Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Nicholas Karlin
Update: An earlier version of this article described a dessert from Toli Moli, falooda, as “weird.” We apologize for the use of the word weird in reference to the dessert, which has a long history and a devoted following. It was a poor word choice.
The Emporiyum is D.C. personified: a bunch of beautiful white people hanging out and buying things. Is it bad? Not necessarily. Is it a net benefit for D.C.? Remains to be seen.
It’s interesting, really. Having just wrapped up my third EmporiYUM, I’m struck by the immense changes I’ve seen over the last three years. What was once a niche event designed to showcase artisan purveyors of food-related goods has morphed into a consumer-oriented food festival where gorgeous rich people come to see and be seen.
I dunno, man…maybe I’m still smarting from the results of Tuesday. Maybe my rose-colored glasses were shattered by half the country voting for an orange neofascist. I guess what irks me is that the food industry, traditionally a bastion of safety for the disenfranchised, the discriminated against, should be a safe haven – a place for those of different backgrounds to meet on a playing field of mutual respect. Instead, we’re given an Oscars So White knockoff; a “look at me and what I can purchase” event that does nothing to bridge the gap between the haves and have nots. Too political? Fine. It is what it is. Maybe the annual event just suffered from timing. The EmporiYUM is scheduled months in advance. It’s unlikely the event organizer’s wanted to have a massive food event in a city that voted over 90% for the losing candidate.
Here were the best things at this year’s EmporiYUM: small-batch root beer from Thunder Beast; tonkotsu ramen from Maketto; Rock Creek Rye (the first rye produced in D.C.) from One Eight Distilling; Swapples, waffle-like concoctions made from veggies; fresh-shucked oysters from The Local Oyster; Casa Noble tequila mixed with Bruce Cost blood orange ginger ale; the original ramen burger, a cultural sensation that’s better suited to a 2:00 a.m. drunk purchase outside the 9:30 Club; spreadable bacon from The Bacon Jams; absinthe from the team over at Mt. Defiance cidery; macarons from Detroit’s the blu kitchen; Michele’s Granola; a dessert called falooda from Toli Moli; a pumpkin spice peanut butter, perfect for the basic bitches in your life, from Nutty Novelties; and the two cocktails, “Life Gave Me Apples” and “So I Made Whiskyade,” from VA Distillery.
Other observations from this year’s EmporiYUM: babies…so, so many babies. I get it. I love babies (seriously), and I love events that are family-friendly. But at some point, isn’t it a bad idea to bring teeny ones to an incredibly loud and incredibly crowded event? Time will tell.
Selfies. So many motherfucking selfies. One couldn’t walk two feet without seeing a person silently posing duck-faced with the [fill in the blank here food product]. Egoism and consumer culture, personified. Ceremony and Slingshot roasters were both slammed. All day. Coffees’s haggard, so IDGAF. That random banging you heard? Coconuts being cut and poured out, only to be filled with rum and immediately Instagrammed.
Here’s the TL;DR: the EmporiYUM has morphed into a straight food festival. This isn’t bad, per se – it just is what it is. Packed events are always fun, but it begs the question: does this fill a niche? Whether it does or doesn’t is immaterial. The EmporiYUM has taken on a life of its own, and is destined to only grow in popularity.
Amazing pictures below. Enjoy.