Latin Food Fest 2015 (San Diego) - Grande Tasting recap plus chefs
We spent a lovely but hot afternoon enjoying Latin food, wine and spirits at the 3rd annual Latin Food Fest Grande Tasting in San Diego. This event was held on August 15 between 11-3pm and for one price gave all-inclusive access to over 50 restaurants/businesses. Our experience with last year's Latin Food Fest San Diego as well as this year's Latin Food Fest Los Angeles meant we were no strangers to this tasting event! The event was held at the Broadway Pier, a heavy tourist area next to US mid-way and other San Diego sightseeing places. A parking lot with $16 all day parking was across the street from the main entrance.
This post is divided into the following sections: 1) Food, 2) Drinks, and 3) Awesome People. There were several celebrity chef sightings plus a mini interview!
We came hungry and feasted our eyes on all the delectable samples awaiting us... then our mouths carried forward the mission to eat from every booth!
Cafe Sevilla's seafood paella and patata bravas were both beautiful and enjoyable.
At West Coast Tavern, we found chicken sopas - very nice and crispy on the outer shell with shredded chicken inside.
There were also multiple octopus based dishes that day because Pacific Shrimp Catering was hosting an octopus dish competition!
Peohe's had chopped octopus, agua chile, habanero on a fried plantain chip, and didn't skip on the flavor!
The Hopping Pig served octopus with coconut milk sou vid octopus with pineapple achiote puree, scallion fluid gel, fried green bananas and pink guava foam. Chef Otis Murphy described his creation as a Puerto Rican brine combined with the taste of San Diego and New Orleans flavor. The octopus, avocado aioli, pepper and pickled onion and mandarin come together into your mouth for a great flavor.
Bernini's Bistro had an octopus tostada stewed with chile morita (nice and smoky) and pineapples, finished with micro cilantro.
Ariana Restaurant, located in the Double Tree Hotel, had a zesty octopus ceviche.
Fogo de Chao had a multi-sampler of picanha (top of steak), bacon wrapped chicken, sausage, and potato salad with round peppers! The meat was tender as always!
Puesto's ceviche tostada was a bite size sample with the heat of serrano! I kept thinking "need a drink" after my bite! It must be that dark paste spot that got me!
Texcoco showcased their mexican lamb taco and lamb broth. The tacos were simple and self-garnished but the broth had a strong lamb pungent-ness.
Bernini's Bistro also had a non-octopus item - beef shortrib tostada with some greens.
I recognize Bush's Beans because I've bought their product at the grocery store before... they had a vegetarian option with flavored beans but the large amount of sour cream threw Dennis off. The second is Dennis's sample from Tequila Bar & Grill while we were exploring on our own. For mine, I remember seeng more liquid, with the instructions of "eat the shrimp then shoot the juice." Is this the same sample?
Finch's Bistro & Wine Bar had seared ahi but they overdid the slaw proportions. The slaw's peanut sauce taste was interesting though.
Abu's Kitchen had such savory samples... one is Carne en Coco which is chunks of lean sirloin sauteed then simmered in rich coconut sauce. The other was Abu's Pernil which is tender mouthwatering pork slow roasted for hours in a mix of latin american spices, mojo, pineapple and beer. These were probably some of my favorites of the festival!
Sirena plated this beautiful yellowtail tiradito (raw fish, cut in the shape of sashimi, in a spicy sauce) with beet sauce. Indigo Grill gave us a grilled flatbread with jalapeno hummus, grilled shrimp and chimichurri.
Cien Anos Restaurant unveiled their version of chiles en nogada, which is poblano chilis filled with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called nogada, and pomegranate seeds. It's also the color of the Mexican flag! I learn something new every day!
In the next booth, La Differentia spooned out a chiles en nogada version of their own! Dennis tried this but they were out when I got there!
Kokopelli Tacos from Tijuana served this item with tomato(?), black sesame seeds and a strong sauced meat pulled from a container... it was really overpowering though. Taco Perla had tuna tostadas with multiple spicy levels. Medium was the default and too much for me to handle!
Northgate Market sampled aguas frescas; the watermelon was very good but the surprise was the yummy spinach drink. They also sampled carnitas taco, guac and chips, and a lemony fish ceviche.
Want some salsa? Castillo Salsas let patrons have one of each bottle except the large ones. The blue is the mildest yet still has more heat than I'm used to! These were sampled with plain hot dog and cheeses so you could focus on the sauce.
Spirits and wine were available all around us... we hit most of these after sampling a few bites just to be safe side...
Papa Pilar Rum had a refreshing tropical drink with guava, mango and passion fruit juice cocktail, garnished with a serrano slices. Probably my favorite drink of the event.
I preferred the white from Herencia Del Valle Wines, probably due to the summer heat but I'm sure the fuller bodied cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel would be perfect in the fall.
We've tried Don Ramon Tequila before and their reposado is incredibly smooth. The company has something new called techniponch, which are pre-made cocktail mixes.
Dennis likes Jarritos because it is made with cane sugar and none of that splenda stuff! We also realized that they didn't provide water, which I remember mentioning in last year's post.
If you signed up for the AsomBroso Tequila email list, you got a mini bottle of tequila while supplies lasted. Swag!
