"Backstage" at the Atlanta Healthy Food Fight
The weekend of October 22-24, my mom, niece and I somewhat spontaneously decided to travel down to Atlanta to participate in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight. My recipe for Vegetarian Jambalaya had been chosen to compete.
We loaded up the car Friday afternoon and headed south. Instead of going the more popular 95 to 85 route, we opted to travel down 360 to 29 and then join 85 near Greensboro. If you live in or near Richmond and are looking for a nice drive, I highly recommend 360 to Danville. There was almost no traffic, the road has four lanes, and it travels through gorgeous rolling hills flanked with trees, which were filled with Fall color that weekend.
Anyway, we stopped for the night in South Carolina and then continued to Atlanta Saturday morning. We picked a hotel within walking distance of the Taste of Atlanta, which was also the site of the Food Fight. My cooking slot was at 4:30 so we had plenty of time to enjoy the day. And what a day it was: wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s. Perfect Fall weather.
The Taste of Atlanta is a lot of fun and a good way to sample many different types of foods offered by a variety of restaurants. My niece Sara and I are both vegetarians, but we found plenty of options.
Preparing to Cook
I arrived for the food fight at my scheduled time. The set-up consisted of burners, ovens and food prep tables set up on a stage and covered with a canopy. Food runners met with us right from the start, checking to make sure we had all of the ingredients we needed. I was missing a couple of things, including a red pepper and vegetarian chorizo. The runner went to get the supplies. Unfortunately, she brought back a vegetarian polish kielbasa instead of chorizo, but I made it work. I sauteed it in a separate pot with some spices and onion to try to give it a chorizo flavor.
Competitors around me were really friendly and had come from all over the country. I ended up having difficulties with my burners, but the nice contestant next to me allowed me to use one of hers. She had flown from New York, just for the day.
At the Judges' Table
The Jambalaya I made took the full 90 minutes we were allowed. The main reason is that brown rice takes a while to simmer and cook. I was the last contestant to finish and presented my dish to the judges. Sara Moulton from the Food Network was one of the Atlanta judges; however, she was slotted to be there Sunday, and we were there Saturday.
After the event, my mom, Sara and I were beat. Following a brief rest in the nice outdoor lounge at our hotel and a cup of coffee though, we headed out into the evening to explore a little bit of Atlanta. We went to a new area not far from the hotel, walked around and enjoyed a great dinner at a somewhat exotic Italian restaurant.
Arriving back in Richmond exhausted Sunday evening, we perhaps wondered why we drove so far just for a weekend. One thing is sure though: we will remember our adventure in Atlanta for years to come.
For more pictures, recipes, and info, visit www.vegetarianlight.com
For the Vegetarian Light Cookbook, visit www.litevegetarian.com
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