What's Cooking: Latin American cuisine!


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Tonight in what's cooking, we are going to tempt your taste buds with Latin American cuisine!

What's cooking is at Festiva, which is located on the near north side on 16th street, just East of the Monon trail.

It's in a great location that is booming with development right now. Apartments and business offices are being built up and down 16th street, and the food scene is just trying to keep up.

Festiva opened in January. It's the brain child of Peter George and Thomas Main, owners of the wildly popular Tinker Street Restaurant & Wine Bar, which is just down the street.

Chef Rachel Hoover says she wanted to stay away from so-called Tex-Mex with this menu...and there are so many authentic flavors.

She has a lot of experience with Latin American food, having studied culinary cuisine there, and her husband is from Mexico. So she says, many of her flavor profiles have developed naturally in her kitchen at home, and from her in-laws.

"Many of the preparations I use, I learned from my mother and father in-law, and have used many of their recipes in my dishes here" says Rachel.

You are not greeted with a heaping bowl of chips and salsa when you sit down at Festiva. But you will be tempted by everything on this unique menu.

For starters, there is a Poblano Fundido with Homemade Chorizo. Rachel says to her, this dish mimics a cheesy queso dip. Or maybe you want to try the guacamole with Serrano, Pepitas and Pomegranate seeds.

If it’s all too spicy for you, they have several great Margarita’s to cool your taste buds.

Another unique twist, build your own tacos. Rachel says for her, it's a way to get the hottest, freshest ingredients to her customers. And a bonus, they get to put only what they want on their taco.

On my visit, I tried the spicy Ribs that sit on a chipotle crème....and are then drizzled in chili oil. They were delicious. And I was grateful that I got to cool my pallet with the phenomenal... (No that is not an overstatement) citrus salad. It was gorgeous, and so flavorful.

Honestly, I am not sure I have tasted anything so good. Well wait, maybe when I tried the Rachel’s Mango Gelatina. She says Jell-O is a pretty popular dessert in Latin America, not a lot of over-the-top chocolate creations on authentic menus. But you will not be disappointed. There was freshly mashed mango with gelatin on the bottom, a homemade crème in the middle, with freshly mashed kiwi, topped with homemade meringue.

People, hear me when I say this. It is so delicious, so unexpected, so fresh.