Post-Feast…(er, Fest!)

The inaugural GastroFest has come and gone, and by all accounts it was a huge success. Beautiful Hemming Park was the perfect setting last Saturday for the masses to enjoy Northeast Florida food and food culture. And were there ever masses! The last numbers we heard, which may not be the final tally, were that over 30,000 people came out to sip, savor, socialize, and support our local foodshed.

There was so much to see, do, taste and learn that we couldn’t post or tweet fast enough to let everyone know about it! So we decided to do a whole post full of pictures. Were you there? Comment on this post and let us know what your favorite part, activity, event or vendor was.

We couldn’t think of an “s” for it earlier, but the all-day rotation of great bands on the D’Land Music Stage provided an aural backdrop for the buzz of activity that day.

Speaking of buzzes, we weren’t able to make it over to the cocktail competition at the Candy Apple, but we heard it was a blast! Beer seemed popular with everyone from morning visitors to the beer tent…

Breakfast? Well, they say beer’s liquid bread, right?

…to the Beer Apostle’s homebrew competitions in the special events tent.

Jolly judges!

But wine was not to be outdone. One event that we were especially excited to be a part of was the Vegan Wine and Cheese tasting in the special events tent.

Happy vegans!

Todd, with Republic National, did a great job of explaining what makes some wines vegan and others not as he offered tastings of two whites and two reds.

Todd Paschall explaining the distinction between vegan and non-vegan wine.

Meanwhile, we were so busy serving and talking with people about SunRAWise‘s fantastic plant-based “cheeses” that we didn’t even have a chance to snap a pic of the platter. Attendees had the opportunity to sample a wide variety though: Original, Blue Vein, Italian Herb, Rosemary, Smoke & Spicy, and Smoked Gouda. Those there who didn’t already know and love this non-dairy, healthy cheese alternative became instant fans.

Speaking of not having time to snap pics, there were so many representatives of our local foodshed there, there was no way we could visit them all. And some, like FreshJax, we visited several times and just spaced on taking any pictures, I guess. (But you can see them in the right corner of the photo above!) We were also SO hungry that we forgot to take pictures of Tapa That’s aMAZing vegan meatballs before we wolfed them down. (What was IN that magic citrus sauce, Chef Coutu?!) Truly, the participation by our local farmers; co-ops; urban agriculture educators; food businesses and chefs who are interested in healthy, plant-based eating; those who are effecting social change through food; and more was overwhelming and we would like to thank ALL of them for participating and showing everyone what Jax is doing to make the world a better place.

A few more pics:

Matthew and Devon representing Dig Local, a not-for-profit that works to connect people to better food.

Heather Borders, of Kailo Nutrition was there, talking with people about transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Did you know that rice is being grown right here in Jax? Farmer Scott Meyer and Amy O’Hoyt of Congaree and Penn were there to spread the word.

Brett, from Down to Earth Farm, presented “Supporting Local Agriculture” in the theatre at MOCA. Many thanks to MOCA’s Denise Reagan for being the hostess with the mostess for the day’s presentations!

Conscious Eats’ Florence Haridan doing a cooking demo.

Florence was also one of the panelists for the “Food and Social Good” discussion, along with Brett Swearingen of the North Florida School of Special Education’s Berry Good Farm; Kim Fore of the Children’s Home Society of Florida; and Angela TenBroeck of Traders Hill Farms. On the left is GastroJax’s Executive Director, Erin Thursby, moderating the panel.

In our presentation on “Eating Sustainably in Jacksonville,” we mentioned all the different ways one can find and buy local food, including co-ops like Local Fare.

There were so many local, small prepared-food businesses there, like Community Loaves, Bold City Pops and, of course, SunRAWise, a Fest supporter from the very beginning.


SunRAWise has such a wide variety!

Did everyone do some shopping at GastroFest? We sure did!

The SunRAWise cashew cream cheese was gone before we could get any pics of the creations we used it in, but here’s some of what we did with the rest of it:

True confession: We’d never had rice grits before; if you haven’t either, do it! Congaree and Penn’s are the creamiest, most delicious thing ever and will be making a regular appearance on TOA’s menu from now on!

