Thursday, July 24, 2014

Forking Good!

Fork Food Market Logo
I love food markets and I think they love me back in their own special way. There was that one time in Tepoztlan, State of Morelos, Mexico. The Tepozteco loomed at a distance and I sat on a rickety wooden bench before an indigenous woman who seared corn tortillas on a comal and stuffed them with fresh cheese, zucchini blossoms and huitlacoche, a fungus known as corn smut and a delicacy south of the Rio Grande. Even though the skies opened up and a plastic tarp served as a makeshift awning, little could deter us from enjoying our earthy homemade quesadillas amidst our humid and humble surroundings. A week later, though, the market showered me with all kinds of love: a furious gastrointestinal ailment, the feverish consumption of toilet paper and a self-imposed saltine-crackers-and-serum diet that lasted for what seemed like years.

Early On
Here on The Rock, weekly food markets are non-existent so many of us rejoiced when Fork Food Market set up shop in Aglantzia every Friday from 6 p.m. to late throughout the month of July. With an itinerant location, the market aimed to provide revellers with international street food (no souvlakia here, people) including burritos, pulled-pork sandwiches, Jamaican jerk chicken, cheeseburgers, Taiwanese steamed buns (gua bao), churros, lasagna, vegetarian fare and more.

Gua Bao & Pulled Pork
On our visit last Friday, we sampled a gamut of dishes, voting the burgers and Taiwanese steamed buns as the best-in-show. The burger (my guess is a quarter pounder) was cooked a perfect medium (some might argue medium-rare) and came dressed with bacon, sautéed onions, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on a soft bun topped with loads of sesame seeds. For a street burger, it was worth the six Euros and tops, say, Goodburger on Larnakos Avenue. The steamed buns, soft and airy, were filled with either teriyaki-glazed pork belly or salmon, some lettuce and a sliver of cucumber. The pork version was tender and not too cloying, albeit served a bit too lukewarm for my palate.

Churros With Caramel Sauce
Other dishes, while still commendable, were not as successful. The pulled-pork sandwich was not the traditional version we expected. In our world, it's slow-roasted hand-pulled pork doused with a runny Carolina-style barbecue sauce and a creamy coleslaw. The Urban Soul Kitchen's version felt more like a Sloppy Joe: the meat was very finely pulled and seemed to have been cooked in a thick and quite spicy (thumbs up!) barbecue sauce. Also, the bun was too big for the amount of meat included and felt a tad stale. Dessert-wise, Kalopessas' churros were light and flavourful, courtesy of a rich caramel sauce, but lacked the soft crunch I associate with biting into this Spanish dessert. My guess is our portion had been sitting out for a while and wilted like a flower in the Nicosia heat. Furthermore, the beer and wine selection (KEO and Heineken on draft and small bottles of Greek Moschofilero) was somewhat of a letdown. Fork Food Market would have been an ideal place where to showcase Cypriot wines and/or invite Prime Microbrewery or Aphrodite's Rock Brewing Company to supply the beer.

The Masses
Overall, the event was jovial and kid-friendly and brought out the masses by eight-thirty p.m. or so. According to our drunken headcount, at some point there must have been at least 1,500 people crowding Spyros Kyprianou Municipal Park in search of quality street food. There is one issue, though, that deserves to be addressed vis-a-vis the ambiance. A radio station blared music from several speakers and every so often a pair of emcees grabbed the microphones to narrate what was going on around them. Stop that. It's not necessary or enjoyable. We don't need people giving us a play-by-play of what's on offer, specially if it's loud and not comedic. If all this hullabaloo is for your radio listeners, then a simple and succinct message promoting the market every thirty minutes is more than enough. I know brevity is not part of the Greek DNA but many of us don't want a side of yapper with our food.

Fork Food Market's Season Finale will be tomorrow (July 25th) from 6 p.m. to late at Skali Aglantzias. See you there, acoustic earmuffs not included.

Whine On The Rocks' Rating: 4 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

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