Saturday, August 28, 2010

Recap of the Healthy Food & Green Festival

So if you didn't make it out to the Healthy Food and Green Festival this past Sunday, this is what you missed:

The festival had its high and low moments because of the rain, but it wasn't completely disastrous. If it poured for the whole day straight through, then it'd really suck. Fortunately, the rain was sporadic, dampening only a short segment of our festival and by no means extinguishing our spirits. Despite the weather, our vendors came with lots of boisterous enthusiasm, warmly welcoming all visitors and presenting their goods with all the energy of a bright summer day.

The vendors spiced it up a notch at this festival, donning costumes and vociferously proclaiming their goods. It felt like being in an exciting sports game; the fanfare and friendly competition among the vendors provided free entertainment of sorts and gave the event some fun. There was the Go Restaurant fish man selling temaki and yakisoba, the bandit-masked girls of East Restaurant (44th street location), who happened to complement the cowboys of Otokomae in the neighboring booth. Hakata Tonton's executive chef Koji Hagihara wore his pig mask again (advertising his restaurant's signature tonton pork) and was seen posing for numerous tourists' cameras. We spotted plenty of summery yukata, worn by the folks at Nu Skin and O planning's staff, who were selling healthy okonomiyaki, or as they called it, "teriyaki pizza."

The festival at about noon

Go Restaurant

East Japanese Restaurant (44th St. location)

Hakata Tonton Executive Chef Koji Hagihara
O planning
Some healthy food highlights worth mentioning included Suzuki Farm's wide range of fresh, organic Japanese vegetables. Asahi Ryokuken offered free shots of their Ryokko Aojiru health drink, Ajinomoto offered shrimp gyoza and edamame gyoza. Thirsty visitors' options were the plenty of ramune being sold and a wide array of refreshing tea drinks available at the Ito En booth. Those with a sweet tooth had plenty of options at Cafe Zaiya, Beard Papa's, Katagiri, and East Japanese Restaurant.

There were also an abundance of free samples available, something that wasn't as present at the last festival. Negiya's fried chicken wings, Aojiru, Salonpas, teriyaki chicken, even tenugui were offered free all day or for a limited time. There was also the free taste tests by Kikkoman Pearl Soymilk and Yakult, which both gave people a sampling of their flavors in exchange for their opinion.

Goya from Suzuki Farm

Grilled eel from East Japanese Restaurant (55th St. location)

Ito En green tea


Organic ramen salad from Souen

Tanichico-yaki from Otokomae

Tofu Steak from East Japanese Restaurant (44th St.)

Yakult probiotic drink

Kikkoman Organic Pearl Soymilk taste tests

Kids enjoying shaved ices

Ajinomoto Edamame Vegetable Gyoza

Daifuku from Katagiri

Aojiru barley grass drink

Negiya's organic tebasaki
Marukome Miso Yaki sauce
Sushiden sushi

Mochi ice cream from Beard Papa's
We would also like to thank all the chefs who participated in the JRO Essence of Japanese Cuisine Demonstrations. Renowned chefs Fred Sabo and Billy Strynkowski gave demonstrations throughout the day on how to cook and prepare healthy, homemade Japanese dishes using ingredients such as miso and tofu. There were also demonstrations by chefs from our vendors and sponsors such as Marukome, Otafuku, Hakata Tonton, and Souen. These chefs demonstrated essential Japanese healthy cooking and dishes using tofu, macrobiotic principles, fish, mentaiko, and okonomiyaki. Guests participated in post-demonstration taste surveys of products and were rewarded rewarded with gift bags filled with our sponsors' products. We do acknowledge that there was a miscommunication over the amount of Marukome gift bags available, and we humbly apologize to our disappointed guests.

Jenna Zimmerman, Billy Strynkowski, and Fred Sabo hosted the demonstrations

Line for tastings after the demonstrations

Gift bags for completing surveys

Marukome miso gift
We realized that some things didn't go according to plan. Beard Papa's actually couldn't bring their cream puffs (yes, we were just as disappointed) because they had to stick to a certain level of quality. They explained that their puffs are always made fresh and are supposed to be eaten immediately and would've gone bad if they were kept at the booth for the whole day. Instead, they sold some mochi doughnuts injected with the same vanilla cream custard as well as everything else on their menu, such as mochi ice cream and mango dessert.

One of our favorite parts had to be when the rain became so torrential that the Information tent buckled under the weight of the water and collapsed onto one of our team members inside. He was saved by a dozen vendors and JapanTown staff, who all ran out into the deluge to rescue him and the booth's contents. (A big thanks to the vendors who helped us!) Seriously, we thought this example of team spirit in the face of adversity represented the mood of the entire festival. We wish we had pictures of that to show you! It was quite a dramatic scene. Here are some soggy moments:

Hiro Takenaga, the director, was prepared for this weather

The rain only stopped a few from joining us on Sunday, and in between spouts the street was actually pretty busy. We thank everyone who visited and welcome everyone to the Soul Food Festival on September 26th, when we'll be featuring Japanese regional comfort food specialities! Stay tuned for more info on the upcoming vendors, special offers, and products that will be available! We hope to see you then!