SCOTT R. CRAIG / Bee file photo

Barbecued corn, anyone? Moon River Corn Co. is expected to have plenty during the festival.

Food favorites return to a refocused festival

Published: Friday, May. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7X
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 1, 2012 - 8:00 am

The Sacramento Jazz Festival & Jubilee has a new name – the Sacramento Music Festival – and some new sounds. Hoping to draw a younger demographic, event organizers will roll out a playlist of more contemporary music at this year's four-day soiree.

When it comes to the food scene, however, this year's cornucopia will be nearly identical to last year's. Given the variety on offer, that's a good thing with a bonus: no price increases.

We checked in with the man who knows the festival menu the best – Crawford Paton, the festival's food and beverage manager who recruits and oversees the 18 vendors.

First, he wants to answer the most pressing food-related question: Yes, there will be grilled oysters, always the No. 1 dish, and at two locations for the second time in the festival's history. Xochimilco will serve the butter-and-wine-brushed critters at the Firehouse Lot (along with tacos and tamales), while longtime participant Aroma Concessions will do the same at Turntable Junction (plus tri-tip and calamari).

Why do attendees wait patiently in long lines for plates of the succulent seafood?

"Oysters are synonymous with New Orleans and Cajun (cuisine)," Paton said. "Even though we're now the Sacramento Music Festival, we're still based in traditional New Orleans jazz. With that comes traditional jazz food, and barbecued oysters are on top of the list.

A music- and food-hungry crowd of 65,000 is expected to make merry at this year's 39th annual music festival, today through Monday. Veterans of the celebration have specific dining expectations, counting on certain dishes being available at the same venues as in years past.

No fear: Among the returnees will be crowd favorites Lockeford Meats (sausages), Earthly Delights (Cajun specialties), Finkley Enterprises (Filipino cuisine), Road Dog Cafe (tri-tip and its new egg-and sausage sandwich) and Moon River Corn Co. (roasted corn on the cob and baked potatoes).

Other standby items will include kettle corn, pizza, cinnamon rolls, egg rolls, fish 'n' chips and freshly squeezed lemonade.

Dessert vendors were so popular last year that they've all returned: Grandpa's Fudge, Chunks of Heaven Cookie Co. (adding fruit smoothies, rootbeer floats, coffee drinks), Nutty J's Nut Shack (cinnamon-glazed roasted almonds, pecans, macadamias, chocolate-covered raisins) and the River City Apostolic Church, with freshly picked cherries. Of course, Ed's Events Foods (adding churros, ice cream and sundaes) sells grilled sausages that are a dessert item for many revelers.

Though the Bloody Mary has long reigned as the event's queen of drinks, Copa di Vino's merlot and chardonnay will again be sold this year, Paton said. Beer will be available only in 12-ounce cans, not drawn from kegs, he added.

"Attendees will have four days to treat their appetites and palates to tastes of everything," Paton said.

Sound-wise, joining the Dixieland-ragtime party will be expanded programs of blues, zydeco, salsa, swing, country and rock.

"We're remaining true to our roots while adding more mainstream music," said new executive director Vivian Abraham. "The idea is to keep up with the times and attract a younger crowd." She has spent 30 years with the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society, the festival's sponsor.

As for Abraham's favorite festival food item: "The Philly cheesesteak, though there will be a wide selection of foods for everyone."

For more information: (916) 372-5277,,

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