Will 2010 be the year we all learn to love the goat? You could have easily drawn that conclusion during this weekend's Eat Real Festival in Oakland's Jack London Square. Peer over the rapt capacity crowd squeezed thigh to thigh across rings of haybales: it's Dave the Butcher from Avedano's, taking apart a skinned whole goat joint by joint and offering cooking advice on every part from shank to tongue.
Over by the square's historic log cabin, hold out your taco-smelling fingers to be sniffed by the posse of nonchalant urban goats, corralled ankle-deep in hay as they (and their pendulous, hairy udders) wait for the hands-on milking demonstration. Stroll past the pupusa and popsicle stands to the crush around Laloo's, where smiling young women dole out goat's-milk ice cream at $5 a cup. Or take a long, smooth swallow of A Donkey & Goat's Mendocino Syrah, crafted by Berkeley winemakers Tracey and Jared Brandt.
Anywhere else, this much goaty goodness would qualify as a bona fide celebration of all things caprine. But at the massive Eat Real Festival, these goats on the hoof and on the hook were just one gustatory, backyard-livestock trend among many.
Considering adding a few chickens to the tomatoes and zucchini in your garden? Mario Klip of Holland Hen Houses had three elegant chicken chateaux set up near the goats, each filled with a clucking, pecking selection of common and heritage breeds from Marin's Woolly Egg Ranch. Also on display: a egg box packed with dozens of eggs, each from a different type of chicken, shells representing every shade of white, ecru, champagne, toast, seafoam and turquoise.
Curious about bees? Talk to the folks at the SF Beekeepers' Association, buy a jar of city honey, or just get mesmerized by the glass-fronted hive rife with squirming, humming bees.
Or perhaps you just want to put your toaster oven to work as in-house coffee roaster; no problem, here's James Freeman of Blue Bottle to tell you how to do it, as easy as "throwing a weenie on the grill." Gardening, beer-brewing, pickle-making: all the au courant urban homesteading skills were being served up by local experts on this breezy, blue-sky day.
Of course, to many, the seed-saving demos, jam competitions, fermentation workshops and kiddie cooking contests were just icing on a big, fat, curried, hot-sauced, kimchee-piled fusion taco of street-food tastiness. Because, of course, the heart (or belly) of the Eat Real beast is found in the mobile food offerings, dished out for five bucks or less from row after row of booths, carts, and trucks.
As we discovered last year, the only way to fill your belly (and make a dent in the dozens and dozens of multi-culti offerings) was to run a recon team, supplying those waiting in the extra-lengthy lines with provisions from the less trafficked carts. It was common to see lines stretching 40, 50 folks deep or more, with half the line already holding plates of sliders, buns, or tacos from their previous queue.
There were countless ways to eat something open-faced and taco-ish, or rolled and burrito-ish, from Namu's seaweed-based, daikon-laced Korean tacos to Curry Up Now's chicken tikka masala wraps (made not with naan but rather tortillas from La Palma) and newbie Vesta Flatbread's Mediterranean-inspired, pita-like rounds piled with carrot-hazelnut pâté and beet salad with orange vinaigrette.
But if you searched around a little, you could find shorter lines for things off the beaten track of meat n' dough. Like the delectable, mussel-topped paella scooped from the pond-sized pans of Gerard's Paella, or Radio Africa & Kitchen's succulent saffron-gold shrimp with peppers-and-corn salad.
The tag-teams of local farms and local chefs in the Farmstand Cookstand booths produced some of the festival's prettiest and most seasonal dishes, like flaky peach and almond galettes (with Frog Hollow Farm organic fruit) made by Robert Dorsey III, of the Oakland Museum's upcoming Blue Oak cafe, or Nicole Lobue's peach-and-arugula salads, sourced from Abeni Ramsey's City Girl Farms and Novella Carpenter's Ghost Town Farm.