I’m staying in Culver City.
I had already planned to attend this weekend’s Eat Real Food Festival at the Helms Bakery, but last night’s kick off party really whetted my appetite – literally, figuratively, and inspirationally.
Part street fair, part festival, part county-fair, part hands-on learning and education, the Eat Real Festival celebrates “good, fresh, delicious food.” The event is free; food and beverages will be on sale for $5 or under, and there will be plenty of demonstrations, do-it-yourself activites, and a marketplace featuring offerings from small, locally based businesses.
Last night’s party was a fundraiser for two local organizations: RootDownLA (rootdownla.org/) and the Social Justice Learning Institute (sjli-cp.org). The two young non-profits introduce local youth to healthy eating by establishing school and community gardens, community building, special events and other programs. They walked their talk at the fundraiser, showcasing home gardening and Do It Yourself healthy food production. An array of colorful squash graced the tables at Room and Board, site of the event. Cherry tomatoes with fresh basil from SJLI’s 100 Seeds of Change program and bowls full of fresh mixed lettuce were a popular treat. True to its mission, of establishing a hundred community gardens in and around its Inglewood home base, the organization gifted party-goers with small packets of organic oak leaf lettuce seeds. RootDownLA board member Mark Stambler’s wonderful artisanal bread provided the perfect compliment to Di Stefano Dairy’s homemade burrata alla panna and an outstanding tapanade made on-site by students from The New School of Cooking.
Another food station offered the most awesomely tender and moist pulled pork barbecue from Bigmista’s Barbecue. The ‘cue itself had an enticingly complex smokey flavor, which Bigmista’s vinegar-based barbecue sauce layered with a perfect hint of tang to balance the sweetness of the pork. Gourmet sno cones and artisan chocolates rounded out the evening.
Festival-goers can sample Bigmista’s pulled pork and enjoy refreshing sno cones without the cloying sweetness and artificial flavors and colors you find at county fairs and amusement parks. I fell in love with the watermelon-basil, my table-mates raved about the fresh pineapple, and a visitor from Ohio was introduced to tamarind. We sampled coconut and walnut, which was surprisingly creamy and flavorful. Look for their booths in the street food area. They’ll be joined by a number of popular food trucks. There will be tasting opportunities for handcrafted beers, local wines, and aqua frescas.
Keeping the party atmosphere going, festival-goers will enjoy two full days of live music at the Main and Beat Garden Stages, thanks to ArtistsPalooza. Suicide Cowboy was the featured band at last night’s fundraiser; the kick off the Sunday Main Stage action at 11:30 a.m. Saturday’s line up starts with The Devil’s Box at 10:30 a.m., ending with the 7 p.m. performance of Vinyl Soul.
I’m planning to spend a good portion of my time flitting around between the Master Craft Stage (balcony gardening, hot sauce, pasta making, kim chi, and cooking with cactus are among the offerings on my tentative list), and the Do It Yourself area. Workshops and demonstrations range from making starter seed sets with toilet paper rolls to making pretzels and sauerkraut.
The full festival guide is available at eatrealfest.com/event/Los%20Angeles/California/2011. Hope to see you there.
Katie Malich writes the Fresh From the Farm column for Culver City Crossroads.