Copious Notes

Eating your way through Crave

Djon Ramos and Josuel Silva prepare meat skewers at the Texas de Brazil tent at Crave. The first day of the Fifth Annual Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival was Aug. 12, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
Djon Ramos and Josuel Silva prepare meat skewers at the Texas de Brazil tent at Crave. The first day of the Fifth Annual Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival was Aug. 12, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky. rcopley@herald-leader.com

A couple times at festivals this summer, I made the mistake of hitting the generic festival food vendor for sustenance, and wound up highly disappointed.

In one instance, I ordered a burger called the seersucker, which seemed to put on airs of keeping up with the times, promising pimento cheese to top off the creation. But it was a bland piece of warmed-over meat on a non-descript bun and an excuse for pimento cheese by someone who needs lessons on making that delight from my wife. I think it promised bacon. I don’t remember bacon.

That and another overpriced-underwhelming fest meal left hollow corners in the experiences, because the reality is that now, if you are going to put on a festival, you’ve got to bring the food. That is a concept the Crave Lexington Food + Music festival had down from the get go, and a Saturday night at the event was a satisfying – and definitely filling – experience.

Crave brings in more that 50 vendors from around The Bluegrass offering up samples of their fare in $2, $3 and $5 portions. To eat, you purchase Crave bucks at a central tent and make your purchases with those. A sign recommended $30 for adults, though I did $20 (Note: I did not drink alcohol, which was pricier), and by the end of the evening, I was discarding the bun from my pork slider from Frankfort’s Staxx BBQ because I was so stuffed. But I did not want to miss the savory pulled pork, particularly with a Carolina sauce – this Southeastern Virginian is down with anyone who does a good Carolina sauce. And Staxx has a nice potato salad with just the right pinch of salt.

To me, part of the fun of Crave is checking out places you have missed, or haven’t had a chance to try. Clearly I was far from the only one unaware of Texas de Brazil, one of the myriad new offerings at The Summit at Fritz Farm, but they were winning customers fast with combos like garlic picanha (a generous hunk of sirloin steak) and chicken wrapped in bacon – one Crave goer, observing the Texas de Brazil grill declared, “anything is good wrapped in bacon!”

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Ilias Pappas, right, grilled next to his Athenian Grill tent at Crave in 2017. Pappas built a following for his Greek fare with a food truck and tents at festivals. Now he will have four restaurant locations as well as food service for UK students and football game fans, and a presence in Kroger stores across the state. Rich Copley rcopley@herald-leader.com

Lord only knows how I have missed the Athenian Grill, but proprietor Ilias Papas was out there working the grill, talking to customers delighting in his Greek hotdog of lamb and beef, stuffed with feta cheese on bun dressed with a kicky sauce.

Debriefing with my son, who went earlier in the day with friends, he had a completely different, but no-less satisfying/stuffing experience, sampling from vendors such as the Pollo Louisville and Crank & Boom. What we had in common was a strategy of taking a walk around first to get a sense of what was available, and he and his friends bought a variety of food and shared.

There were some scary-looking long lines, but they tended to move fast as the menus were fairly limited. Some vendors were already sold out by the time I arrived, shortly after 6, but Sunday does have a shorter schedule.

Of course music is part of the Crave equation, and Saturday evening’s fare leaned on newer acts to the Lexington-area scene. As I arrived, Treyvon King, Tee Dee Young’s son, was burning up the stage with his take on hits such as Prince’s “Purple Rain” and The Commodores “Brick House,” aided by a crack band including seasoned singer and emcee Lewis Weathers and Angie Ortega, who we are used to hearing sing, but was actually playing saxophone for King’s band.

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Johnny Conqueroo plays to the crowd at Crave. The first day of the Fifth Annual Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival was Aug. 12, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Rich Copley rcopley@herald-leader.com

Johnny Conqueroo burnished its buzz-band status with a set drawing from its album, “Washed Up.” Frontman Grant Curless doled out swirling guitar riffs over the tight rhythm section of bassist Shawn Reynolds, who occasionally slipped into lead roles, and drummer Wils Quinn.

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Joslyn Hampton leads her band, Joslyn and the Sweet Compression (including trumpeter Jeffrey Doll, saxophonist Joe Carucci and guitarist Marty Charters), at Crave.The first day of the Fifth Annual Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival was Aug. 12, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Rich Copley rcopley@herald-leader.com

At festivals, you can judge how well a crowd knows a band by how many folks are at the front of the stage when their show starts. It was a sparse audience awaiting Joslyn and the Sweet Compression when the soul combo took the stage, but the crowd quickly filled in, dancing along to the groove of originals like “Honey, Be,” “What Did You Think?” and the sultry, slow-jam “If I Break it Down.” A few songs in, it was actually hard to move a way from the stage because the crowd was packed in, and dancing like they just didn’t care.

Like with the food, Crave is a chance to sample local music, and Saturday’s lineup left us wanting more.

Follow Rich Copley on Facebook and Twitter, @copiousnotes.

If you go

Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival

When: Noon Aug. 12 and 13

Where: Bluegrass Fairgrounds at Masterson Station Park, 3051 Leestown Road

Tickets: $8, free for children 10 and younger

Online: Cravelexington.com

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