Granted, it's not known for its food like its younger sibling Outside Lands — to my frustration, a list of food vendors isn't included on the paper program — but the Treasure Island Music Festival isn't 100 percent about music. Tens of thousands of people have got to eat. Among the well-known names, generic purveyors of fried things, and grossly overpriced wine and cocktails ($14 for Jack Daniels' Fireball knockoff? No, thanks), we found a a couple of standouts.
Based in the Sonoma County hamlet of Occidental, Gerard's Paella has a lot of things going for it. First, there is something about the enormous, shallow pan (also called a paella) used to cook it and keep it hot that draws me in every time. Even if it should hold way less volume than a 40-quart stock pot, I'm happy to let my eye be tricked. But more importantly, in a festival where there's only five minutes between sets, do you really want to be stuck waiting for 20 minutes at the Chairman truck? I ate paella at 3 p.m., and there was no line; I was squiring Sriracha on my chicken-heavy plate of Gerard's within 30 seconds of ordering, and then getting a good spot for Shamir's set. Second, whether it's the salt air, the dancing, or the moving from A to B, at music festivals, I find myself eating about twice what I normally consume. Rich with olive oil, paella is heavy enough to keep you full without launching you into a food coma during Father John Misty. It's not as messy as a falafel, you can eat it while walking, and it's not straight-up junk. It's one of the best festival foods, really.
But one does grow hungry again after a time. Curious about “San Diego-style Mexican food” that Fritas Shack was offering, I went for carne asada fries. Fritas can be found around town at spots like the Stonestown farmers market, so it's not as overexposed as some of its peers (again: long lines; ugh). Pretty much any conspicuously-bad-for-you version of fries is going to catch my attention, and these shoe-strings french fries with carne asada, guac, and three kinds of cheese (cheddar, jack, and cotija) nailed it. The beef wasn't the highest quality meat around, but drown it in enough cheese and hot sauce and your stomach will be well-lined for CHVRCHES. That guac was not too shabby, either and that's not the easiest thing to make in bulk or keep fresh under a cabana with late afternoon sunlight streaming in.