Milk-Fed Brunch booth at Eat Real Festival.
All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend
Coi chef Daniel Patterson isn’t usually a five-bucks-a-plate kind of guy. Il Cane Rosso in the Ferry Building, his most casual spot, will make you a $9 egg-salad sandwich; at Jack London Square’s Haven, $6 will buy you a side of Chantenay carrots with hay and vadouvan. Toying with the tasting menu at Coi, from abalone with nettle-dandelion salsa verde to frozen lime marshmallow, will set you back a cool 165 clams.
But here was Patterson on a sunny Sunday morning in Oakland, surrounded by a crew of at least a dozen. Bent double over their folding-table workstations, they draped slices of grilled lamb over mounds of herby three-grain salad (farro, buckwheat, and wheat berries), doused cubes of poached veal in bone broth, and scooped slivers of string beans and fresh shelling beans over slices of fat-ringed pork confit.
The price for each appetizer-sized plate? Five bucks, and did we mention that all the meat came from young, milk-fed animals (hence the name) raised on the pastures of Belcampo Meats?
This was the Milk-Fed Brunch touted by Eat Real, and if grilled lamb and veal meatballs weren’t exactly typical brunch fare, those who managed to find Patterson’s stand, which was tucked away at the far end of the Eat Real Festival’s sprawl, next to the manically shouting hucksters of the Toyota sponsors’ display, enjoyed some restaurant-quality eats, made with a degree of care and flavor-layering not usually seen in such a setting.
Besides downing some excellent lamb and very tender veal and carrots, tracking down Patterson’s booth helped us stumble upon the surprisingly un-swamped stand of Sonoma’s Mike the Bejkr, whose artisan, wood-oven loaves are easily the match of Tartine Bakery’s line-out-the-door breads.
Mike had four different loaves (including a hefty pain de campagne stenciled with “real eat” in flour on the crust) but the real delight was his fresh-from-the-oven Tuscan schiacciata, oval pizza-like flatbreads loaded with local farm veggies, including zucchini, onion, and red peppers. On Friday mornings at the Sonoma Valley Farmers’ Market, he says, his stall is mobbed from opening to closing; here, the lines were longer for lumpia. Still, this meant no wait for us in snagging a fresh loaf and a hot, melty-cheesed schiacciata, definitely one of the very best things we ate all weekend.
Then, with baking on our minds, it was over the Ecology Center SF‘s table, where a fire was burning in the cob-built community oven and Laurie Ellen Pelicano of Tartine Bakery was demonstrating the fine art of dough-rolling, sharing the skills she’s developed making some of the dozens and dozens of galettes that Tartine Bakery sells each day. No bowl needed here; instead, Pelicano dusted her chilled butter cubes with flour, made a casual little well in a mound of flour, dropped in the butter and started rolling.
A few passes, and she had a steam-rollered heap of long, flat butter shards coated in flour. Shaped into another well, she added water (much less than you think), and started, casually again, to fold the flour-and-butter shards over themselves, gently distributing the water while scraping the mixture into a mound. As she mixed, she passed along tips on avoiding the basic mistakes most home bakers make, including:
Don’t cut your butter in too finely, especially if you’re using a food processor. Stop once the butter’s the size of M&Ms; taking the mixture all the way to sand or cornmeal will make a dough that’s crumbly, not flaky. Use just enough water to make it hold together; if you tap your squeezed-together handful of dough, it should fall apart. And finally, most importantly, don’t overwork the finished dough. That nice, gummy, workable Play-Doh texture? Not what you want.
As soon as a handful would hold together, it was wrapped and put in a cooler to chill. Well-prepared, Pelicano pulled out another already-chilled cube of dough and starting rolling, quickly filling her round of dough with apple slices, a squirt of lemon and a sprinkle of organic sugar, then flipping up the edges of the dough to lap over the apples.
That charming wood oven didn’t do a very good job of baking Pelicano’s demo galettes, which came out burned on the bottom and slightly underbaked within, but none of the watchers minded. Who would turn down a slice of Tartine-style galette, fresh out of the oven, with no line to wait in? Even better, Pelicano sent interested bakers home with chunks of her leftover dough for their own kitchen experiments.
And then it was time for beer in a jar: chocolatey-dark Squid Ink, even darker Death and Taxes, autumn-y, crisp Bahl Hornin Mow Keef from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. And then over to the main stage, where Dave the Butcher and (relative) newbie Daren King were duking it out in the Flying Knives pork-butchering competition, narrated by Belcampo Meats CEO Anya Fernald, with frequent check-ins by the team of judges.
A whole pig, 45 minutes, and by the end, King won the trophy, and it was time to go home and see what we could make for dinner.