A San Francisco Music Festival Serves Up Fantastic Foods

The BottleRock Festival features Michelin-starred chefs and bold-name bands in Napa Valley

Outgrow your typical music festival tendencies and enhance your experience with the premium edition — better known as Northern California’s five-year-old BottleRock Festival, featuring fine wine, hoppy beer, culinary arts, and great tunes at the Napa Valley Expo Center.

This year’s headliners included Maroon 5, Foo Fighters, and Tom Petty along with performances by AlunaGeorge, Fitz and the Tantrums, Gnash, Macklemore with Ryan Lewis, Michael Franti and (deep breath) Spearhead, Arizona, The Roots, St. Lucia, Modest Mouse, and The Naked and Famous, just to name a few.

There was even a culinary stage featuring superstar chefs alongside musicians, entertainers, and celebrities for culinary-infused shenanigans. Martha Stewart, Ayesha and Steph Curry, and chefs José Andrés and Ken Frank cooked up a frenzy at the Williams-Sonoma stage.

From general admission to backstage to the VIP Sky Deck and suites, attendees had a variety of ticket options. Alaska Air VIP SkyDeck even gave away free trips daily for social media posts with #DestinationChill.

With all the madness and collaborations of big names in music and cooking, there was indeed major grubbing time in between. Whether you’re a vegan, pescatarian, sugar fiend, cheese connoisseur, or meat eater, there was something to everyone’s liking: Strictly Vegan, Morimoto, La Toque, Bouchon Bakery, Eiko’s, Gerard’s Paella, and Nick’s Cove all had stands on the BottleRock grounds. Of course where there is great food there is great wine — Chandon, Rutherford Hills, JaM Cellars, Stags’ Leap, Starmont, Meiomi, and Coppola all marked their territory as well.

The Daily Meal chatted with many participants about the festival. Here Michelin-starred chef Ken Frank of La Toque at the SPG Amex VIP Viewing Suite, singer songwriter Gnash, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Arizona share their favorite foods at the festival and beyond.

The Daily Meal: How has your experience with BottleRock been so far?
Chef Ken Frank
: This is our fifth BottleRock, and every year we do something a little different — because the festival changes and grows, so you learn to do different thing every time. So every year, Friday is dress rehearsal night and Saturday gets a lot easier and then Sunday, we usually have gotten enough prep done and have it down. On Sundays we’re tired, but it’s the easy day. I’ve done all five years. It gets better every year. First of all, the entertainment is always great, but it’s much better organized every year. They even changed the layout so it’s smoother and they've removed the bottlenecks — no pun intended. The crowd can move around more easily, and they've super-enhanced the VIP experience. Now it’s easy for the ones with the VIP access who paid for it to move around in their area. They've upgraded the lawn and kicked up the quality of the tents too. I’m sure we’ll sit down and critique it on what ideas, changes, and improvements to make for next year.

What inspires the curation of the food?
The goal here was to get people fun, tasty bar snacks all afternoon so we did our signature spicy harissa chips and made two flavors of popcorn. The most popular was the lobster butter and I knew it would be. We cooked lobster heads in butter until it tasted like lobster and drizzled that on top of the popcorn. The other one had dried powdered shiitake. We also had root vegetable chips like taro, beets, and golden yams, and those are pretty popular too. We also did a really savory cheese cracker twist. So all afternoon we did snacks and we did heavy appetizers like sandwiches and did Cubanos because it’s one of the world’s greatest sandwiches. It’s practical and travels well. You have to choose things that travel well because given the outdoor setting, cooking outside, and running around back and forth — we’re on the go.

How do you incorporate healthy eating into the mix?
Whether we’re here or in the Michelin-starred kitchen, we make virtually everything from scratch. It’s all fresh, and we use the same great quality ingredients at La Toque.

What’s next for you and La Toque?
We are going to expand at the Westin and have a very small exclusive restaurant on the roof. It is about a year and half away and the working title is Table 14. Back in the original location for La Toque in Los Angeles, the 14th table was the hardest to get back there. There were two seats that were around the corner where no one can see, and that's where the famous people and everyone wanted to sit. It will be tasting menu with only 25 to 30 seats. We’re in the design phase right now.

