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The Best Bites at Napa’s BottleRock Festival

There was a lot of fried chicken involved

Courtesy of BottleRock Napa Valley

The doomed Fyre Festival (and all other festivals) should have taken a page or two from BottleRock Napa Valley. The Napa music festival is as much about the killer grub and drinks as it is the musical performances — it even has the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage, which this year featured celebrities like SF football legend Jerry Rice and Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski. (It’s safe to assume that there will never be anything as sad as that Fyre Festival cheese sandwich that went viral.)

Instead, BottleRock brings together the best local chefs, wineries, and craft beer producers around to fuel concert-goers through three epic days. Here were 10 favorite items of food and drink from the 2019 festival that will never be the subject of a mean tweet.

Jess Lander

Ad Hoc

“BFC,” 12-piece Bucket of Buttermilk Fried Chicken, $60

These giant, overflowing buckets of fried chicken were inarguably the hit of the festival. It was the first time (hopefully not the last time) chef Thomas Keller brought Ad Hoc and his famous buttermilk fried chicken to BottleRock and anyone carrying one of these around instantly had 10 new best friends. Though best eaten hot and fresh, this superbly salty chicken (the sea salt flakes were easily visible to the naked eye) could continue to hit the spot hours later. Sure, sixty dollars may seem steep, but with 12 pieces, these buckets were made to share.

Jess Lander

Tarla

Beef & Lamb Gyro on Grilled Pita, $14

Tarla’s gyro isn’t your standard festival or fair gyro. It was big (easily shared between two people) and fresh, the meat was cooked to perfection, and they were more than generous with the tzatziki — though a little light on the spicy aioli. Tarla also sold the perfect pick-me-up snack: a whole container of hummus (with smoked paprika oil and roasted pine nuts) and vegetable sticks for $7.

Jess Lander

BottleRock Platinum Lounge

Turmeric Shrub Mule, Free

Those who could afford the posh Platinum wristband had access to free food and drinks in the Platinum Lounge hosted by Estate Events at Meadowood. Beverage Director Scott Beattie curated an inventive craft cocktail menu for the occasion and this Turmeric Shrub Mule (Ketel One vodka, lime, turmeric shrub, soda water) was marketed as a “healthy” option. Light, refreshing, and with the right amount of kick, it was the perfect way to ease back into drinking after Friday and Saturday.

Jess Lander

Mac Shack

4 Cheese Gourmet Mac, $10

This wasn’t so much gourmet as exactly what hungry and tired BottleRockers need to inhale on the third and final day of the festival. Zero points for plating, but it gets a 10 for level of cheesiness and scarfability.

Jess Lander

John’s Juice

Fresh Pineapple Juice, $9

What looked like an Instagram gimmick actually tasted delicious. John’s Juice sold frothy, fresh juice in sustainably carved-out pineapples, coconuts, and watermelons. The pineapple wasn’t overly sweet, was hydrating and a great nurser of hangovers, and yes, made for great Instagram shots. BottleRockers who managed to sneak a flask through security were able to quickly turn this into a cocktail for much less than the standard $16 price.

Jess

Boon Fly Cafe

Smoked Fried Chicken & Donuts, $18

Sugar and spice and oh so nice. Carneros’ Boon Fly Cafe brought their famous cinnamon sugar donuts to the BottleRock VIP Village and while they sold them by the half-dozen and dozen, the cayenne fried chicken combo was the way to go, plated in a perfect harmony of sweet and spicy. Plus, it took care of lunch and dessert in one fell swoop.

Jess Lander

Poki Time

Tuna Poke Bowl, $16

Small, but mighty, this poke bowl was bright, refreshing, balanced, and flavorful. Poki Time didn’t skimp on the tuna and while it didn’t look like much at first, it was deceptively filling. This was a welcome, healthier alternative to all of the fried chicken and pizza on offer.

Jess Lander

La Calenda

Elote, $7

Chef Thomas Keller’s new Mexican outpost La Calenda also made its BottleRock debut with tacos (even mushroom tacos as a veggie option) and elote, or street corn. Not everyone will appreciate what seemed like a 2-to-1 mayo and cotija cheese-to-corn ratio, but it was a cheese-lover’s dream. The elote also wins for one of the messiest BottleRock dishes of 2019.

Jess Lander

Eaze

Vahalla Confections Sour Watermelon Gummies, $25

In a first for BottleRock, Eaze, a cannabis delivery service, was parked right across from the main entrance. Concert goers could stop by on their way in, place an order on their phones, and get it delivered right there. Unlike chocolate-covered edibles, the sour watermelon gummies did not melt over the course of the festival, though the cannabis flavor wasn’t completely masked. At 10 mg a gummy (10 pieces in each package), these gummies did exactly what they were made to do, with effects lasting two to three hours.

Jess Lander

Morimoto

Menchi Katsu Burger, $18

How do you make a burger better? Fry it. Morimoto’s Menchi Katsu Burger has long been a BottleRock staple that can’t be missed year after year. Topped with a combination Asian slaw, tarter, and barbecue sauces (plus a side of housemade kimchee), there’s a literal world of flavor in every bite.

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