Wednesday, May 14, 2014

5th Annual LA Street Food Fest on June 28 + Last Year's Recap

Summer is coming, and that means so is LA Street Food Fest! Can you believe this is their 5th year? On June 28, the 5th LA Street Food Fest returns to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and you can already buy your tickets

This time, the festival starts at 4pm for VIP ticket holders and 6pm for general admission, so at least it won't be that hot! The ticket price includes free parking, all the food you can stomach, cocktails from six bars with LA's top mixologists, Ice Cream Social, craft beer from Eagle Rock Brewery and more, and this year also brings in an Iced Coffee Experience featuring a dozen coffee brands. Keep an eye out on for the full list of participants.

If you've never been, check out last year's recap below from One More Bite Blog, who attended the event as my guest blogger:

Ever since my first Artisanal LA and Unique LA experiences, I'd been a fan of the events put together by show founders and 'buy local', small business supporters Shawna Dawson and Sonja Rasula. (NOTE: Sonja Rasula was only involved in the first Artisanal LA event, all subsequent Artisanal LA and LA Street Food Fest events have been organized by Shawna Dawson).

But I'd somehow never made it to another always-sold-out-show by the duo, LA Street Food Fest. Maybe it was the cognitive dissonance of a $50 admission price paired with the theme of "street food" even if it was AYCE once you got when Gourmetpigs had to go out of town last minute and kindly offered to give me her media pass, I jumped at the chance! (The experience totally changed my mind and I am definitely planning to attend the next one paid or not!)

It was a scorching day at the Rose Bowl but - and even as organizers made the smart decision to cap the event at 5000 attendees, to make for a better experience where you would NOT find most stalls running out of food early like at some other events - that didn't stop a massive crowd from waiting with palpable eagerness outside the gates, literally rounding the Bowl, just before they opened.

With the sun blazing overhead, plus that lovely motto 'life's to short, eat dessert first' in mind: the first section I hit was the ice cream social. Float Pasadena served up two kinds of floats: Puckerin Peach with sparkling lemonade and peach ice cream and Red Cow with Boylan's red birch beer and vanilla bean ice cream.  Both refreshing and adorable with their candy-cane-striped, environmentally friend paper straws.

Then more cooling off with Espanolita Food & Imports: Gazpacho Shots with tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt.  With a pit stop at Sushi Roku for their fresh wrapped Spicy Tuna Handroll and Baked Crab Handroll with soypaper

After lowering the body temp a bit, I was ready to hit hot foods, starting with food truck row.  Dang Brother and their wood-fired pizza truck was a hit: they served up pizzas straight from the eye-catching oven, with cheese still sizzling.

I LOVED their Chorizo and Cheese pizza and didn't care if I was taking up precious stomach space that I could be using to try a wider variety of things.

bibigo was there to represent as well, Gangnam-style with full Psy branding everywhere, driving awareness and introducing newbies to Korean food. 

There was a nice display of bibimbap, but I skipped the sample as there is a bibigo in Century City mall and I already know it's a great dining option while shopping there!

Besides, the highlight of Street Food Fest is the food that is not easily accessible on a regular day in LA - there were vendors who had traveled from Mexico to share their food, like Mariscos el Mazateno / Tijuana who brought their Taco de Camaron Enchilado - there were so many people in line that there wasn't time to chat up the vendor for info on the food, but the shrimp was incredible: flavorful and perfectly grilled with bit of heat that nudged my threshold for spice but didn't go over it. The tray on the left had shrimp and scallop kind of ceviche style - actually looked pretty translucent and possibly dangerous...which probably added to its tastiness.

Then there was the super photogenic station by Javier Plascencia / Erizo, also from Tijuana where offal fans were excited to find Tijuana-style Octopus and Tripe Tacos.

Really loved the mix of textures and flavors in this one - with perfectly grilled octopus and spongey tripe in a fresh tortilla counterbalanced by crunchy, tart pickled onions and creamy guac. I think it was a chipotle sauce on top that set tastebuds tingling.  Can't wait til next year to get my hands on more of their food.

Part of the fun of food events is striking up conversation with people in line, not so random strangers for your mutual love of food - the guy in line behind me at Erizo said the taco a few booths over "changed his life".  That booth turned out to be Rodolfo Castellanos / Origen, also a visiting vendor - from Oaxaca. Random Foodie Guy was absolutely right in that you wouldn't expect a simple taco filled with potato to be anything mind blowing - but it absolutely was.  I wish there weren't throngs of people behind me who would be very upset if I took up the server's time to ask and record exactly what was in it...but from memory, there was some hefty potato puree, tender green chiles that were outstanding.  One that I will definitely look out for next year!

La Flor de Yucatan brought the street experience to their booth, with the grill right up front so you can watch your food being made.  And luckily they had a greeter there to tell you about their dishes, leaving the chef to cook in peace.  There were a few options, Cochinita Pibil and Relleno Negro.

