I recently attended the 4th Ave Roosevelt Row Chile Festival here in Phoenix, AZ. While there was no program that listed time of events, including the chef demos, there were many food vendors with unexpected vegan options.

UB pulled jackfruit tacoHere in the Southwest we celebrate the blend of chilies and chocolate, a combination that was the pride of the Aztecs and was in abundance at the Festival. My favorite coffee shop, Urban Beans, dished up a chili dipped in chocolate. While the fresno pepper lacked fiery heat, it was certainly tasty to bite into with the soft and creamy chocolate. They also brought their famous pulled jackfruit tacos with a creamy cashew chipotle sauce called Chipolte Pleezsh. The onions were slow sautéed and mixed in with the heartiness of jackfruit. It was the superior veg fare I’ve come to love from them.

Otro veggie tacoThe surprise came from the restaurants that you wouldn’t think would have vegan offerings. Otro Café was serving up grilled vegetable street tacos, a blend of squash, nopales and southwestern seasonings. The chef added a touch of fresh chopped cilantro and chili de arbol sauce. This taco had me going back to thank the chef for such an incredible bite. He was very animated and entertaining the crowd as we stood around waiting to be served elote (Mexican street corn) and carne asada tacos.

CF tamarind sorbetoI think one of the best surprises was to find a sorbeto stand that advertised vegan and gluten free. Lulu’s is a company I just heard about recently and sells solely to one grocery market here in Phoenix. I tried the tamarind lime chili. It was the perfect refreshment for one of the hottest fall days I’ve ever experienced.

I didn’t stay late enough for the main entertainment, a talent show put on by our local publishing company Lawn Gnome. Seating was limited and I was full. I did listen to a great hillbilly rock band and then a Mariachi band that had the crowd cheering and whistling.

The event was free, tickets were reasonable. $10 got me two tacos, a chili, a brownie, and sorbeto. Not a bad evening. I enjoyed the crowd and talking to strangers. I was disappointed the Chef Demo corner stood empty all evening. I’d like to know what happened to the chefs. The retail and restaurant vendors definitely held up their end of the event.

The event happens once a year and all the proceeds go to a good cause, supporting the renovation of Roosevelt Row and the urban garden they are building. I’m looking forward to next year with maybe a bit more coordination between the organizer, talent, and chefs, and more original culinary creations.