The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando has been hosting thousands of Orlando residents and visitors at its annual Latin Food & Wine Festival event for years. I am sad yet happy to say that after missing the event by days for a whole bunch of years, this year I finally caught it early enough to put it on my schedule and attend!
… and with my mom!
The event had a lot of cool things going on: performances on the main stage, speeches by elected officials and heads of big corporations, and important information dealing with issues in the Latin community. I saw and listened to it all, and then I ate.
And I ate good!
There were a WHOLE lot of vendors selling their “wares.” For the most part, all of the food looked good. But after a once around to see what our options were, my mom and I decided to stick with vendors that 1. we hadn’t eaten at their restaurant before, 2. had authentic Latin food, and 3. had meatless options, of course. After a bit of discussion, we got our hands and taste buds on 3 dishes that fit the bill.
1. Sauteed Mushroom Quesadilla by Hunger St. Tacos
My sautéed mushroom quesadilla by far had to be the best thing I ate at the festival. I mean, look at it. Cheese, mushrooms, and onions made this the perfect and best quesadilla I had ever tried. It was packed with flavor! The best part about it was that the cheese to mushroom ratio was just what a person like me was looking for. There was just enough cheese to make the crispy, flour tortilla stick together while also complementing the mushrooms. Although I was happy to share one of the slices with my mom, I would’ve been (kind of) happy to eat the whole thing by myself too.
2. Cheese Arepa by La Antioquena Colombian Restaurant
Watching as the arepas were being assembled and cooked on the grill, I was so excited to try one. The excitement in my eyes was soon met with excitement in my mouth. Yes, the arepa was good, but I will admit that I did expect the corn cakes to be much sweeter than they were. Also, I’m not that huge a fan of mozzarella because of its very delicate flavor. I like really strong, in-your-face flavors. But this was by no means a bad dish. I still enjoyed the crunchy cakes along side the soft, slightly, melty cheesy center. I am looking forward to trying the different variations of this dish to find the one that I gel with the most.
3. Paella Vegetal with Grilled Shrimp Skewer by Tapa Toro
Proten + Carbs = My favorite way to eat. There’s nothing better than this combination. (It is this combination that keeps me on my regularly scheduled gym appointments.) So, I was happy as a clam when I saw Tapa Toro‘s paella vegetable dish. The paella and vegetables would’ve been perfect on their own, but… see first sentence. So, we threw in a shrimp skewer. Where to begin??? The flavor, of course! What else is there? It was packed with flavor. The red peppers, tomatoes, onions, peas, and saffron gave this simple, traditional dish everything it needed to make it my second favorite dish at the event. Let’s not forget about the green sauce. When my mom and I were at the event, we assumed that it was a salsa verde, but a little bit of research later and I’m now convinced that the green sauce is what they call aji verde. (We were close.) The sauce, which I remember having a little heat to it, added another great layer of flavor to the paella.
If you missed this year’s Latin Food & Wine Festival, don’t fret. Not only will it be back again next October, but all of the restaurants mentioned in this post are located in the Central Florida area. Just click the links above to see where they are.