When Latin Food Fest first launched in 2013, its inspiration was pretty local: the south-of-the-border Mexican cuisine of Baja California. But the two-day event—the largest of its kind in the U.S.—has expanded its culinary reach to include food from South America to the Caribbean to Spain, serving up everything from Brazilian-style churrasco to Spanish paella and the Ecuadorian take on corn cakes, humitas, to raise awareness and raise funds for the fight against hunger.
“Tamales, ceviche, and tacos are typically what consumers think of when they think Latin cuisine in Southern California,” says Latin Food Fest director Lucia Tovar, “but emerging dishes and types of cuisine are popping up everywhere in Southern California.” That’s why the festival diversified after 2013. “Instead of the ‘taco fest’ concept,” says Tovar, “our attendees experience things like Salvadoran pupusas, Cuban ropa vieja, and Bolivian salteñas.”
That expansion of flavors is one reason why the annual San Diego August event—which is held at downtown’s waterfront Embarcadero Marina Park North—has added a second, kid-friendly day of Gran Tastings, when you can wander the Culinary Pavilion for cookbook signings, demos, and lots of samples, from Brazilian feijoada (a stew of pork and black beans) to pork cheek carnitas. Another event not to be missed is the street food party Mercado, where you can sample such the street staples as Dominican yaroa, a tasty meal made with mashed plantain, strips of meat, and a layer of mozzarella. In past years the event has featured such culinary celebrities as Aarón Sánchez (famous in part from TV’s Chopped) and Colombian-American chef Ingrid Hoffmann.
“Instead of the ‘taco fest’ concept, our attendees experience things like Salvadoran pupusas, Cuban ropa vieja, and Bolivian salteñas.” —Latin Food Fest director Richie Matthews
Each weekend day offers its own tickets and events (with nicely discounted pricing for kids on one day). Book a VIP ticket and you’ll gain early admission to events, as well as entry to the VIP Tent with its goodie bags, massages, and exclusive snacks—like organic tequila, Baja oysters, and Puerto Nuevo–style grilled lobster.