Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What to Do (and Eat) at this Weekend’s Eat Real Festival

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 8:00 AM

It’s that time of year again: The fourth annual Eat Real Festival kicks off at 1:00 p.m. this Friday at Jack London Square. At this point, the three-day extravaganza of (local, organic, and sustainable) street food, local brews, and assorted food-related DIY demos almost needs no introduction. If you’ve attended any of the previous years, you know the drill: Map out a game plan and bring plenty of cash. The best part is that entry is free and all of the street food items are priced at $5 or less.

But with more than 60 different vendors and lines that can stretch to ungodly lengths, we figured we’d help you make the most of your time. Here are a few recommendations, with an emphasis on things that are new to the festival this year:

1. Meatopia

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For the first time, Eat Real will launch with a ticketed event, and it’s a doozy: the first-ever West Coast rendition of Meatopia, the chef-driven, meat-centric event founded by New York City food writer Josh Ozersky. The opening night party (5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday) will feature grilled meats cooked by about ten of the country’s most acclaimed barbecue pitmasters — that $50 admission will buy you all the meat (and sides) you can eat, plus two cocktails. Tickets are available online.

Meatopia will continue on Saturday with a Pro/Am barbecue competition, and on Sunday with a brunch of milk-fed baby animals — veal, lamb, and suckling pig — cooked by Daniel Patterson (of COI, Plum, and Haven fame). As Marcy Coburn, the festival’s event director, noted, it’s a rare opportunity to eat Patterson’s food for $5 a plate.

2. Forge

Part of Eat Real’s mystique has to do with all of the mobile food vendors and restaurants that made their first big splash there: Prior to the inaugural Eat Real, no one had heard of Chop Bar. By the second day of the festival, everyone was talking about those guys roasting the pig in a box. This year, Forge, the new wood-fired pizza place coming to Jack London Square, will make its debut. Jeff Krupman (aka the Pizza Hacker), the restaurant’s pizza consultant, will be on hand all three days to dish out his now-legendary pies (albeit without his signature “FrankenWeber” pizza grill, which apparently isn’t up to fire code).

3. Youki

Youki ramen (via Facebook).
  • Youki ramen (via Facebook).
One of San Francisco’s most acclaimed sushi chefs, Sachio Kojima, will make his debut as a ramen chef at the festival. His stall, Youki, will be serving regular wheat-flour, whole wheat, and gluten-free ramen — all made with organic, all-natural ingredients — on Saturday and Sunday. Kojima is best known as the original sushi chef at San Francisco’s Kabuto A&S, where his sushi garnered rave reviews. But when Kojima’s wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, he sold Kabuto and committed himself to cooking only healthy, all-organic food, opening an organic Japanese restaurant in Mount Shasta called Vivify. He is dedicating the new ramen business to his wife, who recently passed away.

4. Satellite Republic

On Sunday, another promising newcomer, Satellite Republic — the venture of Boris Portnoy, a former pastry chef at Michelin three-starred Meadowood — will be serving Georgian (as in the country, not the state) and Chechen street food out of a converted moped that’s hitched to a big tandoor oven. I’m especially excited to try the khachapuri, a kind of Georgian cheese bread.

5. Kraut-a-thon

Finally, Eat Real’s “Kraut-a-thon” isn’t a new event, but Coburn says this year’s version will be “on a grand scale”: More than a hundred people will have a chance — first come, first served — to get up on the festival’s main stage for a sauerkraut-making lesson taught by two instructors at the Food Craft Institute (the new cooking school founded by Eat Real’s founders, and the beneficiary of all festival proceeds). According to Coburn, the Kraut-a-thon is especially fun for kids. The best part: Every participant goes home with two big jars of sauerkraut.

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