My friends and I go to Dragon Con every year, and it’s always the highlight of our summer. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Dragon Con, it’s a massive pop culture, sci-fi and fantasy convention held in Atlanta, GA every year. It’s very much a fan-run con despite drawing 70,000 attendants as of last year. The best part about it being fan run is the number of niche panels. Hobbit drinking songs? There’s a panel for that. Doctor Who puppet show? There’s a panel for that. Oragami? Wrestling? Robotics? There’s a panel for that!
This year I decided to report on the con in terms of food. Conventions aren’t exactly associated with good eats in general… con grub is often junk food grabbed on the go. Dragon Con has a lot going for it in terms of food, though, so I felt a need to spotlight all the yummies!
Dragon Con becoming a better place to show down is mostly thanks to nearby restaurants that gladly participate in the festivities. A great example is the Caribou Coffee found in Peachtree Center. Every year they develop a special Dragon Con menu, complete with cute menu board art.
There were even some small Halloween-y touches. Sure, it’s September, but Dragon Con is like a 3-day Halloween party so it works!
My friend and I tried both the BB-8 cooler and the Cobblepot Cooler. Both were good, though the drinks as a whole were VERY sweet. Next year I’ll make sure to request less syrup. Caribou employees were very sweet and even had special geeky nametags on. I love that they’re so enthusiastic about the convention!
There were also other great experiences. The owner of the con area’s best-reviewed restaurant, Aviva by Kameel, handed out free vegan baklava on Saturday night and enthusiastically thanked everyone for being there. Anyone who’s been to Aviva knows that Kameel is an absolute sweetheart, but this gesture was extra meaningful since the con rush is often stressful and overwhelming for local restaurants. I suggest Aviva as a good meal stop for anyone visiting Atlanta, con or no con. The food is super flavorful and also healthy, so it really gives you an energy boost!
Another highlight of the con is King of Pops, a popsicle shop that set up carts around the con. I had a blackberry ginger popsicle the first day I arrived that really perked me up. It was incredibly ginger-y… the smell hit me the second I opened up the wrapper. As someone who adores ginger sweets, I couldn’t have been more pleased.
Inside the central host hotel, the Marriott Marquis, there’s a sports bar called High Velocity. High Velocity has some Dragon Con specials every year, but this year they featured a dessert that became insanely popular via word of mouth: a Pokéball brownie sundae! Vanilla ice cream was filled into a white chocolate shell and came with a small pot of vanilla sauce. You poured the sauce over the Pokéball to melt it, and if you found a Pokémon inside the dessert was free!
We headed there after a full dinner, so we just got cocktails and two Pokéball desserts to split between 4 of us.
Roll that beautiful sauce pouring footage!
Aaaaand… one of our Pokéballs contained a little chocolate Pokémon!
I’m going to go ahead and assume that this was a Pikachu before we covered it in hot vanilla sauce. Our immediate question was, “Do we eat it or do we save it to show the server?!” In any case, we were very excited to get one of our desserts for free!
To my delight, this was the first year I saw fiction food panels on the schedule. Sure, there were events involving food before… for example, the annual Dragon Con Tea Duel. This was the first year I saw panels actually dedicated to discussing fandom food, however. The first panel was Feasting in Middle Earth, led by Emily and Jim Wert. The panel was totally packed with people ready to discuss Tolkein eats, which bodes well for more fiction food programming in coming years!
I was a little late to the panel, so the room was already full. When I looked for a seat I found that one of the only open spaces was right next to Catherine from The Gluttonous Geek!
“I should’ve known I’d see you here!,” she said. “This panel is so us.”
Ain’t that the truth, Catherine.
Emily and Jim covered a lot of things in the panel, and I was honestly very impressed by how much information they packed in. They discussed how to replicate foods directly, how to make foods inspired more loosely by a work of fiction, and how to plan themed parties. We even got yummies! Shown below are Emily’s lembas, which she interpreted as an orange shortbread, and a raspberry shortbread bar she called Smaug’s Scales. Both were very delicious, and we were even sent home with the recipes!
I also got this photo of Jim with the food item that probably drew the most laughs: the One Cheese Ring. We got to enjoy it with crackers after the panel ended and there were no complaints!
We were shown tons of examples from previous parties the couple had thrown, including a very impressive menu (complete with recipes!) for a full 7-course Tolkein feast.
The panel ended with this lovely image, which I think is very fitting.
The second panel was Victorian-Steampunk Cuisine, led by Dee Volpe and Jennifer Smolenski. Aaron Egan of The Steampunk Chef was scheduled to appear but was sadly too ill to make it.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to this panel, either, as one of my cats was quite sick and I had to skip a con day to take care of him. Thankfully The Gluttonous Geek came to my rescue and took plenty of notes!
First, a summary directly from Catherine:
“The panel mostly covered the trends of cuisine in Victorian England at the time … focused on the contents of Mrs. Beeton’s Book, written by Isabella Mary Mayson. It was a book that covered not only commonly served recipes for the upper and middle classes, but also the roles of all those who worked a household. … The recipes were all compiled in 1861 from submissions, which were then tested, and priced to accommodate the lowest budget possible.”
Catherine tells me the panelists also discussed foods that became popular during the Victorian era. Examples include aspic centerpieces, tinned meats, barley water, switchel, and sherry/port as an after dinner beverage for women and men respectively. Popular foods varied between classes, of course, since at this time household ovens weren’t common outside of the upper classes.
There were also fun historical tidbits, like the fact that Charles Darwin had a “Glutton Club” dedicated to discovering and eating rare animals like birds of prey and pumas. File that one under “Things that would not fly in 2016.”
Overall it sounds like an extremely fun panel! Major thanks to Catherine for filling me in!
Overall, this weekend ended up being a pretty great one for food! Dragon Con is a weekend where you can enjoy a popsicle or Smaug’s Scale safe in the knowledge that you’ll walk it off between hotels. Just make sure not to overdo it on the traditional Dragon Con apple pie moonshine, lest you end up passing out in a skybridge.
I’ll leave you with this photo of the delicious brunch we enjoyed at Morningside Kitchen to mark the end of the con. It may not technically be geek food, but I consider french toast a fandom of its own.