Forget about tough corn dogs and gigantic turkey drumsticks, because location is all that KAABOO Del Mar has in common with the county fair.
Remember, the three-day music and comedy event made its debut last year with a sophisticated, borderline anti-festival approach aimed at drawing discerning crowds, not just moccasin-wearing 20-somethings. But amid some criticism that ticket prices were too high for a first-year fest, past attendees surveyed all agreed on one thing: The food and drink options were on point.
This year's culinary programming promises to expose San Diegans to new flavors from out-of-town eateries. Gone are the days when you find yourself at yet another local event with the usual suspect food vendors; and so, alongside regional favorites such as Alforon's amazing Lebanese flatbreads, and seafood delights from popular Normal Heights newcomer Beerfish, festivalgoers will have the opportunity to sample some tasty trends from Los Angeles and beyond.
Take, for example, Roti Rolls - a food truck concept from Charleston, S.C., that has been featured in Forbes Magazine - whose team is making the trek to serve up a fusion of Indian-Caribbean flavors, including vegan and gluten-free options.
"We heard about KAABOO from one of the coordinators; she's from Atlanta, tried our food in Charleston, and fell in love with us," said Cory Burke, chef and founder of Roti Rolls. "We're excited. It's a long journey for sure, but it's great to be part of a privately owned festival. Many of these festivals have gone corporate and it just takes away from the vibe. I hope this one continues sticking to its roots."
Due to logistics, the food truck is staying parked in Charleston, Burke said, but its menu at KAABOO Del Mar will stay the same. In addition to Burke's popular Creole mac 'n' cheese with pulled pork and from-scratch kimchee atop roti - a disc-shaped Indian flat bread - those with dietary restrictions can anticipate a smoked and charred vegetable coconut curry available on the signature flat bread, rice, or fresh greens tossed with dill and tahini dressing.
Vegetarians, vegans and celiacs, rejoice: According to organizers, nearly every food vendor will feature at least one health-conscious item on its menu.
Attendees will be able to catch a sidesplitting comedy set by Sarah Silverman accompanied with either raw, vegan ice cream from Los Angeles-based KindKreme; or a scoop of spiked, White Russian Pecan from Las Vegas-based Momenti Spirited Ice Creams. Yes, this festival is welcoming to vegan yogis and frat bros alike.
But have you ever heard of a candy shop pop up right smack dab in the middle of something called a KAABOOLEVARD?
Dylan's Candy Bar compares its retail store experience - with locations in New York City, Chicago and Hollywood, to name a few - to that of a modern-day Willy Wonka factory. With more than 7,000 original confections (think cake-batter-covered popcorn) alongside nostalgic "time capsules" filled with favorite candies dating to the 1920s, this pop-up concept will offer 50 or so varieties for festivalgoers to go crazy over - much like its star-studded fan club that includes Michelle Obama, Oprah and Al Pacino.
Similar to last year, the culinary experience will be two-part for Hang Loose (general admission) ticket holders.
PALATE offers a covered, foodie lounge with about 25 participating restaurants where plates range from $10-$15 dollars each. Organizers promise that PALATE will be less crowded than last year, with added seating and the relocation of its chef demonstration stage. Aside from regional beer, wine and spirits selections offered within PALATE, don't miss the Mercado de Mezcal,, where you can taste 30 specialty Mexican liquors.
Posh Nosh is KAABOO's way of saying "grab and go" - this year, with additional food vendors around each stage so attendees don't have to tear themselves away from performances to seek out sustenance. Is there a better snack than bourbon-bacon s'mores from Mallow Mallow during DJ Snoopadelic's set? You be the judge!
Don't forget to download the KAABOO Del Mar app on iTunes or Google Play for a map and additional festival information.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouthwatering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.