Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Brief Guide to Eat Real

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 8:00 AM

The fifth annual Eat Real Festival — Oakland’s preeminent three-day celebration of street food, local small-batch booze, sustainable ingredient sourcing, and DIY food arts — kicks off in Jack London Square at 1 p.m. this Friday, September 27.

If you’ve attended any of Eat Real’s previous incarnations, you know the drill: Admission is free; street parking tends, quite frankly, to be a bit of a madhouse; and all of the street food items (from more than fifty different vendors) will be priced at $5 or less. That said, this year’s festival will boast several new features, including an overarching focus on offal — i.e., organ meats and other underused cuts (see details on the "Offal Wonderful” event here) — and a number of new food artisans. Here are some highlights:

The crowd at last years festival.
  • Phillip Yip
  • The crowd at last year's festival.
1) Friday Night Burgers and Booze

Keeping with the festival’s recent tradition of having a specific theme for opening night, Friday’s focus will be “Burgers, Bourbon, and Beer.” Festivities will include a panel discussion featuring the proprietors of four independent craft breweries in the Bay Area, and many of the food vendors will be selling some kind of re-envisioned burger offering.

2) Oakland Chefs Take the Stage

For this year’s cooking demo lineup, five well-known Oakland chefs will tackle a topic that should be of interest to plenty of budget-minded attendees: how to feed a family of four using ingredients that cost $25 or less. The featured chefs will be Sunhui Chang (FuseBOX), Preeti Mistry (Juhu Beach Club), Minh Tsai (Hodo Soy Beanery), Charlie Hallowell (Pizzaiolo), and Kyle Itani (Hopscotch). Check the online festival guide for the exact times for each demo.

3) “Delicious America”

In what Eat Real event director Marcy Coburn described as a good option for folks who abhor standing in line, this year the festival is introducing a ticketed event called “Delicious America”: six different curated tastings of artisan food items from around the country. The tastings will highlight country hams, sauerkraut and kimchi, pepperoni and meat sticks, goat cheeses, chicharrones, and beef jerkies, respectively. Each $15 ticket will include tastes of five exemplars of the selected food genre, as well as a beverage pairing.

4) Chef SpongeBob?

Eat Real has expanded its kids’ offerings over the years, in an effort to make the festival more family-friendly. This year’s kid-oriented events include a hand-cranked ice cream demo and a ketchup tasting workshop, and Coburn told What the Fork that no less a personage SpongeBob Squarepants himself will be on hand to lead some kind of food-related activity.

Juhu Beach Clubs Holy Cow (via Facebook)
  • Juhu Beach Club's Holy Cow (via Facebook)
5) Restaurants Try Street Food on for Size

Eat Real’s most prominent feature has always been its street food vendors, and this year will boast a typical mix of up-and-comers and old favorites. This year several fairly new, high-profile brick-and-mortar restaurants will also get in on the action, including Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club (serving the Holy Cow pav, one of the restaurant’s signature Indian-style sliders), Lungomare (ciccioli on soft polenta), and Nido (several items, including a kind of masa cake known as a tlacoyo). For diners, it’s a good chance to try the food at these restaurants at a slightly lower price point.

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