For foodies, BottleRock means meals of all kinds, by the thousands
Inside her cramped food truck, chef Jamilah Nixon admitted she was a little nervous. She’d been up since 4:30 a.m. getting ready for the onslaught of hungry festivalgoers at BottleRock 2019 at the Napa County Fairgrounds. Like hundreds of other chefs and cooks featured at the music, wine and culinary event, she’s been prepping food for days, but this is the Santa Rosa resident’s first time working a food truck at BottleRock.
She was expecting to make up to 900 meals a day over the three-day event from her food truck, Jam’s Joy Bungalow.
“My fear is just getting overwhelmed,” she said, preparing a bowl of glass noodles with shiitake mushrooms. Other menu items on order were banh mi sandwiches with hoisin pork and coconut-brined fried chicken with tamari sauce and sriracha.
Food has always been a major focus of the 7-year-old Wine Country festival. Tapping into the culinary prowess of Napa and Sonoma, BottleRock has differentiated itself by offering tweezer- perfect food from world-class chefs. Seventy restaurants have set up mobile kitchens for the long weekend, with fare ranging from kimchi french fries and locally sourced grass-fed beef to imported New Zealand salmon and hamachi crudo and risotto.
With projected total attendance at 120,000 this year, the 50-plus food vendors in the general admission area expect to do upwards of 1,500 meals per day. Inside the festival’s VIP area, chefs are planning for 1,100 meals daily. In premium areas and skyboxes, the food is exclusively created by Meadowood, a luxury resort in St. Helena.
By 11:30 a.m. sous chefs Juan Carlos Acosta and Jared Lopez of Estate Events by Meadowood had already served a breakfast of avocado toast with arugula, freshly made buttermilk waffles with fried chicken, a Waldorf salad and just-pressed juices inside the Platinum tent.
The exclusive experience is limited to 450 people, and costs upwards of $5,000 per ticket. A 30-person culinary staff caters to the guests, with three meals per day, along with a taco bar, passed hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The menu includes Wagyu ribeye steak, Spanish paella, risotto with uni imported from Japan, lobster rolls, raw oysters, vegetables picked from the resort’s estate gardens.
Operating from several catering tents, Acosta and Lopez on Friday were managing a full-fledged mobile kitchen with two refrigerated shipping containers, a full bar staff, grills, refrigerators, freezers and prep tables. A juicer whirred constantly in a back tent, creating batches of fresh juices for specialty cocktails. Everyone was in chef’s whites or starched aprons. It appeared to run like clockwork.
“It’s organized chaos,” said Acosta, who has worked the event since 2013. He was serving 300 for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 500 for dinner. The staff had just finished shredding 150 pounds of chicken for tinga tacos served at the taco bar. Most of the food is pre-cooked in the St. Helena kitchen and assembled in the onsite kitchen.
“Come back at 2 p.m.,” Lopez said. “We’ll really be going then.”
But just moments later he added, “You should eat,” and offered up a plate of saffron yellow chilaquiles that was served to the staff with fresh avocado and baby greens, then returned to the kitchen for the next meal.
VIP plates at the ready
John Stewart and Duskie Estes, best known for Sebastopol’s Zazu restaurant, brought their Black Pig food truck to the Napa County Fairgrounds last Sunday, when Stewart said the VIP area was a mud pit from recent heavy rains. It was dry Friday, but the storm fallout stalled construction for several days, according to organizers. A small city of tents, luxury boxes and temporary kitchens were built around the truck, Stewart said. With their daughters, the couple will be serving an estimated 1,100 meals each day of the festival. They’re doing pulled pork, kimchi fries, cheese sandwiches and BLTs with their housemade bacon.