A moveable feast
by Kaitlin Rees
HA NOI — A feast for the eyes and for the stomach, the European Food Festival that took place at the National Library on Saturday night left all in attendance stuffed with to the brim.
|Sausage fest: The city's high-end hotels grill the meat. — Photo Kaitlin Rees
What I consumed at the evening event would neither constitute a balanced dinner nor a comprehensive sampling of Europea food. But it was exactly what I, as well as many of the other hungry Hanoians, wanted.
Representing the cuisine of Europe were not, for the most part, individual restaurants run by ex- patriot chefs.
Instead the dairy-pastry-and-grilled meats-packed event was upheld chiefly by the city's high-end hotels.
For instance, the Sofitel Plaza showcased a variety of baked waffles, macaroons and crepes, the accompanying condiments for which (syrup, honey and chocolate sauce) were in fact the first to catch my eye in a pre-eating meandering around the stalls.
In scoping out the options, popular presences at the event were the Metropole's beef rib eye flambe with brandy, along with a tiramisu, chocolate mouse and truffle. Also, Movenpick Hotel Ha Noi's sauerkraut, sausage and salted breads caused a stir, as well as the Hilton Ha Noi Opera's chicken shwarma and a Cajun tuna wraps.
My dining companion and I wanted to sample as much as possible. Free wine and cheese provided by Metro Cash and Carry Viet Nam felt like the most rational place to begin our feast.
After which we carefully made impulsive decisions based purely on craving and whim.
Between the Greek salad, the German sauerkraut, the Belgian waffle, the French cheeses and the borderless Johnny Walker, we succeeded in hosting a mini meeting of the European Union in our bellies.
The standout of the evening for me was the salted bread dipped in mustard from Movenpick Hotel Ha Noi's Mangosteen restaurant.
In chatting with a few other food festival frequenters, this German food was well received on the whole at the event. Other notable dishes included the pizza from Al Fresco's restaurant, the hot dogs from the embassy of Hungary, the selection of olive oil from Hanoli and the rolls from Pane e Vino Italian Restaurant.
In addition to the smells of food emanating around the grounds of the National Library were the sounds of two local rock bands, The Electric Yard Dogs and The Props. Before the music began, the place had the quieter hum of hundreds of people reverently chewing and contemplating their plates. Yet after the first few strums of the electric guitar, the atmosphere soon took on a party quality and the festivities teemed with energy.
Contributing to the energy of the evening were the hoards of children running around knocking into the knees of all the plastic plate holding adults. Thanks to creative clay toys, plentiful ice cream and a giant inflated jumping box, the European Food Festival also doubled as a child's dream dinner.
As we headed out of the complex to continue digesting the minutes of our stomach's EU meeting, my friend and I took some time to savour the experience and reflect on how much we liked Vietnamese food. As delicious as everything was, tomorrow it will be back to bun cha and nau da, and that is just fine with me. — VNS