This weekend Mr. K and I went to the exciting Town Eats’ inaugural event, a three-day local pride celebration of drinks, beats and bites organized by Oaklandish and Lungomare and sponsored by Drake’s Brewing Company and Hangar 1. It was held at Lungomare at Jack London Square on the same weekend as the Eat Real Festival 2015, offering a smaller scale alternative revelry that involved very little walking or standing in line.
They kicked off the first annual bash with a 5-way pig roast-off on Saturday featuring 5 local chefs Craig DiFonzo of Lungomare, Lev Delaney of Chop Bar, Nelson German of alaMar, Charlie Parker of Haven and Tracy Belock of Chow Haus. Feasters could enjoy $4 tastes of each chef’s creation (the price includes two sides), or all you can eat for $20, this clearly was the way to go.
The pigs were all cooked in La Caja China, a portable roasting box that can be used as a smoker or rotisserie or grill, that cuts the cooking time considerably, until the meat is falling off the bone tender.
There was a fair amount of milling around going on while we watched the chefs. I hung out with Brenda from Bites & Bourbon, her husband Patrick and got to meet some instagram friends @jevenhuis and @marzeedotes. There were $4 drink specials all day: @drakesbeer 1500, @ulcellars sauvignon blanc, @rockwallwines “Super Oakland Blend” (sangiovese/cab) and @hangar1vodka huckleberry punch, that you could enjoy while perusing Oaklandish’s pop-up shop and chill out to tunes from J. Boogie and his crew of DJ superstars. We found refuge in the bar area which has comfortable tables and air conditioning.
Executive Chef Craig DiFonzo of Lungomare serving plates.
A beautiful plate piled with slices of tender juicy pork served with a refreshing salad of heirloom tomato, watermelon, cucumber and basil and a scoop of potato salad.
Each chef had his own unique presentation, I liked how the pirate pig from alaMar was sporting a pineapple mohawk, along with a jaunty eyepatch and had a big knife in its mouth.
Chef Nelson’s coconut rice was so flavorful and had a great chewy texture, paired with sweet fried plantains, which were creamy and sweet with a sticky caramelization around the edges, served with tender pieces of pork dipped in a spicy sauce. Talk about comfort food…
Their plate was one of my favorites, because there were four or five morsels from different parts of the pig, crunchy skin, custardy fat belly, chewy gelatinous slices from the cheek covered with a bright acidic slaw that was spicy and added a fresh veggie crunch.
The little piggy from Chop Bar was trussed and the stuffing was bursting from the seams. It was plump and cuddly in appearance, unlike the others which were split and splayed out. Chop Bar is known throughout the land for their epic whole pig roasts celebrations held during the season in conjunction with Linden Street Brewery.
The pork was luscious and juicy, richly flavored from the sausage stuffing (made from chorizo and morcilla among other things I don’t remember) and was served with the skin which was rich and melted in your mouth, underneath was a summery tomato salad and deliciously spicy chickpeas. This was Mr. K’s and my favorite because of the rich and tender flesh, the vivid flavors and luxurious textures.
The last dish was a delicious slider, tender melt in your mouth pork filled the fragrant baked bun slathered with bacon aioli, topped with crisp fried onions. On the side were a bunch of housemade pickles and a spicy potato salad. This was a meal in itself from Chow Haus in Montclair Village.
A portion of all Town Eats proceeds will go to benefit Planting Justice, an Oakland-based grassroots food justice organization addressing food inequality by planting edible permaculture gardens, developing food justice curriculum and creating green jobs.
Since we were in the area, we wandered over to the Eat Real Festival, which is in its 7th year and was packed with hungry eaters milling around and standing in line to sample the goods of the 80+ vendors. It was hot and we were in the mood for dessert after the all you can eat meat, and the lines weren’t that bad at all.
I got this delicious Twinkie Sundae from the Frozen Kustherd truck, a scoop of Coconut Mocha frozen custard with salted caramel sauce served on a housemade twinkie from Pretty Please Bakeshop. Damn, this was so good I’m still thinking about that cream filled twinkie…
And one last thing of note, we stopped by the market and tracked down the Friends in Cheeses Jam Co. booth to try their Chicharrone Sundae!
It was a very tasty treat, spice dusted crunchy El Salchichero piggy cracklins served with a scoop of rich Cypress Grove chèvre, a drizzled with their wonderful tart and spicy tomato jelly, and chunks of wild boar salami.
And so ends my weekend of glorious healthy eating…