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Rancho Gordo at the Eat Real Festival 2015

I'm not a huge fan of big public festivals. I like dinner parties and maybe a good Boz Scaggs concert. But the annual Eat Real Festival in Oakland is easy to like. You can just smell the entrepreneur spirit among the different vendors and I find it inspiring. I love helping smart people who are coming up and this place is loaded with them. There are some sad, doomed ideas but on the whole, this place is fun and dedicated to good food. It can get a little preachy but you just smile and nod as you munch on your banh mi sandwich or tuna ceviche tostada. Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo at the Eat Real Festival 2015 I think the kids call this "Resting Bitch Face". Here's mine as our panel called Wonders of Legumes is about to begin. Despite my lovely appreance, I was pleased as punch to be on this panel with Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground, Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy Beanery, lentil farmer David Oien of Timeless Natural Food and Dr. Lawrence Kushi of Kaiser Permanente. All of these folks were really smart and I learned quite a bit. ranchogordo-1130191 I was with my son Nico and we had just enough time for lunch at one of the many vendors and then it was off to do a Pasta e Fagioli demonstration with my old pal Renato Sardo of Baia Pasta. I've known Renato casually for years but our making August unofficially Pasta e Fagioli month has made me really appreciate the work he's doing with his partner, Dario Barbone, at Baia Pasta. This demo was kind of a swan song for our promotions, at least until next August. ranchogordo-1130199 Poor Renato did all of the cooking and I just stood around asking questions and telling stories. The heat was incredible and unrelenting. I will insist on an air-conditioned dressing room and proper hair and make up people next year. I'm sure they will be glad to accommodate! ranchogordo-1130200 Despite the heat, we really had fun. It's a day dedicated to the best in food and there are so many ideas, your head will swim. There's a very limited marketplace as well and I discovered a lot of interesting food producers that I had no idea were doing such interesting things. I would say pickled things and chocolate are pretty saturated but there's a world of good food out there to discover. ranchogordo-1130201 Here's my million dollar idea: Do a small showcase for the best local food artisans. It doesn't have to be ambitious but it has to be great. It has to be strictly curated and it should include ingredients, not just prepared food. And then invite Rancho Gordo and Baia Pasta. (all photos: Nico Sando)

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