Alex Hughes… November 13, 2017 – Many vendors gathered this past Saturday to offer their best tamales to the thousands of visitors at Grape Day Park in the hopes of winning this year’s Tamale Festival. There were many options to choose from such as beef, chicken, pork as well as vegan and vegetarian options. However, not all were filled with meats as there were sweet options filled with fruits such as dates and pineapples.
Looking around, I chose three to sample: Coop’s BBQ, Gourmet Tamales and LLDM Escondido Tamales. Coop’s had won second last year at the festival with their fusion of Southern barbeque in a Mexican tamale. They surprisingly were not busy when I arrived, but I had done so early as I would see a long line form after their winning announcement.
I chose a pulled pork tamale that came out right away. On a first look, I noticed that it was prepared in a banana leaf making the tamale soft and breakable with the slight touch of the pork. On the inside was the zesty pulled pork that was prepared to the point where the fat saturated the meat and provided a nice contrast to the corn meal. Over the top was a sauce that was somewhat acidic; I wish there was more provided.
Photos by Alex Hughes
I headed over next to Gourmet Tamales which caught my attention with its name. The word “Gourmet” does not come to mind when I think of tamales, but their selection of vegan and vegetarian tamales must have made this so. I chose a spinach, feta cheese and tomatillo tamale which had ingredients more reminiscent of Italian food above else. This tamale was wrapped in a commonly seen corn husk which allowed it to avoid the crumbling of dry masa. This too retained the humidity of water which it was prepared in. The filling was quite cheesey as well as sharp considering the feta. The spinach and tomatillo however were not as present and only appeared slightly. However, the salsa was there to save the day!
Lastly, I found LLDM Escondido Tamales which had attracted a considerable line with both of its stands at the festival. This I would decide to take home. On the menu, I chose a cheese with rajas which I had not heard of before. When I sampled the tamale, I found that the cheese was super elastic. As I was tugging my fork, the cheese came along. Biting in, I found the cheese to be rich with a very salty flavor. Add the cornflour, and this was great without sauce. I recommend finding these locations and trying them yourself! They all offered wonderfully made tamales that are sure to rock your mouth!