Southern Californians rejoice: Our time has come! The annual Avocado festival, California’s largest free food festival, arrived in Carpinteria this past weekend. The 29th annual Avofest featured plenty of live, local music, arts and crafts, shops and, of course, plenty of vendors featuring the star of the show: the beautiful alligator pear, better known as the avocado. As a SoCal native, it is in my very nature to adore the lime green, pitted fruit. Although my physiological conscious begs me not to with a mild allergic reaction — itchy throat, swelled lips and irritation — I continue to gobble down the creamy substance with the gusto of a professional hot-dog eating contestant.
Most are acquainted with the avocado in its classic forms: chips ‘n’ guac, atop a taco or jazzing up a salad or sandwich, but it can be utilized in a myriad of other ways. The avocado is a versatile fruit with a unique texture, flavor and consistency, making it useful not only in Mexican-inspired cuisine, but in plenty of other ways: sweet treats, fried fair food and health-conscious items. During my trip to what is, in my humble opinion, the greatest food fair, I made sure to try a wide variety of Avocado-featuring dishes to include these different ways to eat avocado.
First things first: It’s sunny California weather and I am in need of a cool down. So I hit the California Avocado Festival’s Avocado and CHOCOcado Ice Cream. The creamy treat was surprisingly refreshing — a crisp pale green color, with a flavor so subtle it felt as if it was more of an afterthought. The new edition of avocado meets ice cream, CHOCOcado had an earthy, smooth cocoa taste. The avocado, however, was not apparent in the flavor, only perhaps in texture. Who can think of a better pairing than ice cream and brownies? I sure can’t. Perfectly positioned next to the ice cream booth was The Howard School (Food Liaison Brownies) tent. The chunky, richly flavored brownie made with avocados had a crumbly texture perfect for topping with a scoop or two. The brownie actually amplified the avocado essence within the ice cream. Flakes of sea salt adorned the brownie top and added a pleasant savory appeal to the treat.
Now that my sweet tooth had been accommodated, my next stop was Sunset Catering. They were offering a collection of savory delicacies. The menu listed several stuffed avocados: caprese, chicken Caesar and the B.L.A.T. (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato and blue cheese), but more importantly, it featured fried avocados. I repeat: deep-fried wedges of the beautiful creamy fruit. I, of course, instantly saw it listed and knew I had to order it. The long wait was worth it. My first thought was, “Holy Shit!” I pretty much died upon first taste. The creamy avocado melted in my mouth with a warm and inviting temperature. The crispy outside provided a thin layer of crunch, which added a beautiful texture. Do not even get me started on the toppings: a drizzle of sweet glaze and a Sriracha mayo. The glaze had a tangy teriyaki taste and the spicy mayo had just the right amount of heat to create that perfect sweet and spicy combo that no one can resist. It was definitely the highlight of the festival.
After that mouth-watering dish I needed something to wash it down. What better option than an avocado smoothie? I went to Imlak’esh, a UCSB alumni-run business located in Goleta. The smoothie was called the Majestic Avocado, made with blueberries, banana, cashew milk, maca, coconut nectar and avocado, all of which are sourced from local farmers in Peru. The lavender-colored drink was complex, with lots of hidden undertones to create a unique flavor. The avocado was certainly present in the drink, not only in texture, but in flavor, although it had to combat against the always-prominent banana flavor. The yogurt-like consistency of this drink was complemented perfectly with a sprinkling of coconut shavings.
Of course, one simply cannot go to an AvoFest and not try traditional chips and guacamole. There were two vendors there boasting their guac was numero uno: Holy Guaca-Moly and Carpinteria High School Cheerleaders Guacamole. Holy Guaca-Moly apparently was award-winning and a crowd favorite. I tried it and was satisfied. The light green color was nice, however, the consistency was much too creamy for my taste and lacked the desired chunk of a good guac. Finally, I had to compare it to CHS’s guac, of which the cheerleaders make a giant vat fresh every day. Their sign claimed “World’s Greatest” guacamole and I was not disappointed. The avocado had a nice peppery flavor, a vibrant green color and a fantastic chunk that paired perfectly with their high quality, extra-salty tortilla chips. Overall I would say between the two that the Carpinteria Cheerleaders sacked their competition.
As you can see, avocados are a versatile food that can be used in an assortment of delicious dishes. I hope that this article has convinced you that next year you need to visit the little town just down the 101 for the food festival of your dreams.