la cocina street food festival....then came the lines
To say there were lines at La Cocina's Street Food Festival would be an understatement. Most of the vendors there had waits of 30 minutes or more. Which is why we hit up two previously with no wait, just so we could get some food in us before tackling one or more of the longer lines. We decided to divide and conquer with our next choices. I took on one and the SO took on another, which I will cover shortly. My choice was Peaches Patties specializing in Jamaican food.
Above you see part of a line that stretches waaaay beyond what I could photo at the time. This was also after I had gotten to the front and ordered. When I initially lined up it was only moderately shorter than the one after and they also still had a full menu available. As the line inched forward, items listed at the front of the tent were starting to get marked off as sold out. By the time my 40 minutes in line passed and I reached the order point they only had two options left and since I'd come this far, that is what I got.
They were calling it a curry chicken patty, I'll call it a curry chicken turnover or empanada--though it was larger than a regular empanada would be. Not quite calzone size but large enough. I also got the side of fried plantains too because they had them. Whether these were worth the wait or not is debatable, but for going by then on their own merits we did like the dishes. The "patty" was chock full of ground chicken with a distinct curry flavor and the crust was a nice not too flakey and buttery thing. Sturdy enough to hold the filling without falling apart. The plantains also had a pleasant slight char on the outside and then soft and sweet inside. We actually thought they were even better when you took a bite of one then the other. It was a nice contrast of sweet and savory flavors. Not sure it is something I would head towards on such a hot day normally, but on a chilly day it would work perfectly as a lovely warm comfort food option. Overall, nicely done, except for the wait. I can only imagine what their other food would have tasted like.
In the meantime, the SO is still in line even after I've gotten the above food. When I get over to their line, still about 7 or 8 folks from the front, someone comes out and says all they have left are veggie empanadas, everything else is sold out. Funnily enough, the booths on either side of them are also running out of stuff and sold out signs start popping up like flies on dead fish. It is just now 2pm and this event is supposed to run until 8pm.
People are still coming in and vendors are running out of food? Did La Cocina not tell people the crowds would be massive or were these vendors so small and unprepared they just didn't have enough? I'm gonna spread the blame to both parties as past experience should have led La Cocina to tell them to stock up and the vendors should have researched a little and seen how big past events were. Because this was a scaled down event with fewer vendors didn't mean fewer people would show up. La Cocina purposely scaled back the event because it got too big but they still managed to get overwhelmed, or at least the vendors did and that isn't a good thing for them or those of us who really wanted to try their food.
While me and the SO stepped out this line, we really wanted to try something else and, undaunted, made our way over to Beijing Restaurant. To be honest, I found their inclusion a little odd as they are not really a new up and coming food business and have a restaurant in town. Still they were offering two things which seemed interesting and we felt game for, at the time. Plus, the order line was short, though it was because you then had to get in another line to actually pick up your order. Still, the wait here was half of what it was at the other booths.
Here we have grilled barbecued squid on a stick. Pretty simple and exactly what it looks like as you can see by the great video the SO took of the preparation. They say sometimes you really don't want to know how your food is cooked but in this instance it was fine and honestly, a lot more interesting than the actual squid. I think I was expecting some spicy and of thing, you can see the red peppers after all. But it was more hoisin sauce and the squid was very....squidy. A little chewy and meh. I think I still just prefer mine to be lightly battered and deep fried.
Next they had something they called a Chinese style street pancake and we saw them cooking this behind the tent, as you can see in the video, and that is what tempted us to try it. It was a crepe with egg, cilantro and green onions then a crispy shell added in the middle. The whole concept in general seemed good as you get some soft, some crunchy, a little protein. But they then add in some sauces which I believe were hoisin (again) and then the ever present fish sauce. It is this flavor that sometimes runs rampant through Asian food and is very distinctive and sometimes takes me back to travels through China, Vietnam, Cambodia and their markets and street food. And well, I just can't as I am not a fan of fish sauce. It is kind of like mirin or anise, very strong and very unappealing to my tongue. While I liked the idea and textures here, the flavor profile just wasn't working for me. They were doing some brisk business (as most booths were) so it has a following and who knows, could be right up your alley.
After this stop we were pretty much done as we had been outside in heat and direct sunlight for about three hours. Plus lines were not getting any smaller, vendors were still running out of food and as we were exiting, a really long line of people were still coming in. I can only imagine how upset some of them were when they found out many vendors had run out of a number of food options. It might not be so bad if you got the $5 early tickets, but they were $10 at the gate and then you find out there isn't much left to buy once inside. I'm glad we went early, though it seems getting there 2 hours after start time still was late. La Cocina probably made a lot of money off tickets but I still think they have some things to work out logistics wise to make sure vendors are better prepared to handle the crowds and have enough food on hand for an event that is running 11am-8pm.
Let's face it, anyone who lives here knows, if you put on a food festival, it is gonna attract a load of people in this food obsessed town so you better be able to handle it. The vendors and La Cocina specifically should know that by now. Would it keep me from going again? No, because I am one of those food obsessed people who will keep going to these things and then just grouse about it later online. Though, if they do the same kind of smaller event next year, I'll make a point to go when it opens so I can get food before it runs out. See, I just learned my lesson from this years event--go earlier! Now La Cocina just needs to learn theirs.