reprinted from Bazaar Magazine, April 2015
The first thing attendees of the Taste of Q8 noticed when they walked onto the Mishref Fair Grounds early last month was the smell of delectable aromas from every angle. Each nook along both sides of the area was a window into an incredible delight. Burgers, pizzas, Indian and Kuwaiti foods were just a few of the cuisines represented. For the first time in the small gulf country, residents could taste all the greatest food the country has to offer, in one weekend.
According to organizer Michelle Lambros, approximately 20,000 people attended the festival through its three-day duration. With 78 different vendors, and 16 home grown businesses, there was something for everybody. Her partner Caroline Rosinski was extremely pleased with the results.
“I couldn’t be happier with the festival and plans are already underway for next year,” said Rosinski. “The atmosphere was exactly what I had hoped it would be: beautiful weather, music, people lounging in the open air trying unique cuisine or just browsing through the festival.”
Each restaurant took their little nook in the festival and made it their own. Pizzeria Amami, an Italian restaurant that boasts of complete authenticity, made quite a splash. The group of Italians that run, cook for and serve in the restaurant had visitors feeling like they had stepped away from Kuwait for a moment and landed in an incredible pizzeria in Sicily.
“Our vision for the festival was to provide and share in the atmosphere,” said Franco Picco. ”All of our objectives were achieved, like pricing, live entertainment and discount coupons for our clientele. Clients truly appreciated the quality of fresh produce and that all the dishes were handmade and cooked in front of them.”
While the chefs at Amami tossed the pizza dough and spread the delicious Amami sauce (seriously, is there nutmeg in there?) the staff made everyone feel more than welcome. A mandolin player helped set the atmosphere, but it was the staff that really made everyone feel welcome. For Franco, the most memorable moment was when a young handicapped teenager came to their stall. His staff was incredibly accommodating, and made him feel right at home in their booth, and created an unforgettable experience for him.
Authenticity was a big theme for many of the vendors. Yet one was sure to catch everyone’s eye right at the beginning. A chef in an extra long beard, and thick mustache stood behind the table at the booth of the contemporary Indian restaurant Taal. Beside him, a lit tank housed dozens of fish that took the term “made fresh” to a whole new level. Customers chose the fish, that was then immediately prepared for them.
Homegrown businesses were also given the incredible opportunity to show their products to people who may not have heard of them. For the owners of Sicilian bakery Di Pietro, Luciano and Mays, the event introduced them to a multitude of new faces, and gave them great exposure. With the support of the event organizers, and their incredible cannolis, for those of you who haven’t encountered this Sicilian delight, it is a golden, crunchy pastry shell that is super light, and then filled with sweet homemade ricotta cream, were a huge hit with everyone at the food festival. Including the celebrity chefs.
“The most memorable moment for us was when we met both renowned chefs Jenny Morris and Reza Mahammad at our booth,” said Luciano Di Pietro. “We were so excited to see that they liked our Sicilian delights. Especially Reza, the way he was demonstrating the favor of the Cannoli at first bite was so humorous and expressive.”
For many attendees, vendors and even the organizers, the guest chefs truly elevated the experience at the event. Jenny Morris, also known as “The Giggling Gourmet” regaled the women with a special chili recipe for when your husband’s female friend comes over. (Just slide a very hot pepper on her cutlery and cup to turn up the heat). Reza Mahammad, known on the Food Network as “The Spice Prince” was as entertaining and expressive as he was on television. Both were extremely impressed by the festival, and were astounded at the amount of love they got from the crowd.
“I was looking out at our audiences for the Chef’s shows, and saw all the people,” said Rosinski. “From children, couples young and old, guys and gals of all ages…it was a fabulous sight to see. The Chefs loved the crowd we drew, and the enthusiasm from the public was fantastic. Jenny and Reza are ready to come back, and next year we will definitely have to do something special, perhaps events around the festival for some of our lucky attendees.”
With this year’s success and lessons learned, the organizers are already planning for next year. So keep on the look out for the next bite of the Taste of Q8!