Opening day of the Oklahoma City Arts Council's Festival of the Arts brought frigid weather that treated the sparse midday crowd to a rare sight — no lines at either the Indian Taco or Strawberries Newport booths.
Those that braved temperatures hovering above freezing, winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour and just enough moisture to ensure mild numbness of the face and extremities, were able to pick and choose whatever they wanted to eat or drink on International Food Row.
The aforementioned standards were joined by plenty of other familiar flavor-makers. New to the row this year is Norman's farm-to-fork concept Local, Cajun King and Peruvian concept Inca Trail.
Local's Melissa Scaramucci said the foul weather might've helped rookies to the event.
“We've been prepping for weeks and still didn't make it with some little things we needed,” she laughed. “We're totally OK with it being a little slow today, we'll be ready when the weather improves.”
Local is featuring a fried avocado cone, meatloaf cupcake and a dessert called the Buzz Bomb.
In his first year at the festival, Inca Trail chef/owner Niel Zambrano is offering Peruvian specialties like Pollo Rostisado — a rotisserie chicken rubbed and marinated with spices and citrus juices — corn on the cob painted with aji amarillo cream, and ceviche. The corn on the cob is imported from Peru, meaning the kernels are about the size of the pearls on June Cleaver's necklace as seen on “Leave it to Beaver.” Papas Huancainas is a dish of boiled potatoes smothered in the aji amarillo cream, a mild yellow pepper mixed with feta cheese and cream.
“We are ready to rock and roll,” Zambrano said.
Cajun King is featuring the dishes responsible for the north-side buffet extraordinary success: fried chicken, fried catfish amandine, and red beans and rice.
The big addition to the Culinary Arts portion of the festival is the Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage, located in a covered tent at the rear of Stage Center, just east of the pottery booth. Local chefs and one wannabe (yours truly) will demonstrate a variety of recipes and offer samples to those in the crowd. The 45-minute demos are scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day of the festival. Iguana Mexican Grill was first to perform on the stage, handing out a delicious pork tenderloin and chimichurri dish with smoked green beans and roasted potatoes.
Despite the chilly start, the 46th incarnation should see crowds steadily increase as the forecast appears bright. According the National Weather Service, highs should jump to 58 today, 67 Thursday, 71 Friday, 75 Saturday and 80 on Sunday.