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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!