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Taste of National City newcomers help spice up life with lively flavors Phillip Brents | Sat, Jun 02 2012 09:27 AM

This year’s Taste of National City once again drew a crowd to the city’s quaint Heritage Square district, abutted this year by a new roundabout.  The 21st annual event, presented by the National City Chamber of Commerce, featured 19 vendors to be stamped on the “guest passport.”

Wrigley’s Supermarket and Ethnic Deli & Café were among the newcomers to the May 17 culinary meet-and-greet event.

Wrigley’s (34 N. Euclid Ave.) booth highlighted Mississippi-style cookin’ (collard greens, friend chicken, pork ribs and macaroni and cheese) while the servers at Ethnic Deli — Richard Kabbany and Fadi Bouarbid — offered patrons a chance to taste “where health meets delicious.”

Kabbany and Bouarbid served up several Lebanese specialties. While eastern Mediterranean cuisine is somewhat similar — think Greek,  in general — there are regional differences.

We liked the tabbouleh (one of the more popular salads in the Middle East), kafta (seasoned beef sausage), soothing hummus dip and fried pita chips. The latter two items went deliciously well together.

The restaurant, located at 404 W. Mile of Cars Way, Suite F, offers a wide variety of American favorites as well as ethnic favorites (Italian, Mexican, Greek and Lebanese).

Tabbouleh dates from the Middle Ages and it is easy to attest to its staying power considering it is made from healthy ingredients: finely diced parsley, tomatoes, onions, mint and crushed wheat dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Birrieria Chivos and Cheves (2401 Highland Ave.) and Rodeo Meat Market (422 Highland Ave.) both tantalized our taste buds with their street taco fare (Birrieria won the battle of hot sauces).

Southwestern College’s Mariachi Garibaldi opened the festivities with some lively homegrown entertainment, followed by the University of El Paso’s own Mariachi Los Mineros.

The Southwestern ensemble is under the direction of Jeff Nevin and has been featured in media broadcasts on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The SWC group is also featured in the new documentary “In the Name of Mariachi Music.”

Southwestern is the first school in the world to offer a college degree in mariachi music. Students study mariachi performance, music theory, instrumental and vocal technique, mariachi history as well as general education requirements.

The SWC ensemble has traveled to perform for the famed Encuentro de Mariachi in Guadalajara nearly every year since 2002; the group returned from a performance in Russia in June 2009, France in February 2010 and China in September 2010.

Other food vendors included Applebee’s, Buster’s Beach House, Olivewood Gardens, Peter Piper Pizza,Coronado Café and San Diego Pretzel Co.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison and Miss National City Marisela Guevara, a senior at Sweetwater High School, provided the local royal court presence.

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