Forget Funnel Cake: This Music Festival Places Seasonal, Sustainable Food Center Stage

Forget Funnel Cake: This Music Festival Places Seasonal, Sustainable Food Center Stage

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The Sweetlife music festival is focused on sustainability and making delicious food choices at the same time.

It’s not exactly surprising that the Sweetlife music festival (sponsored by D.C.-based salad chain Sweetgreen), which took place at the end of May this year, features cuisine that’s mostly healthy. And it’s pretty darn impressive that a company that just started making salads in 2007 has grown big enough to curate a two-day music festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

“We knew we wanted to build something different. Something that wasn’t just about food or about the transaction, but about this greater lifestyle, living well, living your best life,” says Nic Jammet, one of the founders of Sweetgreen. “For us, music is a big part of our life, and we wanted to connect that to healthy eating and just living a healthy lifestyle.”

But even with the company’s healthy slant, Jammet has curated a festival menu that’s approachable, above all.

“We don’t believe in just eating salads all day. It’s about living a balanced, realistically healthy lifestyle,” says Jammet.

Guests balanced out healthy offerings like entire ears of corn and the Kendrick Lamar-backed “Beets Don’t Kale My Vibe” salad with alcohol and sweets. They enjoyed Frederick, Maryland-based Flying Dog’s hoppy craft beer creations, which were made exclusively for the festival. Virginia-based Paradise Springs crafted a rosé for wine drinkers to down. Momofuku Milk Bar was shelling out cookies. I tried the Compost Cookie — a cookie made with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips — and was wowed by the crunchy and texture-rich offering. In its well-rounded mix of light and rich fare, Sweetlife featured many local businesses.

Vienna, Virginia-based Crêpe Love’s food truck was one of those local purveyors. Sri Suku, owner of Crêpe Amour and its food truck component, Crêpe Love, was invited to the festival after someone with ties to Sweetlife tried one of Crêpe Love’s all-natural crêpes at a food festival.

“The beauty of our food truck is that we don’t prepare food ahead of time. Everything is made to order. All of our stuff, we’re able to crank it out in under a minute,” says Suku.

He estimated that the truck cranked out 70 to 80 crêpes per hour. It’s the company’s first time at the event, and he says he likes the culture.

As tempting as the gigantic can of Nutella on the shelf of the truck looked, I opted for a savory option and was not disappointed. The tandoori chicken crêpe — it tasted as good as any tandoori chicken I’ve ever had — was probably the best thing I ate during the two-day festival.

This year’s festival was unique in that Sweetlife’s organizers nixed soda companies and Heinz ketchup. Instead, Spindrift supplied seltzer water made with real fruits and vegetables. Sir Kensington's machines around the festival grounds dispensed all-natural ketchup, mustard, and mayo. And that’s where Home Frite comes in. Sir Kensington’s had the idea to bring this New York City-based company that slings all-natural fries, cut from Idaho potatoes and cooked in canola oil, along to accompany their sauces.

“We know that the fans appreciate other food than just junky fried fast food,” says Ian Vernon, founder and owner of Home Frite.

“The most important thing to us is just quality. We want to serve the best possible fries that anyone’s ever had,” says Crystal Lingle, general manager and co-owner. Home Frite’s best-selling item was its truffle fries. To come up with the recipe, the team at Home Frite consulted with a truffle oil expert and tested many different types of truffle oil to get the best product. And I’m glad they did their research. The truffle oil fries were crispy, decadent, and rich. Home Frite’s version was topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, which gave it a nice, texture-rich finish.

And it seems that Sweetlife attendees agreed. Lingle says that certain people returned to the stand three to four times in a single day.

“This is our biggest weekend ever, actually,” says Lingle.

If you need more proof that the food at music festivals is high-quality, look no further than Luke’s Lobster. The company was selling its fresh (and, might I add, delicious) lobster rolls at Sweetlife.

The Maine lobster shack sources all its own seafood and, in the words of vice president of Luke’s Lobster Ben Conniff, “our lobster is in our hands from the time it’s on the dock until it hits the plate.”

Conniff says he enjoys the exposure the company receives at music festivals, but also likes aligning with a company like Sweetgreen that shares similar values.

“Sweetlife is great, because it’s focused on sustainability and making responsible and delicious food choices at the same time, which is what we’re all about,” Conniff says. “It’s great to be somewhere that not only has great music and a lot of fun, but also is geared toward the same kind of values that we are with our food.”

This is a summer festival you don’t want to miss, so plan in advance for next year. You might also want to check out our list of The 10 Best Music Festivals for Food.

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