From the first thump of a kickdrum to a late-night shower of rainbow confetti closing out a show, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee leaves every sense stimulated. But the focus doesn’t just stay on stage either as the fields of the farm offer their own sights, smells, and tastes.
Festival organizers have a knack for providing a mix of familiar favorites and new options. Here’s a collection of best Bonnaroo bites from the weekend.
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1. Hamageddon and BaconLand
It’s not often a person can taste five types of bacon in one go. The bacon flights at BaconLand offered country-spanning skewers of meats from dry-rubbed and peppered bacon from Wellshire in New Hampshire to brown sugar-cured from Vande Rose in Iowa and Benton’s hickory-smoked from Tennessee. The menu also included BLTs and grilled cheese sandwiches all served with Bonnaroo’s home-state choice of Benton’s. BaconLand has been the vision of Kerry Black, founder of Superfly, the entertainment company that hosts the festival. “I just love bacon,” he said. “They call it the gateway meat, right?”
The area near BaconLand, dubbed Hamaggedon, also included a steel pig sculpture named Henri weighing 4,000 pounds at 22-feet long. The fire-breathing sculpture drew crowds “oohing and ahhing” at night, and the bacon flights were sold out by early Sunday.
2. The gastroPod Diner
Miami’s gastroPod normally operates out of an airstream food truck at Bonnaroo. But this year, they debuted a mobile dining pod made from a shipping container. While burgers abound at outdoor festivals, gastroPod's are top-notch. Chef/Owner Jeremiah Bullfrog--rapper Rick Ross’ personal chef--created a menu inspired by the 20th anniversary of Pulp Fiction. The Royale with Cheese included a local beef patty draped with cheese and topped with dollop of spicy mayo and pile of crisp, homemade pickles on potato roll.
3. Bonnaroots Community Dinners
Also new this year, Bonnaroo hosted communal farm-to-table dinners under the romantic pergolas of Plant Roo, an eco and social-activism village on the property. Proceeds from the sold-out seated dinners for 100 benefited Oxfam America and Eat for Equity. “Your cheese is from up the road. Your Benton’s bacon is world famous,” said Laura Sohn, Bonnaroo’s director of sustainability as she introduced the plates of vegetables from the nearby Bonnaroo garden as well as other Tennessee farms.
4. The Food Truck Oasis
With eight trucks congregating at the Food Truck Oasis, avoiding heavy greasy options on a hot day can be easy. I chose a sandwich made with a spread of goat cheese whipped with bits of bright lemon zest and sweet fig on lightly buttered and grilled multigrain bread. from Washington, D.C.'s The Big Egg.
5. Amish Baking Co.
Owner Nate Peachey bases his doughnut recipe off his grandmother’s. She began selling doughnuts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1940. Nate sells doughnuts and pretzels from 10 a.m. t0 6 a.m. Nate only sleeps about two hours a night during festivals, but festival-goers are happier for it.
6. Prater’s Barbecue
This family barbecue joint based in Manchester has served food at the festival since its inception, and many festival-goers make it a regular part of their ‘roo. The restaurant sells barbecue pork sandwiches, smoked wings, and fried pickle spears, among other options.
7. I Heart Spicy Pie
Sometimes food is more about the moment than the taste. That might be part of the case with Spicy Pie, a cult classic with stands at Bonnaroo. I had my first slice of the New York-style pizza with jalapeno, crushed red pepper and pepperoni on the last day of Bonnaroo 2013. Rain came down as Tom Petty finished his set, and I walked back to camp exhausted having wrapped up a long weekend. Spicy Pie made my Bonnaroo experience feel comfortable and complete.
What was your favorite food from this year's Bonnaroo?