Monday, June 25, 2007

Baltimore Festivals: LatinoFest

I had trouble finding parking today for LatinoFest. LOTS of people were there, a testament to our city's diverse and growing Latino community. But I was surprised to find less in the way of Mexican and Salvadoran food (the largest segments of Maryland's Latino community), and more in the way of Colombian and puertorriqueño food. Sadly, I think I got no Puerto Rican food at all! Most of what I ate was, in retrospect, Andean.

LatinoFest not only had great food, but wonderful music as well. I photographed the hell out of some flamenco dancers. They were just entrancing. Afterwards, I headed around the festival looking for food. I think I actually found more stands selling soccer memorabilia than food. As far as soccer goes, there were pitifully few real or team replica jerseys - one Chivas jersey, I think a Chelsea FC jersey, and about 10,000 soccer-like t-shirts with country names on them. But I can't eat a Chivas jersey, so I hunted down some food. Rows and rows of empanadas, pupusas and pinchos (shish kebabs) all over the place. But I wanted to try things I hadn't yet tried, so I searched carefully for some Puerto Rican or Salvadoran food. I only had $15 for food, and was determined not spend anymore.

My first stop, however, sold Mexican food. This booth was manned by locally-acclaimed Arcos Restaurant, which the City Paper voted Baltimore's Best Mexican in '06, and best Courtyard Dining in '05 and '06. I ordered the $2 elotes - corn - which I got in a cup with shredded cheese (mmmm), chili pepper (yum) and mayonnaise (ummm). I ate half the cup - the mayo was the only thing that stopped me. I'm not a mayo person.

My next stop was a kiosk selling what I thought was Puerto Rican food. If it was, then they had Colombian and Venezuelan food too, because my next dish was the very Andean arepa ($5). This corn cake, which has analogies in Mexico (the gordita) and El Salvador (the pupusa), was filled with cheese - not mozzarella, as they claimed, but still a tasty cheese.

I quenched my thirst with another Andean delight, salpicón (fruit punch, $3)*. It looks like sangría but has no wine (one reason I don't drink much sangría).

After catching some Mexican ballet folklórico I looked for one more thing to nosh on. I came upon a little Colombian woman at a crowded booth selling - you guessed it - Colombian food. She spoke almost no English, so I got to flex my Spanish muscles. I asked for one pincho (shisk kebab) of cerdo (pork), not pollo (chicken). It was only $5, so I gave her the money and left. I liked it, more so with barbecue sauce, though I noticed about halfway through that she had indeed given me a chicken pincho. Oh well. It cost the same anyway. Note, by the way, that pinchos, or pinchitos, are more ubiquitous throughout Latin America than the other foods I ate on Sunday.

On the way out I saw a group of Brazilian-American musicians with a big Brazilian flag billowing by the sidewalk. A Mexican-American family was standing around, chatting, listening to the music. I wondered: why were these guys not also in the festival? I saw nothing Brazilian in LatinoFest, sadly - well, nothing that would not be worn on the soccer pitch.

* I tried to find a recipe, but everything linked me to the meat dish of the same name. Very few sites mention salpicón the drink, but suggest it comes from Chile or Venezuela. Scroll down on this link for a mention of Colombian beverages, including salpicón.

Other photos:

Here are the flamenco dancers. Their feet pounded on the stage while the women behind them clapped along. Mesmerizing.

And here, the Mexican ballet folklórico troupe also gets down with their zapateado.

What Latinofest - hell, any international festival - would be complete without a multitude of booths selling soccer jerseys? I could've found a good bargain, I bet.


Cham said...

You did the corn thing wrong. The corn belongs on the cob on a stick, with the cheese, mayo and lime. And it is delicious, but there shouldn't be that much mayo. Next time look around for that lady who does it that way.

John said...

Wasn't my fault! Did seem a little too convenient having it in a cup, though.