By Talia Dennis and Taylor Markey

A line of people extending from the center of Hornbake Plaza onto the sidewalk of Campus Drive stood waiting for free food March 30 just before noon. This university’s chapter of Spoon University hosted SpoonFest, an annual end-of-the-year festival that allows students to taste food from places surrounding campus.

Even though the food was free, a ticket was required to get one item of food from a vendor. Tickets were initially obtained by following the university’s chapter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, one for each account, and additional tickets were available by posting about the event on social media. There was no maximum limit for tickets.

The event was sponsored by Whole Foods Market, Vigilante Coffee, Ten Ren’s Tea Time, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza, D.P. Dough, Seoul Spice and Jumbo Jumbo Cafe.

We ranked the vendors based on the taste of the food they offered and discussed our thoughts on it.

Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza: Lotsa offered one slice of cheese, pepperoni or buffalo chicken pizza. They also had item giveaways for following them on social media, such as lip balm and lighters. We split a sample of the cheese pizza.

Taylor (3/5): It tasted like regular pizza. It was not bad, but it was not amazing either. A ticket equals a small slice, which was a pretty good deal regardless because it did not cost any money.

Talia (3/5): I gave Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza an average rating because it was a basic thin-crust pizza that did not have a “wow” factor or unique element to its taste. However, because they successfully made a decent tasting, basic pizza, I feel a 3 out of 5 is a fair mark.

Ten Ren’s Tea Time: They offered peach green tea and Thai milk tea with bubbles or lychee jelly and a sample of vegetarian fried rice. Talia tried the vegetarian fried rice and Taylor got Thai milk tea with bubbles.

Taylor (5/5): I always get Thai milk tea with bubbles from Ten Ren’s; so, I was very excited to see they offered it at SpoonFest. For some reason, the sample I got tasted way better than the other times I have gotten the bubble tea. It may have been because there was not any ice in the cup like there is when I get it from the restaurant. The drink was a very generous size, and it had a great taste.

Talia (1/5): The veggie fried rice was bland and ultimately disappointing. It had an old food kind of taste to it, like leftovers. I have tried their chicken fried rice at the actual restaurant before, which I liked because it was full of flavor and a kick of spice. I did finish the sample I got at SpoonFest because it was small, but it was not something I would choose to eat again.

Jumbo Jumbo Cafe: Their table offered Taiwanese chicken. On their menu they handed out at the event, it is called Taiwan chicken with spiced salt and basil. The sample consisted of three pieces on a long skewer.

Taylor (5/5): This was probably my favorite food from the event. The chicken was kind of spicy, which made me love it even more. I could not stop thinking about that chicken for the rest of the day.

Talia (5/5): That chicken was absolutely delicious and was far from dry and tough. It had some heat, but if I ordered it at the restaurant with something less powerful in flavor like rice and vegetables, it would be a perfectly balanced meal. Just thinking about the chicken makes my mouth water and I am excited to eat it again.

D.P. Dough: They offered two types of calzones: buffalo chicken and spinach. The sizes of the samples were enough for a few bites. They also offered containers of marinara sauce.

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D.P. Dough offers buffalo chicken and spinach calzones at SpoonFest, with marinara sauce on the side. (Photo Credit: Talia Dennis)

 

Taylor (2/5): Talia picked up the calzone and was told it was buffalo chicken. However, it actually tasted like barbeque chicken and bacon. The dough tasted great, but I just wasn’t a fan of the flavor of it all. I was expecting more cheese and for something to stand out. It just tasted like bread and barbeque chicken. It did not taste bad, but there was nothing special about it. I have a feeling that their other calzones might be better, though.

Talia (N/A): I got the buffalo chicken calzone, but I ended up not being able to eat it. When I was told the types of calzones, there was no mention of bacon in the chicken one. Luckily Taylor noticed it and she tried it instead. I confirmed there was bacon in it because I went back and asked to be sure. Based on Taylor’s remarks, it looked better than it tasted. I also thought they served too much marinara sauce for the size of the sample.

Seoul Spice: This is a restaurant that will be coming to College Park near Terrapin Row soon. The appetizer-sized sample was prepared similarly to the format of  Chipotle or Panda Express. There was an abundance of options and so many varieties in the final product. It seemed to be the most popular place at the event, with a line wrapping about one-third of the way around the center part of the plaza.

First, there was a choice between white and purple rice. Purple rice is a combination of black and white rice and was described as having a taste similar to brown rice. The protein is chosen next with options of beef, chicken, spicy pork and tofu, followed by several choices in vegetables. Students could have cucumber, carrot, corn, bean sprouts, Korean radish, Kimchi and kale. On top of their vegetables was a sauce, either ginger-carrot, Korean hot sauce, cream sriracha or cilantro-lime ranch. Lastly, sesame seeds and crispy garlic could top the dish.

Talia (3/5): This was the last place we went to, which meant we missed out on some of the vegetable options. I thought I was given a decent size for an appetizer, despite missing out on some of the vegetable options, but because my taste in food is fairly basic, I wasn’t devastated.

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Purple rice mixed with chicken, carrots, cilantro-lime ranch, sesame seeds and crispy garlic from Seoul Spice at SpoonFest. (Photo Credit: Talia Dennis) a caption

I tried purple rice with chicken, carrots, cilantro-lime ranch, roasted sesame seeds and crispy garlic. I thought the food had a good taste, but it was unfortunate that I was given too much sauce, which it just consumed all of the food — luckily, I liked the sauce.

Whole Foods Market: They offered carrots, celery, pretzels and different types of “butter” spreads like peanut butter and almond. There were also samples of beet and green pressed juices, along with beef jerky. Whole Foods did not require a ticket to get food.

Talia (N/A): Even though I got beef jerky from them and did not care for the taste, I think it is unfair to rate them because it was my first time tasting the item and have nothing to compare it to. I was feeling adventurous and it was not something I particularly enjoyed, but at least I know I’m not a fan of beef jerky.

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Whole Foods Market offers a variety of healthy food options with no ticket required at SpoonFest. (Photo Credit: Taylor Markey)

Vigilante Coffee: While we were in line to get tickets, they handed out stickers and a card to enjoy a free drink. It recently opened and is located on Route 1 between the Varsity and University View apartments.

 

Bobby’s Burger Palace: We did not see a table set up for this restaurant. However, there was a raffle with the chance to win a shirt with their logo on it or a gift card.
Final thoughts: The set-up of the event was smaller than we both expected, with only two tents, but the options for food and the sample sizes were sufficient. We spent an hour there and found a few places we’d love to go to in the future.

Featured Photo Credit: Students arrive at SpoonFest to try different cuisines from College Park restaurants (Taylor Markey/Bloc Reporter).

Talia Dennis is a sophomore journalism major and history major and can be reached at tdennis1@terpmail.umd.edu.

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