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The Most Insanely Delicious Foods From Outside Lands 2014

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Food is the new rock, and if you needed any confirmation of that, the recently-concluded Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco, Calif., serves up plenty of proof.

Consider the festival's newly installed GastroMagic, an "Interactive Culinary Stage" which featured some of San Francisco's best chefs, restaurants, butchers, mixologists doing what they do best -- to the tune of some freshly mixed beats, of course.

The "sets," intimate, whimsical and heavy on the wordplay, delighted the (relatively) small crowds of people who decided to post up at the GastroMagic stage, nestled in between the main Land's End stage and ChocoLands (a group of festival stands that served only chocolate-flavored desserts. Told you this music festival was a must for food lovers).

Some of GastroMagic's more delicious performances include a set from the first day, featuring Donald Wressell, in-house pastry chef to Guittard Chocolate company, as he constructed a towering chocolate sculpture. Synthpop duo Holy Ghost! performed as Wressell worked, and hype men and women in gold lamé suits handed out full-sized Guittard chocolate bars to the crowd.

gastro magic

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 08: Chef Donald Wressell (R) performs Chocolate Gold Rush with Holy Ghost! and Guittard Chocolate Company at the GastroMagic Stage during day 1 of the 2014 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)

On the second day of the festival, local chef Brandon Jew made duck nuggets on the GastroMagic stage while A-Trak of the DJ duo Duck Sauce spun beats alongside him. A merry band of people dressed in fluffy yellow duck costumes danced on the stage and in the crowd, and at the end passed out little takeout boxes filled with duck nuggets and sauce to a cheering, dancing, eating audience.

outside lands gastromagic

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 09: Chef Brandon Jew (L) and DJ A-Trak of Duck Sauce prepare food during the Duck Sauce Soiree at the GastroMagic Stage during day 2 of the 2014 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 9, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)

But even if you didn't sit through a single GastroMagic performance, the more than 200 food and drink options showcasing the best of Northern California cuisine were enough to cement Outside Lands as the best summer music festival for serious gourmands.

As fun as it was for me, scarfing my way through the festival with fried chicken, gourmet cotton candy and fresh oysters, it seems like the restaurants have an even better time.

"All the different restaurant crews live together for over three days in the middle of Golden Gate Park," wrote Chamin Mills, the marketing manager of Pacific Catch Fresh Fish Grill in an email to HuffPost. "There is a true sense of community that makes the long days and nights enjoyable. Not to mention the amount of food we give back and forth to each other. We for sure eat well for three days."

Alicia Villanueva of Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas agreed, adding that the festival exposure was also a boost for small businesses like hers.

"To be completely honest I love coming to Outside Lands because it is a great opportunity to grow my business," she wrote in an email to HuffPost. "People come here to have fun and enjoy the music, what better way to promote my food than to help them refuel their tamale tanks?"

Of course, none of this would be worth writing home about if chefs didn't strive to churn out the same quality dishes they serve in their restaurants. To wit: these photographs depict all of the dishes that made me rub my eyes in awe: while my eyes and ears had me planted firmly in the grass at a music festival, my tastebuds told me I was seated at a chef's table.

All photos by Anna Almendrala.

  • Baconland
    A festival-goer enjoys a flight of 5 different types of bacon at the new Outside Lands vendor Baconland. After seeing so many people happily chomping on bacon skewers in the park, something tells me this vendor is here to stay.
  • Farmer Brown's Little Skillet Fried Chicken And Waffles
    The perfectly cooked fried chicken came with a light, crunchy waffle, cornbread and mac and cheese. Don't forget the watermelon wedge! It was admirable to see how Little Skillet kept churning out these plates at an assembly-line pace without sacrificing quality.
  • Del Popolo's Margherita Pizza
    This was by far the biggest food line at Outside Lands, all three days. As I ate the perfectly-cooked pizza crust, I kept shaking my head -- this came off a truck in a field?! Indeed it did. The Del Popolo food truck, with a wood-fired oven on it.
  • Woodhouse Fish Co. BBQ Oysters
    This is the dish I kept going back for again and again over the weekend. The oysters are shucked and grilled, shell-on. Then they're served with a BBQ-style cocktail sauce and minced garlic. Sweet, savory, creamy and briny -- all in one mouthful.
  • Woodhouse Fish Co.'s Fresh Oysters
    The raw oysters, from the now-closed Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, were as fresh and creamy and delicious as I've ever had at any restaurant. Except I was outside in the sunshine, surrounded by music and art and laughter.
  • Woodhouse Fish Co.'s Lobster Roll
    Big chunks of lobster, piled high on buttered toast and sprinkled with chives. Very satisfying.
  • 4505 Meats' Chimichurri Fries
    A surprising hit, and another of the dishes we going back for.
  • Guittard Chocolate Company's Melted Milk Chocolate
    Pinkies up for this extremely decadent version of hot chocolate. It's actually just a melted chocolate bar, topped with cacao nibs and mini chocolate chips. I tried to channel the fictional detective Hercule Poirot (who loved thick chocolate drinks) and sip a little at a time, but it was just too rich. I ended up pouring it over a cup of Humphry Slocombe chocolate ice cream, which it turned out was the best way to eat it.
  • Rich Table's Dried Porcini Donuts With Raclette
    Fluffy porcini-dusted donuts with a raclette cheese dipping sauce. A cloud of umami in every bite.
  • AQ's Spaghetti Sloppy Joe
    The AQ spaghetti sloppy joe, served with add-ons like mozzarella cheese, grilled pork and a side of pickles. This sandwich had everything but the kitchen sink in it, and as a dish I'm not sure it worked. But it did make me laugh and reminded me of late-night, drunken raids of refrigerated leftovers. And picking at its individual elements was delicious enough.
  • Sugar & Spun's Fruitella Cotton Candy
    Sugar & Spun takes your favorite childhood confection and just makes it better. This flavor has powderized nutella and freeze-dried strawberry bits on top, and even though my teeth hurt afterwards, every puff was addictive and delicious.
  • Nombe's Ramen Burger
    Less structural integrity than the original ramen burger, but without a three-hour wait -- so I guess we're even?
  • Straw's Donut Burger
    Every bite leaves bits of crusted sugar on your cheeks. And it's delightful.
  • Senor Sisig Tacos
    Senor Sisig was one of the longest lines at Outside Lands. The San Francisco favorite served its usual dishes, like this pork taco with chopped jalapeno salsa. Yes, it was as spicy as it looks.