A Texan take on Medieval times and foods
Hear ye, hear ye! We are here to make a proclamation that the Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) is more than just jousting and elf ears, more than your average kings, queens, and belly dancing. It is all of those things, certainly, but RenFest also happens to be a festive, fun place to try a smorgasbord of European foods.
When we arrived and traipsed our way across the grounds to the arches of the Arena, we found ourselves seated in the green-and-white-striped French section, complete with sassy queen and flowy-haired knight (We love you, Sir Philippe!). France is one of four countries represented in the famous joust matches, alongside Germany, Spain, and England, but those are far from the only four cuisines represented at the festival. Besides those, there are also options for Greek, Polish, and Italian food, plus endless fusions and mix-and-match options. As you walk, you’ll hop from Medieval country to Medieval country in the span of yards, with plenty of mythical creatures and curious peddlers sprinkled in between.
Our first drink stop was The Sea Devil Tavern, where we picked up the ever-favorite Shiner Oktoberfest beer and a frozen hurricane to keep us cool in the heat that pervades Texas even in the fall. While not cheap per se, food and drinks at RenFest are more affordable than you might expect for a large festival like this.
Later, we strolled over to England and stopped at the Tea and Strumpets vendor, where we ordered the Red Queen’s Punch and the White Queen’s Punch. These drinks were described to us as sangria-adjacent, but in our opinion they tasted like spiked iced tea, which was very fitting for an English drink! These punches were refreshing and light and not-too-sweet and oh so yummy! The White Queen’s drink was a bit more floral, with notes of hibiscus and citrus, while the Red Queen’s had a flavor profile more akin to berries and herbs. Both were incredible, a pleasant surprise, and probably our favorite thing we got all day.
After cheering on France in the joust, we ambled over to Polonia to get some of our favorite Polish foods. There was a surprisingly wide selection, including three types of pierogi—cheese and potato, sauerkraut and mushroom, and ground beef. Catherine’s favorite of these was the ground beef, and mine (Mindy’s) was the sauerkraut and mushroom. Aside from the pierogi, we also ordered a combination plate to get the best of all worlds. This plate included pierogi, bigos (similar to a hunter’s stew), golabki (the cabbage roll), kielbasa (the sausage), a pickle, and a dinner roll. It was a lot of food, but a great way to try everything on the menu if you can’t decide or don’t know what you’ll like. Also, if you’re not Polish, don’t be too intimidated by the many consonants and names. For the most part, if you like cabbage and sausages, you’ll be a big fan of all of it. We definitely recommend Polonia. The food was great and the people were very sweet and helpful!
We got dessert at Tea and Strumpets, the same vendor we ordered our Queen’s Punches drinks from. There, we ordered a cheesecake brownie tarte. While very pretty, it was exactly what it sounds like. The bottom layer was a brownie, topped by a layer of cheesecake and then a decorative piece of chocolate. It was cool, delicious, and not too rich—great for us to share as we relaxed and people watched (There were plague doctors! It was very fun.).
Things to Know Before You Go:
- A festival program is going to cost you $5, but it’s fully worth it for the detailed acts and shows schedule alone if nothing else. The map is also great and will absolutely save your feet!
- Speaking of saving your feet, please wear comfortable shoes. We know it may be tempting to break out your most queenly heels or your brand-new boots, but the grounds are not exactly small and you will be miserable if you’re limping from show to show.
- If you’re looking for healthy options, don’t fret, they exist! The program has a convenient healthy eating section that outlines meal options and where they can each be found at the festival.
- Last but not least, eating (and drinking) at TRF is a marathon, not a sprint. You may be tempted to order full meals everywhere you go, but the best tip we can offer is to get small offerings each place you go so that you save plenty of room to try everything you want.
When should you make your own trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival?
Now, now, now! This weekend, November 28th-29th, is actually the last weekend RenFest will be open for the 2020 season. The theme is Celtic Christmas, and we’ve heard rumors that Santa and his elves might make an appearance. If you can’t make it this weekend, don’t worry too much. TRF will be back next year in October 2021 as usual, and you will have your pick of which themed weekend you would like to attend! Next year, we want to go for Pirate Adventure weekend!
One last thing before we go—one of our favorite things about the Texas Renaissance Festival is that nearly all of the vendors and artisans are small local business owners. When you buy things at RenFest shoppes, it’s very likely you’re interacting with the business owner, their family, or their close friends. As we enter this holiday season of giving, we highly encourage you to go and support small Texan-owned businesses like these.
We’ll see you back here next Wednesday for our regularly-scheduled programming! What recipe do you think we were inspired to make?