8.03.2009

Gilroy Garlic Festival - Part 1

As promised, it’s time for another plate of Fairs Festivals and Food Frivolity. This time, the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Gilroy is located about 30 minutes south of San Jose, and was once known as the Garlic Capitol of the World. Although Gilroy is still known for garlic (you can smell it from miles away), they don’t grow as much as they once did, but they do process an awful lot. So recently I have heard Gilroy referred to as the Garlic Processing Capitol of the World.

Anyway, this year was the 31st Annual Garlic Festival, and my 13th consecutive trip – I like Garlic. I like Gilroy too. It is such a quaint, peaceful town – at least from the outside looking in. At the heart of town, the homes line streets that are canopied in tall trees that sway in the breeze. The homes are established, cared for, and neighbors have a friendly wave for passing cars.

Every year for the last 31 years, the “little” town of Gilroy is invaded for three days by 100,000+ visitors. The Gilroy Garlic Festival is the largest three-day food festival in the nation (I heard that on All-American Festivals on the Food Network a few years ago.) Festival-goers come from all over the Bay area, all over the US and all over the world to visit the “heart of garlic”.

Visitors come to enjoy the characters – SakaBozo, The Godfather of Sauce, Pyro Chefs, Mr. Garlic, and the Garlic Queen. They come for the Garlic Cook-off (this year’s winner, the Spicy Garlic Butter Cookie, check out www.gilroygarlicfestival.com for more info), the Garlic Showdown, the garlic braiding. They come for the entertainment, the arts & crafts, the cooking demonstrations. But most of all, they come for the food – penne con pesto, Italian sausage sandwich, garlic calamari, garlic stuffed mushrooms, peppersteak sandwich, garlic fries, garlic scampi, garlic ginger chicken stir-fry, garlic bread to name a few. There is also garlic ice cream, garlic wine, garlic kettle corn, garlic jelly, fried garlic, garlic poppers, garlic chocolate, garlic fried-green tomatoes, and garlic watermelon. A few other favorites this year were the paella and the guacamole.

Although my early mornings start off with coffee and donuts, I’m usually ready for something more by about 11 AM. This year it was the paella. There were two different types this year, and they were created by a former Garlic Cook-off winner – turned food vendor from Gilroy. The paella was delicious, and the choice of garlic aioli or caramelized garlic were great toppers. Good stuff!

Next time you are in the Bay area the last full weekend of July, make a point of stopping by! If you like garlic, you’ll love the Gilroy Garlic Festival!

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