It’s perfectly normal to fall asleep dreaming of tenderloins, right?
It is now that the season for summer festivals is upon us. And because we’re in Iowa, that also means food. Lots of it. Vendors lining streets selling glistening fried foods on sticks, creamy smoothies, tart lemonade, bursting breakfast burritos and buns loaded with burgers, pulled pork, brats and, of course, tenderloins.
I spent Saturday morning sampling many of these dishes as a food judge at the Marion Arts Festival. My sidekick, fellow SourceMedia-ite Amy Skilling and I nibbled our way through coconut cookies, brats, smoothies and noodles.
The overall winner was Iowa City-based Urb Garden’s vegetarian fare. In a note to the chef scripted post-event, we urged them to “lubricate their veggie wrap” with a few others items, but I failed to mention that Skilling and I both decided we would shower in their Red Pepper Hummus if possible. The homemade hummus was the best part of the wrap and made it easy to look past the lack of variety of vegetables, or possibly cheese or nuts that could be added. They also served a curry vegetable dish with perfectly cooked brown rice that had carrots, white sweet potatoes, and saffron that actually got better as it cooled off. We couldn’t stop going back to the dish between bites of the others.
As an aside, Urb Garden is a organic, vegetarian catering business owned by chef Derek Roller. There’s no brick and mortar restaurant to visit. You’ll just have to scour the rows of food vendors at area festivals to get a taste of his food for yourself. Hint: We hear they are usually at the Summer of the Arts events in Iowa City.
Our other favorite came from the opposite end of the spectrum. Nelson’s Meat Market of Cedar Rapids was serving a grilled tenderloins, brats and hamburgers. We only tasted two of the three, but it was extremely hard to quiet our carnivorous souls and turn away. It was a close call between the meat and the vegetarian options.
So what tipped the tables toward Urb? We made the final assessment based on the “whole package” — line, customer service and accompanying dishes. Plus, what makes you feel better at 10:30 a.m. on a warm day while looking at art? A fresh smoothie and a plate of healthy, fresh ingredients that you can carry as you browse through art stalls.
An honorable mention goes to the 29th Avenue Bakery for “creativity and ease of carry.” Small chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips and pretzel bites had a great salty/sweet balance. The peanut butter cookies topped with snickers were a great twist on the old peanut butter cookie/Hershey kiss combo.
As I lay in bed Saturday night, with a purse full of cookies and kettle corn, I rested my eyes knowing that Skilling and I had voted well by choosing a winner that served up delicious, fresh, local, organic and healthy food. So why did I continue to wake up to the smell and mouthwatering flavor of the grilled tenderloin? Maybe we were onto something with our idea of combining two dishes to create a (gasp!) Grilled Tenderloin Red Pepper Hummus Veggie Wrap. Perhaps I need to open up my own food stand.
— Laura Kaiden
Don’t forget about all the festival’s dedicated to food too. Here’s the food journey we put together to satisfy our hunger last year. Dates of all the festivals will fall around the same time this year. Check our festivals page for more information.