Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Maryland Renaissance Festival

If you have ventured into the depths of a Renaissance festival you have most like seen a scene similar to this:
Yes, that is ye olde food court:  overwhelming, expensive, hit or miss, and mouthwatering.  Food vendors who make their living (for at least a few months of the year) have the enticement down to a science.  To draw you in, they use a combination of bright signage, hawking, smell, and more often than not, an extreme amount of cleavage (or muscular bare chests).  I've been around faires for a good chunk of my life and usually have a pretty good idea of what will be good based on the smells.

Maryland is special type of Renaissance festival.  It has a huge attendance, is filled with beautiful, permanent structures (as opposed to tents), and offers a rather unusual selection of food.  There are the old stand-bys of fish and chips, scotch eggs, turkey legs, sweet roasted nuts, and shepard's pie.  I found out the hard way that the shepard's pie is terrible.  Odd, considering it smelled good and is really easy to make in such a setting.  The scotch eggs and roast nuts are wonderful.  And I assume the roast turkey legs are good:  they sell them by the thousands, the skin is brown and rendered, and the meat looks rich and juicy.  On the rarer side, you can buy fresh shucked oysters on the half shell, crab cakes, and various other fresh seafood offerings.  Additionally, there is a wide selection of seasonal and local ales, meades, and wines. 

Probably one of the most unique items available is the crab pretzel.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is a soft pretzel (sans salt) topped with a slightly spicy crab mixture covered in melted cheddar and monterrey jack cheese.  I don't care about the old Italian taboo of no cheese with seafood, this is delicious.  Another great crab dish available is the Maryland crab soup in a bread bowl.  There isn't huge amount of crab meat, but the broth is laced with the rich, sweet, briney flavor of crab.  It is actually a surprisingly tasty soup and not just by faire food standards... by any standards.  The huge chunks of veggies are cooked to perfection in the spicy broth which is balanced by the fluffy, doughy white bread bowl.
Crab Pretzel
I am told the Steak on a Stake is always great, tender and perfectly seasoned.  Get to the stall early for first pick of doneness, but they do prepare them continuously through the day.  The line may be veeeeery long, though--pickings could be slim.  Also, the pork pockets are supposed to be good.  The tea and coffee booth makes peasant fry bread which smells like heaven.  Fried dough.... hard to go wrong.  And you can choose from sweet or savory toppings.

There is only one weekend left in this year's run; if you are in the Annapolis/Baltimore/DC area try to make it out.  Bonus for this weekend is that it is the jousting tournament which means lots and lots of lance passes.... LOTS of them.  So go see my father-in-law and the rest of my adopted, extended family in the list!

AND for your re-direct:  some pumpkinspiration at STA!!!

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