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‘Let’s explode the garlic’: South Florida Garlic Fest has moved, and it’s trying something radical this year

The South Florida Garlic Fest, a two-day bash celebrating garlicky goodness, will take place Feb. 3 and 4 at a new location, Wellington Town Center. (John McCall / South Florida ֱ file)
John McCall / ֱ
The South Florida Garlic Fest, a two-day bash celebrating garlicky goodness, will take place Feb. 3 and 4 at a new location, Wellington Town Center. (John McCall / South Florida ֱ file)
Phillip Valys, ֱ reporter.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The South Florida Garlic Fest, the annual culinary ode to the funky bulb, has been overhauled — again — with dramatic changes afoot when the bash returns this weekend to Wellington.

Along with a new venue, Wellington Town Center and Amphitheater (this is its fourth move since 2017), the fest’s 25th anniversary edition will try something radical this year: adding more garlic.

“We just thought: Let’s explode the garlic,” says Leanne Griffith, a South Florida Garlic Fest coordinator. “We wanted to bring a deep-dive of garlic back to the festival. You shouldn’t only be able to eat garlicky foods here, but (also) see cooking demos and try garlic drinks and go home with ton and tons of it.”

A close-up of eats at Gourmet Alley, a row of 80 food vendors selling garlic-infused dishes. (John Indiveri / Courtesy)
John Indiveri / Courtesy
A close-up of eats at Gourmet Alley, a row of 80 food vendors selling garlic-infused dishes. (John Indiveri / Courtesy)

Griffith is the brains behind “The Clove,” a series of three new, 20-by-20-foot tents that will feature a marketplace stocked with hard-to-find bulbs for sale, chef demonstrations and a premium bar.

Here are the ways festival brass are :

  • No rides, more cooking: Festival brass say they’ve replaced all amusement-park rides, once an event staple, with cooking demos from chefs including Michael Schenk (Red Pine) and Bruce Feingold (Farmer’s Table).
  • New garlic beers and cocktails: For the first time, a premium bar will sling garlic-themed suds and libations, including a Dill Pickle Brine Lager, garlic martinis and garlic bloody marys.
  • Garlic pun signage will be everywhere … “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your cloves.”
  • New farmers marketplace: A wonderland of garlic and garlic-adjacent goodies, the market will offer cookbooks and graters and farmers from New Hampshire and New York selling elephant and black garlic.

These additions join a bill of seven music acts headlined by Ryan Montgomery (7:30-9 p.m. Saturday), a Lake Worth Beach singer-songwriter; and rockers The Resilient (1-2:30 p.m. Feb. 4), composed of wounded U.S. combat veterans.

And these will join, as always, Gourmet Alley, a row of 80 food vendors slinging garlic ice cream, shrimp scampi and other clove-infused dishes.

So why up the stink factor now? Organizer Nancy Stewart says Garlic Fest owes its bulb-to-stem makeover to its new venue, Wellington Town Center, whose recent $8 million upgrades added more parking, more amphitheater seating, bathrooms and a playground.

“I think we’ve found our new home,” Stewart says. “It has its own amphitheater stage and electric (outlets), good parking. All the infrastructure is there. We haven’t had cooking demos or a garlic farmers market for many years, so this brings us back to our roots.”

People line up for garlic treats at the South Florida Garlic Fest at Wellington Green Park in Wellington Florida on Saturday, March 6, 2021. The event continues through Sunday Sun, Mar 7, 10 AM - 6 PM,
Mike Stocker / South Florida ֱ
People line up for garlic treats at a previous South Florida Garlic Fest. (Mike Stocker / South Florida ֱ)

After losing its longtime home in Delray Beach in 2017, the itinerant festival went through an identity crisis, hopscotching from Delray Beach to Lake Worth Beach to a Wellington park. The festival chopped its Iron Chef-style competition out of safety concerns and added amusement rides instead.

“It’s not easy moving an event every single time. It’s like starting all over from year one,” Stewart adds. “Now I feel like we can finally settle down and overwhelm the people with garlic.”

For its 25th anniversary, the South Florida Garlic Fest will take place Feb. 3-4 at its new home, Wellington Town Center. (Ethan Dangerwing for South Florida Garlic Fest / Courtesy)
Ethan Dangerwing for South Florida Garlic Fest / Courtesy)
For its 25th anniversary, the South Florida Garlic Fest will take place Feb. 3-4 at its new home, Wellington Town Center. (Ethan Dangerwing for South Florida Garlic Fest / Courtesy)

Tim Dornblaser, for one, will hardly mind if you say his beer stinks. The cofounder of NOBO Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach is trotting out two timed-release beers at The Clove’s premium bar: a Roasted Garlic Dill Pickle Sour and a Roasted Rosemary Garlic Porter.

“We ended up using like 24 full heads of garlic for both,” Dornblaser says, with a laugh. “Really stinky. We roasted them and caramelized the sugars to get some sweet flavors out of it so it’s not such a pungent flavor. I’m really proud of them.”

And, yes, Dornblaser has suggested food pairings. “Definitely drink it with pizza or with a plate of spaghetti,” he says.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: 25th Annual South Florida Garlic Fest

WHEN: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4

WHERE:Village of Wellington Town Center, 12100 Forest Hill Blvd.

COST: $15-$50 for general admission and $40-$65 for cooking demos via

INFORMATION:

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