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Party the Latin Way, In London

A walk along the River Thames on an exceptionally warm August day I discovered a special event right under the London Bridge, the Latin American Street Food Festival, Comida Fest. The welcome sign said, "Eat, Drink and Party the Latin Way, Without Leaving London." As I joined this gathering I noticed that it had all the ingredients for a perfect party, great street festival and a fun afternoon in London. There was great food, craft booths, Latin music and did I mention that it was on the Thames so there was the front seat view of the river.

Comida Fest brings together chefs from various Latin countries cooking Latin American street food. As I walked through the lines of people waiting to sample one of the many options, I couldn't decide what I wanted to try. There was chicken being fried and flipped sizzling on the grill, fried yuca, sweet plantains, rice, red beans and churros that were lightly fried and oozing with caramel. Large red and white king prawns ready to be added to purple cabbage, green peppers and stuffed in a corn tortilla topped with spicy salsa. Fluffy, warm and round bites of Portuguese cheese bread, called Pao de Queijo made with cassava flour. Next to this were thin arepas, the traditional dish in Venezuela, with options for different fillings and the American classic hot dog with a touch of Brazilian flair.

I chose a unique Brazilian flatbread sandwich from Beijummy. I was enticed to their booth by the chef who was dancing and singing asking those who passed by to try his healthy alternative to a taco. "Be the witness, see what he turns the white powder into, it's magic before your eyes. As many toppings as you want, always the same price." I stopped to watch the chef pour white powder into a small frying pan, he stirred it around, shaking the pan and it formed into a solid tortilla like flatbread. I had him fill mine with chicken, cheese, carrots, black olives, and corn. When he was done it was a nice gooey, cheesy delicious sandwich.

Thousands of people gathered along the Thames having picnics on the grass, children running and playing, couples dancing or just sitting and talking. I stopped to talk to two little sisters at a booth selling finger puppets crotchet from yarn. I love puppets so I picked out three Tigger, Pooh , Rabbit and had an impromptu puppet show with the sisters who had giraffe and lion puppets. I also stopped to look at handmade fake flower head wreaths and jewlery made of string and beads.

Earlier in the day there had been face painting, group dance shows, a mariachi fiesta, a Zumba class, DJ's, salsa dance workshops for kids and Cali Swing lessons for adults. I was lucky enough to be there when the band, Johnny Freyre; Viva La Musica, started playing. Their sound, like the festival, is a fusion of rhythms from different Latin countries. There was definitely a party going on here and it was for adults and children of all ages.

Comida Fest is the first all Latin American street food festival in London and the party continues with one last festival September 16th & 17th at London's Putney Bridge Bishop Park.

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