neighbors in a sweaty gym for an hour. When I put it like that… No – we had a great time. I definitely look forward to attending again next year, and hopefully the weather forecast will be better so that it can be held out side, and the lines won’t all glom together to form one giant snake. If you’re interested in attending too – watch the Del Ray Business Association Calendar.