I decided to spend Valentine's Day - at least the day part of it - at the Delray Beach Garlic Festival, a weekend-long ode to the clove going down at Old School Square. The fest had a lot going on: there were vendors aplenty, hocking garlic-based sauces, dips, spreads, and salsas. There was a garlic-inspired food alley, where you could get yourself a mess foods drenched in the titular aromatic; everything from Argentine-style skirt steak with garlic chimichurri to garlic-marinated vegetable paninis grilled to a satisfying crunch. There was also two stages - one with a parade of festival-style rock and country bands, the other that held competitions a la the Garlic Chef Competition and the Delray Beach Pizza Wars.
If that sounds like a lot of stuff, well it was. Kinda. I want to give my impressions of the Fest, but I know if I talk non-stop about it I'm going to just go on for days. So, in the interest of clarity and brevity, here are my impressions of the 10th incarnation of the Garlic Fest -- given in pro and con form -- after the jump.
- The food was, on the whole, good for fair food. We tried a garlic chicken-stuffed pita topped with sauteed onions and peppers, lettuce, tomato, and a yogurt-ey tzatziki; as well as the afformentioned panini. Both were excellent, and not too expensive. Other items were not as cost effective - like the Argentine beef, which was four measly slices of skirt steak on a bed of rice and beans for like 11 tickets. (Tickets? More on that later.)
- Beer was not ridiculously overpriced at only 4 tickets per cup.
- The music was not bad at all: we caught Robbie Hazen, who my girlfriend enjoyed a bit too much for my liking (stay away from us with your boyish good looks, Hazen), and The Republic, who were like Dave Matthews Band if fronted by four geeky teenagers with a tendancy towards metal-inspired guitar solos.
- There were a lot of free samples of garlic spread, pickled garlic, salsas with garlic in them, pestos, tapenades, and even garlic and jalapeno jam.
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- Machiavellian ticket practices. Why must I wait in a line to buy tickets before I wait in a line to buy beer, food, water or, well, almost anything worthwhile? Then, when I get to the front of the ticket line, I can only buy tickets in $10 or $20 increments ($1=1 ticket), almost inevitably suggesting I will end up with 1 or 2 useless tickets at the end of the day which I can neither buy anything with nor exchange for actual cash.
- Expensive entry fee. By the time we got in, grabbed two drinks and a couple things to eat, we were already out $60. Do you know what we could've done with $60? I can think of a few funner, more devious things than trucking around a city festival. Granted, the fest is free on Sudays but all the good stuff happens the other two days.
- Terrible competitions: The touted Garlic Chef Competitions and Delray Beach Pizza Wars were awful to watch. These kinds of events need a narrator with some skill behind the mic, which neither had. The Pizza Wars in particular was catastrophically boring: All the pizza came in pre-cooked so the crowd just got to watch 6 judges eat, who were facing away from us I might add. They did hand out some free samples, which was nice, but by the time it was over I wished I had spent the time doing something slightly less boring, like at a Yanni concert or just at home sorting my recycling.
- Just not enough to do: $12 a piece for entry and we were done after 3 hours of it. After you've eaten, the rest just isn't enough to hold your attention. Meaning you basically just paid admission to eat. Shit, I'd rather go to Alligator Alley to do that, where the food and music is better.