Street food. Some might call it a ritual of the less evolved. An uncivilized relic.
Whatever the appeal - perhaps convenience, or thrift; or maybe it’s the Mexican blood in my clogging Mexican arteries - there’s an unconscious instinct to seek satisfaction in the presence of sizzle. A desire to marinate shirt threads in the smell of pork belly smoke. An urge to savor the traces of corn on my fingers long after the tacos are gone.
And while its current popularity actually lies in its modernist aesthetics: food for food’s sake - neglectful of linen napkins, devoid of both silverware and reservations - that street food still exists reveals something important about our primitive nature: that when it comes to food, how we choose to eat it remains largely unchanged.
After all, eating on your feet in close proximity of the prey is primal. Minus the killing that you took no part in.
Six thousand fans of primitive eating took to the Pasadena Rose Bowl for the Los Angeles Street Food Festival on July 24. A sold out event, the festival featured over sixty vendors, representing all culinary walks of life.
(Upper right: Komodo’s miso beef skewer)
While all-inclusive general admission tickets were sold for $45, and extra $20 got you VIP status, granting you an hour’s early entry and first dibs through shorter lines and a closer parking space. Unfortunately, there were too many VIP tickets sold and lines to enter were still massive enough to cut into the “early entry.”
Food trucks were absent from the event in order to minimize lines.
Notable dishes include Chef Susan Feniger’s Green Corn Tamale from Border Grill (above), which while not as first as the usual tamale, was sweet and fresh with bits of cooked kernels present in the masa.
Cupcakes-a-Gogo’s tiny red velvets were a popular vanishing act - a rich and moist bite(top). Singha (center, bottom) was on-site with unlimited servings of its Thai beer to pair with such notables as Tamales Elena’s Strawberry Tamale (left, bottom).
Above:The Dim Sum truck set up two stands - one for dumplings, the other for other dim sum delights which included vegan sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf.
The event included a cook-off judged by various celebrities, including Top Chef Master contestant Susan Feniger, former Church & State Chef Walter Manzke (top center).
Above: Malo’s fried taco with chips was an uneventful combination unaccustomed to their usual fare. Bottom right: The Vegan Joint’s thai curry and papaya salad was both a generous and tasty serving, which made it one of the event’s highlights.
Below, top right: Fresh Fries’ sweet potatoes fries with nutella and peanut butter were unexpectedly crispy for this type of event.
Above: The event included an ice cream social which featured Coolhaus’ ice cream sandwiches, as well as the Natura Juice bar and organic Strawberry Mint juice bars from Pop Art’s popsicle stand.
Dogzilla’s Japanese hotdogs were also among the long line show stoppers (above). Below: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announces the winners of the event.
Above: Mochica’s tiny bites were among the best tasting dishes - the lack of obvious signage on their part, meant that those who knew, enjoyed various servings. Bottom right: The Mandoline Grill’s Banh Mi proved to be a good serving of vinegary Vietnamese and well seasoned beef.
Above: Along with Chef Feniger and Mayor Villaraigosa, Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams and Street Gourmet LA blogger Bill Esparza were among the event’s judges.
While it is far-fetched to suppose that one truly gets their seventy dollar’s worth at an event like the LA Street Food Festival, knowing that some of the money went to charity more than justifies the experience. In the end, the chance to congregate in the name of good food is worthwhile. The chance to celebrate food’s persistence on the street, legendary.