Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventure Wednesday at Eat Real Festival

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I visited the Los Angeles Eat Real Festival - a celebration of all foods local, artisan and real.  Meeting Aarti Sequeira was certainly a highlight of my day, but we also had fun exploring the exhibitions and checking out the food at the festival.

We made our way to Culver City that morning, and Tom dropped me off at the Helms Bakery District so I wouldn't be late for one of the presentations I wanted see.  He parked in one of the city lots, where the festival so kindly picked up guests by shuttle.  Their transportation was well-organized! 

It may be called Helms Bakery, but the bread factory is long gone - it's now a series of
furniture boutiques. I love that the vintage sign for the bread factory is still there.


I made it just in time to watch a Fern Richardson's presentation on urban gardening.  I love following Fern's blog, Life on the Balcony. Her tales of gardening outside her apartment window make me yearn to begin my own balcony garden.  I'm definitely on my way!

Here's gardener Fern, mid-demonstration.
Isn't Fern an apt name for her?

During her presentation, she demonstrated the proper way to use a strawberry planter.   I didn't realize that you needed to pull the plant through from the inside, so as to keep roots intact.  She showed how to layer each plant with soil and keep the root systems horizontal, growing out the side toward the sun.  I also didn't realize there are "ever-bearing" strawberries that will have three separate cycles in the Southern California climate. I think it's time to start our own strawberries.

I'd love something like this, available at Home Depot.

The only down-side of urban gardening in a multi-family unit is that you can't necessarily protect your plants.  I asked about that during her presentation, since we have a history of people dropping cigarette butts (or even PEEING) in our succulent planters.  I just don't understand people.  Fern had a variety of suggestions, from tying down planters to planting thorny flowers, and I will definitely give them a try once I start gardening in earnest.

After Fern's presentation, we headed outside, where the food trucks were parked.  There was a LOT of food available.

Most of them had exotic ingredients like Belcampo's tallow fries. We did not try these.

We also did not try A Rockin' Ice either, though we were interested to see
their syrups are natural and they even offer sucralose zero-calorie ices.

Here's the menu for Flat Iron.

We waited in line at Flat Iron for maybe a half-hour or more, planning to try their gazpacho - but when we ordered, we were warned it was extremely spicy (and I'm a wuss) so I got salad instead. Tom ordered the squash without cheese, but they delivered it with cheese.  We declined to stay for another half-hour waiting for another order, and that turns out to have been a good decision - because I had already burned to a crisp. We forgot to bring sunscreen and didn't realize so much of the festival was outside.  (Seriously, I am STILL peeling from that day.)

Tom's fatoush salad from The Hungry Nomad.


A much faster truck, The Hungry Nomad, had a very flavorful fatoush salad that was perfect for Tom.  Not too many lentils, lots of herbs. Yum.

An ice cream sandwich from Coolhaus.


A popular artisan ice cream truck, Coolhaus, had yummy sandwiches, but I found myself wishing for just a bite. I think a bite-sized ice cream sandwich recipe is in our future, you and I.

Mexican Coke with cane sugar was all the rage - better for us and the environment
with its glass container & lack of corn syrup.


Another lovely addition to the festival was the widely available trash/recycling/compost bins, each trio of which was hosted by a specialist to help guests determine the appropriate disposal for their waste.  It definitely helped me!

Sustain LA - a group that helps companies navigate green waste disposal - provided the helpful service.


We enjoyed meeting volunteers...

Including the team from Food Forward, which organizes volunteers to pick excess fruit from donors' trees, to help feed the hungry in Los Angeles.  We'll be volunteering to help pick - but that's an adventure for another Wednesday!


...and meeting artisans...

Including the team from The Farmer's Kitchen, where I had my extra-mindful meal on Sunday!
They're hosting a tomato canning class soon, and I'm hoping to join in & store up fresh heirlooms for winter.


...and even meeting animals!

I hope the piglets didn't know how much pork was being served around them.

I think this duck knew about the confit, though. He seemed very practical about it.


We took one purchase home - a loaf of squaw bread made by Homeboy Bakery, which is connected to an amazing organization with a helluva mission statement: "Jobs, not jails. Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly-gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education."  


It was excellent bread - and it's an excellent cause. If you're local, I hope you'll try to buy their products at nearby farmer's markets. And if you're anywhere near a Ralph's grocery store, you can support them by purchasing their tortilla chips and salsas, which will help fund the programs.I do think there are a few improvements to be made to next year's Eat Real Fest.

For starters, without easily-accessed or centralized information, it was hard to know what was going on, and where.  It took us awhile to find the stage where Fern from Life on the Balcony was speaking, and when I asked a few of the festival volunteers, they had no idea where it was, either.  Several posted locations with schedules of presentations and speakers would have been much more helpful (especially at the presentation locations.)  And while I support their desire to avoid unnecessary waste with printed maps, there are other ways to solve that problem. How cool would it have been to distribute maps and schedules that were printed on seed paper? It would send a little of Eat Real home with festival-goers, where they could grow their own veggies or flowers.  I can't imagine it would be hard to forge a sponsorship with a company like Botanical Paperworks.

Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the appearance of food that was neither local nor real.  I don't mind artisan food trucks, but... why was Chipotle there? They didn't seem to have a sponsorship.  They're glorified fast food, and McDonald's held a minority share of the company as recently as 2006.  I'd much rather see a locally-owned, locally-sourced burrito company than a national chain. 

I also kind of wished there was more available for those eating healthy. There were real ingredients, locally sourced, but not a whole lot that wasn't fatty or sugary or fried.  It's a food festival, so I didn't expect to find a world of low-calorie options. And at least there were no deep-fried fair food offerings.

Those things aside, I hope that Eat Real Festival will continue to grow, and I look forward to attending again next year.  (This time, though, I'll be sure to wear sunscreen!)

How about you? Are you eating real food this week? And what are you doing to help your community eat real, too?

I'll be back tomorrow with a summery snack - and until then, take care of you!


  1. Daniel and I were obsessed with food trucks for a while and Coolhaus was one of my weekly hits. They always partnered with Daniel's favorite, Nom Nom, who visited Pasadena on a weekly basis. We went to a food truck rally at Santa Anita park earlier this year that had every kind of truck under the sun. The Hungry Nomad was one and I believe Daniel sampled one of their steak sandwiches, which he gave rave reviews. Alas, we are not food truck junkies anymore. We have been food truck free since May.

    Thanks for mentioning the Food Forward organization. I didn't know something like that existed and it is such a great idea. I will have to ask some of the homeowners here at work if they are interested in sharing their crops for a good cause.

  2. How do you find out about all these things? I would have loved to have known about this fest in my own town. And I could have just dashed home for some sunscreen for you!

  3. Thank you for introducing me to Life on the Balcony! My sister and I have been wanting to start a container veggie garden in the space between our two yards (we live in duplexes, side by side and our yards connect). I think Fern's blog is going to be perfect for us. And if nothing else, it will offer great inspiration.

    I agree with you in terms of the festival - no huge corporations (unless they're sponsors) and less fattening food would have been nice, I'm sure. Room for improvement for next year. I think you should email them your ideas, because they're great.

  4. Hmm, must check out Life on the Balcony. Thanks for the tip on Homeboy products - been seeing the chips around and was rather puzzled by the name.