On June 28, the 5th annual LA Street Food Fest took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. The event featured over 75 different food trucks, restaurants and the like, all for one ticket. Naturally, we had to check it out. There were two kinds of tickets available, general admission for $55 and VIP for $80. The perks of VIP include two hours of early admission, as well as VIP entrance, VIP parking and “Food Fest shwag.” Pro tip: If you have the cash, VIP is worth it. The extra two hours means shorter lines, plenty of time to hop from booth to booth and more bang for your buck. General admission limits your eating opportunities and increases your time spent waiting. I guess you get what you pay for!
Naturally, since this is Los Angeles, the Latin American food booths were first on my list. Whether it was Peruvian or Mexican cuisine, the authenticity was incredible. From garnished tacos to ceviches served generously with lime slices, the options were endless. But there were definitely some spectacular stand-outs.
Misky Misky, a new Peruvian restaurant, served anticuchos (beef heart skewers with rocato aioli, green onions, served on a tamale husk) and chicha morada (a sweet, spiced beverage made from purple corn). The beef heart was unbelievably tender, hearty for such a small bite, literally. Its heady marinade kicked the flavor up a notch alongside the aioli. The purple corn drink was light, crisp and reminiscent of the spices in Mexican horchata.
La Monarca Bakery served crumbly, powdered Mexican wedding cookies and café de olla, which is organic that’s coffee brewed for 24 hours and then spiced liberally with cinnamon. The coffee, iced and sweet, was an excellent break from the hot sun. I’m usually anti-coffee, but the café de olla made me seriously reconsider my stance on it. It helped that the café de olla was a far cry from the typical vigorous and bitter flavor of Italian coffee.
Casa Oaxaca, which had the longest line and my favorite sampler of the day, handed out squash blossom tempura tacos, hibiscus tacos and a couple other incredible delicacies. With a bit of deep-red hibiscus sauce on top, these tacos were out of this world. Fried, yet delicate and buttery from the tempura shell, the squash blossom tacos were good enough to make you weak in the knees and have to sit down. Don’t forget about the flower tacos. The hibiscus tacos had only the mildest of floral notes, and overall the flavor was so unique I couldn’t place a comparison.
El Coraloense, pictured above, tossed out some of the most refreshing and wonderfully tangy ceviches I’ve ever tasted. And don’t be fooled by its name, because the LA Food Fest served up a fair share of booze. The tequila booths were sorely tempting, as well as the beer and wine booths you’ll come across. Golden Road Brewery provided lager beer and IPAs. Plus there were fantastic bars to choose from, approved by Caroline on Crack, a well-known LA nightlife blogger.
The Americana section was next on the menu. One of the booths was Short Order, which served juicy and piping hot pulled pork with homemade coleslaw, Carolina mustard and a baguette of some sort. It was delicious and gone in one big bite.
Crossings served crisp watermelon gazpacho, which was a hearty combination of watermelon and saltier, more savory spices. While there weren’t many options for vegans, one booth by Kitchen Mouse served vegan tempeh rueben tacos. It had seared tempeh, corn tortillas, cashew cream, caraway sauerkraut and chipotle cream. To be honest, the first bite of tempeh by itself threw me off with its rough, dense texture and flavor. However, the combination of items altogether made an awesome taco that tasted rich from the cashew and chipotle flavors. Overall, it was a pleasing mix of sour and savory due to the sauerkraut and tempeh. It ended up being one of my favorite stops at the LA Food Fest.
European and Asian food were also offered, but food either ran out or lines were far too long. In my opinion, the Latin American food and dessert were the crème de la crème of the LA Food Fest. But even so, I sadly had to bypass the Europe/Asian section in order to get to the desserts on time. Be it bakery items, ice cream, shaved ice or gourmet sorbets, the variety of desserts was impressive. Mwokaji Cakery served cupcakes and featured intricate cakes as decoration for the booth. Donut Friend served maple bacon donuts with non-vegan bacon options, too. Quenelle handed out Vietnamese coffee popsicles and apple pie bon bons with bourbon caramel. It was dessert madness, and it was clear everyone was loving it. Shave It served small cups of shaved ice, or “snow”, combined with ice cream and different “flavas.” The root beer float, which came with vanilla bean ice cream, finely shaved ice, caramel and fudge drizzle and root beer flava was perfect and oh-so-satisfying for a warm summer evening.
ConfeXion‘s sea salt caramel brioughnut and Evil Twin cupcake (jalapeño carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting) made the 40-minute long wait worth every minute. Needless to say, ConfeXion won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars for an obvious reason. The brioughnut was delightfully sticky, buttery soft and perfectly balanced between sweet and salty. It definitely gives the trending cronut a run for its money. The cupcake was actually spicy due to the jalapeño, and the carrot cake flavor was flawless.
Overall, LA Food Fest is a great event that is best enjoyed with buddies, but it’s even better with these useful tips to remember for future Food Fests (and maybe other Food Festivals this summer):
1. VIP ticket. They sell out super fast, so get them ASAP, and I mean weeks in advance.
2. Bring your own H2O. Stay hydrated in long lines, and all that eating will make you thirsty.
3. Be prepared for long lines by bringing comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and friends to chat with.
4. Bathroom lines can be long, too. Consider this while downing all those beers and iced coffees.
5. BYON: Bring Your Own Napkins. Or at least tissues for convenience’s sake and those inevitable messes.
6. Bring your own plate or cardboard tray. That way, you don’t have to wolf down food from the previous booth for the next booth and will essentially collect food as you go, to eat at your leisure.
7. Make a game plan. Select particular booths you’d like to visit ahead of time, and then go from there.