Customers snap up alligator ribs at Feast

Five new restaurants participate in the fifth annual Feast Walla Walla.

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The wine was poured and food served at the fifth annual Feast Walla Walla, which saw a record number of pre-sale tickets at 250. The event usual draws about 450 paid participants, with roughly 60 percent from out of town, coordinators

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Dan Poitras of The Green Lantern (right) serves fish tacos for Michael and Shawne Carr of Whidbey Island, Wash.

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Patricia Crowe of the Walla Walla Community College Culinary Institute (right) offers some apple-wood-smoked cider-braised pork for a participant.

WALLA WALLA - At the fifth annual Feast Walla Walla, five new restaurants joined in to serve their dishes to some 450 paying guests.

Andrae's Kitchen, A Wing and A Prayer, Frosted - A Cupcake Shop and the Weinhard Cafe all had booths at this year's Feast.

Waterbrook Winery also added food to its regular wine pouring.

But the taste and toast of the Feast may have gone to the restaurant that served a beast.

"It's awesome. I love it. It's tender and it has a different type of flavor. Overall, I think they need to serve it on their menu," Dianna Barnett said, after eating a creature that is know for eating anything and everything.

It was the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center that served the succulent rib dish that was tender, moist and flavorful, just not appreciated by all.

"I didn't like it," Tami Vance said.

Later, Vance admitted she probably would have liked the dish prepared by Executive Chef Antonio Campolio, but she couldn't stop thinking about what animal it was.

"Once you start playing with it, it is no different than pork, with a bit of chicken flavor," Campolio said.

Except you wouldn't play with this food if it were still alive. But chefs at The Marc Restaurant have been playing around with how to serve it to guests for eight months.

"I love alligator. I had it several times before," hotel General Manager Kyle Mussman said.

Alligator is what they have been serving up lately.

Shipped in from professional growers, harvesters and processors in the South, Campolio said the meat is fairly inexpensive there, except for the choice parts.

"They use the rib, tail and a thing called the alligator wing or front paw," Campolio explained.

On Saturday, the executive chef went for the ribs, as he grilled and coated the meat in a tangy and spicy sauce. Side dishes included a jalapeo cornbread muffin, a fresh tangy slaw and hotel-made chocolates.

"I knew it would get a buzz because how many times do you have in your life to experience alligator," Campolio said.

With only 18 months on the job, Campolio said he wanted to break away from the typical dishes of shrimp, beef and pork.

"I am definitely the new kid on the block when it comes to restaurants and I thought ‘let's do something new.'"

So they did.

And it tasted like chicken.

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