Gilroy Garlic Festival: Sunday

July 27, 2009

Reveille at 8:15am this morning. A quick shower, no time for breakfast, and we left Nicci’s mom’s house for the final day of the festival. We travelled in two cars today, so that Nicci and I could immediately leave for Los Angeles when we’d finally had enough of the event.

Since yesterday began with garlic ice cream, I really wanted to have something healthier for breakfast upon arriving at Christmas Hill Park. Nicci recommended funnel cake, but something about eating fried dough topped with sugar didn’t sit right with me. Nicci scooted off to a nearby booth and bought some cajun-spiced kangaroo meat on a stick. I had a bite and it tasted good enough, so I went to the same booth and bought myself some wild boar meat on a stick. A true breakfast of champions if ever such a phenomenon actually existed.

Before heading over to the Garlic Showdown to grab good seats, Nicci and I stopped by Gourmet Alley one final time to try more garlic-infused foods. We got a combination plate with garlic mushrooms, half of a garlic Italian sausage sandwich, garlic chicken stir fry, garlic scampi, and a piece of garlic bread.

The showdown was hosted by Fabio Viviani, former contestant (and fan favorite) on Top Chef. Two of the contestants in the $5,000 cook-off were Top Chef alumni, Ryan Scott from the Chicago season, and Jaime Lauren from the New York season. Fabio drew a huge crowd — standing room only — and was consistently barraged by fans seeking autographs and photos with the reality television star. It was pretty annoying to watch. He handled it fairly well, though, stopping at times to sign an infant’s Ferrari cap, and pose for photos with several fans both young and old. He joked with the audience quite a bit, interjecting information and answering questions every now and then about cooking. Apparently he’s opening up a new restaurant in the LA area (on Lankershim) in the near future. I’m sure whatever they serve will be better than Top Chef European import Stephan’s new restaurant on Olympic in Santa Monica.

Fabio handed out free copies of his new cookbook to those who answered his trivia questions, and when the well ran dry he started giving away fresh tomatoes, watermelons, and even some potted plants which were being used to spruce up the stage. He also took several well-timed jabs at his former competitor Jamie, asking her where her scallops were, then making fun of the fact that she only ever cooks soups or scallops.

One of the funniest moments of the showdown included a trivia question where Fabio asked his audience to stump him with a fact he didn’t know about garlic. A young woman walking by the front of the stage said she had a fact, and began to regale Fabio with information about garlic’s use as a treatment for yeast infections. His reaction was priceless. I think that girl walked away with either a signed apron or a signed watermelon. Later, a young girl slipped the host a note which he quickly read before bursting out laughing. Apparently it was a raunchy note that also included a phone number…and it was the young girl’s mother who wrote the note. Fabio freaked out, handed the note to someone else on stage, and said (while pointing at his wife in the audience), “If I touch that again I be in doghouse for six months.” His butchered attempts at speaking simple English were entertaining enough for one afternoon…the rest was pure comedic gold!

We left the festival before the winner of the showdown was announced, but apparently the $5,000 prize went to Ryan Scott. I’m a bit shocked to hear that, considering Ryan took time on stage to thank his partner for pretty much conceptualizing and cooking the entire thing. Weird. His two dishes were mostly raw (except for a beef tenderloin) and included raw tomatoes, hand-torn pasta (which was cooked and then cooled) and other vegetables. The beef was prepared with sundried tomatoes and black fermented garlic. That wasn’t entirely it, but he spoke fast and I couldn’t keep up writing my notes. I guess that’s why I’m not a journalist. I’m slow and I have a zero percent retention rate when it comes to remembering things I’ve just heard.

The drive home was uneventful. We stopped on the 152 to visit Casa de Fruta, but other than that it was a straight shot down I-5 to get back to LA, and we didn’t stop once for food, gas, or other. The 5 is about the most boring Interstate known to man, and I pity anyone who has to drive it on a regular basis. It took us about five hours to get home, and things were about as normal as cold be upon returning to Los Angeles. We shared some garlic bread with the neighbors and ordered a pizza. I’ll update tomorrow with a summary of the mini-vacation in photographs, and I’ll try to get around to posting a mix tape since I didn’t have time to compile one this evening.

Bong – Exhalation
Quttinirpaaq – Tonight We Will Pretend We Are Human Beings


  1. Stephen

    Great review of the festival — now I want to go.
    And thanks for the extra-long Bong song!

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