2004_10_food_pickledpeppers.JPGSo while we've established previously that Gothamist is a sucker for a street fair, but doesn't like to be disappointed by long lines and lack of food at such events, it's time to discuss the humble street fair's ritzier, glitzier cousin: the Food Festival. These come in all shapes and sizes, but certainly one of our new favorites has to be the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's annual fall Chile Pepper Fiesta. This year's two-day extravaganza took place just this past weekend (Oct. 2-3), which means you'll have to wait until next year if you missed it. But let us tell and show you what it was like so you'll be sure to hit it up in Fall 2005.

Where a summertime street fair runs along cracked pavement and steamy concrete, the autumn Chile Pepper Fiesta makes its home in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's lush 52 acres of trees, flowers, and grassy lawns. In between checking out the live music, the cooking demonstrations, and the food options, you can lay down a blanket and relax or walk amongst the flowers and trees.

Gothamist was most interested in checking out the Mexican cooking demo, which involved Chef Barbara Sibley of La Palapa restaurant in the East Village. She prepped a mole negro from Oaxaca, mixing unsweetened dark chocolate, various chiles, spices, nuts, and raisins.


Waiting on line to try a sample took awhile, and the portion was tiny, but still worth it, especially because there were plenty of booths selling all kinds of other chile-based treats. They served everything from Thai basil chicken to Texas chili to burritos, and the lines moved quickly and were easy to navigate. We saw a huge jar of pickled chile peppers and sampled prepared salsas that ranged from sweet and somewhat spicy to the hottest habanero you could imagine.

Not just content to provide food, though, the festival offered all sorts of chile plants for sale, ranging from tiny, fiery red chiles to milder banana chiles. Along these lines, they also had educational activities for kids and information on how to cook and how to grow chiles.

Mirroring the diverse culinary traditions that include chile peppers, the music ranged across Cajun-style blues, Caribbean steel drums, traditional Haitian music, and even the little-known Brazilian maracatu beat.

So while the humble street fair will never be abandoned by Gothamist, we can't help but make the more upscale Chile Pepper Fiesta part of our annual autumn ritual.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Avenue, (718) 623-7200