Thursday, August 8, 2013

[HOT LIST] Single Food Item Festivals

Detroit BBQ Company at Pig and Whiskey.

In a world full of food festivals - as in, here's a bunch of restaurants in one place at one time outside under tents serving food and also there's music - enterprising new festival producers, nonprofit organizations with a savvy social media marketer and events person looking to put together a big fundraiser, and companies looking to create a signature marketing piece for their products (basically branded content in the form of a festival) are all hopping on board the Single Food Item Festival train.

It's just sort of this thing we do here in Detroit: someone has an idea and everyone else says "WHAT A GREAT IDEA" and follows suit to the point of fatigue (see: pop-ups, or things that perhaps somewhat inaccurately call themselves "pop-ups" - NOT THAT I DON'T LOVE POP-UPS or recognize their value for this that and the other, but there is a certain amount of "Wow, there's a lot of pop-ups now," you know?). So now we have several different Single Food Item Festivals, two of which are happening this week. Let's run through them real quick, shall we?

#1 Pig and Whiskey
Technically that's two items but only one of them is food. (I am not counting Beer Fests because those are different beasts, though plenty of opportunistic types have certainly caught on to their popularity and we are now reaching the point of beer fest fatigue, with the exception of the Guild events.) Pig and Whiskey was first, and is still the best. The name says it all: this is a pork-tastic event, and while you might think that being all pig all the time might be limiting, you obviously underestimate the popularity of swine. Participating restaurants include a lot of BBQ, as is to be expected, but also Treat Dreams with sweet and savory ice cream and the new Rock City Eatery with porchetta sandwiches (not to mention quite a few bacon-and-bourbon booze concoctions). Entrance to the festival is free and customers buy food at each restaurant. The event is held every July in downtown Ferndale and is a branding event for the Metro Times.

#2 Motown Macdown
The Motown Macdown came next, a mac and cheese competition held in Ferndale, produced by Garden Fresh Salsa as a fundraiser for Justin's Vision (so both branding AND charity event). This is held every December; last year was the second annual event held at an at-capacity One-Eyed Betty's. No word yet on this year's event. One ticket price gets you tastes of all of the chefs' creations and a few other treats.

#3 Baconfest Michigan
Baconfest Michigan was third at the gate, launched in 2012. (Note: I am no longer involved with this due to a difference in opinion regarding the direction of the festival.) This event is exactly what it sounds like: all bacon. Held every June at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, one ticket price gets you a few drink tickets and free-for-all access to all of the bacon in the room. While there is a charity component to the festival, this one falls under the "enterprising new festival producers" category.

3 days until this countdown stops.
#4 The Detroit Burger Brawl
Now in its second year at Eastern Market, if you have somehow managed to NOT hear about this I am truly impressed. If I were to make a "most annoyingly aggressive social media marketing campaign," this one would receive top honors. So...congratulations? The good news is it actually works (media loves a good press release that takes the work part out of work), and apparently they got a huge turnout last year they weren't quite expecting. This year's event is this Saturday at Eastern Market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ostensibly this is a fundraiser for Gleaner's, but appears to be a branding event for Eastern Market's Fairway Packing Co. (which in my own experience makes the BEST burgers in the area; anyone carrying Fairway meat has a great burger by default). Guests pay $10 and get tastes of all the competing burgers, then vote for their favorites on Facebook. The top eight then go on to compete live. Not sure how this all happens inside of four hours but that's the idea.

#5 Motor City Pizza Fest
Brand-spanking new to the scene, the inaugural Motor City Pizza Fest is happening tonight at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. I love pizza as much as the next guy. Actually MORE than the next guy. Actually the most. Which is why it's kind of a bummer that the lineup for this first-ever event is so lackluster: Little Caesars, Dolly's, Detroit Style Pizza Company, New York City Pizza, Hippie's Pizza. While they promise "10 to 15 pizza establishments," these are the only names I can find highlighted anywhere. Same day tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for kids 12 and under; attendees get samples/slices at each, plus there's live entertainment, an "artisan and local business bazaar," and Michigan beer and wine available for purchase. This is a Quintessential Event Company production, which specializes "in pioneering innovative business-to-business and business-to-consumer networking experiences throughout the Midwest." So. Branding event.

Also: The Detroit Ribs 'N Soul Festival
The website appears to be down and it looks like it didn't/isn't going to happen this year. (Alternative: every single Saturday all summer long at Bert's Warehouse Theatre, where the smoke from all of the many ribbers can be seen and smelled for blocks.) Still, it deserves a proper mention.