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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eat Real Fest, Day Three: Long Lines and Separation Anxiety

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 9:48 AM

M. Brody
The sign from SweetFace Bakery said it all.
SF Weekly restaurant critic Meredith Brody risked sunburn and serious bloating at the three-day Eat Real Festival in Oakland this weekend. This is her third and final report.

On the last day of Eat Real, the Oakland festival celebrating street food and sustainable agriculture, the weather joined the party. Sunday was sunny, but a breeze off the bay kept things cooler than muggy Friday or baking Saturday, thereby increasing the crowds. Diehard procrastinators who showed up on the last day joined people who woke up and said, Hey, it's a beautiful day, let's check out the food festival. Plus the regular Sunday Jack London farmers' market was on, with its own array of food stands (gyros, Turkish kebabs, Polish sausages, and kettle korn).

M. Brody
Gerard's Paella looked fabulous, anyway.
​The JLS market regulars must have been astounded to wander a few yards and stumble into a street food wonderland, commencing with the impressively theatrical Gerard's Paella, whose enormous and picturesque pans drew long, long lines on a day of very long lines. Alas, we found the $5 bowl of chicken and garbanzo bean paella to be more generous than well seasoned. Still, consuming paella and a mug of IPA on a plush lawn while listening to soulful R&B from the group London Street was what Eat Real was all about.

At the ramen stand of Tim Luym (from S.F.'s Poleng Lounge), we chose noodles with pork broth. They came with onions, bean sprouts, and sesame seeds; additions of pork belly, fresh corn, and a hard boiled egg brought our total expenditure to $7. Additions of Japanese seven-spice chile seasoning and red shiso-pickled ginger brightened the bowl.

Friends recommended Soul Cocina's excellent bhel puri ($2), tarted up with chopped Full Belly Farm tomatoes, served in a cone made from Indian newspaper. The tiny stand boasted a bicycle-powered blender and a passionate, erudite spiel on bhel puri's history.

As on Saturday, the longest lines of the day Sunday seemed to be at Korean taco truck Seoul on Wheels; we decided we'd check out the truck at a later date at its regular Emeryville location. A somewhat shorter but slow-moving line at Roli Roti for porchetta sandwiches ($5) delivered us, eventually, to what proved to be the last rolled pork roast pulled off the rotisserie -- roasted potatoes had run out long before. After we'd gotten our sandwiches (crusty roll, jammy onions, bite-y arugula, served with excellent ripe tomato and basil salad), friends asked if we should warn the people at the back of the line that they were out of luck. "I'd fear for my life," I said.

M. Brody
Soul Cocina's delicious bhel puri.
We'd intended to check out Norma Listman's talk on the history of the Mexican popsicle, but our slow-moving quest for porchetta made us late for the party. Luckily, we were just in time to hear Listman announce she'd be selling some of her inventive popsicles by the side stage. We scored a $2 watermelon-basil version that was so delicious we went back for a fresh raspberry one studded with tart green Concord grapes. Later a friend offered a bite from one made with Cowgirl Creamery cheese and caramel. They were all astonishing.

Staying on the sweet beat, we sampled both the sweet corn and curdled milk flavors of ice cream from Nieves Cinco de Mayo, both so interesting (especially the curdled milk, with its cottage-cheesey texture), that we determined to visit the ice-cream maker in the Fruitvale Public Market.

We stuck around for the last demonstration of the festival, Michelle Fuerst's amusing, pragmatic, and demystifying demonstration on pickling (Fuerst was pickle curator of last year's Slow Food Nation festival).

Walking out, we felt a strange desire to buy anything we could from the few trucks that hadn't sold out. Well fed, and carting home half the porchetta for dinner, we were loathe to leave these three days of peace, love, and interesting food enjoyed with fellow enthusiasts -- our own little Eat Real nation. We had to acknowledge that Eat Real was over. At least until next year.

M. Brody

Lines were hefty on day three.

M. Brody

Norma Listman (right) held forth on Mexican popsicles.

M. Brody
Bread and butter pickles on a stick, anyone?

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Meredith Brody


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