Gilroy Garlic Festival: Saturday
Oh these busy, busy days. I wish they could all begin with ice cream and end with root beer floats! I’d weigh 900 pounds and be severely diabetic (maybe even dead!), but the pure sugary bliss running through my veins would be so totally worth it!
Nicci’s mom called reveille at 8:00am this morning. I hopped in the shower and met the girls downstairs for a quick breakfast (a cup of orange juice) before hitting the road for the 31st Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. We arrived shortly after 9:30am, and although the event wasn’t supposed to kick off for another thirty minutes, the few people who stood waiting in line were granted permission to enter before the official start time. To the surprise of everyone, the weather was somewhat dreary this morning. Overcast with a hint of fog, cooler than normal temperatures, and a relatively small attendance made me wonder just how big this event really was.
Rather than wait for crowds to form, we made a short walk through some of the free samples stations and enjoyed our first garlic-flavored goodies of the day. They were mostly dipping sauces and olive oils, but they were still good. Next I ventured towards one of the garlic ice cream stands (not the free one, the fancy one!), where I tried a scoop of garlic pralines and caramel ice cream. The initial flavor of garlic was shocking, but after the first spoonful it tasted as good as ice cream can taste. I felt officially initiated into the festival, and from that moment on the garlic-infused foods became more and more desirable.
We checked out all the crafts booths in that section of the park. I thought that was it for the festival grounds. Once we finished looking at local artists’ works and took a quick lap around the food stands to see what was there, I thought maybe this would be what we’d do all day. Nicci then informed me that the huge field upon which we were walking was less than half of total area of the festival. When we reached the second, main grounds, I shocked to learn how huge Christmas Hill Park was, and how much space was used for the festivities. We ended up spending most of our time in this second, main section. Our first stop was at Gourmet Alley for a bowl of garlic pesto penne and a slice of garlic bread. Both were amazing.
We watched a cooking exhibition with Andrea Froncillo, an Italian-transplant chef who owns The Dead Fish and The Stinking Rose among other restaurants in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. He was actually quite vulgar during his demonstration. Repeated references to sex and cooking made for a very good time. He even threw a handful or two of garlic flavored condoms into the audience. When asked if they actually tasted like garlic, he responded by stating, “That’s your job to find out, not mine.” He made mussels and sea bass. The mussels looked really appetizing and easy to prepare, the fish looked kind of gross.
After the demonstration, we vowed to return to Gourmet Alley for more food. But as we were leaving the stage area, I overheard someone announcing that Fabio Vivani from Top Chef was currently signing copies of his new cookbook on the other side of the fairgrounds. We raced over to the tent assuming there would be a huge line to meet him, but there was nary a soul there. Nicci got a cookbook and had him sign it for her. I took a photo of the two of them together. He looked like he couldn’t have been more bored. Hopefully he’ll be more lively tomorrow during his own cooking demonstration.
Back at Gourmet Alley, we had an order of garlic French fries. We continued walking the grounds, visiting the children’s area, going back to the original field, and making repeated circles around the main area to see what was happening. By now the weather had improved. The clouds had burned away, it was beginning to feel very warm outside, and the park was starting to feel very crowded.
We met up with Nicci’s former school chum turned Swan Fungus donor Tyler. He was nice enough to give us both VIP drink tickets so we could enjoy a free beer. He was very friendly, made good conversation, and was generally about as normal as I could hope a reader of mine would be! He totally didn’t have that weird look in his eye I imagine many dudes who read this website probably have…the one that says “I might be a psycho or a rapist.” Tyler totally didn’t look like a psycho or a rapist!
More food came after chatting with Nicci and Tyler’s drunk friends. We met back up with Nicci’s mom and her boyfriend. We ate the garlic scampi and the garlic calamari, both of which were unbelievably good. A few minutes later we returned to Gourmet Alley for a bag of garlic bread. At some point between those two food breaks, Nicci purchased a garlic eggroll. I had a bite of it…it was alright. She seemed to enjoy it.
We sat down and cooled off for a bit. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was beginning to wear on us. The festival was in full swing, and the park was packed with God knows how many people. It seemed like at every turn Nicci was being flagged down by someone she went to school with, and when she wasn’t, we were stuck in some sea of bodies flowing towards wherever the next entertainer was appearing. It wasn’t long after this we started to wonder how much longer we’d be staying at the festival.
We finally left around 5pm, more than 7 hours after we first arrived. Back at Nicci’s mom’s house, we watched The Warriors, drank bottles of water, and relaxed. Afterwards we tried to build a fire in the yard and ate a few snacks. Nicci and I excused ourselves to find a cafe nearby with free Wi-Fi in order to post yesterday’s missing entry as well as today’s. Thanks again to Monsieur Bean’s of Willow Glen for the opportunity to save my readers from committing mass suicide upon realizing I almost went two full days without posting a blog entry. Without your zesty lemon bars and Internet access, we’d all be reading about a weird “cult” spread around the world offing themselves for unknown reasons.
Tomorrow we’ll be back at the fair for a few hours before starting our return trip to Los Angeles. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post and the inevitable Sunday Mix Tape, to be posted upon our re-entry into Los Angeles.
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