Mt. Carmel Festival (Downtown)
 Youngstown, Ohio         Date of Visit  07/22/16  

Steph got me a book about my hometown, Car Bombs to Cookie Tables. Several authors offer thoughts about varying memories, one specifically about the foods of the indigenous. In the chapter titled Saudade, the author waxes in a melancholy way about not having ready access to things like Briar Hill pizza, gorgeous wedding soup, and monkey salad having moved out of the Valley. One paragraph in particular lauded a simple treat I have never tried the cheese puff. Served at the Mount Carmel Festival (a fund-raising celebration for big ďCĒ Catholics of Italian descent) I looked it up on line, marked the date from the Facebook page and waited a year. The time has come!



First off. I am a moron. We walked the trucks and trailers, no sign of the puffs. We asked a couple of folks, got only confused stares. They told us to go inside where the silent auction and other festivities were being held. So, my stupidity? There are three Mount Carmel Festivals in the greater Youngstown area. The one in Niles is the only one that has cheese puffs. It was last week. We are waiting another year. They are never going to live up to the anticipation. Oh, well. I'm Dumb.

The Church

The Lot Full Of Food

This Has Got To Be Where The Puffs Are

  The downtown festival has the expected county fair rides, games, and foods. It has a few things the fairs do not. Games of chance, check. Much better customer service, check. We even got complimentary golf cart rides from the parking lots to the gate and back. There is also Italian food, just no puffs. There is a catering company providing options inside and we split an Italian beef sandwich, a meatball splash, cavatelli, and polenta. Having tried three Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago (1, 2, 3) there is no competition at all. Itís not the same beast to start with, hard roll, sliced beef, a tiny bit of heavily spiced red gravy, not bad, but again, no comparison. They also sliced the beef with the grain instead of across making for a chewier than desired sandwich. The meatball splash was much more of a meatball sub (way less sauce in a closed bun). But their meatballs are tasty and I didnít care as much for their sauce as I hoped I would. A couple of salty cheeses and you had an improvement over the beef sandwich.

Better still were the cavatelli. Not sure how they are pulling it off with the numbers they are serving but the pasta is done with the grace and perfection of DaVinci himself. Flavorful, just toothy, wonderful in itself. It was on the pasta I had trouble with the sauce, what looked a clean smooth tomato sauce, we found strong flavors of aromatic veggies and spices and herbs to the detriment of the sauce. Topping with another meatball brought it back towards the positive. Lastly, a large block of corny polenta topped with a sausage sauce. I donít know if it was a different sauce base, if the sausage balanced out the onion/garlic/basil punch, or if the sweet salty block of grits just worked better with the sauce, but they really hit the ground running with this one. It was really good. Mom said she had another version of it at a local restaurant, and didnít care for it, but found this tasty.


The Beef Struggled Some

Meatballs Much Better

Exceptional Pasta & Meat, Less So The Sauce

This Worked All The Way Around

No car bombs, but there was a cookie table and we purchased light flaky clothes pins filled with cream cheese, crunchy and nutty kipfel, and tiramisu with enough coffee to make Juan Valdez blush. Tasty. Even when there are a couple of things not perfectly up your alley, itís nice to go home and enjoy memories and make some new ones. You know what would be a nice new memory? (Hear in the tone of Marlon Brando Yelling in Streetcar Named Desire)



Baby Lady Fingers With Cream Cheese Filling

Sweet Nutty Kipfel
Bad Serious Coffee Sweetness



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