WORDS AND PHOTOS BY TAMARA PALMER
It’s been fun to experience and photograph Outside Lands’ edible component Taste of the Bay Area for 11 of the festival’s 12 years. The first year, I just listened to Radiohead on the main stage from my bedroom window in San Francisco’s Avenues, probably over some microwaved dinner.
Taste of the Bay Area features more than 80 restaurants, food trucks and other food purveyors throughout Golden Gate Park, and it takes real ambition, some coins and a huge appetite to see it all, even over three days. Fortunately, some of us are up for the challenge.
This was the first year where short sleeves were actually a good idea (at least for two of the three days), but my nighttime essential (besides the bacon-wrapped dogs outside of the festival grounds) remains a warming and energy-giving cup of hot chocolate from Charles Chocolates, the candy maker who collaborated with me on Issue 2 of California Eating, which is on sale now.
After so many years of lusting after the rare Kronnerburger, it didn’t disappoint and was dubbed “festival boyfriend.” Miss you, festival boyfriend.
Other favorites came from Oakland and San Francisco vendors who were all new to Outside Lands, including Chef Smelly’s surf and turf fries with Dungeness crab, steak and blackened shrimp over garlic noodles; Pinoy Heritage’s pork lumpia, mochi donuts with stone fruit and day-saving calamansi iced tea; the Alice Collective’s buttermilk fried shrimp basket and Sugar Daddy’s matcha latte churro.
If I didn’t want to catch any music, I could have caught Los Angeles chef Roy Choi raining burritos down on the GastroMagic crowd, had a civilized flight to Cheese Lands, done some shucking at Outside Clams or drinking in the Cocktail Magic, Beer Lands or Wine Lands area. In other words, this is as much a full-time food fest as anything else. But I had some beats to chase. . .
Last year’s festival saw the debut of the cannabis-positive Grass Lands, but the area finally lived up to its potential this year because sales of THC products were actually permitted this year, as was consumption in designated areas. Kiva Confections’ effective and flavorful candies, including personal favorites like the new Camino pineapple-habanero gummies, were a huge hit, and interest was so rabid that their bubblegum machine filled with Petra mint samples broke down before the end of the festival.
Other highlights in Grass Lands included the extensive selection of enhanced cookies by Cookies, the empire helmed by the astute rapper Berner (who’s opening a new dispensary in Oakland soon); Lagunitas’ free-flowing Hi-Fi Hops; Flow Kana’s Farm to Bong contest, which challenged contestants to craft the finest smoking apparatus using fresh produce; and cooking demos from serious SF chefs like Mister Jiu’s Brandon Jew.
Check my Instagram feed for more detailed info on the best bites from the weekend, including all the essential after-party food!