Using long paddles, three men scraped the bottom of the six-and-a-half-foot wide metal frying pan, called a paella, to ensure the chicken and vegetables would caramelize and not burn.
The cooks, from Bethesda’s popular tapas-style restaurant Jaleo, would later add 33 pounds of rice to make arroz con pollo to serve 700 people at Taste of Bethesda on Saturday.
“We will have the longest line here,” said James Gee, head chef at Jaleo, as he directed the men to empty a large container of minced garlic into the pan. The meal was the first of three Gee said the restaurant would make, serving 2,100 people in all.
Jaleo was just one of 52 restaurants that set up booths along Norfolk, Fairmont, Cordell and Del Ray avenues for the 24th Taste of Bethesda festival. The annual event also featured five stages with music and a children’s area with arts and crafts, balloons and face painting.
In addition to the aroma of frying garlic, the air was rich with the smells of local restaurants offering food as diverse as Montgomery County. Walking down the streets of Woodmont Triangle, the scent of Indian spices from the Tandoori Nights booth mingled with rich smell of roasted java from Quartermaine Coffee. Health-conscious locals could sample house-made hummus and carrots from Cafe Deluxe while those with more of a sweet tooth could enjoy salted caramel cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake.
Over at the Barking Dog’s booth, people lined up to exchange tickets for pulled pork sliders.
Taste tickets were sold four for $5 and most booths’s offerings were between one and four tickets.
“It’s a great day, I love being out in the community,” said Bob Brooksbank, one of the owners of Barking Dog. The event offered him the chance to showcase his establishment’s food, he said. “We’re more of a tavern and this helps get the word out.”
About 40,000 people were expected to attend, according to Bethesda Urban Partnership, which sponsored the event. The event draws folks from around the region, from as far away as Baltimore and Frederick, said Stephanie Coppula, spokesman for the partnership.
Ridhi and Richa Harmani came from Alexandria, Va. to dance on the St. Elmo stage as part of the Rhythmaya Dance Company, which specializes in South Asian-style dancing.
The two girls, 9 and 7 respectively, wore Indian garb as they performed the classical North Indian dance called “Kathak.”
“It felt like a privilege,” Ridhi said.