Outside Lands may be one of S.F.'s best music festivals, but it's also become one of the area's best food festivals -- all the more impressive considering that food isn't even the three-day event's focus. This year, about 60 vendors, from high-end restaurants to food trucks, will be on site in Golden Gate Park Aug. 9-11 to feed the throngs of hungry revelers. We caught up with Ari Feingold, curator of the food experience at the festival, to find out the behind-the-scenes details of putting on the event.
At the core, the mission of Feingold and his team is to showcase the culinary depth of San Francisco and provide festivalgoers with more than fried food and turkey legs. "We're trying to redefine festival food," he says. "I like to think that corn dogs have been replaced by Malaysian tacos and tuna poke."
One thing that's very important to the team is that vendors are local -- to the Bay Area and to S.F., with a special emphasis on the neighborhoods around the park. They also try to have representatives from as many neighborhoods and cuisines as possible. "When adding people, we want to make the menu as diverse as the culinary experience in the Bay Area," Feingold says, adding that there's "always a waitlist" of waiting restaurants, but no one standard a spot has to meet to get a spot. If anything, the main criteria seems to be diversity -- if two places are already going Japanese food, there might not be room for a third, no matter how tasty it may be.
Once the lineup is chosen, vendors aren't just assigned a random spot in the festival grounds. Feingold and his team "literally spend hours and hours with the mapping team, making sure in each area each vendor has an opportunity to shine," he says. They keep similar vendors far away from each other, make sure that each nook and hollow has an assortment of cuisine types, and try to balance supply and demand the best they can. "We want to make sure that there are enough vendors there so people have a great experience, but also that the vendors have a really successful weekend," he says.
This year Outside Lands is bringing in new vendors like Rich Table, Nopalito, Il Cane Russo, Blue Bottle, and Wise Sons Deli to add to the already-impressive culinary roster. They're expanding Outside Lambs (along with the Whole Beast's excellent shawarma and lamb poutine, it will include French fries cooked in lamb fat, lamb stew, smoked lamb ribs, lamb tacos, and lamb paella). The team is also working on a "cheese experience" that will be found in Wine Lands.
Remember: If you're planning to go but haven't bought tickets yet, get on it -- the festival is close to selling out.