Miss A Columnist

Born and raised in Marin County, Monica Smith now lives in “the northern-most region of North Beach,” which has its charms despite the dangerous proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Square and all things touristy. Monica earned a B.A. in Communications in 2009 and now works at a small tech PR agency. She loves writing, music, coffee and fashion, including designing clothes and restyling rejected thrift-store garments. Monica has traveled extensively (most recently to China and Ecuador), and is always planning her next foreign adventure. Whether abroad or at home, she enjoys exploring and discovering new neighborhoods, restaurants and experiences. She is a strong believer in the power of endorphins and stays active through running, hiking, yoga and snowboarding.

Recap: Eat Real Festival In Oakland

Beer at Eat Real Festival in Oakland

(Photo Credit: Eat Real)

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.

Corn on the cob Eat Real Festival

(Photo Credit CivilEats.com)

Patrons of Off the Grid and Truckstop are accustomed to long lines, but Eat Real is like Off the Grid on steroids. There are far more vendors to choose from (more than 60 this year), far more crowds to dodge and much longer lines. Case in point: the ridiculously popular Gerard’s Paella tent. I was excited to try the coveted Spanish dish that boasted the longest line in the entire festival, but was not excited about waiting upwards of 20 minutes. I decided to forgo the mile-long paella line and skipped ahead to the next item on my must-try list: corn on the cob.
Curry Up Now Food Truck

(Photo Credit: Monica Smith)

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.

Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar pink champagne cupcake

(Photo Credit: Monica Smith)

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!

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