Pure Vida Tequila is always paired with their Diabolo french soda. I love these flavors!
Don Q had two mixed drinks. The left drink was a mojito using aged rum, mint soda water and fresh lime. The right drink was mixed with the natural coconut rum and girlie so I like that more.
Camaronazo Tomato and Shrimp Cocktail was served in a cup with a tamarind rind. Loving the bobble head! The other was a tasty mexican chocolate mixed drink by Chocolate Ibarra.
Tito's Handmade Vodka (from austin texas) was also at Latin Food Fest LA and they served the same jalapeno infused vodka with pineapple juice.
There were TWO sets of Montejo Beer ambassadors, the ladies with the dresses and the ones with the cropped tops in different sections of the festival! Dennis was handed a michelada (made with beer, lime juice, and assorted sauces, spices, and peppers), which is new to us. When asked what he thought, he told me "I wasn't sure! It was so different and unexpected..."
We tried a few more wines such as Vina Zaco (sparkling or a red wine) and Ritual Wine (pinor noir and sauvignon blanc).
Cupcake Vineyards had a large area to themselves for serving their wines. We noticed the two reds were very similar in taste. My favorite was the moscato (not pictured). I also liked that they had a Instagram promotion where you use a certain hashtag and they would print out that picture!
We see Fortaleza and this guy at a lot of festivals. And we still enjoy this tequila immensely!
Here are a few more wines and tequilas we may or may not have tasted...
Terrazas de los Andes Wine
Montejima Tequila and El Rey Zapoteco
Many more wines to choose from near the front entrance!
In the back of the festival was the VIP area with a few additional food and drink items.
Iozhka had duck breast tostadas. These were marinated with dill and paprika, sauce with avocado, red onion, jalapeno, and with seared rare duck breast.
This shrimp ceviche was passed around. Not sure who made this though?
Pacific Shrimp Company provided fresh and briny oysters and gigantic shrimp.
West Coast Prime Meats cut thick slices of this spanish jamon by hand!
Barefoot Wines had some bubbly and some white wine. Chardon was another wine available on the next table.
Alquimia Tequila must be a very special tequila to be available only in the VIP area! It was smoooooooth.
Everyone attending and providing services at the event is indeed awesome but here are a few in particular I’d like to mention:
Todo Mundo provided wonderful music for the festival.
I also met Josh of DiningOutSD. My prior experience consists of following his amazing food journey on Instagram (best job ever) and writing the occasional haiku for their contests. BTW, you can also follow oh-soyummy on Instagram.
CHEF TIME! The inspiration behind the dishes!
Chef Ami Cisneros from The Hopping Pig
Chef Jaime Chavez (Sirena) won Best Restaurant of the Fest.
Chef Mario Medina (Bernini's Bistro) won Best Dish of the Fest.
Chef José Bossuet Martínez (Lozhka) won Best Chef of the Fest.
Chef Jose Sparza (Hult's Restaurant) on the demo stage.
This was also a "Meet the Chef" opportunity! I did a short interview with Ana Saldaña, who is the host of the show Historias Sabrosas. I questioned whether there was anyone she really admired, perhaps someone she'd want to have dinner with (be cooked for or to cook for). This led to a story about a famous mexican chef she had travel to dine with.
Ana: What I realized that more than meeting that extra super super chef, a lot of times in the least expected places is where you're gonna find the perfect flavor.
She continued with a cute story about mushroom picking with some women for her show, beginning in the early morning AND walking through a forest (misty, dark, kind of cold). The women were able to distinguish which mushrooms were poisonous mushrooms and even started a campfire as well as put mushrooms directly into the coals.
Ana: [Amazing] was the idea that I could share a moment of just traditional life with people who do this every single day but usually don't have the opportunity to meet. Being able to do that through my show is an amazing culinary experience.
I asked if she was able to pick out the show topics.
Ana: I'm involved in all the process. One of the things I love about channel 22 is it's like the mexican PBS. It's really about the mexican culture. This idea is that you can really put in a lot of cultural information
It seems the whole crew will move for a month and get a feel of the local culture, then really start figuring out where to go, what people to feature, and do the research for local recieps and how to make them easier, healthier. Ana quoted a spanish phrase "te me a la cocina" which means she goes all the way up into the kitchen.
Ana: If I'm going to do something, I want to be involved in the whole process because I think that's the way in which you can do something different...
There was even a story about taking a balloon ride... turns out the guy who was running the balloon did not know the air current and they got to a point where they had to do a crash landing!
Ana: We never have scripts... The show was amazing because we were doing a show about corn, we ended up crashing into a corn field. Sometimes you can't plan for some things and they turn out and you go with the flow.
I really enjoyed her stories and could hear the passion in her voice as she spoke. Thank you Ana for taking the time to talk with me!
Last but not least, the Oh So Yummy team. Awesome people indeed! ;)
It was very hot that day but we made it out with full bellies and happy hearts. I enjoyed the pleasurable company of friends, chefs, and friendly staff/attendees who didn't mind sharing a few simple moments with me... and that's what makes this festival memorable!
Disclaimer: we were provided tickets for this event but the opinions are strictly our own.