This was Taste of México 2015 at the Plaza de Cultura y Artes, across from Olvera Street. With a VIP ticket, you had early access to as much Mexican food as anyone could possibly eat, plus cocktails, tequila, mezcal, beer and wine, without the lines that developed later.
Star Mexican chefs taking part included the guys from La Casita Mexicana and Mexicano. The sign on their booth simply said Jaime and Ramiro, and you knew at once who was there. (Jaime Martín del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu, if you haven't been indoctrinated).
How often do you see the herb papalo served with tacos in Los Angeles? Not very often, but Aqui Es Texcoco added it to the condiments at its stand. The others were onions with cilantro, onions with habanero chiles, lime wedges and green (hot) and red (not so hot) salsas.
There were plain carne asada tacos and imaginative tacos with new flavors. Lotería Grill deconstructed chiles en nogada (pork, dried fruit picadillo, creamy walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and cilantro) into taco filling. Guelaguetza elevated bean tacos to something special. PettyCash Taquería (above) came up with oxtail mole tacos with purple sweet potato, almonds and pomegranate seeds.
Artesana's paletas (popsicles) provided relief from the rich tastes. Flavors were arroz con leche (rice pudding), with a subtle taste of cinnamon; blackberry-pomegranate, grapefruit-hibiscus, avocado-coconut and Vietnamese coffee.
If you didn't want to spend, there were giveaways so everyone could take something home. These included gift bags, if you were willing to stand in a long line to get them; scarves from Northgate González Markets, Tampico Spice Company's oregano, and Kettle Brand potato chips--not very Mexican, but good with beer from a festival sponsor, Victoria.