(Many apologies for the delay in this post, but this event was great and we wanted to share our experience, belated as it may be. Please enjoy!)
This summer, an annual gathering to support sustainable and local products and produce, Eat Real Fest, hailing from Oakland, took over the parking lot at Helms Bakery and transformed it into a fun food festival to rival Carmageddon. The furniture stores became venues for discussion panels and forums, and the lines of the parking lot became rows of food trucks, displays, even a little resting area for fluffy goslings. We woke up on that Saturday and took the 33 over to Helms, a convenient (and free!) way to get to the food fest. I was excited to try the many food trucks that were slated to be setting up shop, and the variety of DIY panels and cooking demos sounded fantastic! We were planning to make a whole day of it so we could also catch the Lit Fest discussion, very appropriate for getting our launch ideas!
For lunch, we browsed the maze of food trucks and settled on sliders at Me So Hungry. We shared the Cali sliders at the recommendation of the guy who took our order. It was reminiscent of a mini Father’s Office burger, with applewood bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, and gorgonzola. It was good, but I was still pretty hungry afterward.
Off we went to the Whole Foods truck (my first thought being “What?? Whole Foods has a truck?!”) to buy a refreshing glass of watermelon juice. It was literally a liquified watermelon with a beautiful brilliant red color and delicious crisp flavor.
It was a pretty warm day, so we wandered into the indoors expo area, browsing the wares of many local jam makers, bakeries, and even Jamaican marinade brands. We saw these adorable grow-your-own-mushroom kits from Back to the Roots and I had to buy a pair (one for us and one for my mom. Ours have not been sprouting, but my mom picture-texts me with her progress. Too cute!).
We watched dozens of people scrambling for a spot to make their own sauerkraut (not our cup of tea) and eventually found a pasta-making demo from Chef May Parich of The New School of Cooking. This definitely caught my eye as we’ve been experimenting with homemade pastas ever since Martin bought me a Marcato for Valentine’s Day and made me dinner with it. :) She had a Kitchenaide with the pasta making attachment, but she still mixed the dough by hand using the “well” method. We learned a few neat tricks from her, the most important being the use of semolina. It truly makes a difference using a combination of semolina and all purpose flour, rather than AP alone. The chewy texture, the beautiful yellow color, all thanks to semolina! The other helpful hint was to roll out sheets of the pasta and let them sit in a baking sheet, with layers of saran wrap in between to keep them from sticking, so that you can cut the sheets all at once. We applied some of her techniques to our basic pasta, but we’re looking forward to trying Chef May’s ideas for spinach pasta, agnolotti, and much more!
After the cooking demo, we moseyed on over to Room & Board, who lent their furniture displays for the Lit Fest panel, hosted by Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly and featuring four different “kinds” of food writers:
Russ Parsons, food editor of the Los Angeles Times
Amy Scattergood, editor of Squid Ink, LA Weekly‘s food blog (if I remember correctly, another representative of Squid Ink was actually present.)
Eddie Lin, author of the infamous Deep End Dining
Hazel Quimpo, community manager of Yelp Orange County
(from the Eat Real Fest website)
It was very interesting to learn about the perception, from both a reader’s and a writer’s standpoint, of these different types of food writing. Which is taken more “seriously” and which is more “easy to relate to”. What makes good food writing. How important is it to have good photos. What was most helpful was being able to speak one-on-one with Eddie Lin after the panel to get ideas for our blog launch. He was very gracious but honest with his advice, and we definitely appreciated that.
Our stomachs were grumbling for dinner by then, so off we went to the “alley” of food trucks. I had been wanting to try Big Mista since we first saw the man pulling out a drawer full of chicken wings and lovingly turn and baste them.
And so we stood in line. It was almost 40 minutes before we reached the front of the chicken wing line, during which Martin had slid over to the other line to get us some pulled pork sliders. These were delicious; the meat was barbecue-y and flavorful and served on a sweet Hawaiian roll with crispy, cider vinegary slaw.
It reinvigorated me for the long wait, but what really hit the spot was snagging one of the last orders of pig candy. The look in Martin’s eyes told me he loved me just a little bit more for having introduced him to this sinfully thick slice of bacon glazed with brown sugar to a caramelized crunch. What a deliciously un-Kosher delight! (Big Bang Theory reference, anyone?)
Soon enough, the fresh-from-the-grill chicken wings were ready. And man, were they worth the wait! Where does one even find such HUGE chicken wings? They were the size of most chickens’ thighs! The barbecue glaze was sweet and sticky with a little kick to it, and the skin had crisped up nicely. The meat was so juicy, and the wings overall were just fingerlickin’ good.
We devoured them in much less time than it had taken to get them, but no matter — immediately in front of us was the Flying Knives butchery contest. Two teams, each with a 1/4 steer to break down into quality cuts of beef. It was definitely a sight to see! We had a mad craving for steak after watching the frenzied sawing and slicing.
We were tempted to get a shave ice before we left, but the sun was setting and it was getting chilly fairly quickly. Off we wandered toward the bus stop, looking behind us at the fun and informative festival that had popped up seemingly out of nowhere, as if it were all a dream.
Check out Eat Real Fest: http://eatrealfest.com/
Eat Real Fest LA was July 16-17, 2011 at the Helms Bakery District.
Eat Real Fest Oakland was September 23-25. Check back for Eat Real 2012!
Follow them on Twitter @eatrealfest