Saltwater caramel gelato and Buddhist Thai food

Every October thousands of folks head to City Hall plaza, partaking in what is lovingly called “Tucson Eat Yourself.” It’s a three-day celebration of Southwestern cultures, but mostly it’s about food. I had the day off from work so I biked downtown on the quietest day of the festival.

Scoping out the food booths was the first order of business. There’s Danish and Afghan, Laotian and Norwegian, lots of Thai, Sonoran hot dogs —  with everything on a hot dog to induce a heart attack that you can possibly imagine. And that’s a mere sampling of the multicultural feast. Bordering the plaza I found the Croatian Wagon, Mama Joy’s Catfish, and the Thriratana Tucson Buddhist Temple’s Thai food. They also had that delicious, slightly sweet Thai iced tea I love. Contributing to a Buddhist Temple sealed the deal. No long lines on the plaza in front of the main library, so I stepped up for a combination plate consisting of delicate chicken curry, pad thai and a yummy skewer of chicken satai.

As if that wasn’t enough for my unusually early lunch, I remembered seeing the Frost gelato cart shortly after I locked my bike when I arrived at the festival at 11 a.m.  Following smooth saxophone sounds, I ambled over the walking bridge crossing Congress St., found the lively military brass band and sat down to read the newspaper and listen. Nice to have a day off to enjoy this, I thought.

After my Thai lunch I passed the Hub Restaurant cart with its scrumptious salted caramel ice cream, but decided to go for the gelato instead. Half the calories, right? Luckily, it was a short search. It was probably 90 degrees. I spotted a woman strolling along happily spooning gelato out of a Frost cup and asked her for directions. I smiled at the young Frost scoopers, who offered me a taste of espresso with my saltwater caramel cup.

The festival is brimming with choices. I’m happy that today mine were easy. Plenty of music was being played that I could have swayed to. There were craft booths that I hurried by, dogs for adoption, city council members to complain to or laud, even talks about borders, gluten, meditation and healing techniques.

But I got what I came for. Tucson Eat Yourself, indeed.

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