A chocolate banana milkshake, grilled cheese sandwich and peppermint truffle all for well under 500 calories?
For attendees at Small Foods 2013, the impossible was right in the palms of their hands. The annual event started as an hors d'oeuvres party nine years ago, but has since grown into a community gathering that tasks participants with creating mini versions of their favorite foods. Each year the event grows larger, but the food continues to get smaller and smaller.
"I adore the little food," said Waverly resident and Small Foods veteran Tammy Mayer. "Also, it's usually delicious."
The contest took place on Saturday at the Whole Gallery in the H&H Building on West Franklin Street. Participants were still setting up their tiny creations when Mayer and other individuals started sampling the edibles, armed with cocktail napkins and toothpicks.
One table drew a crowd early on, showing attendees what Small Foods is all about. Elyse Grossman of Rockville had crafted California rolls that could fit on the tip of a finger.
"I love rolling sushi, so I figured if I could make it small then I would try to do it as small as I possibly could," Grossman said.
Other contestants decided to think bigger while still staying tiny. Freelance designer Chelsea Weiss planned a three-course meal, complete with tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches with pickle spears and Key lime pie for dessert. All were served on miniature plates and accompanied by equally small silverware.
"This is my first year participating," said Weiss as she lined up her grilled cheese sandwiches on a tabletop grill. "I love miniatures. I live out in Frederick and I don't get out enough, so this sounded like a really fun thing to do."
A few tables over, Waverly resident and three-year Small Foods participant Morgan Phillips stood wearing a bright red collared shirt, gold sunglasses and drawn-on sideburns. In front of her sat a re-purposed, bedazzled Barbie RV.
"Here we have Viva Las Vegans," said Phillips. "It's our Elvis slash vegan-themed food truck."
Phillips and partner Mickey Dehn were serving up chocolate banana milkshakes in tiny cups along with peanut butter and banana sandwiches on homemade banana bread.
Though the event was mainly advertised through Facebook and word of mouth, more than 100 people came out to partake in the mini-foods party. When Robbie Horwitz of Mount Vernon first saw the event page, she knew exactly what she wanted to make: warm crepes with bananas and Nutella.
"They're called Golden Delights," said Horwitz, flipping a crepe the size of a silver dollar on a portable griddle. "It's an old family recipe."
Judges in yellow sashes worked their way through the gallery, making sure to taste everything before the crowd polished off the petite morsels. Judge Edward Knapp won Small Foods seven years ago with mini miso soup, and now enjoys being on the other side of the competition.
"I love that I'm obligated to sample everything," he said. "But I also love the creativity that people bring into it."
Other mini creations included chicken and waffles, beet chips with spinach and artichoke dip, soft pretzels and beer, Mexican pizza, bagels with tomato and lox and dark chocolate ice cream with crushed toffee topping. There was even a campfire spread with honey lemon sweet tea, shrimp and grits and jalapeño gravy.
The host for the evening was Lucky Andrade, who wowed judges last year with her "Crappy Meal" — a fun take on a McDonald's kids' dinner. Toward the end of the night, she took to the microphone to talk about the grand prize: a can of mini corn decorated with spoons and other found objects.
"The giant can of mini corn comes with responsibility. You have to care for it for an entire year," said Andrade. "You must festoon it with more baubles and then bring it back."
Andrade went on to announce the three semifinalists for each food category, and audience applause then decided the winners.
The crowd awarded the Golden Toothpick to Dana Brenner of Lutherville for having the tiniest creation in comparison to the original: a small box of sweets including chocolate-covered nuts and chili and sea salt truffles. The Yummo! Award, which goes to the tastiest creation of the night, went to Weiss' grilled cheese station. The Blue Plate Special went to Viva Las Vegans for successfully presenting a full meal in miniature. The Bright Idea Award went to the team behind Star Wars Coffee, who created a makeshift café that served items such as lattes and scones.
But in the end, the grand prize went to the team who had impressed both the judges and audience in all four categories: Viva Las Vegans, who proudly accepted the embellished can of mini corn to thunderous applause for their glamorous food truck grub.
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