It's Outside Lands, and we're on the ground eating and drinking our way through the festival. Don't miss our Day One picks, including bacon flights, pastrami fries, and truffle burrata, and our staff coverage over on the music blog All Shook Down.
One day of sun was all that Outside Lands is going to get this weekend, so gravitating toward hot food was a must, even at 2:30 p.m. Having eaten at Chino twice already, the cold dan dan noodles are pretty spectacular, but pork fried rice it had to be. That was a wise decision, because the pork in this eggy, buttery dish approached the divinity of carnitas. It’s also not listed on the festival program, so if you’re a “secret menu” freak, you can be the envy of all your friends on the Polo Field, as they shiver in anticipation of the Flaming Lips while your belly is warm. -Pete Kane
Sugar & Spun Cotton Candy
I have always like the idea of cotton candy more than I’ve enjoyed the experience. It’s a fun-looking treat: showing up at fairs or amusement parks in bright pink or baby blue, like fluffy clouds of sweet sugar earthbound by a paper cone. But the taste usually expresses little beyond plain sugar sweetness, and appeals to me as much as the idea of ice cream that tastes of nothing more than supermarket milk.
The guys at Sugar & Spun, conveniently located across the Dr. Flotsam sideshow in the McLaren pass woods, are proving that there is so much more that can be done with the medium. There they weave towering batches of cotton candy ($8) right before your eyes, in flavors like strawberry shortcake (with crushed freeze-dried strawberries and cookie crumbles laced throughout) and salted chocolate with peanut butter. Each airy bite gets bits and flavors of all those ingredients, dissolving into the taste of real chocolate or strawberries, or whatever crazy flavors they are alchemizing in their woodland stall. Stop by for a bit of fairy floss magic. -Lou Bustamante
As soon as it was announced that high-concept restaurant AQ was going to have a booth at Outside Lands serving "highbrow spaghetti sloppy joes," I knew I was going to have to try it. I'm not gonna lie, it's an odd sandwich: a pile of spaghetti on a soft, mostly flavorless bun, just carbs on carbs, that chef/owner Mark Liberman says was developed during a staff meal. I added on both sliced, grilled pork and mozzarella to the $10 sandwich to make it a $16 sandwich, and though the excellent, fresh-tasting and slightly spicy spaghetti sauce overwhelmed the protein, I was glad it was there (the pork, when I tried it alone, was savory and wonderfully seasoned). The pickled cucumbers and summer squash on the side also hit the spot. -Anna Roth
Fresh Roll Japanese
Because banh mi can be had somewhere in San Francisco for anywhere from $3-10, you have to factor in the festival premium when ordering one so as not to fume that it costs more than Saigon Sandwich. But Fresh Roll Vietnamese Rolls & Bowls (which ordinarily can be found in the Metreon downtown) does a pretty good job for a $9 roll. Aside from the plentiful jalapeños, there is no departure from what’s expected. Get some taro chips for the rest of that Nam Nam sauce (i.e. aioli) and don’t let anything go to waste. Then dash over to Beer Lands for an IPA. -PK
This isn't a thing eaten, but observed. Outside Lands now has a "GastroMagic stage" hidden within the trees by McClaren Pass where chefs collaborate with musicians and comedians to create some truly weird events. After sadly missing a crowd twerking for Brenda's beignets with Big Freedia, I made it over in time to catch the end of "Duck Sauce Soiree Featuring Duck Sauce and Brandon Jew." It featured Jew standing on stage behind a demonstration stove, calmly cooking, while lights swirled around him, Duck Sauce did his DJ thing, and a bunch of people in duck costumes danced onstage. Then the demonstration was finished, a huge roar went up from the crowd, and Jew started passing out samples of the food he'd made. (Duck chicken nuggets? I wasn't close enough to get one.) First he was distributing them in little takeaway containers, then just throwing nuggets into the crowd like a rock star throwing a sweaty shirt or guitar pick. Watching a dude cook isn't the most compelling thing — it was more performance art than a performance — but it was the closest manifestation of the idea that "chefs are the new rock stars" that I've ever seen. -AR
Sometimes, you just want a big plate of whatever. Like if you’re kinda drunk and Big Freedia just finished and oh look, there’s some comfort food from an equatorial capital. Azalina’s Malaysian (aka chicken curry) nachos are the definition of a hot mess, with a sweet blueberry slaw and savory chicken duking it out on a pile of chips with a cilantro garnish. It’s kind of baffling and the bottom was just a layer of fried chips, but this was definitely a flavorful snack like nothing else you will find in Golden Gate Park. Possibly polarizing, but worth it. -PK
You can spend $8 on Heineken, the official festival sponsor, but why would you do that when most of Northern California's best breweries are pouring suds? I wanted something to refreshing when I arrived at the festival yesterday, and after considering an Almanac Golden Gate Gose and an Ace Pineapple Cider, I went with a cup of Calicraft's Buzzerkeley ($9), one of my favorite local brews. It's made with honey fermented with champagne yeast so it's perky and fizzier than most — the brewery calls it a "sparkling ale" — and it has a sweet, malty finish that doesn't overwhelm. Plus, at 7 percent ABV, it gave me a pleasant buzz that lasted all the way through Jagwar Ma's set. -AR