Charcuterie Plate from Farmstead
Leave it to Outside Lands to offer a charcuterie plate ($13) featuring wine country's finest. Specifically, housemade charcuterie, pickles, and mustard from Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena. The plate included a rich, unctuous Fatted Calf pork terrine; a hearty, well-textured pork rillette; and whisper-thin slices of "Surryano" ham hailing from Surry, Virginia (similar in texture and flavor to Spanish serrano). I was particularly partial to the rillette; served on crostini and topped with grainy, pungent mustard, it was a wonderfully balanced blend of melting, smoky pork and a biting mustard tang.
The plate, while beautifully presented and uniformly delicious, felt pricy considering the amount of charcuterie we got. Granted, the richness of the offerings made for a filling plate of food, especially when accompanied by a few strong beers.
Porcini Doughnuts and the Foghorn Leghorn from Rich Table
The only bad thing about Rich Table's festival offerings was deciding which one to pick: their near-legendary sardine chips (fresh sardines threaded through fresh potato slices, deep-fried, and served with horseradish crème fraîche), or the porcini doughnuts, another stellar item on the restaurant's "bites" section of the menu. Being unable to pass up fried dough with cheesy dipping sauce, we went with the doughnuts ($8)—five sizable balls of savory, umami-packed goodness.
Made from a standard beignet batter, the doughnuts had a sturdy, crisp exterior that shattered to reveal a yeasty, airy interior. Dusted with porcini powder and salt, the doughnuts are hard not to wolf down in the civilized Rich Table setting; at a festival, it was every man for him/herself. Served with a creamy-rich raclette dipping sauce, the cheese has been siphoned to create a smoother, more liquid texture.
The doughnuts paired nicely with a Foghorn Leghorn iced tea ($5), a non-alcoholic blend created by Rich Table's bar guru Buffalo LoGrasso. The blend of black tea, lemon, simple syrup, peach bitters, mint, and a lemon garnish was a delicious and refreshing drink on its own, but was maybe even better with a little pour of sour mash whiskey from a friend's flask (you didn't hear it from us).
Five California Cheeses from Cheeselands
Considering Outside Lands already had areas featuring wine and beer, a dedicated cheese offering seemed like the logical next step. Good thing festival organizers brought out the big guns, bringing in Lassa Skinner of Culture Magazine to curate the all-California selection of cheeses.
The cheeses, available in plates of three ($12) or five ($18), ranged in age, texture, and flavor, and were meant to be specifically paired with wine (eaters were given a sheet describing all of the cheeses, along with suggested pairings). Selections included the classic Humboldt Fog goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre; mellow, buttery Toma from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese; sharp, balanced San Joaquin Gold from Fiscalini Farms; crumbling, addictively salty sheep's milk cheese from Shepherdista (the maker was at the festival, as well); and the incomparably luxurious Mount Tam triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery. It's a pricy plate, but the hearty servings of cheese make it shareable (more so than the charcuterie, at least).
Served with Miller Farms roasted almonds and Potter's mini crackers, the plate could have stood some more bread or crackers to pair with the cheeses, but this complaint is a minor one—we had zero problem attacking that Mount Tam with our fingers. Even more exciting: Next year, Cheeselands will be bigger, with all of the cheesemakers on hand.
Coca-Cola Braised Pork Belly Bao from The Chairman Truck
A slice of pork belly folded into a bao ($5.50) is a deceptively simple thing, at least in the hands of The Chairman Truck. Here, the melty pork belly is braised in Coca Cola, lending it a sweet, almost caramelized exterior. The meat is tasty enough, but the real star of this bao is the slaw, made of savoy cabbage, yellow mustard seed, and Kewpie mayo. The tangy, crunchy, slightly spicy kick of the slaw paired perfectly with the rich pork belly, and was a well-balanced blend of texture and flavor.
Lamb Banh Mi from Outside Lambs and The Whole Beast
Okay, okay. Outside Lambs wasn't a new vendor this year, but the guys from The Whole Beast made such an impression on us with their lamb poutine that we had to check out their new menu offerings. We weren't disappointed: the smell of smoked, charred lamb meat filled the air, while paella pans big enough to swim in simmered nearby. But we couldn't resist the lamb banh mi ($10), featuring smoked leg of lamb on a soft, Acme French roll, with pickled carrots and daikon, fresh jalapeño and cilantro, and a housemade fish sauce.
John Fink of The Whole Beast
The lamb leg was smoked whole over almond and oak, after marinating for two days in palm sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and garlic. The meat was immaculate—tender, flavorful, and amply loaded on the soft, fresh roll. The textural contrast of the fresh and pickled vegetables was key, too, with a punch of heat from the jalapeños. The only thing missing? Some kind of spread—maybe Kewpie mayo (spiked with more jalapeño, perhaps?), or if we're getting really crazy, some lamb paté. Still, this is hands down one of the best banh mis I've had, and certainly one of the better sandwich offerings at the festival.
Fried Egg Sandwich from Il Cane Rosso
Things that are never bad: a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich. Things that are even better: a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich at a music festival, made with the best possible ingredients courtesy of Il Cane Rosso ($8). Cane Rosso is one of my all-time favorite spots at the Ferry Building, and their all-day breakfast dishes were one of the highlights of my Outside Lands eating. A sweet, soft Acme roll is coated with onion butter, topped with two still-runny fried eggs, and salty, chewy strips of smokey bacon. Hot sauce wouldn't have hurt anything, but I didn't miss it as I plowed through this bad boy—fresh off the griddle, it's a sandwich that warms you inside and out (a necessary quality of a good Outside Lands meal).