It turns out there’s something unexpectedly gratifying about miniaturized cuisine. I attended Small Foods 2012 with little expectation other than to satisfy my curiosity about the annual event I somehow seem to miss every year despite its great word of mouth. Events held at the Whole Gallery typically bring out a great crowd of open-minded and friendly folks who have gathered for good reason. Small Foods was no exception. It was full of familiar faces and expressed the spirit of community that validates my affection for Baltimore City.
Not only that, there’s a subtle brilliance to the concept. It seamlessly fuses a number of instinctual triggers that titillate the senses. Food is at the center of nearly every memorable gathering and shrinking it down to adorable little morsels arouses feelings of wonderment as spectators inspect and sample the tiny edibles. And then there’s the competition. Some of the teams have obviously put days and weeks, maybe even months, into preparing for the opportunity to win one of the clever and coveted awards like the Yummo, Blue Plate Special, and Golden Toothpick awards.
The idea for Small Foods started simply enough. Artists Kelley Bell and Melissa Webb hosted parties around the holidays that featured hors d’oeuvres. What happened next was what naturally happens when artists collaborate around anything. People started getting creative. Bite sized food evolved into miniature representations of larger fare and as the creations became more elaborate it became apparent that these delectables deserved to be celebrated. And that, in a nutshell, is how Small Foods was born.
Since its inception, it has fast found its way into the sphere of cherished annual events in Baltimore. The gathering grew from a small group of friends to an event that featured 30 entries and over 200 spectators in 2012.
This year’s event featured tiny fast food offerings lovingly titled Crappy Meals, gorgeous confections and baked breads, a full miniature Ethiopian dinner served on authentic injera, petite ball park franks, a full bowling alley menu featuring itty-bitty cotton candy, quarter sized pizzas and funnel cakes, little empanadas, teeny tiny caesar salads, a crazy delicious key-lime truffle in graham cracker crust that is still a topic of conversation around my house, and much more.
The contest works like this, committee members, made up of past winners, choose three from each category and the audience cheers for their favorite. Out of those The Grand Prize winner is chosen by the audience.
Here are this year’s winners:
The Golden Toothpick: The smallest food, in proportion to the much larger version. This year’s winners were Lee Boot and Stacy Arnold, for the delicious itty bitty party sub.
The Bright Idea: This is given to the maker of the most creative Small Food and was awarded to Elliot Mittens Cooperson and Zander Dumas for Bowltimore which, in my humble opinion, had to be a close second for The Grand Prize.
The Yummo Award: The award for most delicious small food went to Peggy Hoffman and Barbara Wilgus for their traditional caesar salads gloriously served in tiny baked parmesan baskets.
The Blue Plate Special: The award for best representation of a meal in miniature was given to Lucky Baltimore and helpers along with helpers Jared, Kimberly, and Tiaira for Crappy Meals.
The Grand Prize: This award is bestowed upon those who have reached the pinnacle of Small Foods excellence and this year it went to Team Crappy Meals led by Lucky Baltimore. Their entry was brilliant in concept and execution and sets a high standard for next year’s entries.
In the end, I’m left with my initial thought. Though I expected to enjoy myself at Small Foods 2012, I was pleasantly surprised at what a great time it was. These are the kind creative community gatherings that make living in the city a rewarding experience. I’ve known some of the folks from the Small Foods Collective and the Whole Gallery for long enough to really appreciate their contributions to the city, so thanks for the great party folks. I can’t wait to do it again next year.