Saturday, October 19, 2013

Going Green: Carpinteria’s Avocado Festival

The Best Dressed Avocados for 2013!
Fruit, vegetable, tree fruit, just what the hell is an avocado? My mom tells me the story of East Coast friends who visited her in California years ago and as they watched her prepare the salad for the evening meal they exclaimed what was with the weird shaped pickle she was cutting up? Her quizzical look revealed perhaps her disdain (I don’t know I wasn’t there, I’m just relaying what she told me), she said it wasn’t a pickle, it was an avocado. I’m guessing they are no longer friends. Anyhow, the avocado is now known all over the globe and right here in Santa Barbara is the Avocado Festival, now in its 27th year.

Yes the Golden State is a huge producer of the pickle, ah,…avocado, and Santa Barbara has groves everywhere (sadly fenced off so you can’t easily access them). About 70,000 people flock to worship the green shriveled tree fruit at this 3-day festival which is free to the public. 75 different bands perform on four separate stages, there are arts and crafts at the seaside village (some local, some not) and yes, a guacamole contest (you might consider entering as it’s open to anyone) which I was asked to be a judge for the 2013 iteration. This is one of the top attended festivals in all of California and since Santa Barbara County is the third largest avocado producer in North America, with Carpinteria being a major contributor, it seemed like a natural food festival in the making. Why have the Festival the first weekend in October? 

One of the Guacamole Contest entries
Oddly enough, statistics show that October is one of the sunniest months of the year with the least amount of rainfall. Beyond that you can sample all manner of foods with some amount of avocado on and in them like avocado brownies, avocado ice cream, avocado truffles, avocado tea cake, Islands Brewing Company makes their Avocado Honey Ale, and there’s plenty of guacamole versions to try. There’s also a flower, and avocado auction for charity.
Best of all when you come to the Avo Fest you’re on the California Central Coast, a brief 3-block jaunt to the Pacific Ocean to the flat and wide Carpinteria State Beach and you should know that the City of Carpinteria proudly proclaims itself as having the “world’s safest beach.” Carpinteria is just south of Santa Barbara which is perfection on steroids, and north of Los Angeles by 90 miles but a world away (less perfection, more steroids).

Apparently our first president, George Washington ate avocados – perhaps this is why he was such a compelling leader. At any rate here in Santa Barbara County120 trees were planted in 1895 in Montecito making it the county’s first commercial avocado orchard. And now the Central Coast grows tons of them and in California there are about 600 farmers growing avocado. So plan to come to the Avocado Festival and do you part in eating them. While in Carpinteria (known locally as just “Carp”) do check out some of my favorite spots like Sly’s for lunch, brunch and dinner (abalone and eggs, come on!), Chocolats du Cali Bresson for terrific chocolates (their salted caramel Buddha is…divine), Corktree Cellars for a diverse wine tasting experience of local and international wines, and Islands Brewing Company by the railroad tracks for great local brews ($4 pints!).
Me...Mr. Judge for the Guacamole Contest