Sunday, June 14, 2009

Food Was Hard To Get At The Great American Food & Music Festival

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, either way it was certainly interesting! The Great American Food and Music Festival was no doubt one of the most screwy events I have ever attended.

We arrived at around 3:00pm with the intention of grabbing a bite to eat and enjoying the big band beat of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

The wait to get parking at Shoreline was pretty reasonable; no worse than any other event or concert. Once we parked and exited the vehicle it started getting a bit weird. As we made our way to the pedestrian crossing we encountered hoards of festival goers only they were moving in the wrong direction and yelling; “Rip Off!” and “Don’t waste your money, there’s no food here!” This went on for about 10 minutes; all the way to the entrance! There was even a line that was several hundred people deep waiting for refunds!?! Could the food festival actually be out of food? I really didn’t want to stand in that Disneyland E-ticket length line to get a refund and then go find something else to eat in Mountain View. Besides, I still need to see BBVD.

Taking matters in my own hands I decided to speak with the gate security and find out what all the hullabaloo was really all about? It turns out that there had been several logistic breakdowns throughout the day; not only were the vendors unable keep up with the demand for food, the credit card system they had in place was no longer working and had to be taken offline resulting in a cash or ticket only situation. This apparently wreaked havoc amongst the masses. The kind security person assured me there was plenty o food to be had and if we were not happy with the situation once we entered we could always leave and request a refund. We decided to take our chances.

Wow! There are a lot of people at this event; we passed booth after booth of food purveyors with most incredible lines I have seen. The thing about these lines is that they were not moving. It has become a game of “Is is worth it?” The game goes like this; Pinks Hot Dogs? Not worth the line, LA is close and we’ve been there before. Burgermiester? They are in San Francisco; we could go there tomorrow, not worth the wait in that huge line! We finally ended up in the Katz’s Deli/Anchor Bar & Grill Line, it might be worth the wait, how long will the wait be? Let’s give it a shot, and wait we did, for two hours to be exact!

Do you think a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli and twenty wings from Anchor are worth a two hour wait? Well neither did we, but once you have invested over an hour it’s hard to leave, especially when you are literally three feet from success. Unfortunately success never came. We got to the window to order and they informed us that the pastrami people have gone on some kind of extended smoke break but we could have 20 wings to share amongst the 4 of us. You see they were now rationing the wings at five per person! WTF!?! If we want pastrami they recommend coming back in an hour… Uh, right?

Wings in hand we are now on a mission to scrounge up something else to eat and make it to the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert. I can’t believe we are starving at a food festival! Look! There is no line at Barney Greengrass; the Sturgeon King. We run up and grab two bagels with cream cheese and Nova Lox, well at least two of us will eat well, Muahaahaa! Maybe three if the young one is hungry enough. Off we go to the amphitheatre to catch the end of the Bobby Flay’s burger throwdown and BBVD, Woohoo!

Now we are in a happy place, we are chowing wings, and lox and bagels, and grooving to the beat of the swing band on the stage. For the moment life is good, until the food ran out. My oldest son decided this would be a good time to grab a burger; hunger seems to have made him a bit less picky and the swing band is not quite the hiphop/hard rock stuff he likes, so off he goes to get us a burger. I have to admit Burgermiester make a really good burger. I felt like the Nova Lox were very fresh, but the bagels were wrapped and lost their outer crunch. After a two hour wait Katz’s lack of pastrami was a total disappointment, and the wings from Anchor were OK, but honestly Hooters original wings are just as good with only a fifteen minute wait and they aren’t a buck a wing! So far Burgermeister has my vote.

With the burger split four ways and the concert over we headed out to see if we could get another decent nosh, maybe some ice cream from Grater’s …Uhmm, nope sold out! There were some fantastic chocolate bouchons from Bouchon in Napa. They were crisp on the outside and fudgy and rich in the middle. They were reminiscent of a brownie, but so much more. I felt that they were worth the two bucks, but I really wanted the ice cream.

We decided to see if anyone incited a riot at the pastrami booth. While it seemed there were no casualties, we were informed that people have waited at least an hour and a half and they were next to be served. I hope they don’t run out again, for their sake, I’m not waiting.

So we finally find ourselves at the Tony Luke’s booth. The line is manageable and actually moving. This booth has security at the front of every line, I wonder what happened here. I heard Philly can get rough but sheesh! In any event the line is hopping and we get a Philly and an Italian Pork sandwich. Both of these are awesome! The meat on the Philly is shaved paper thin. I have never seen anything like this in California! There is a bit of cream cheese on the roll and that’s it, but that’s all it needs! This is juicy and flavorful and delicious. If you know of a Philly like this outside of Philly you need to write me and let me know where I can get it! The Italian pork was equally fantastic; sliced paper thin and perfectly seasoned, and topped with braised greens. Tony Luke’s was the new star of the food segment of this festival, for me anyways.

All in all it was a great day out with my family. Aside from the Deli Debacle perpetrated by Katz’s whose pastrami we waited for and never tasted, we had a great time. Nice weather, good food, great music! Would I do it again next year? I’m inclined to say no, but Big Bad Voodoo Daddy could convince me otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Your email says you feel you were too lenient, yet you close with you had a great time. Ron which is it?

FoodTV is a mega advertising machine focusing on middle America who needs accurate information when contemplating on how and where to spend their hard earned money.

Sounds to me, from the angry attendees and the long line for a refund tell the real story.

Even with the Voodoo Band, would you really tell people to go next year? After all, fans can just as easily see them in concert without having to experience the additional disappointment of not enough food and ridiculous lines.

We foodies need to send a strong message to mega corporations, like FoodTV, that poor planning on their part won't be tolerated! This is not the first review of one of their events that has been negative.
A refund wouldn't be enough compensation for my time and gas!

J at said...

We were there and really thrown by the long lines. I waited 2 1/2 hours for a Pink's chili dog (that was the one thing I wanted to try before getting there), and once I got it, it was yummy. Not worth 2 1/2 hours baking in the sun, not moving in line, but still, very very good. Next time I go to L.A., I may pick one up.

Refreshing to read a review of the day that actually mentions the music! We really enjoyed BBVD, and that part turned the day around for us. We left right after. Our friends stayed and had a cheesesteak and watched the guy (Guy something) who was up next, and then watched Flay get drunk, and enjoyed themselves.

Crazy to attend a food festival and eat so little actual food, I agree. But the music was great.

RoJo's Gourmet Blog said...

Hi Anonymous,

I was most definitely to lenient on the organizers of this festival. The food part was mishandled to the max! However with the online discount the tickets were $21 including the food and I think I was 17 the last time I paid that for a concert ticket. It was $80 bucks a seat to see BBVD at Mountain Winery last year. I did not go!

danamassat said...


Nate-n-Annie said...

We won tickets but decided to pass. The thought of thousands of people massing in line for Katz' pastrami just put me off. Sounds like my hunch was right. Sorry you had to experience it though.

RoJo's Gourmet Blog said...

The organizers of this event just released an apology in The San Jose Mercury and are offering a refund to anyone that wants it!

Delicioso Mama said...

I heard about the food fest and considered going, but Hubby had to work the weekend so he could play hookey on Monday and go fishin'...looks like I saved myself alot of I got fresh fish on Monday, so looks like I came out ahead!

Mrs. L said...

I was disappointed that I didn't get to hear more of the music...because we were in line so long at other places. Sorry you missed out on the S'mores too cuz those were good.

I was probably one of those fools you saw waiting in line for the pastrami (which was good but not for that long a wait in line)