2nd annual Diamond Valley Tamale Festival, hosted by the Dark Horse Performing Arts Foundation
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
You can get tamales just about anywhere these days, including the San Jacinto Farmers Market; but what constitutes authentic tamales is often debated from cocina to cocina. But there was no shortage of delicious tamales at the 2nd Annual Diamond Valley Tamale Festival April 30.
A handful of vendors offered up their best tamales for folks to taste, and there was something for everyone, including vegetarians.
Victorville LLDM Kitchen came down the Cajon pass to feature their Riverside tamale winner: A vegetarian tamale with jalapeños, cheese, tomatoes and onions. For a vegetarian option, it was extremely tasty.
Tamale Fiesta from Pacoima brought beef tamales with mole sauce, and chicken tamales with tomatillo to the party.
Nohemi’s Catering brought not only a ton of delicious tamales, but also a tip for cooking them correctly: Victoria of Nohemi’s says the best tamales are slow-cooked over three days to ensure consistency and flavor.
Casanava came on over from Corona to drive locals hog wild with their pork tamales.
Me Gusta Tamales, having competed for a decade now, has amassed 10 awards for their tamales…so you know they take their tamales pretty darn seriously. Claudia of Me Gusta says the best tamales are crafted with love…and a secret ingredient she would not divulge here, at the risk of their crosstown rivals in Pacoima finding out. ¡Gran secreto!
One surprise at this year’s tamale festival was an appearance by the owners of El Patron! Despite not having a physical restaurant en este momento, their cheesy chicken tamales sold like hotcakes. Their plans to reopen are in the site procurement stage, but they have come too far to quit now. The Sanchez family says they decided to sell their house in order to raise funds to reopen the restaurant. That is commitment to your craft, amigos.
CJ Juarez of the Dark Horse Performing Arts Foundation explained that one organization that the foundation supports is Heritage High School in Romoland.
“So one of our biggest fundraisers that we’ve had to do…was the tamale festival, because we’ve seen how well the Indio and the Riverside tamale festivals have done,” said Juarez. “We figured, ‘You know what? Hemet and the Diamond Valley need something like that!’ So we brought one over to them.”
Of course, the tamale festival featured a lot more than just hot tamales: Also present were tons of complementing foods, such as roasted corn and other Mexican favorites. But if you felt peckish for seafood, you might have stopped by the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. Last year their seafood tamales won top honors in the festival, but this year they abstained from the competition and stuck to their core lobster dishes.
Once folks had their tamales and other comida in hand, they could enjoy their food while listening to the sounds of the Susie Hansen Latin Band. Opportunity drawings were held throughout the day, and people won park passes to the Aquarium of the Pacific and Disneyland, among other items.
In addition to all the food was the Diamond Valley Classic Car Show car hosted by CollectorCarNation.com, HotRodHotline.com, OldRide.com and RacingJunk.com, which had 96 classic rides roll in, including a WWII-era Plymouth, several camper vans and a ‘56 Porsche convertible. Almost triple the cars showed up compared to last year’s 35 classic rides.
As for the tamale competition itself, third place in the “Best Tamale of the Valley” division went to Tamale Fiesta. Me Gusta Tamales won second place, and first prize went to the cooks who are down but not out: El Patron! With today’s win, valley residents have proven they can’t wait for its reopening.
You don’t have to be a tamale enthusiast to enjoy a tamale: If you like corn, meat, cheese and veggies, you’ll love a good tamale. ¡Son deliciosos!