Around the World Cultural Food Festival – Washington, D.C.

Today, I attended the Around the World Cultural Food Festival in Freedom Plaza. I think it would have been better named ‘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.

DC is an international hub with people living here from all over the world. Food has been an excellent way to learn about the different cultures existing here in DC. I was hoping to encounter some new foods I hadn’t tried before.

The event ran from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. When I arrived at noon, there was already a good crowd of people on this hot summer afternoon. Though admittance was free, I had bought a VIP ticket for $35 because it was supposed to have shorter wait times, but it also included two drinks and access to the VIP tent.

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.  After spending six months living and studying there, I have grown fond of Argentina, especially the food and wine. Two of my favorite things to have in Argentina were beef empanadas and Malbec wine.

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.

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I was planning on just getting a couple empanadas because I wanted to try a bunch of different cuisines. However, the smallest quantity they were selling as four. What I was not expecting here (but probably should have) was that they were fried. Traditional Mendozan empanadas are not fried. I understand though. Cooking to order 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 music from different cultures, and I even saw a live performance of Indonesian dancing.

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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. 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.

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 and lines had increased significantly. Second, four fried empanadas are very filling. I was feeling too full and 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.

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 to support a local artisan. It turned out this stand was run by a group of women who own a real estate company in Manassas, VA.

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Despite the heat, I quite enjoyed my time at the festival. I hope to return if they host this event next year.

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