What I ate at the Eat Real Festival 2012 Oakland

by foodhoe on October 1, 2012

A couple days after Meatopia, we ventured to the Eat Real Festival being held along the waterfront at Jack London Square in Oakland.  We missed getting an early start as we became mired in some crazy Raiders traffic by the coliseum,  but were able to hit up a few spots before the lines got too long.  We only had time to try a few things and didn’t get a chance to visit the market or any of the many workshops or demonstrations. Go visit Ben’s post at his blog Focus.Snap.Eat, as he took many great shots of the festival, which covers much more than just the food.  Here’s a link for a great video that captures the spirit of the event. In between standing in line for food, I came across a pen with a few little pigs who entertained us by rolling around in the hay, rooting around for food and snuggling in a little pile…

Next to it were some chickens and a couple of ducks.

Since time was short, I avoided the long lines and decided to try things based on twitterings on #ERFoak2012. I found Doc’s of the Bay truck to check out the black bean burger, which is made from black beans and corn, topped with jicama and red cabbage slaw, green onion aioli, Monterey Jack cheese within a tender Firebrand challah bun.  There was something spicy in this which set my lips a tingle and I found it to be good but not life changing.

A co-worker advised me that I must try KoJaKitchen, which combines Korean with Japanese elements, two of my favorite cuisines!  I got an order of the Kamikaze Fries which are made from crosscut fries topped with Korean BBQ Beef, sautéed onions, kimchi, green onions and drizzled with a spicy red sauce and Japanese mayo.  The fries on their own had a very crispy exterior and were tender inside, but the heady toppings made them addictive as all get out.

But it was the signature Korean BBQ Short Rib Beef (Kalbi) sandwich that I wanted to try.  The bun is made from discs of pressed rice that have been griddled until a golden brown crust forms that calls to mind the particular joys of eating dolsot bibimbap. The pair of griddled rice patties are filled with slices of juicy marinated beef coated in a savory soy garlic sauce, sautéed onions, and romaine lettuce.  It was very flavorful and I loved the crunchy texture of the rice patty buns, it was very unique but familiar at the same time.  Extremely fabulous!

I had to visit The Whole Beast booth, which had wonderful sounding dishes featuring lamb from Superior Rio Vista Farms.  Hard to decide between poutine, meatball or gyro, but since I already had eaten fries and a meatball, I went with the Gyro.  The meat was flavorful and tender but overwhelmed by the pickles… but that was easily remedied by removing them.  And it lacked yogurt sauce…

I could see a succulent looking pig across the green that I had to examine.  It looked so good that we got a plate which came with cornbread.

The pork from Chop Bar in Oakland, was tender and juicy but a bit on the plain side after all those sauce soaked BBQ plates.  They did have several sauces to pour over (tomatillo, mojo and barbecue), but for the purist it was a beautiful thing.

And of course, we bowed to the long lines at The Chairman, because we can’t resist the siren call of their pork belly, which is infused with exotic spices, succulent and tender, juicy and full of rich pork custard.  Mr. K stood in line a couple of times for this utterly beguiling treat, which comes tucked into a fluffy steamed bun and is topped with thin slices of fresh cucumber, pickled daikon and flecks of green onion and cilantro.

The Bhel Puri from Soul Cocina which was light and salady with lots of interesting texture from tiny sticklike crackers and puffed rice.  It had fresh mango which knocked the balance of flavor making it too sweet for my palate and it was very spicy!

There was a cool bicycle powered blender mobile that a young man was enthusiastically peddling.  Apparently the sauce for this dish was made being blended before our eyes!

On our way out, we stopped at the LickPops stand for something cool and refreshing.  Mr. K had the Fennel Orange Grapefruit, and I tried the Sweet Corn.  The fennel orange grapefruit was very flavorful, it tasted juicy and fruity and was totally refreshing.  My sweet corn was neither creamy nor juicy and seemed very restrained… but it was cold and soothed my tastebuds, which were still afire from the Bhel Puri.

My favorite plate of the day was from Koja, and I’m glad to know they are local so I can get another one of those addictive Beef Sandwiches and try their Mochimisu, a dessert that is made with mochi!  The Eat Real Festival is a fantastic way to check out a lot of amazing food (I think there were more than 80 vendors participating), and there’s so much to explore if you have the time.  I love that it is a free event that spans over an entire weekend and all of the dishes are $5 and under.  We left feeling overstuffed but satisfied after just a few plates.  I played around with the new panorama feature on my phone, kinda fun!

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