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It was a HOT weekend but luckily this year's Latin Food Festival (LFF) was within reach of the ocean breezes and a gorgeous view! Embarcadero Marina Park North provided a great spot for LFF, which was held on September 13 between 11-3pm. We purchased our second ticket and invited readers and friends to join us!

After picking up wristbands at the entrance, we headed into the event. The main area had two rows of tents, one with food vendors and the other with drink vendors. Since we hadn't eaten any breakfast, we decided to start with food first! Drinking on an empty stomach is *risky* business!

Our first stop was the Smoke Fusion Catering booth. What's a Latin festival without some tacos, right? These carnitas tacos were only the beginning of that trend...

Next door was the Handlebar Hot Sauce company showcasing four of their bottled flavors: Smokin' Chipotle, Jalapeno Lime, Orange Habanero and Trinidad Mango Madness! They also sampled Colorado Turkey Chili which I can only assume was made using at least one of those sauces!

Adrian's Cartel Kitchen, a group of chefs formed through Chef Adrian Cruz (right), came to share one of their creations with us!

Their team served beef tartar with cilantro lime greens over beets. What gorgeous colors for plating the meat!

The Blind Burro had chicken tinga braised in chipotle tomatoes, topped with pickled red onion, avocado, queso fresco, and micro cilantro over a fried tortilla.

El Pansa Tacos had el pastor from a spindle topped with tomatillo verde or chicken tinga with a touch of chili.

One thing that wasn't provided at the festival was WATER (unless you were VIP) but luckily El Pansa Tacos offered refreshing agua fresca! This lemonade-like drink hit the spot!

We also circled back near the entrance to the Stella Artois tent for their free souvenir glasses. They participate often in events (like Fit Foodies 5k, etc) but this time they had cider to sample, not just beer! Their cider was quite nice, a light apple taste without that typical sugary-ness. I would buy that!

Puesto had quite a line an hour into the event but was so worth it! This was a stuffed chicken that was a little bit cheesy yet really succulent. The green sauce added a little cilantro lime taste. Definitely one of my favorite samples here!

Ever wonder about mole dishes? Mole Oaxaca - The Taste of Mexico provided mole paste samples with a tortilla chip. It's a sweet and savory sauce on its own. To the left left was a different kind of chocolate, described by Dennis as tasting like "big red gum in a powdery form!" Next to it was polvorones, a rich crumbly dusty cookie that's a delicious and popular treat all over mexico. These were like sweet shortbread cookies to me.

There were a lot of samples from Achiote Mexican Restaurant. The big chicken chimichenga sample had a little kick in the sauce. The tuna roll mixed it up with a sweeter tuna filling inside celery.  There was also a sweet beef roll and salmon tostada, as well as habernero, green chile, and mild sauces for dipping.

A less typical cuisine came from Panca Peruvian. This was their chicken with ahjid(?) pepper over rice. I initially thought it had a similar taste to curry but Dennis hit the nail on the head when he mentioned chicken pot pie... with a kick! Yummy.

Alfonso's of La Jolla sampled vegetarian ceviche and a chicken taco. I thought the ceviche was quite nice even without meat!

One of the most popular samples we tasted was from Tequila Bar & Grill. Their smoked albacore ceviche was raved about. They also had prickly pear margarita as a tasty side shot.

Dennis really enjoyed the familiar flavored meat above, which turned out to be succulent lamb! Texcoco Traditional Mexican Lamb BBQ paired it with some optional sauces for adding heat!

Venga Venga was sampling a new addition to their menu - mahi mahi ceviche - to be introduced the following week at their restaurant. For some reason the fish was on the firmer side.

I've heard of Cafe Secret before and found out it was a Peruvian restaurant here. They were sampling Choritos a La Chalaca - New Zealand cooked mussles with chalaca salsa (must go look this up NOW). Chalaca means "rocoto chili, choclo, and camchita"!

Casa de Bandini is from north county and they had two samples. The first was spinach sauted with mushroom garlic under chicken(?) but it was a bit salty overall. The other dish was chipotle chicken with an interesting flavor but the chicken itself was a little drier.

Still going on food? Yes! Allure Restaurant had mediterranean kale salad with salad feta cheese olives, cucumbers. The best sample though was their carrot cake, nicely spiced and moist. Perfectly sized to pop into your mouth!

By this time we were THIRSTY! Jarritos was one of the non-alcoholic drinks available at the festival.

I grabbed fruit punch from one of the free-for-all bins and was surprisingly pleased with this flavor. Dennis tried the green apple but it was too sweet!

Another alternative non-alcoholic drink was Joia. They offered four different flavors and at the end of the festival, they were closing up and let us take four bottles home... each! Yea, so we made out like bandits at this festival!

But that's not the end of this adventure... the rest of the food, tequila samples and a cocojack will continue in part 2...

Disclaimer: We got a complimentary ticket to the event but paid for our second. The opinions are strictly our own.

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