It was hard, but I narrowed down five of my favorite bites. Take note for next year or find most of these guys throughout the year in the Bay Area.
1. Fat Face Popsicles
. With flavors like black sesame, melon horchata, and thai tea sweet potato, Fat Face not only has the most charmingly accurate business name but probably the most interesting popsicle menu in the Bay Area (too bad they’re headquartered in Davis). They’ve nailed down capturing the best of each ingredient: The mango sticky rice had all the flavor of a mango with the starchiness of sticky rice, the pungent kaffir lime was balanced by the creamy avocado in the avocado and kaffir lime pop, and the aftertaste of the root beer float had a nice hint of highwater beer. Also, if we are counting all the reasons to love this business, their adorable logo consists of a googly-eyed pig eating a pink popsicle, and ingredients are sourced from local farms.
2. Braised pork taco crisp from Koja Kitchen
. There was an abundance of pork dishes at the festival (and thanks to Bacon Bacon, pork on pork on pork dishes) but this one stood out. Miso-coconut braised pork was topped with baby arugula; drizzled with garlic aioli, masago, and fried onions; and served on a wonton crisp. From the fried onions to the crisp of the wonton there was a playful mix of textures, and the undertones of spices and coconut gave the pork some serious depth.
3. On the way out of my weekly farmers market it’s very hard to refuse the flakey buttery layers and caramelized sugar calling out from Starter Bakery’s
kougin amanns. The double chocolate was made especially for Eat Real, so clearly I had to try it. The bittersweet chocolate was countered by a substantial dose of salt and the crispy exterior gave way soft chunk of TCHO chocolate in the center.
4. Carnitas tamale from Alicia’s Tamales
. While tons of vendors took advantage of the cap on food increasing from $5 to $8 this year, Alicia’s delivered a hell of a deal with a $4 full size tamale that had an excellent ratio of meat to masa. The carnitas were juicy, the masa was almost buttery, and it came covered in salsa verde with a drizzle of smoky chipotle salsa.
Benito Juarez. Demos, workshops and tastings were amplified at this year’s festival and if you didn’t check out at least one you may have missed some of the best bites— or in this case, sips. The tequila and mezcal demo by Marsilio Gabuardi of Tamarindo Antojeria included a basic intro to the two spirits, plus two cocktail demos. The Benito Juarez, made with tamarind puree, orange juice, and Don Amado mezcal was one of best kept cocktail secrets of the festival.
I had two questions when I arrived to the Eat Real Festival on Saturday morning. One, between the 60-plus vendors how would I eat everything I wanted to eat by noon when the lines would get so long they would merge into each other? And two, how does that county fair corn dog and knish vendor weasel its way in here every year? I like a corn dog as much as the next girl, but usually at an amusement park when there’s nothing else to eat and I’ve had too much cheap beer. Moving on.