Gilroy, a town 30 miles south of San Jose, holds the Lollapalooza of food festivals at the end of July every year.
The Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the largest food festivals in the United States. Over 4,000 community volunteers work at the three day event which attracts crowds of over 102,000 people.
As of last year, the festival association has awarded $10,366,251 to community non-profit organizations from the proceeds of the festival.
Gilroy put on some cracking weather for our attendance on the Friday. There’s nothing like a sun drenched park with music and the smells of cooking garlic scampi and calamari.
Food & Beverages
The array of exotic food is the main draw-card of the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
The delicacies include traditional garlic pairings, like marinated and stuffed mushrooms, escargot and frog legs, scampi, mussels and calamari, sausage sandwiches, and garlic bread.
Some of the more creative dishes included garlic crab fries, garlic edamame, Cajun crawdads and catfish, and ‘gator, buffalo and kangaroo on a stick.
And then there are the more unusual dishes – garlic chocolate, garlic watermelon, and garlic ice cream.
We’re told that the festival visitors eat more than 2 tons of fresh Gilroy garlic every year!
Despite our best intentions to try as many dishes as possible, we’re not seasoned over-eaters. We managed two dishes each.
North Nomad bought a peppersteak sandwich. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that North Nomad is as averse to most vegetables as I am to meat and dairy.
We both assumed peppersteak meant seasoned, but the generous roll was filled with a mix of steak, vibrant green and red peppers, and onions.
Daunted by the task of fishing out the vegetables, North Nomad decided to try the Italian Sausage Sandwich instead. He said the garlic flavoring was good, but he would have enjoyed tasting a variety of seasonings.
My choices were the garlic fries and garlic edamame.
The fries were fatter than normal, and came smothered in sizzling garlic straight from the fry pan. In with the garlic was a smattering of chili, and a generous heaping of parsley. Delicious!
The garlic edamame were a nice change from the ubiquitous salt or chili edamame. But it wasn’t the smartest food to walk around with. I found myself stopping every few chomps to throw the shells in the bin.
The food festival is also saturated (in a good way) with wine sampling. North Nomad is not a fan of wine and while I love wine, it is a vegan minefield. So on this occasion, we gave the winery booths a miss.
Blues, folk, rock, country, jazz, and even reggae bands were slated for the festival.
But the highlight was Donald Elvis and the Hound Dogs.
“He sounds just like him!” I said to North Nomad.
Not that I’ve ever seen or heard Elvis live, of course. But a lifetime of watching Elvis movies with my mother has given me a certain appreciation for the King.
This Elvis was resplendent in a rhinestoned, navy blue, suede onesie (did they call them onesies back then?), and had an impressive black quiff. The crowd danced up a storm to Hound-dog and Teddy Bear.
Elvis then introduced us to the women in his family, and to his girlfriend, before introducing the crowd to the young women who had placed in the Miss Garlic competition.
I would have loved to stay for the entire show, but the 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) heat got to us, and we went in search of the beer tent.
The most impressive cooking demonstration of the day was the “Pyro Chefs” at Gourmet Alley.
A large crowd had gathered around this tent, where four or so men had grill stations set up.
There was an air of expectation in the crowd.
Tall flames shot out at random intervals while the chefs cooked their garlic infused calamari and scampi in iron skillets. I oohed and ahhhed with the crowd as flames shot up near the ceiling.
Produce & Wares
I really wanted a Gilroy garlic Festival tea-towel after “the tea-towel incident” in our RV. Sadly, there were none to be found! But there were plenty of shot glasses, oven mitts, wine glasses, and cheese/pate knives.
On the higher-end of produce and wares, we sampled the flavored olive oils from Lucero California Oil.
Lucero is a family company in California, the result of three generations of farming and producing olives in Northern California.
I sampled the crushed meyer lemon, the garlic, and the basil infused extra virgin olive oils. Each had a delicate taste with gentle flavoring, and would be nice used as either a dipping oil for bread, or in a meal.
I was leaning towards the basil infused, but thought it would be remiss of me not to purchase the garlic oil at the garlic festival.
Before leaving the festival, we also bought a small garlic braid from another local family, Lane Enterprises.Our RV will be safe from vampires for the entirety of this roadtrip through the United States.
Keep an eye out for Gilroy Garlic recipes coming up on the blog in the next few weeks – I think fried garlic and pepper tofu, and garlic chicken for North Nomad is on the menu…
- Catch a shuttle. Parking is extremely limited, with surrounding roads limited to residents and buses.
- Prepare for the heat. While there are large shaded areas and “rain rooms” which provide mist under shelter, these were super popular in the heat. It’s best to wear a hat and cool, loose clothing to prepare for this.
My only recommendation to the festival organisers would be to let attendees bring in their own unopened, bottled water.
Website: Gilroy Garlic Festival
Location: Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy, California – 30 miles south of San Jose
When: 25-26-27 July, 2014. (End of July every year)
Cost: $20 per adult or $18 if you purchase them online or at a Raley’s, Bel Air or Nob Hill food store. Children under 6 are free, and children between 6 and 12 are $10. Seniors can enter for $10.
North and South Nomads attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival as guests of the festival’s association.
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.