Artscape food goes 'green'

July 19, 2008|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

The idea of organic food at Artscape seems so right - those artistic, hippie types eat a lot of sprouts and tofu, don't they? But it also seems so wrong. Festival food is about grease and calories: funnel cakes, gyros, pizza, fries, hamburgers, Jamaican wings and jumbo hot dogs.

Even the Brass Elephant, the fine-dining Baltimore restaurant that has had a presence at Artscape since the festival began, knows what fair-goers want. Its booth sells Italian sausages and crab cakes.

But this year, Artscape's one large food court has been divided up into six smaller areas scattered around the festival grounds. The University of Baltimore sold the lot where the large food court has been held in the past, said Kathy Hornig of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, explaining the change.

FOR THE RECORD - Fig Leaf Farm's name was misspelled in a photo caption accompanying an article in Saturday's Go Today section about Artscape's "green" food court.

Five of the eating areas feature the traditional festival food we know and love. But the sixth is something new.

Walk north up Charles Street, which is blocked off from cars around the train station this year. Although the area seems out of the mainstream of the festival, some of the most intriguing exhibits are along here, including the Heartbreak Cafe (performance art) and the fantastically decorated art cars. Just before you get to the stage set up at North Avenue, you'll see the Organic Food Court in the parking lot across from the Charles Theatre.

A better name for it might be the "Green" Food Court because what's being sold there isn't necessarily organic. The offerings have a healthful angle, said Hornig, which might be an emphasis on vegetables or a lack of red meat. (You'll have to go elsewhere for your Philly cheese steak.) Much of the food is locally produced and seasonal.

"No grease and no frying," she said. "And the containers are all biodegradable."

You may wonder why the Stoneyfield Farm Organic Yogurt booth isn't in the Organic Food Court but is instead nearer the train station on its own. I stopped to ask, but the man in charge hadn't heard of the new eating area.

Some of the vendors in the food court do have organic offerings, like B-more Alive! Farm. You'll usually find its owner, Adam Kandel, selling his produce at local farmers' markets; but this weekend you can get his organic falafel wraps and juices - apricot-blackberry or peach-cherry - at Artscape.

Be sure to stop at the Fig Leaf Farm booth. The owners of three popular Baltimore restaurants, the Helmand, b and Tapas Teatro, have bought a 5-acre farm in Howard County. They are growing organic vegetables and herbs for their restaurants there.

You can get some of their produce at the Organic Food Court, as well as beet gazpacho and melon basil sorbet made at b and organic kebabs from the Helmand. If you want to eat Tapas Teatro food, just walk across the street. During Artscape, it opens at noon for lunch with a limited menu. It usually opens at 5 p.m.

The other Organic Food Court vendors include Station North Arts Cafe; Brunie's, a vegan bakery; Succor Smoothies, with drinks made from locally grown fruit; the Yabba Pot, a vegetarian restaurant (don't miss its marinated, roasted local corn); Zia's Cafe and Juice Bar; and Dominion Ice Cream, which specializes in vegetable ice cream with flavors such as spinach and tomato. (I just report this stuff.)

The guys selling Dangerously Delicious Pies (apple, chocolate chess, lemon chess, sweet potato and pecan) didn't seem to know why they were in the Organic Food Court - except that the pies are baked fresh daily.

But Heathyr Dozier of the Station North Arts Cafe booth, who was selling frozen chocolate bananas and cinnamon-glazed pecans, almonds and cashews, had an explanation for what her desserts were doing there.

"They're sort of healthy," she said. "Nuts and bananas."

If you go

Artscape continues from noon until 10 p.m. today and noon until 8 p.m. tomorrow. It's located in the areas around Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, midtown Baltimore and Charles Street.

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