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If the words “Tijuana vegetarian food festival” evoke images in your mind of, at worst, rows of bean and cheese burrito vendors or, at best, Pokez-style potato flautas, you aren’t alone.

In fact, just about everyone I mentioned the event to scratched their head and laughed a little.

But then, they haven’t been paying attention.

Tijuana and surrounding cities are world-famous in foodie circles for their gourmet Baja Med cuisine, a fusion of Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian influences that coalesce into creations such as escargot pizza, duck tacos, and manta ray soup – all, of course, paired with a glass of Valle de Guadalupe wine.

While the rather open-ended Baja Med genre often relies on seafood and specialty meats, vendors at the second bi-annual Vegetarian Cuisine & Arts Festival showed the same ingenuity in their flesh-free presentations at Margarita’s Village (Avenida Revolucion – Zona Centro).


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Take, for example, this cauliflower ceviche tostada from Kokopelli – the celebrated taco hut on Ocampo near Agua Caliente – which offered all the citrusy zazz of traditional ceviche followed by the inert spice and snap of broccoli's sun-bleached cousin.

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Kokopelli also served this raw nopales (cactus) taco with optional chapulines (ahem crickets). Slimy and weirdly crunchy with chipotle salsa burning slowly on the 'cados, it was everything that a veggie taco garnished with bugs should be. Behold.

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Here's a whole-wheat pizza with pesto, green beans, sun-dried tomato, artichoke, and peppers.

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The real thrill was seitan tacos by Alternativa Vegetariana, who approximated traditional street meats such as adobada, chicharron, and tinga with marinated wheat gluten. They may not be as mind-blowing as the chorizo tacos from the popular cart on Madero between Third and Fourth, but they came surprisingly close.

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The festival also touted raw chocolates, cupcakes, vegan nachos, portobello "fish" tacos, Caesar salad wraps (the salad originated at a hotel restaurant of the same name a few blocks away, srsly), guacamole-stuffed mashed potatoes, and crafts from local vendors.

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Musical highlights included Tijuana locals Coastral:


And X-1:

And San Diego producer/live performer Memo&Rex:



The Vegetarian Cuisine & Arts Festival was coordinated by Polen, a Tijuana-based organization which seeks to “generate critical audiences that construct reality through sound” via events such as the food fest, regular downtown showcases, and their seasonal flea market, Arts & Trees.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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