Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the annual Chile Festival on the grounds of the Phoenix Public Market. I remember just how overheated I became, not only because of the scorching temperatures, but because of the spicy cuisine. The one dish that did me in was an innocuous-looking meatball sandwich. With high expectations, I ventured forth again this year to put my taste buds to the test with this year’s edition of the Chile Pepper Festival.
I had the fortune of purchasing an advanced ticket deal, allowing me to receive 10 food tickets for the festival. Keeping in mind the portions from last year, I figured this would be more than enough to keep me full. This year, however, the portions were incredibly generous, and I feasted on some fine chili pepper dishes.
For my food reviews, the spice ratings go up along the continuum of None, Mild, Medium, Hot, and Very Hot!
Green Chile Tomato Bruschetta from Conceptually Social
The presentation was beautiful, as you can see! I enjoyed the deep-fried pickled jalapeño slice as well. Very flavorful with generous servings of green peppers and Mexican cheese on the bottom. The bread was a bit soggy from all of the goodies piled on top, but overall, a very nice tapa!
Al Pastor Taco from Otro Cafe
The overall flavor was amazing: Easily the tastiest thing I ate at the festival. There was virtually no spice, though. I did add some tomatillo salsa of theirs as well but that didn’t add any spiciness to the dish either. It did add a lovely tomatillo kick that blended nicely with the seasoned pork. Just an amazingly crafted taco!
Green Apple Habañero Shrimp Ceviche from Jobot
The first few bites aren’t that spicy, but what gets you is the back: It has a fiery trail it leaves after you swallow. The cold shrimp and green apples contrasted nicely to the spice of the sauce and serrano pepper garnish. I did not eat the serrano garnish: I’ve learned from past mistakes of eating peppers meant to be garnish! A super nice and flavorful dish. Very generous with the portions, too. I think I had about 5-6 shrimp in that little cup!
Green Chile Beef Over Potatoes with Cheese and Pico from Foccacia Fiorentina
This just had a wonderful, almost stew-like consistency. The meat would melt delightfully in your mouth and the cool pico de gallo on the top was a refreshing addition. I did grab some of their red salsa to add a bit of spice, and let me tell you, it brought the heat! Easily the spiciest thing I had at the entire festival was their red salsa. I’d give that salsa a solid hot rating on the spice!
Pozole from Phoenix Public Market
This one wasn’t spicy at all, unless you added their “very hot sauce” to the mix (the dark mixture seen on the edge of the bowl). Without the salsa, it was super fatty and the corn bits were quite filling. The overall taste was pretty good! Their “very hot sauce” was not as hot as advertised; I’d give it a mild to medium rating. Its smoky flavor, however, mixed very well with the pozole and lime. I went a bit overboard with the lime myself, so I’d recommend just a few drops verse the entire wedge.
Chile Relleno Taco by Canyon Cafe
Huge portions for this one! The chile pepper tasted grand but the beef it was supposed to be stuffed with was very tough and chewy; not exactly the most fun to eat. I was curious as to why the chile pepper wasn’t deep-fried, as most Chiles Rellenos I’ve had in the past have been. It was interesting to try and sloppy to eat but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again.
Thai Chili Coconut Donut by Short Leash
The cream filling is amazing! If you are a fan of coconut, this donut is loaded with coconut flavor. The dough is not overly sweet and the frosting adds just enough sugar to bring everything together. I couldn’t taste the chili in there at all which was slightly disappointing! Pretty good overall for a sweet treat but somewhat lacking for a chile pepper festival.
Chipotle Tater Tots by The Vig
It’s filled with molten-hot cheddar cheese! Eat with caution. The cream dip was tart and contrasted nicely with the smokey chipotle flavor of the potato. Probably better eaten over a plate.
Chile Pepper Chicken and Waffles from Hot Stuff’s Hot Stuff
The waffles have hatch peppers and cheese baked right into them. The chicken has this amazing spice coating that really lights up your mouth. There was a huge line and this dish cost two tasting tickets but it was absolutely worth it! Great way to end the tasting!
Overall, not nearly as spicy as last year, which was a bit surprising for me! It was also much larger: It took up an entire street whereas last year’s was just in a couple of dirt lots. Which dish looks tastiest to you? Are there any other food festivals out there that you would like to go to (or could recommend to me)? Leave a comment below and let me know!