#3 Grilled Cheese from The Girl and the Fig ($10)
One of three gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches being served by The Girl and the Fig, this version featured St. George cheese, caramelized onions, and whole grain mustard. One of the best things we ate all day, the sharp, creamy funky of the cheese paired wonderfully with the sweet onions and heady kick of strong mustard; served up on golden brown, buttery bread (either brioche or challah), this is a sandwich I'd happily eat in my non-festival civilian life, daily.
Pulled Pork from Cochon Volant BBQ ($10)
This pulled pork was meant to be served on a bun, but having run out, the Cochon Volant crew served it up plate-style (with some extra pork to make up for the lack of bread). The rich, fatty pork would have been well served by some bread for balance, but this it was still a delicious, generous plate of food all the same. The pork, generously doused in a sweet-tangy sauce, had a deep, smokey flavor. It was even better paired with the horseradish-laced coleslaw.
Cochon Volant's Winged Smoker
King Kone from Eiko's ($15)
We saw plenty of $15 sushi at Bottle Rock, but this chopped ahi hand roll from Eiko's seemed like one of the tastier and more easily transportable options. The spicy tuna tasted fresh, and was accentuated by high-quality sushi rice and seaweed. A dip in the accompanying soy sauce was necessary, but this was a solid, tasty hand roll, with some added zip from the accompanying spicy pickled ginger.
Street Corn from La Condesa ($5)
While their tacos were roundly dismissed, the elotes from La Condesa were very, very close to being a perfect bite of festival food. Classically executed, whole corn on the cob is grilled, swathed in mayonnaise, and topped with cojita cheese and chili. Salt and spice, laced with the sweet smoke of charred corn, evoke the classic street food snack and are well-suited to a hot festival afternoon. The only problem? Our corn suffered from a few dry spots, taking away from the sweet freshness of the best Mexican street corn.
Drake's Bay Oysters from Nick's Cove ($15 for 6)
Nick's Cove knows oysters, and these Drake's Bay bivalves, barbecued and topped with a tangy sweet sauce, were flavorful and tasty.
Tomales Bay Oysters from Villa Corona Cocina Mexicana ($15 for a half dozen)
The Nick's Cove oysters were good, but we prefer 'em raw—especially on a hot day. These Tomales Bay Oysters, advertised at a stand specializing in burritos, were available raw or grilled. The fresh, briny flavor was perfect with a squeeze of lemon and a small amount of the very hot sauce served alongside.
Skillet Cornbread with Lavender Butter from Grace's Table ($5)
"This would be my last meal appetizer. That's how much I like it," declared one of our able-bodied eaters as we tore into the buttery, crisp-edged wedges of this skillet cornbread. That's a pretty major endorsement, but I'll certainly agree that the Grace's Table cornbread was a decided standout for me, too. Fresh, hot, and flaked with a savory suggestion of cheddar cheese, it was rich with sweet corn flavor, and paired nicely with the herbaceous, lavender-flecked butter. Plus, compared to other offerings, $5 felt like a steal for these two generous wedges.
BLAT from The Thomas ($10)
This BLAT from The Thomas didn't reinvent the sandwich wheel, but it was a nice iteration of a classic (and a great choice for a hot day). Fresh, toasty rye bread was a great base, spread with a spicy aioli and nicely encasing crisp vegetables and thick, hearty bacon. My one complaint was that the avocado was reduced to a spread—I prefer my avocado to have a starring role, in hearty slice form.
Turkey Sandwich from Model Bakery ($10)
Model Bakery essentially implies delicious bread products, and their turkey sandwich didn't disappoint. The airy, herb-flecked foccacia soaked up the sandwich's red wine vinegar and pesto toppings, giving each bite a punch of fresh flavor. The sandwich fillings included turkey, peppers, cucumber, and fresh mozzarella, making for a springlike, picnic-friendly meal. The sandwich, generously sized and served with two excellent pickles, felt worth the price tag, too.
Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Model Bakery
The sandwich came with free dessert, too —textbook-excellent chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies.
Tejas Corn Dog Plate from Napa Valley Biscuits ($10)
Say what you will about fancying up a corn dog, but this Napa Valley Biscuits version gets my seal of approval. While the cornbread paled in comparison to the skillet version from Grace's Table, it was fresh and inoffensive, and even better when peeled off and dipped into the lavish serving of citrus-infused honey. The housemade chips were salty, crisp, and excellent, too.
Tejas Corn Dog
But the real star here was the sausage—a spicy, meaty, excellent surprise encased in cornbread. Primarily chicken-based, the sausage is laced with cumin, chilies, parsley, and pork fat.
Omnivore Deluxe Chopped Salad from La Toque ($15)
We spotted this La Toque salad from afar, and knew we were going to have to try it. That heavy topping of meat and shredded cheese says it all—this is a dinner salad, and a perfect one for a hot Napa day. Ingredients included romaine, radicchio, English cucumber, Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, pepperocini, pickled "jardinière" (comprised of cauliflower, carrot, bell pepper, celery, and serrano pepper), a hearty snowstorm of Fiscalini bandage-wrapped cheddar cheese, and handfuls of Molinari coppa and Fra'mani salami toscano (and, exhale!). This laundry list of ingredients was flavorful and well-balanced—with perhaps a little excess on the excellent cured meats (not that I'm complaining). The vinegar-heavy dressing lent tang and freshness to the salad, further accentuating the excellent pickled jardinere and balancing the rich meats.
Braised Beef Short Rib Pizza from Pizzeria Tra Vigne ($15)
Chalk it up to the sassy-fun attitude of the guys in the Pizzeria Tra Vigne tent, the mobile wood-fired pizza, or the quality ingredients, but this short rib pizza was a definite highlight. The fresh crust was a good starting point—tender and chewy, with enough body to stand up to the toppings, it had a fresh, well-salted flavor, accentuated by just the right amount of char. It was topped with an ample serving of stretchy mozzarella, studded with sweet cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of fresh arugula, and, of course, braised short ribs. The meat was applied conscientiously, lending its fatty tenderness to every bite, with occasional crisp edges peeking out. This hearty pizza was exactly what I wanted after a long day of festivaling.