Time to Prepare Ye Gullets for the Annual Texas RenFest Turkey Leg

You may have the sweets when you bend the knee.
You may have the sweets when you bend the knee. Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
The Texas Renaissance Festival once again brings nearly 1,000 types of food, including the ubiquitous turkey leg and beloved mead, to its 55-acre, 16th-century English township, for its 43rd year in action starting this weekend.

Last year alone, there were 101,642 turkey legs sold. The festival actually hosted a turkey leg competition among its vendors earlier this year to determine the best. First place went to Honey Baked Turkey Leg by Renaissance Catering (Shoppe numbers 11, 50, 408, 414), and The King's Choice winner was the Bourbon Molasses Turkey Leg by Matt Basse at Sherwood Forest Foods (Shoppe number 89). 

The King dropped off a food sample to the Houston Press, and among some pretty great meats-on-a-stick, including buffalo chicken and sausage, pierogis, and a decent gyro, the turkey leg was definitely the most popular item. The tender dark meat had most of us going back for seconds and thirds, carving off the meat with a plastic knife (not recommended) while dreaming of gnawing into it in true Barbarian fashion. The desserts charmed as well, with an addictive baklava from the Sour Old Skull and a sinful butter bar from the Queen's Pantry going quick.

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Could've been an extra in Night of the Living Dead.
Photo courtesy of Texas Ren Fest
The festival holds a turkey leg eating contest during the Barbarian Invasion weekend, November 4 through November 6, which sounds certain to ruin Thanksgiving for all participants involved but will undoubtedly be a delight to watch. Other weekends include everything from a spaghetti to a pumpkin pie eating contest.

In terms of fest foods, there's a pretty big variety that's fairly budget-friendly, everything from schnitzel to fish 'n' chips to empanadas, with the $119 King's Feast also available (that includes admission to the festival) if you want to up your weekend brunch game with two hours of prime rib and ham-carving stations, mead, wine and beer, live entertainment, and a complimentary drinking vessel.

Also new this year, a handful of regional chefs, including Houston's Martha De Leon of Pax Americana, Michael de la Flor of Hotel Zaza, Benoit Coquand of the Culinary Institute LeNôtre and more, are competing to create the best new food at the festival in the King's Beard Award competition on October 17. The winner will take home a  $10,000 cash prize and his or her dish will then be served at the fest, which hosts somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 attendees a weekend over nine weeks.

Check out all the food and drink offerings at the official Texas Renaissance Festival website.

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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.