Anachronistic, maybe, but the Texas Renaissance Festival’s new app is the must-have gateway to maximum gustatory overload. With 1,000 types of food spread out over the 55-acre 16th-century English township, a bit of strategizing will soon put one of the 84,000 oversized turkey legs in one hand while you navigate your way to the next spirit shoppe or brewery via smartphone in the other.
Craving festival food? The festival has battered pig at five locations, sea hog (at The Sea Devil Tavern, of course) and more than a dozen items served in the classic culinary tradition: on a stick. That includes bacon, pickle, steak and the oh-so-spicy Mexican chorizo, loganiza.
At the Houston Press, there are certain sacrifices to be made, and one of those is to sample these delicious foods for you. You’re welcome. Dan Lowe, the vendor craft coordinator who laboriously loaded all 1,000 foods into this app, brought us a nice sampling of festival fare.
(1) From Queen’s Pantry – famous for its Scotch eggs and Celtic comfort foods – we sampled some of the Texas-size handmade desserts including blackberry cobbler, chocolate squares and the sinfully rich butter bars. (2) From Italian Grill – our favorite place for piggy pasta and meat ravioli – we tried the chicken Parmesan on a crusty loaf.
It’s a good thing we photographed the food early on, as the thick-cut potato chips (3) didn’t last long. Find ‘em, along with English chips, in several permutations including chicken bucket o’ bits and chips, fish and chips, and giant Welsh fish and chips, as well as served in a large basket or in a bucket with sausage.
The pepperoni pizza was hearty (4), but our ears really perked up when we heard that the new Florence Market has a wood-fired oven cranking out both pizza and calzone. We asked Lowe about the other new or sought-after food items. “Popular are the deep-fried sauerkraut balls, nachos on the stick and deep-fried baklava; that’s a favorite,” said Lowe. “The new Dutch pancakes, over from the Belgian area, are good; the gourmet caramel apples are amazing, from the Polish area; and there’s the chocolate-covered key lime pie, near the glass blower.”
Of course, the festival is a meat-lover’s paradise, and we tried boudin (5) from Bifteck de Charles, “well worth the drive"; sausage on a stick (6), “nice and juicy, very flavorful"; and the ubiquitous turkey legs (7), which are sold in a dozen different venues. The pork chop on a stick and chicken on a stick (8) were “very nice, really good,” but we were too busy chowing down to offer better commentary.
It’s hard to imagine, but the world doesn’t always revolve around meat; the festival has really “beefed up” its vegetarian and gluten-free offerings. Vegetarians can enjoy such delicacies as three-bean veggie chili, banana empanada, black bean and spinach wrap, falafel on a stick, sweet potato tots, fried mushrooms and so much more.
We highly recommend downloading the app before even driving to Plantersville, however. It’s got cool trip-planning features, so you can tag your bucket list of must-have food and drink, but it also lists shops (leatherworks, metalwork, lotions and potions, “for your castle”), maps, entertainment listed by date (Christophe the Insulter, Ded Bob Show, Sound and Fury), games and rides, and a super-cool friend finder.
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For anybody who hasn’t been to the Texas Renaissance Festival for a few years, it’s undergone a few upgrades. “We have new improvements. Over the past five years, the whole fair has had a makeover,” said Lowe. “The souvenir shop has new products; it’s fully air-conditioned.
“The Florence Market has 65 new shops; all of these are artists and craftsman from Houston or local; it has a very heavy local flavor – 52 of the 65 are handmade goods.
“There’s a TRF cookbook, All the King’s Favorites, and a new coloring book, Colors of the Kingdom,” said Lowe. “We always say, ‘We love to feed.’”
Texas Renaissance Festival, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, November 27. TRF After Dark is 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays; 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays. October 9 through November 29. 21778 FM 1774, Plantersville. For information, call 800-458-3435 or visit texrenfest.com. $26 to $29.