You could choose to put them in a regular tortilla, or a 'panucho'.  Since I'd never had 'panucho' before, had to try it! It's basically a black bean filled tortilla shell that is deep fried so that it's crisp on the outside, with soft filling on the inside - which went perfectly with the Cochinita Pibil or Yucatan/Mayan-style slow pit roasted suckling pork marinated with achiote & sour orange juice, baked in banana leaves and served with pickled red onions. YES, it was every bit as delicious as that sounds.

In another section of the sprawling grounds, there was Ceviche Project who wins for best logo ever...and delicious bites of Tuna Tiradito with yuzu sorbet, nori and spicy plantain chip, and Shrimp Ceviche Tostada with uni salsa.

Both were amazing but UNI SALSA!!!!  Genius.

They are an adorable husband and wife team that is running this in pop-up form right now - based on the samples, I really can't wait til their next event!  

Though not really street food, in my opinion The FoodArt Award goes to John Sedlar / Rivera for his Tortilla Florales Tacos - there were actual flowers pressed into the tortillas before they went on the grill, then the warm tortilla is crowned by a beautiful jewel-toned jalapeno jam. There was miraculously no line at this one, so I took advantage and went back for seconds. 


The dish that most surprised and delighted was from Corazon y Miel  who served up Pigskin 2 Ways: chicharrones or fried pork rinds are a familiar sight in LA - but the second preparation was completely unexpected - it was pork skin prepped ceviche style with citrus marinade and chili peppers for sweet/tart/heat with an instinctly addictive crunch that was different from the fried chicharron...the texture was closer to Chinese style jellyfish (usually also served cold as an appetizer).  LOVED this - it was one of my  fest favorites and even though the restaurant is located in out of the way Bell, this dish more than justifies a trek in the near future.

Loteria Grill was super organized, with a posted schedule of different items that they would be serving throughout the day.  By the time I made it there they were serving a delicious Taco Dulce with mango and grilled pineapple, cheese crema, hibiscus and red wine reduction, chipotle salsa, micro churros, and corn croutons.

Starry Kitchen brought their popular chili crab gumbo with buttermilk beignet.  So sad I missed their pandan churros with coco kaya cream!  Hoping to catch them at the next Asian street food fest, 626 Night Market.

Aside from a mind-boggling array of eats - this was most definitely not one of those food events where you leave hungry: it was impossible to try everything available - there was lots of all you can drink alcohol stations as well. Julian Cox / Josh Goldman / Soigne had set up at a Refreshment stand, and it would have been easy to miss them without massive signage.

They cleverly concocted a frozen treat that was perfect for a day spent in the blazing sun: their own version of Otter Pop / Fla-Vor Ice with the cocktail Painkiller (pineapple, coconut and dark rum) frozen via liquid nitrogen and served up in a little squeezy packet that you can take around with you to enjoy while standing in line for food.  Genius.

I didn't make it in time to taste Pablo Moix / Steve Livigni / Black Market's Tiger Style Cocktail  - but looks like it was something appropriately made with mezcal.

And as healthy chaser, Pressed Juicery was on hand serving up one of their delicious green juices - I'm pretty sure it was Greens 2 with kale, spinach... honestly though it was hard to tell in the heat, but I was glad for the refreshing 'shot'.

Circling back to the dessert section, The Donut Snob had the most amazing fresh made maple bacon cinnamon donut and pistachio orange donut with no preservatives and no artificial ingredientsThey are currently more a made to order delivery business right now, so I need to find some excuse to place my order for a dozen or more soon!


Fluff Ice sampled their Kiwi Fluff (shave ice) topped with I think condensed milk.  Yum!


To feed my incurable sweet tooth, I also picked up from cream 'wich a pre-packaged banana peanut butter ice cream sandwich.  There was so much more at not just the dessert booths but throughout the event that I wanted to try, but the later in the evening it got, the more crowded, the longer the lines and the heat still did not let while the spirit was willing, I had to make my last rounds and then my escape.

Before my exit, I had to get just one more bite (ok, actually, two more bites) of the Churro Borough Los Angeles vanilla custard ice cream sandwich that I actually 'discovered' during my first round at the ice cream social section.  It was hands down the BEST bite I had at LA Street Food Fest - warm, fresh made, airy and lightly crunchy cinnamon sugary churro rounds were perfect bookends for the delicious, creamy ice cream.  I still dream of this weeks later...

This very sadly for eaters is not available at any retail location right now - another passion project that we'll have to follow closely on Twitter and Instagram to find out where we can get our next fix! 

And speaking of Instagram, a fun thing they had at the event was Instapartybox, where they made photo prints of photos that people were Instagramming - as long as they hashtagged #lafoodfest, the little box that could dutifully spit out photos branded with an LA Street Food Fest printed border, and even includes your IG name and caption - to make for a lovely free souvenir that you can pick up on your way out.

All in all, a fun, delicious and way more than filling time at LA Street Food Fest! Thanks again to Gourmetpigs for introducing me to this awesomeness!!!!


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