This past weekend was Oakland's Eat Real Festival. The Eat Real Festival was in fact the main event for which the San Francisco Street Food Festival was only a sister event. Needless to say, I was nervous.
Friday night, with nobody to hang out with, and nothing better to do, I went for the preliminary event, which was only beer and some ice cream. I love beer. Making it, drinking it, thinking about it. After arriving at Jack London square I was able to do one of these things.
If the above photo isn't obvious, this was some of the most expensive beer I have ever seen and not sampled. Yes, seven bucks would have gotten me eight ounces, or half a pint of beer. I certainly wasn't going to pony up fourteen bucks for a pint! The idea of enjoying a simple pint of beer seemed ridiculous as it did insulting. To make matters worse, some of the beers on offer were easily available in nearby stores for normal human prices. A fair number of people were drinking so I left wondering: who are these people? Doctors? Lawyers? Lottery winners? Health Insurance CEOs?
I swung by my local liquor store on the way home to pick up a couple of California beers for the grand total of three fifty.
I poured a beer, and told my sorrows to my backyard chickens.
A prior engagement meant I was out of town for Saturday and most of Sunday so I missed most of the rest of the festival. Figured it wasn't worth it anyway. Lucky for me, I was wrong and there was something to go back for. On Sunday afternoon I caught the tail end of the festival and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Many well attended stalls and food trucks were serving up a wide variety of fresh delicious food. Unlike the cluster-fuck that was the San Francisco faux street food festival, this event really seemed to have its act together.
I started with a cup of individually brewed coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters, which may or may not be a cult.
The coffee bicycle makes little sense to me as by the time you get your coffee, it has sloshed around and warmed up in the sun. But the bike sure is neat.
I bought my coffee from a trailer where they slowly crank out nice coffee beverages. For three dollars, you too can enjoy this postmodern bourgeois bohemian ritual.
A taco truck caught my eye. It was Seoul on Wheels. A twitter based Korean taco truck is all the rage in Los Angeles, so why not the Bay Area?
The line was long but I was intrigued. A little patience and the news that they were all sold out of both tofu and chicken sent many people away. I asked the proprietress’s advice and she told me I had to try pork. It is the finest of all meats of course.
The result? Unconvincing. Actually, it was worse than that. It managed neither to be reminiscent of either Mexican or Korean to be at all memorable. The tortilla was like dry cardboard, and the pork a little two sweet and not nearly spicy enough. I'd still give em another shot if the opportunity presented itself.
A few hundred feet away was the Yucatecan stand, Chaac Mool, where I just had to try their taco. With a simple prodding I also ended up with a tamal.
While the taco wasn't exactly exploding with flavor, what there was worked together better than the Korean taco that didn't know where it was from or where it was going. I have little experience with Yucatecan food so am not qualified to offer you my take down of the taco or the very enjoyable tamal. So I'll stop here. It was purty though.
There were small pies, pupusas, barbecue and a variety of ice creams left to try but the wallet was getting lighter. A final snack had to be procured.
Maybe it was the cooler on the bicycle or maybe it was the flavors on offer but Cici caught my eye.
Organic Salted Almont Gelato seemed like the perfect way to end my outing.
Three dollars bought me a small cup to enjoy on the grass.
In the end, I was pleased with this event even if I don't know what to make of it. A perusal of online sources suggests that people enjoyed what they saw and what they ate. The organizers mission statement was good and there was a good spread of things on offer. But once again, it was a mostly well-to-do crowd, in a gentrified part of town, and not really a chance for the masses to "eat real." As has been my concern for the last while, the comfortable class enjoyed their status food as they always do, while just up the road, people are eating something else. There's a gap and it's one that the organizers are aware of and trying to do something about. As illustrated at the San Francisco Festival, formerly illegal street vendors went legit and started serving a very different clientele next to other legit vendors serving up gourmet treats. At Eat Real it was s similar scene with seven dollar pints of beer and thimbles full of ice cream for several dollars. Excellent and maybe very worth it if you've got the money. The question remains: Can there be an intersection of people from all walks of life enjoying legal, good quality American street food?