The Golden State’s Spiciest Weekend

The Garlic Festival gets hot in Gilroy while salsa reigns in Oxnard.

garlic cloves

A CULINARY QUESTION: Can you have a salsa without garlic? Sure, probably, but can you have good salsa? We know, we know, we're stepping into a whole feisty fight but introducing what should and shouldn't go into a bowl of salsa so early on in this post. (Thorny questions are best saved for the middle or end.) But it is rather amusing to us that two of California's best-known foodie happenings, the Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Oxnard Salsa Festival, are set to cook over the exact same time period: the final weekend in July. Now, granted, Gilroy starts a day early in Friday, July 26, but both parties, parties which, in our heart of hearts, should happen in the same location one day, will occupy the same spot on the calendar.

So, which do you prefer? A piquant dipping sauce or a certain mouth-roaster of a clove?

OXNARD SALSA FESTIVAL: The salsa hoedown has a few dimensions beyond the culinary, saucy, tomato-laden dish in its name: It also features a lot of salsa music and salsa dancing. So, nope, it isn't strictly a foodie festival. But you can visit the Salsa Tasting Tent, where five bucks gets you ten tasting tickets and -- wait for it -- a big ol' bag of Mission tortilla chips. We're not sure we've ever entered a tent and been handed a bag of tortilla chips, but now we want that to happen everywhere we go. You, too? Yes. The salsa party dances through Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28.

GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL: It's hard to know the first feature to alight up on at this sprawling and deeply spicy confab, a food gathering that's famous around the planet. We'd say you have to do garlic ice cream, whether it is when you walk in or when you leave, and you need to try the deep-friend cloves, if you can do deep-fried. It'll make every other deep-fried product found at all the county fairs look positively mild by comparison. Cook-offs, demos, and other happenings, including the man who dresses like a giant garlic bulb, will be on the grounds. Dates? Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28.

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