Food fair: A few notes on the ‘Woodstock of Eating’

woodstock of eating event at sanlitun soho beijing china.jpg

A two-day weekend event called “Woodstock of Eating” was recently held indoors on the B1 level of Sanlitun Soho and included several dozen food, drink and other vendors. During the first day, I read numerous complaints on Weixin about the rmb30 entry fee and long lineups. I decided to go on the second day anyway because 1) it is a five-minute walk from my home, 2) I knew Palms LA would be there and I craved their chicken tacos, and 3) I wanted to try Soloist coffee.

A few observations:

  • There were a handful of notable non-sweets vendors, like Palms LA, The Bar-B-Q, Woody Salad and Andy’s Sausage as well as numerous dessert options and stands by restaurants on the same floor, including Don’s and Fly Pizza. This event could have used a few more creative vendors like Traitor Zhou’s.
  • Usual keg-carrying suspects like Great Leap and Jing-A were nowhere to be found. There were imported beers, but local stuff was limited to Baby IPA and N Brew Pub, which has a bar on the same floor. Other drinks were a throwback to the Beijing of a decade or more ago — think screwdrivers or whisky cokes — and this event and others would do well with better wine options.
  • There were lineups of 20 minutes or longer at some stands. The mini-pancakes — poffertjes — by Sue Zhou proved particularly popular.
  • There was, indeed, a rmb30 entry fee. If the purpose was to ensure a decent profit while limiting lineups and providing interesting food and drink options for those paying, some work needs to be done.
  • Calling this event the “Woodstock of Eating” is a bit much. Really, Woodstock?

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • I finally tried Soloist coffee. The cold brewed coffee (rmb25) was delicious and the kind of brew you could slowly sip and take a half-hour to finish. I also bought a Soloist Pale Ale (rmb50), although it turned out to be flat as a steamrolled pancake when I opened it later.
  • The chicken tacos (two for rmb25) at Palms LA were as tasty as ever.
  • I bought some bagel and cream cheese (rmb15 each) from Daily Bagel. I found the bread a bit doughier than I like but this operation does mean another bagel vendor for our fair city, one with lots of potential.
  • I enjoyed the wines from the 815 group in Hebei province, including a Chardonnay made using local grapes and a Cabernet made with fruit trucked in from Ningxia.
  • Finally, the ukulele performances by Hot Cat Club added some much-needed energy .

Given the size of the crowd, I imagine we will see more such events and I hope organizers work on attracting even more quality vendors. And if this space is used again, it would be nice to see the fair extend to the large common area outside, which has been used for everything rock concerts to product launches. I think this kind of fair is a good fit for Sanlitun Soho, which already draws a youthful crowd due its dozens of hair salons. And I think the kinds of food and drink vendors it attracted are a nice counterpoint to the restaurant chains — Element Fresh, Blue Frog, Wagas et al — across the street in Sanlitun Village.

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