Day in Carondelet: Garlic Festival is the ‘bestival’
For the last eight years, farmers and fanatics alike have gathered in the Carondelet neighborhood to bask in the sunlight—all in the name of garlic. After missing out on the Student Life staff’s adventure to the St. Louis Garlic Fest last year, this was our chance to remedy the fear of missing out we’ve been shouldering for the past year. So we packed our bags and made our way down I-44, ready to get our hands sticky in a garlicky mess.
So, how do you feel about garlic?
Aidan: I love it. The two greatest words to ever appear before the name of an appetizer or entree are “garlic” and/or “cheese,” so you can imagine how seeing that glimmering Facebook event invite made me feel. Every time the Garlic Festival organization posted on the event page, my heart skipped a beat. Endless photos of garlic varieties (who knew there were different breeds?), updates with new vendors and items, promises of a garlic-filled haven. In my book, everything is better with garlic. Period.
Noa: I don’t like it. OK, let me rephrase. It’s not so much that I don’t like it—because I’ll eat it—I just don’t like how the smell just sort of sits with you for hours and hours (and hours and hours) after. So it’s not my favorite flavor in the world, but I won’t actively avoid it. Hey, there are even some types of garlic food (see: garlic bread) I actively enjoy, but on the whole it’s just not worth the aftermath.
What were you expecting?
Aidan: As a garlic fiend, I was hoping for endless rows of garlic-themed eateries and shops. Based on a post by one vendor (Two Tweens Treats, a Hawaiian shaved ice stand) advertising “garlic, ginger and lemon” flavored shaved ice, I expected lots of garlic-themed food stands or, like, normal food converted to be significantly more garlicky. While I did find this through some mediums (pasta and garlic ice cream), I felt like there could have been a stronger garlic presence. Rather than an allout celebration of one of the finest foods on earth, it sort of felt like a farmers market with a slightly suspiciously high garlic essence.
Noa: On the other side of the spectrum—ambivalent but more toward the dislike side—I was feeling adventurous. I had my gum ready for the post ’lic extravaganza so that I could indulge with less general post-garlic icky-ness fear. I was expecting rows and rows and rows of absurd garlic-infused delicacies and combinations that my uncreative mind could never think of. I was expecting state fair level deep-fry-whateveryou-find-in-the-pantry type absurdity. I’ve never actually been to a state fair, but I always hear about the creations you can find (deepfried Kool Aid?)—and this was my garlicky chance.
What were your first impressions?
Aidan: After poorly planning our parking spot and walking approximately eight miles to get to the entrance of the festival, I was all riled up and ready to stuff my face with garlic fries, garlic bread, garlic anything.
Noa: We got to the festival around 2:15 p.m. and I was a bit underwhelmed that I didn’t immediately reek of garlic as soon as I stepped out of the car. I was also confused
about the difference between a “fest” and a “festival.” And why Aidan kept pointing out every dog.
So, how was it?
Aidan: I was at first surprised by the lack of immediate garlic-gratification, as the first booth was a stand to advertise legalizing medical marijuana. Important? Yes, but give me the garlic. The next couple were more generic farmersmarket-type stands that also sold garlic, but we had to go pretty deep into the rows of stands to find the one garlic-only farm represented (Defiant Garlic Farm). After taking photos with my head inside of the face-shaped plywood cutout painted like two garlic bulbs, I made my way to Hummingbird Kitchen. They had rows and rows of garlic-infused pastries and bread. Honestly, it was probably the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. A couple other stands had essential oils (a few garlicky) and drinks (not garlicky). Sensing a common theme (or lack thereof)? Me too. It seemed like St. Louis vendors that also sold something garlic-infused agreed to participate in the festival, but few were as fully committed to the garlic lifestyle as I had hoped.
Noa: First of all, we need to talk about Hummingbird Kitchen. The bakery (which sells some of its creations at Meshuggah Cafe on the Delmar Loop!) made some specifically garlic-themed baked goods (breads, scones, you name it) for the fest that were almost sold out by the time we got there. After reluctantly trying Aidan’s garlic parmesan scone (I had to stay adventurous!) and being mesmerized by it, I made my way back to buy my own veggiestuffed garlic bread (thanks to a convincing sample). I was less impressed by the garlic amount on a pasta dish Aidan and I shared (I’m unconvinced it had any garlic at all), but that was quickly forgotten after a free hug from a homemade garlic pillow at Defiant Garlic Farm’s stand. Still, I felt slightly stifled and disappointed in my garlicadventurousness options.
And the best part?
Aidan: Besides the parmesan garlic scone I ate at Hummingbird Kitchen, the dogs! There were so many amazing and beautiful dogs everywhere. I’d like to think that they love garlic as much as I do. Such good boys.
Noa: A garlic eating contest. I realized as I watched more than a dozen people scarf down a half pound of RAW CLOVES OF GARLIC that I’d never seen anyone competitively eat before and I’m not sure I ever want to again. Especially garlic. But it was incredible. And I’m not sure what the more incredible part was—the fact that a man in a backwards cap, a garlic fest T-shirt, cut-off, loose flannel pants and croc-type shoes (oh, and aptly nicknamed “Garlic Mike”) was leading the proceedings or that a competitive eater, Brandon “Da Garbage Disposal” Clark of Cahokia, posted a 1:02 time, smashing the previously-held Garlic Fest record by 47 seconds.
Any final thoughts?
Aidan: I think I may have initially overestimated my garlic-eating potential, as I left the festival feeling very full and happy (and with a brown paper bag containing enough garlic to cook with until the end of the year). However, as I walked past the garlicky events calendar, I was struck with one final, burning question: Does Da Garbage Disposal make all of his money by driving around to Midwestern state fairs and vegetable-centric festivals, absolutely dominating their respective food contests? Or is it more of a nutrition-based hobby? I guess I’ll never know.
Noa: I might not have left drenched in a new garlic perfume, but is that so bad? Sure, I was a little overwhelmed with the garlic options, but I’m inching closer to liking garlic more and shedding my smell-consciousness. And, if nothing else, I have one new Twitter account to follow (@ Da_Disposal, shoot him a follow) and some garlic bread to go home to.