A Taste of Charlotte: Heaping Samples of Journalism, Friends, and Food

15 Jun

Maddie and I go back far. Really far. I met her during the production of Anne of Green Gables (I was Gilbert Blythe, and she has Josie, his sidekick). I was 13 back then, out of touch with myself, hair down to my shoulders like John Lennon or Jesus, self confidence the size of Anthony Michael Hall’s forearms.

We grew apart a little in high school, as a result of new friends, outlooks, and a little bit of stubborness on my part. This summer, we’ve been seeing each other a lot, and it’s being around her that I realize how much I’ve grown in seven years.

I went to uptown with her for Taste of Charlotte, something I had always heard about and wanted to rightfully experience, whatever that means. It’s quite a racket they have going on there. You pay a set amount for a “bucket” (a 4oz. cup) of coins you can use at the various vendors. There’s of course some of the chains in the Queen City that were hanging out and dishing out on Tryon Street (Fuel Pizza, Wild Wing, Flying Biscuit, and TCBY), but a couple localites were there, too (Namaste India from the East of Charlotte, Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, and the great Mert’s). We bought a $20 bucket and went around the stands, with entree samples costing around three coins, and desserts and drinks for two. Chicken vindaloo, samosa chaat, bread pudding, tiramasu-it was like a global gastronomical circus.

Mert’s had a monstrous delight called the “soul roll:” the Southern way of making an egg roll: chicken, dirty rice, collards, pinto beans all in a wrapper with spicy mustard. It’s like those over the top fair foods, but instead of an entire Oreo fried, this is an entire menu gathered together in one big top collection. Really good but kind of filling, like a lot of the offerings there (see also: sea bass cake and chipotle slaw, bacon wrapped scallions).

While the soul roll was pretty decent (the mustard kept it from getting too out of control), the best thing we had was the bread pudding from Dilworth Neighborhood Grille: a building block brick of bread, cinnamon, caramel, and powdered sugar.

You know that moment in a meal, when just a little bit more would do the trick? Well, my friend ended up getting another full bucket, so what was a risky game became a full-on extra set of courses, even though my hunger was probably worth around two coins.

The food was good (even when it got to be too much), but my favorite part of this festival (and dining, too) was people watching.

There was a towering balloon animal guy, a desperate Harry Houdini impersonator, drum circles, adorable dogs, college kids passing food, Caribbean accented jerk chicken chefs, a melting pot of people and of food.

A big guy with clear ashtrays for glasses carried on with us for ten minutes about the semantic and flavor differences between a frozen banana and an ice cream cup at the Cold Stone stand. They had a sign that said “the banana is not ice cream.” I’d like to wonder, “What if it was?”

“Tommy, there are a lot of pregnant people here.”

“Well, we are at an eating function, so they could just be fat.”

The Planet Smoothie, a permanent fixture on the corner of Charleston’s John and King Street, had its own satellite here at the T o C. Both Planet Smoothie and Smoothie King lean towards having head-scratching names for their blended beverages.

One of the Planet’s offerings was called the “Thelma & Louise,” but as refreshing as a frozen mix of strawberries and pineapple sounded on a sweltering and crowded evening, I didn’t want a drink named for homicidal housewives.

Bonnie and Clyde? Sacco and Manzetti? Ike and Tina? See what I mean?

Unlike Las Vegas chips, the T o C coins were unredeemable, with each stand proudly showing an “All Sales Final” sign. This meant the adventure was far from over, and even though we were stuffed, we had over ten coins worth of food ahead of us.

Courtesy of Marvel

Galactus feeds on planets in the universe, a power that would have been tremendously useful at a time like this.

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2 Responses to “A Taste of Charlotte: Heaping Samples of Journalism, Friends, and Food”

  1. pleasehannahlouise June 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    They could legitimately just be fat.

    This made my afternoon, seeing as it is still the afternoon on the west coast

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  1. Bite out of Boston, Number One. « Table Scraps - July 25, 2011

    […] You get a scannable Charlie ticket to put into a terminal at each station’s entrance. Swipe, walk through a guillotine-like queue, and you’re more or less on your way. The ticket works like an account card, so you can always add money back onto it. Luckily, I never ended up with an excess amount. […]

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