Editor’s Note: Because accuracy in culinary history is important and because we thought it’d be fun, we sent our ace food journalist Natalie Kossar to the Albuquerque Renaissance Faire to sample the different food stalls there and tell us what’s good. She did not disappoint. Here’s her report from the ground, to give you an idea of what you missed out on.
If you asked me about the Renaissance, I could maybe muddle through some description of Europe’s period of enlightenment and visual arts boom before listing the Ninja Turtles and changing the subject. Admittedly, my main frame of reference for imagining the Renaissance was Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, whose jousting (and falconry!) (and dressage!) castle in Schaumburg, Ill., I willingly patronized on multiple occasions, and whose roasted chicken and dragon tail soup entrée somehow never failed to disappoint. Still, the place is called Medieval Times. So, what exactly could I expect from a Renaissance Faire?
The Albuquerque Renaissance Faire, held at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum on Saturday, April 28, featured jousting, knight fighting, a royal procession, a pet fashion show, a “crawl to the crown” baby race and enough piles of roasted meat to make Fred Flintstone nauseous. Though it was a warm day, many attendees seemed impervious to the heat as they strode about in multi-layered velvet and brocade costumes.
There was a wide variety of food options, but the booths were far apart and it was difficult to know what all of those options were. Even Ren Faire plebes know that turkey legs reign supreme, so that’s what I chose. For $10, Nomads BBQ—a local catering and delivery food truck—sold me the biggest bird leg I had ever seen in my life, wrapped plainly in aluminum foil (not invented until 1910) and unceremoniously plopped into a paper boat. Eaten as served the leg tasted, well, like meat: well-cooked but largely flavorless. Several shakes of salt and healthy drizzles of unmarked barbeque sauce from a clear plastic bottle increased the flavor, but also the mess. We’re all enjoying our suspended disbelief, but can a maiden get a moist towelette up in here?
For a side dish, I went with roasted corn from a booth titled, simply, ROASTED CORN. I was hoping elotes would be available, but $3 at the ROASTED CORN booth got you exactly one ear of plain roasted corn. They did have butter and a flight of seasonings available for DIY flavor enhancements.
The most engaging food-related booth was the mead tent, spearheaded by Falcon Mead, a Santa Fe-based Meadery and Winery. The mead wench (it’s a joke, guys) cheerfully gave out samples, explained the mead-making process and accurately described each flavor. I remembered reading about tankards of mead from Grendel in Mr. Buckland’s 10th grade English class, and imagined it as a warm and frothy beverage that would put you to sleep. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s a refreshing honey-based fruit wine that delightfully pairs with a sunny day. The standard Mountain Mead (unfruited) was a touch too sweet for me, but the Dry Blackberry was light and crisp, perfect for watching tartan-draped Clydesdales clop around while human actors hit each other with large sticks.
Despite my misgivings about era accuracy, the Ren Faire was charming, and I honestly can say I would go again. The patrons were more than thrilled to show off their costumes and discuss their wares. I’m still not sure what exact moment in time we were supposed to be celebrating, but ultimately it felt like a come-