The conventions: They came, they cheered, they chowed down

September 22, 2012 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Charlie Neibergall / AP

What do you feed a hungry Republican National Convention crowd? Standard favorites like pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as gourmet empanadas.

A lot of things went on at the 2012 political convention besides politics. Behind the confetti and cheers, food service operations geared up to feed thousands of people who were  regardless of party affiliation always hungry.

Jamie Dupree, a radio journalist whose “Washington Insider” gig has taken him to 13 national conventions was relieved to note that, unlike times past, he could get something to eat besides a corn dog before 2 p.m. on the convention site.

At the Republican convention last week in Tampa, Florida, besides the usual pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers, the floor-favorite was handmade empanadas, not only the traditional meat and potato varieties, but also filled with portobello mushrooms and spinach and artichoke, Dupree reported.

Luis Ramirez, of Bread8Productions, a company that makes comedy videos, was at the RNC to cover the event’s funnier moments. Ramirez noted the high cost of everything alimentary from water, at $2.50 for an 8-ounce bottle, to those $5 empanadas. And security was as tight as at any airport: Guards ensured that no liquids or foods could be brought in, and if you were thirsty inside, you had to buy some of that water they were selling.  

Outside the main convention centers, area restaurants geared up to host their respective cities’ high-powered guests. Nathan Hoffman of the Charlotte City Club says he planned menus for 18 months to host delegations during the week of the Democratic Convention.

“We like to keep it organic and sustainable,” he said, “and focus on coastal seafood and locally made cheeses and fresh produce.” 

For the Oklahoma delegation, who came on Sunday for brunch, Hoffman’s team made fried chicken and waffles with fresh peach compote, followed by a Carolina crab cake, a Southern chicken salad with pecans and grapes, mac and cheese with blackened shrimp and, of course, iconic North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches on silver dollar-sized buttermilk biscuits.

Tampa geared up for feeding Republican National Convention crowds by extending hours on some of its best eateries. Acclaimed restaurant The Refinery cranked out endless servings of snapper with kalamata olives and tomatoes, and “decon” brownies. Chef-owner Greg Baker, whose core belief is that good food is a necessity, has been honored by the James Beard foundation as a nominee for best new restaurant and best chef in the South. Here’s a recipe for the crab cakes he dished out to a hungry GOP crowd.

Linda Eckhardt

A homemade version of the Charlotte City Club’s Carolina crab cakes. Not bad lookin’, eh?

The Charlotte City Club’s Carolina Crab cakes:

2 cups fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, drained
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp scallions, minced
2 tbsp celery, minced
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp fresh minced parsley
1/2 tsp dried dill 

Gently combine all ingredients until mixed, taking care not to break up the crab lumps.

Shape into 8 patties, then coat with additional bread crumbs.

Cook over medium-high heat in a skillet filmed with 1/8-inch hot oil until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

Snapper with kalamata olives from The Refinery in Tampa:

The Refinery

Tampa, Florida eatery The Refinery dished out this red snapper to hungry GOP convention-goers.

1 6-ounce fillet of red snapper, skin-on (or you may use whole fish)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup kalamata olives
1 cup dead-ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small white onion, diced
1 cup arugula

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place the fish in an oven-proof skillet. Coat it well with olive oil, then season inside and out with salt and pepper. Top the fish with olives, tomato and onion. Pan-roast in the hot oven until it flakes, about 5-6 minutes.

Remove to a dinner plate lined with arugula. Serve at once with a quartered lime.

More: Eva Longoria: There’ll be ‘no empty chairs’ in my DNC speech 
Rahm Emanuel: As with Clinton, GOP will ‘negotiate’ with Obama 
New kit lets you brew beer the White House way 
Love, RNC-style: Staffers get engaged on stage 



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