The Daily Meal also had the opportunity to chat with singer and songwriter Gnash — also known for his hit “I hate you, I love you” — about his favorite food and his take on the unicorn craze.

What’s your all-time favorite food?
: I decided to be a vegetarian. My whole life I said I had a fear of birds and fish and I realized it was because I had never looked at them properly. I went to the aquarium and looked at a catfish in the eye and nothing was the same. But I’m a big melty guy. I love all Italian food pretty much, grilled cheeses, mac and cheese, anything melty. I love French fries. I love trying new condiments. I also love pasta. My favorite spot in LA is called the 101 Cafe. My favorite there was the tuna melt, and they gave me both regular and sweet potato fries. Ranch is a No. 1 side for me.

What are you looking forward to most with the food aspect of the festival?
My go-to used to be chicken nuggets but now that’s out of the question since I’m vegetarian. It’s fried and chicken so there goes that. Oh I loved the paella! I could eat that all day. It was also vegan. Also, the same with the melty cheese foods.

What do you think will be next in regards to food trends besides unicorn this or activated charcoal that?
Unicorn this? What’s unicorn? I had no idea about that. I don't really go on the internet but in regards to food trends, hopefully lots and lots of fries and sauces and more choices for vegans. Oh also more pizza options. It’s awesome that almond milk is more accessible at coffee shops like Starbucks and Coffee Bean where you couldn't get that a year ago. Hopefully there is more of an expansion of that.

Next up, all five members of Fitz and the Tantrums to chat about their eating habits:

You have so much energy, how do you guys prep for shows?
Fitz and The Tantrums
: You’d be shocked. During our pre-show ritual, everyone is on their phones and they're all quiet, but all of a sudden an uncorked Champagne bottle has been shaken too hard and we get on stage emerged with bubbles!

How do you think social media has changed the game with the audience’s engagement with the band?
Now you see people standing there with their backs to you because they're taking a selfie video with the band and doing Instagram live and want to feel like they're part of the show.

Have you tried any of the food at BottleRock yet?
The chorizo sandwich from the Farmer’s Village was really amazing. It had sauerkraut and chimichurri. Ugh it was so good. Like it was with this cheesy bread that’s grilled. Also, there was paella — oh my god, it was really good!

How do you stay healthy on the road?
The entire focus of your day is to try to be healthy. You have 23 hours to try to not eat bad. It doesn't mean that we succeed but it is takes a lot of effort to find the good food and restaurants. Noelle finds the really awesome restaurants for us to eat and our drummer, John Wicks, finds the coffee. We wake up to emails with where to go. I also try not to eat a lot before a show but then it’s bad because after the show, there are always cookies in the dressing room and I’m the cookie monster.

And Arizona, who had a joint interview:

How’d you like the Samsung Stage?
: It was great. It was ridiculous. I think it was the biggest stage we've ever played.

Food-wise, where are your favorite spots?
When we’re on tour, San Diego because my parents make us food when we go there. When we go home to Jersey, we make it a point to go visit John’s Boy Pizza, a small pizza shop in our town, and our best friends run that place. It’s just some of the best pizza in the entire world. It’s a slice of home, so to speak.

Do you prefer festivals to venues?
They're both very different flavors but they're both so much fun to do.

Would you play at BottleRock again?
Would we come back? Yes, definitely.


Paella was clearly the winner in festival food. Go Gerard’s Paella!

With a combination of the music, the food, the drinks, and everything in between, BottleRock has more than enough to offer — whether you’re a vegan who loves Warren G or a wine lover who can’t enough of Maroon 5. Welcome to the place where the culinary arts and musical phenomena sync to formulate the ultimate recipe, better known as BottleRock Napa Valley.

Missed out on this year’s BottleRock Festival? Have no fear, the plans for the 2018 festival are already in the works! Stay tuned for May 25 to May 27, 2018.

For more foodie-related news, restaurant roundups, and chef features, click here!

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