Today, I attended the Around the World Cultural Food Festival in Freedom Plaza. I think it is better called ‘A Foodie Paradise.’ Local restaurants represented food from Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, EL Salvador, Greece, Guam, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Lebanon, Nigeria, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, New Orleans, and Vietnam. This is one of my favorite things about DC. There are so many people from around the world. It is an international hub. There are always opportunities to experience different cultures. Even just through food, I have learned to much about different countries and cultures while living in DC. Food is one of the best ways to bring people of different backgrounds together, and DC is quite known for that.
I saw an event page for this festival on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and I have really been looking forward to it. I have not been feeling my best the past couple weeks. It has been a huge struggle to motivate myself to get out of bed and get myself to work. I can’t always explain why these periods happen, but it takes a lot out of me just to do the things required in my day. So, I end up sleeping a lot…borderline too much. Ultimately, I know to get out of my funk, I need to get myself out of the apartment and out of the office and do sometimes that lifts my soul. I was hoping this event would do the trick.
Even though I had been excited for this, I still had a difficult time getting out of the apartment this morning. My energy was down, and I wasn’t feeling like going outside. Though after a shower and then a quick stop for a cold brew at Starbucks, I was ready to hop onto the Metro. Fortunately, my side of the Red Line has been operating normally, while a huge chunk of the other side has been shut down for repairs. Sorry, Silver Spring friends.
I arrived at about noon (the event was running from 11am to 7pm). There was already a good crowd of people. I had bought a VIP ticket for $35 (the event was free to attend) because it was supposed to have shorter wait times, but it also included two drinks and access to the VIP tent.
When I showed up, I went straight to the Argentina booth. When I saw Argentina was one of the countries represented, I knew that had to be my first stop. I studied abroad in Mendoza, Argentina in 2013 during the spring semester of my junior year of college. After spending six months living and studying there, I have had a soft spot in my heart for Argentina. People who know me well probably associate me with my love of Malbec wine (produced most famously in Mendoza).
I also have a love affair with empanadas. That was my favorite food item I ate abroad. They became a staple for me for one because they are delicious, but also because the traditional empanadas do not have any dairy in them. During my junior year, I developed severe lactose intolerance. It was so bad that I couldn’t have any amounts of dairy (not even cheese) without getting violently ill. I knew I could always fill up on empanadas mendocinas (de picadillo) when I went out with friends (especially when we went out for pizza).
I have not had a proper picadillo empanada in years. I was surprised to a nice treat of empanadas when I visited the Argentina Embassy a couple years ago during the Around the World Embassy Open House Tour, but other than that is has been since I was in Mendoza five years ago.
The restaurant representing Argentina was Empanadas de Mendoza, a food truck business located in Fairfax, VA. With a name like Empanadas de Mendoza, I was really banking on them having some good Mendozan empanadas.
I was planning on just getting a couple empanadas because I wanted to try a bunch of different cuisines. However, I had to buy a minimum of four empanadas. The thing I was not expecting here (but probably should have) was that they were fried. Traditional Mendozan empanadas are not fried. I do get it though. Cooking in a food truck, frying them is the best (and possibly only realistic) option. I got two of the beef picadillo and two spinach and ricotta. I did have to wait a bit for my empanadas, as they were frying each order as they came in, and there were a line of people already waiting. It wasn’t so bad waiting, except that it was bloody hot.
When I got my plate of empanadas (with some chimichurri) I headed to the VIP tent to eat and hopefully cool myself down. The VIP tent with tables and chairs set up was right in front of the main stage. While I ate, I got to listen to a variety of cultural music, and I even saw a live performance of Indonesian dancing.
As for the empanadas, I was quite impressed. Despite them being fried, the dough still had quite a bit of chewiness, which I expect in a Mendozan empanada. Also, the filling was perfect. It was just how I remembered empanadas tasting in Argentina. I was feeling rather nostalgic. Oh, to be 21 again, sipping wine and eating empanadas on a sidewalk patio, going to an Asado, dancing all night in clubs, taking siestas. Of what a fun life!
So yes, I did enjoy this dish a lot. The spinach and ricotta empanadas were also good. The filling was so creamy. It was like having spinach dip stuffed inside of a crispy dough.
I sat there for awhile enjoying the shade and the music. The tent really did do a good job at bringing the heat down. There is a reason why I don’t go outside much in DC in August…because the humidity is no joke. I do not enjoy being hot. I hate the feeling of not being able to stop sweating. I like it when I am working out because it makes me feel like I accomplished something, but I just want to be able to go outside in the summer and not look like I just left Zumba class. Is that really too much to ask for, DC?
After I ate my empanadas and set there for awhile, I felt ready to take another walk through the food tents. I then had two realizations. First, the crowd had increased and so had the lines (significantly). Second, four fried empanadas are very filling. A girl can only eat so much fried food in a sitting. I was feeling too full and way too hot to want to eat anymore. I had wanted to try a variety of cuisines, but honestly, it was fun just to smell all the food and see what was offered. I also got exactly what I came for, so I did not regret eating all those empanadas.
To get the full experience though, I took another walk through the booths to see what the artisan venders were selling. I landed at a booth selling Peruvian jewelry. The colors and designs caught my eye, and the ladies selling the jewelry were so sweet. I picked out a necklace and a bracelet. I love being able to support small, artisan venders. That is why I do a lot of gift shopping at Eastern Market.
It turned out this stand was run by a group of women who own a real estate company in Manassas, VA. I enjoy seeing women entrepreneurs rocking it, and these women were doing just that. I felt happy with my choice of businesses that I supported today.
At this point, I looked a little bit like I just jumped out of a swimming pool. Despite drinking two bottles of water, I could feel how dehydrated I was becoming. That should be a sign of how hot it was (or how badly I was sweating). Even though I only made it there a couple hours, I really enjoyed myself. I got to eat good food that brought me back to Argentina, listen to good music, and take in a good scene that made me feel whole. Though, I couldn’t wait to take the Metro back to Bethesda for my second shower of the day and a much needed nap. Even though the VIP ticket did not actually help with the lines, I think it was still worth it for the shaded seating and easy access to water. All in all, this was a well-worth it food adventure out in the heat. I really hope all the restaurants and artisans there made a good day’s worth of business.