Monday, May 16, 2011

Hippo de Mayo Taco Fest – Manchester, NH

How does running from joint to joint in downtown Manchester, NH sampling different kinds of tacos sound? I wasn’t exactly sure when we first heard about the event so if you are a little skeptical I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Organized by the Hippo Press, the local culture and style newspaper, nearly three dozen Manchester restaurants formulated taco ideas (some inspired by existing menu items) to serve to folks crawling between the shops. $2 each! Every establishment was assigned a charity and proceeds from the taco sales and drawings held on site would go the charities. The winning taco, as voted by texting fans, would net a $2,000 donation to the charity assigned to the winning shop.

Some of What We Ate

The Smore Taco at Portland Pie company. It was messy and didn’t photograph well. We liked it but it wasn’t the best lead off.

The El Tiante at JW Hill was incredible! Orange chipotle pork in a puffy tortilla shell. The meat was so juicy and flavorful. We should have gotten seconds or to go!

The El Pato taco at Z was a great follow on to that, especially with a bit of a wait. Duck confit with avocado, pickled cabbage and Siracha sour cream. It was a little messy to eat on the run, but I got over it!

While we waited in line at Z we got to chatting with Sarah-Jane Chaplain and Dick Webster (Sarah’s father-in-law) from Candia. They were planning on hitting 6 or 7 places and had so far their favorite was the Peach Pork taco at the Pattie Shack. When we asked about how they found about the event, they indicated that they saw it in the paper and thought that it looked like fun, so they came out to check it out. They were both intrigued by our comments on the Smore Taco. Our only recommendation was to get more napkins before they started!

Dick and I chatted about home brewing as he was just getting back into brewing with his son. They had recently gotten a clone of the Sam Adams Boston Ale going with great expectations for the outcome.

The Rest of What We Ate

As mentioned above we hit the Pattie Shack and they were between tacos. It was dinner time and anything else they made was ready to order. We tried the BBQ Buffalo Burger, beef with blue cheese and firey BBQ sauce. It was well made, hot and oh so tasty. Sweet and spicy with that blue cheese funk and some lip smacking goodness!

We ended out journey after meeting up with Margot’s new co-workers, at Strange Brew. Strange Brew is a solid beer bar in its own right so I led off with a Dog Fish Black & Blue and an Allagash White. Loaded for bear! They had a smoked pork taco with cheese and an Indian spiced one as well. I couldn’t exactly tell what all was going on here, but it did taste fantastic and went great with the Allagash beer. We hung for a while longer while I finished up the drinks. The Dog Fish Black and Blue is a high alcohol Belgian golden ale with real black and blueberries fermented in it. The fruit is very accessible and the malty sweetness in the middle was intense and nuanced with fruit and spice.

There was definitely considerable demand for this event based on the lines at some restaurants and the quickness with which some others ran out of food. While this could be considered a logistical nightmare and a downer for the event I submit that it is merely food for thought when planning the 2012 incarnation of the event. We did hear complaining but no matter how well it went I expect we would have heard similar words if it was just an issue of waiting in line. The guys at the Pattie Shack had a fantastic attitude about running out of ingredients twice, go get more and keep the train rolling! I think they genuinely liked the traffic even if some folks turned around and left rather than wait. We opted to try something off their regular menu (we hadn’t been there yet) and found it to be fantastic. They get our vote as a great place to check out in the city tacos or not!

This week’s Hippo indicated that 15-20K tacos were served to 5-7K people. Damn! That is a lot of tacos and I hope a lot of funds raised for the participating charities.

We tweeted the crap out of this event and had hoped for more online action to build the hype, but in the end we still had great fun and can’t wait to do it again next year.




Belinda @zomppa said...

Sounds pretty darn fun to me! Orange pork belly? That is a whole lot of tacos. Glad you had fun! said...

I'm not a huge fan of tacos, but I do know a good taco when I taste one. So I wouldn't mind jumping from joint to joint to find that perfect one! Looks like a great time, too.

The Minister said...

I totally missed the word fest and thought you wrote "worlds largest taco".