From September 21-23, the fourth annual Eat Real Festival transformed Oakland’s Jack London Square into a massive dining celebration. Thousands of Bay Area residents gathered to indulge in real, local food, enjoying beautiful 70 degree weather and endless dining options. In addition to the food, the massive event featured live music, cooking demonstrations and an indoor market selling various pickled vegetables, chocolates and jams.
I arrived early Saturday afternoon and started at the beer tent, where I grabbed a refreshing hefeweizen from San Francisco’s Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. to sip while I wandered the enormous grounds and pondered my first snacking selection. With so many food trucks, carts and stands, Eat Real can be overwhelming, especially for indecisive diners like myself, but I soon landed on a juicy pulled pork slider from the barbecue experts at Good Food Catering. Between bites of my equally messy and delicious slider, I reveled in the festival’s sites, eying fashion-forward attire, cute kids, cute dogs and, most importantly, other people’s food.
I had dined on phenomenal corn on the cob dusted with Parmesan and cayenne pepper at Eat Real a few years before, so I made a beeline for a small corn booth near the paella tent. After handing over $4, I was disappointed to learn that this stand merely buttered the corn and I would need to add my own seasonings. Seeking to replicate my previous Eat Real experience, I doctored my corn with lemon, Parmesan and a few shakes of cayenne pepper, which came out much more quickly than I had bargained for.
Later I was able to visit two of my favorite trucks: Koja Kitchen for a Korean BBQ chicken and pineapple sandwich on a “bun” made from sticky rice patties and Curry Up Now for a chicken tikka masala burrito, an ingenious combination of my two favorite cuisines.
I finished the day off right with a pink champagne cupcake from Sonoma County’s Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar. Topped with a light, buttery vanilla champagne frosting, it’s no wonder this moist and dense raspberry flavor took home top honors during Season 2 of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” If you missed out you can try your hand at baking your own (here’s the pink champagne cupcake recipe), or just visit Sift’s brand new San Francisco location.
As food festivals go, Eat Real is truly top-notch.With an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, a diverse selection of vendors offering creative flavor combinations and gourmet dishes (and all for $5 or less), the festival is the ideal way to partake of the best in Bay Area street food. I’ll definitely be back next year!