FreshJax’s Coconut Curry was a new try for us. We used it as a breading for sprouted tofu on a bed of sautéed broccoli greens. Delicious!

We do hope everyone had as good a time at GastroFest as we did. Comment and tell us about your experience!

GastroFest is here!

Saturday is the big day. Hemming Park is the place. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jacksonville will enjoy its newest festival, brought to us by its newest nonprofit, GastroJax, Inc. The organization’s goal with the festival is to celebrate, promote and educate people about the food culture of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida by creating a comprehensive food festival, a festival that would include all of our rich food-related traditions; our fantastic local restaurants, chefs, food experts, and cookbook authors; food producers such as farms, beekeepers, and small prepared-food businesses; other food-related nonprofits; and more. It is going to be epic!

Hard to believe it was almost a year ago that GastroFest showed so well at One Spark!

GastroFest will not only be an opportunity for people to taste delicious food from their favorite local restaurants, like Tapa That and Blue Bamboo, they will also be able to connect with the people who actually grow and produce some of the food that we enjoy in those restaurants and in their homes, like Down to Earth Farm and Congaree and Penn. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn how foods, like Community Loaves’ sourdough bread, and beverages are made.

FreshJax, one of the many local food businesses that will be at GastroFest.

And the focus on learning about food and food culture is key, as education is one of GastroJax’s main missions. Of course, just eating food and communing with others who are doing and enjoying the same thing is an education in itself. For example, if you’ve never been to a cupping (it’s like a wine tasting event for coffee) you’ll have a chance with Bold Bean on Saturday. Curious about how cheese made without milk tastes? Try out SunRAWise‘s delicious gourmet products at the Vegan Wine & Cheese Tasting at 5:30.

Try SunRAWise‘s delicious gourmet plant-based cheeses at GastroFest.

In addition to the more experiential learning, there will be short films, talks and expert panel discussions (all free) going on at MOCA. There you can learn about and discuss the science of food, the connection between food and social good and so much more. In fact, I hope to see everyone there from 5:00 to 5:30 for The Organic Adventurer’s presentation “Eating Sustainably in Jacksonville.” Bring your questions!

Come see TOA at MOCA at 5:00!

It’s hard to know whether to put all the great cooking demos, films, the kids’ zone, etc. in the category of education or entertainment; they’re both! But there will also be great music playing all day long on the D’Land Music Stage for your entertainment. There is really WAY too much going on to highlight it all here, so go to the GastroFest website and check out the “Fest Events” tab. And if you want to carry a program with you at the event, they are available inside the March issue of EU Jacksonville.

Get your fest program inside the March EU.

Finally, it wouldn’t be TOA if we didn’t point out the hard work organizers have put into making the festival as “green” as possible. First, of course, they’ve highlighted local food. As you’ll find out in my talk on eating sustainably in Jacksonville, supporting the local foodshed is a biggie. A good portion of the educational events (eating sustainably, supporting local agriculture, the importance of bees in our food system, etc.) are really also environmentally related. After all, one of the biggest impacts humans have on this planet is related to our food and eating habits. But you will also see some material measures, such as encouraging the use of public transportation (the Skyway is free that day!) and a whole lot more, that will help reduce the fest’s impact on the environment.

Riding the Skyway is fun…and free for GastroFest!

One more thing: The concept of taste tickets is new to many people, so here’s how the cost/food thing works. The festival itself is free and many of the attractions, like cooking demos and the kids’ zone, are too. The food tastings are done by taste ticket, which means you buy tickets for $1 each at a booth. The tastings cost around 1-3 tickets each (vendors have set those prices themselves) and tastings are going on all day long. Check the schedule so you don’t miss one you wanted to try! There are also a couple of all-inclusive taste ticket options. Then there are the ticketed events, like the aforementioned Bold Bean cupping and the Vegan Wine & Cheese tasting. You can buy tickets for those events online.

Local, independent market Native Sun will be at GastroFest!

So let your inner foodie out to play on Saturday, and don’t forget to come visit TOA at the Museum of Contemporary Art at 5:00. Bon appétit!