Monday, August 30, 2010

Eat Real Festival, 2010

Eat Real Festival 2010, Jack London Square, Oakland, CA

Street festival food usually bores me and I rarely partake, even before I was gluten-free. (The only exception were those funnel cakes. I loved those.) The Eat Real Festival, this past weekend in Oakland's Jack London Square, is the exception to the rule though. It redefines street festival the way that so many new ventures have been redefining street food. Organic, sustainable, and/or fresh made street food is the rage these days, and I couldn't be happier. Take me to a festival where all bites are $5 or less, and I am a happy camper.

Aaron downs a cochinita pibil taco on a hand-made tortilla from Chac Mool 

We spent a bit of time on Friday and Saturday checking out this years greatly expanded festival. Arriving early, we beat the crowds and the kids (and grown ups) devoured the samplings. We enjoyed the entertainment, including the chicken and egg center and demonstrations. Gabriel was in heaven petting chickens.

Here are a few of our taste highlights.

The best creme brulee ever, from Sweet
Sweet. Butterscotch creme brulee. My oh my, that texture. How do they do it? This is no ordinary creme brulee, it is ethereal, rich and light all in one with the perfect bruleed crust. The boys had it inhaled before Jason and I could finish savoring our first bites - it was that good.

The excellent chicken tikka masala burrito:  Indian to go from Curry Up Now
Curry Up Now's chicken tikka masala burrito. Jason declared this the best bite of the festival. I'll take his word for it and dream of the day I can catch the truck when they are serving tacos... We eat a lot of Indian, and he appreciated this version for their flavor nuances he couldn't quite put his finger on. Many have said their mild is rather spicy, but Isaiah at age six ate it up without complaint.

Chairman Bao, pork belly bun with pickled daikon. Jason loved the pork belly portion. He was less excited by their version of pickled daikon, but the belly more than made up for that.

Venga Paella's wonderfully al dente paella

Venga Paella: We have heard of Gerard's Paella and we tried both. They are hard to compare because they were different styles, but Venga hasn't been discovered in the way Gerard's has and they deserve attention. The rice was nicely al dente, and the paella had a full flavor kicked up by the chorizo.

Soleil's African Kitchen: Spicy chicken with rice was packed with savory flavor and a bit of afterburn, but not so much that the kids didn't enjoy it. It has oil, and isn't health food, but it is one of those soul filled comfort foods. This was the surprise of the festival as I haven't heard much about this vendor.

 Working for his food at Soul Cocina with the blender bike

Soul Cocina's Indian snack cones use farm fresh veggies, studded with Indian chutneys and spices. With extra green chilis, we enjoyed the sour, salty, spicey bowl - even if we wanted a bit more tamarind. We are tamarind fiends....

Ice cream made to order at Smitten Ice Cream

Smitten Ice Cream is made to order with a liquid nitrogen based machine. They are opening up soon in San Francisco, and with the caramel packed punch in their small portion at the festival, I am looking forward to trying more and seeing if they can compete with my favorite ice cream in the city. Is it a better way of making ice cream or a fun gimmick? Stay tuned...

Scream Sorbet's pistachio and almond peppercorn both pack all the nutty goodness into a scoop without the cream to get in the way. I am no stranger to Scream, but am often seduced by their super smooth spot on flavors made possible by their use of Pacojet technology.

The festival also included a farmer's market and craft collaborations between artisan food producers.

My favorite artisan food product of the day was Blue Chair's strawberry peppercorn preserves.

We're looking forward to trying what we missed this year next year....

Isaiah gobbles the banana salted caramel pop from Cranky Boots Confection

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