Emporiyum: Better than the Bacon Festival

You might have heard that Saturday's Maryland Bacon Festival at Rash Field was kind of a disaster. The Emporiyum food festival, which took place in Fells Point the same day (and Sunday), also had glitches with long lines and food supply—how popular these fests are says a lot about Baltimore's exploding foodie culture—but left a much better taste in attendees' mouths. If you were at the Emporiyum, you might have been unsure if you were at a food fest or a porn set—the oooohs, ahhhhs, and "oh my god"s—were everywhere. They might have come after tasting the heaping mound of sweet lobster chunks pressed between a hot buttered New England roll from Luke's Lobster or in between slurps of the steaming bowls of pork ramen being slung by Toki Underground. We certainly heard some gasps in response to Volt's lamb bolognese with homemade torchio pasta, or maybe it was the crab cake slider being served by Bryan Voltaggio himself. Whatever the trigger, the sounds proved that the food, when available, was indeed yummy. We stopped by on Saturday and sampled a myriad of things, mainly from local places, but also from well-known joints in New York, DC, and even Columbus, Ohio. The event featured free (at times, small) samples from most of the vendors along with the option to buy full size portions to eat there or take home. Dooby's was serving up tastes of their melt-in-your-mouth pork belly buns, DC's Astro doughnuts showed off flavors like maple bacon and crème brulee, Stuggy's went Asian with deep-fried General Tso hot dog wontons along with their staple crabby mac dog, Woodberry Kitchen was frying up shoo-fly chicken legs, and Fleet Street Kitchen was plating up a delicious pork boudin blanc sourced from their own farm (to name a few of the 35+ vendors). We were especially eager to try the out-of-towners, notably Momofuku Milk Bar, the well-known NYC dessert mecca, and Columbus-based Jeni's Ice Cream. Milk bar was offering up samples of their compost cookie and, even better, their trademarked crack pie, a butter and custardy pastry that pretty much fits the name. Jeni's, who wrote a bestselling book on DIY ice cream making, was selling scoops and had us pining for August with their creamy Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry flavor. It was nice to see such collaboration and intermingling between the local businesses—at one point Woodberry lent Voltaggio their larger fryer—but the event didn't come without its hitches. As we mentioned, some of the sample sizes were pretty small and, if you got there later in the day, almost non-existent, resulting in paying a $15 entry fee just so you could pay for more things; something that left many people disappointed.  Lines were also an issue at times, with the wait for Toki and Volt being well over 20 minutes throughout the day. These types of hang-ups are sure to come with any first time event but we certainly hope they're fixed if they plan on any future installments.

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