Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Welcome to the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Welcome to the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  It has been on my bucket list since I first heard about it about 18 years ago.  An entire festival dedicated to my favorite food!  This year we finally made it and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

The garlic festival was started in 1979 as a fundraiser for local charities.  The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association is a non-profit that helps support groups in Gilroy, California.  The festival is held at Christmas Park and it brings in a pretty big crowd, 100,000 people big. When we first pulled through the town on the way in Friday night we were greeted by a steady stream of cars heading out of town.  The festival had just closed for the night and this was the resulting traffic. We were planning on going first thing the next morning and it is a good thing we are early birds.  The festival opens at 10:00 am and we pulled into the parking lot at 9:15.  From the lot we popped on a shuttle that took us right to the ticket windows where we waited in line for our passes in.  The passes are $20 a person or $18 if you want to buy them online before you leave home.  Parking was an additional $10.  From there we were able to walk in to the full swing of the event a few minutes early. 

As we drove into town the night before you could smell garlic in the air.  It was such a great smell.  The smell only got better as we got closer to the park and as we were there the smells of garlic in all of its form flowed through the air like a heavenly fog.  There were booths set up in a row of garlic related items and a few other little treasures.  The park is grass and dirt so it was a good thing that we all wore smart shoes. This isn't the place for your fancy hills ladies.  You could find garlic oils, garlic spices and garlic clothing of all kinds here.  
I got this epic garlic hat.  I can't wait to wear it to pick up my son from school this year.  I was also able to pick up some Garlic Garni.  If you like garlic at all you will love this all around great seasoning.  It may just be a spice but to us its a bit of a memory.  While Brandan and I were dating we would go to home shows and one day I found this spice.  We loved it from the start and we still do today.  

Pyro Chefs
The heart of the festival is Gourmet Alley.  Here you can find all things garlic.  With options like garlic shrimp, calamari, scampi, garlic pepper steak sandwiches, garlic bread, garlic fries, stuffed mushrooms and garlic pasta you can feed everyone in your family exactly what they want.  The garlic bread was the best I have ever had.  Really, it was that good.  Off to the side of Gourmet Alley you can see the Pyro Chefs.  They are cooking up your food over a gas flame and putting on a show for you to watch.  

If you are looking for a treat instead of a meal then you can find that too.  How about all the free garlic ice cream you can handle.  For Brandan that was one but for me I could have gone back a few times.  It was like a sweet vanilla with a touch of caramelized garlic goodness. It was very enjoyable.  We also found garlic kettle corn.  We got a huge bag so we ate it on the drive home and a little for lunch the next day as well. 

 We followed the kettle corn with snow cones and of course the flavor of choice was garlic.  A sweet sugary sauce with a touch of garlic flavor.  Brandan didn't love it but I did.  Maybe not in a way that would lead me to have it every day but I would definitely have it again.  We passed on the alligator, kangaroo, bison, frog legs and basically anything else you could smother in garlic and make a meal of.  It was incredible to see all the ideas people came up with.  There was four other garlic ice creams with other special flavors as well if the basic wasn't special enough.  

Where there is cooking there is BBQ and this was also the case here.  The Gilroy Garli-que BBQ Challenge let professionals on Saturday and amateurs on Sunday for prizes totaling $7500.  

All of this cooking didn't even count the main cooking event of the festival.  Professional chefs battled head to head in a Garlic Showdown hosted by Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis.  

The Burning Bulb
The Burning Bulb here was a favorite place to snap some pictures and a great place to see how much money was raised for local groups.  When you can have a blast with all things garlic and get a chance to funnel some cash to a well deserving group then its a worthwhile adventure.  

I might be smelling like garlic for weeks to come and it was all worth it.  Great times with great people.  I really do have a pretty good life.  Its the little things.  


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