Jade Song / Sun Staff Photographer

November 5, 2015

A Magical Experience: Food at Ithaca’s First Wizarding Weekend

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On Saturday as I left my apartment for downtown Ithaca, I fully expected my witch’s hat to be blown off by the chilly wind of Ithaca autumn. Mercifully, the wind abated. Wizarding Weekend was finally here.

When I arrived downtown, hundreds of Ithacans dressed up as wizards, fantastic creatures and students of magic were already there. The hosts, Press Bay Alley and Life’s So Sweet Chocolate, had transformed the area into an amalgamation of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Following the instructions of a friendly adult witch, I squeezed through the crowd to reach the Gryffindor common room. The Marauder’s Map I picked up listed all the magical businesses participating in the event. After scanning the events of the day, my friend couldn’t wait to first get her patronus drawn by artistic wizards, watch a quidditch game (the broomsticks are attached to electric bikes), get a signed admissions letter from Hagrid, participate in a duel and cap off the day with a snapshot of herself in costume at the “Pensive.”

As a foodie whose focus at any event is mouth-watering delicacies, I couldn’t help but notice what some younger wizards clutched in their hands: butterbeer! I promptly asked them where they got this iconic Harry Potter drink. Made of cream, sugar and butter, it is a very popular drink in the wizarding world, served at pubs, inns and Christmas parties. House elves have a propensity to get drunk under the influence of butterbeer, as it is slightly alcoholic, though the renditions  offered at this event were not. Seeing the drink brought me back to childhood daydreams of sitting at the Leaky Cauldron, enjoy a cup of butterbeer with friends while people-watching and speculating about Voldemort’s return.

While fantasizing, I got in line for a cup of the said butterbeer. The vendor serving it was the Star Truck. Instead of serving it from the truck window, they had set up a streamlined station in front of the truck, churning out not only butterbeer, but other Harry Potter-inspired foods as well. The line continued to form behind me, all in anticipation of the magical liquid that heals you and cheers you up.

Before long, I was faced with a large, foaming bucket and a smiling witch. She ladled  its contents and poured it into a small paper cup. The price per cup was two sickles, or, in muggle currency, three dollars. Just looking at it excited my imagination, creamy on top but dark and translucent at the bottom. The cup was so hot that it scalded my hand, but I managed to take a sip. What touched my tongue was a warm, smooth taste that lingered even as the refreshing taste of cream soda swelled up.

After the event, when I went online to search for a recipe, I came up with a variety of results. It seems that there is no limit to what you can get from a cup of butterbeer. For example, you could add rum extract, or different types of spices ranging from nutmeg and cinnamon to herbs and chilis. You could even serve it cold during summer. But in any recipe, sugar and butter are a must for this hot drink.

Speaking of hot drinks, Star Truck and other food vendors — Collegetown Crêpes and Press Café, for example — served a variety to the muggle-wizards who visited Diagon Alley on Saturday. There was one vendor selling “potions,” or what some might call hot apple cider. For those disregarding the cooler weather, Star Truck was also serving iced pumpkin juice, which tasted like apple cider with pumpkin spice in it.

For a meal to accompany these delicious drinks, a variety of comfort foods were available. My sweet-toothed friend got a crêpe, while I went for hot chili with corn chips on top.

After walking around the event, we sat on a bench and talked while sipping butterbeer, as she told me how amazing it was to see Dumbledore and Voldemort and to take pictures with Hagrid.

After a meal, there is nothing better than rewarding yourself with some sweets. For Wizarding Weekend, Press Café was serving pumpkin pastiles, chocolate cookies and all sorts of Halloween- and Harry Potter-themed foods. I lapsed into another daydream while munching on a pumpkin-flavored cookie. The whole atmosphere reminded me of Halloween season in Harry Potter, especially the first Halloween feast at Hogwarts, when little Harry, for the first time, sees tons of delicious things served at once. Living with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, these foods had been denied to Harry. Aside from these sweets, the chocolate frogs and the Every Flavor Beans served at Life’s So Sweet Chocolate reminded me of the times when Ron shared his collection of chocolate frogs with Harry while on the train to Hogwarts — the start of a lasting friendship.

 If this event becomes annual, I will surely be there again in the future.