For 31 years now, the third weekend of August has been the time of the Hayward Zucchini Festival. What we saw today was entertaining, and what we tasted was delicious. It was a little tricky finding our way but once we got to the secured parking lot on Bohannon Middle School’s grass playing field, we spent hours wandering around Kennedy Park enjoying the festival. From rides and carnival games with hermit crabs for prizes, to jewelry vendors and all kinds of foods, it was easy to spend the day here, especially when the weather was as beautiful as it was.
As the zucchini capital of California, Hayward would be remiss not to honor the farmers in the community, rural and urban alike. Entries are accepted through the second day for six different categories of competition, from weight to color variation.
We entered Kennedy Park on the far corner from all the hot food stands and trucks, so we got to walk around and tour the grounds before finding our way to Sweet Delights of Stockton. They didn’t disappoint with this alternative quesadilla, as cheese and zucchini were all it took for a savory sensation. The gooey cheese is the hallmark of a good quesadilla, but the fresh vegetables made all the difference.
From August’s neighborhood of her youth, California Corn Roast came from Grass Valley and got a big line forming for their bacon-wrapped hot dogs with zucchini. Hebrew National dogs and thick spears of zucchini sat in a lightly grilled bun piled with grilled onions. Condiments were available if wanted, but we liked it just as it was. The sweet onions juxtaposed the savory, salty kick of the meats, while the zucchini provided an earthiness that brought everything together. There’s nothing too fancy about this, but if you like zucchini, this is sure to please.
Many groups came out today selling goods as fundraisers. The Pentecostals of Hayward drew us in with their selection of muffins, all zucchini based but with variety among them. Regular, with raisins, with raisins and nuts, and with chocolate, we didn’t think there could be so many types of zucchini breads! Apparently this is a big deal for the church’s community, because they even put together a thick cookbook of zucchini dishes. We bought a copy, and we’re curious to see how many tasty zucchini recipes fill the pages.
Michelle’s Golden Brown Breads can be found at the farmers’ market on Sundays at Jack London Square in Oakland. Today Michelle came with a selection of zucchini bread loafs. We chose the butterscotch version, with butterscotch visible on top and also marbled through the bread. Dense, moist, and rich, it’s great by itself but we’re imagining it a la mode.
Right around when we thought there couldn’t be any more sweet zucchini goods, Bella’s House of Sweets came into view. After trying four of the cupcakes and drooling over the mini macarons, we might have to visit the San Leandro bakery sooner than later. We sampled red velvet, double chocolate, carrot cake, and zucchini cupcakes, all light in texture yet deeply flavorful. The zucchini cupcake in particular was all we could hope for in zucchini bread: mildly sweet, spiced with earthy tones, topped with cream cheese frosting, and a light caramel drizzle.
Once we ordered two of four zucchini-based items at the Siva Indian Food Services truck, August sat down with one of the daughters of the family business for a henna tattoo. It was rough keeping still for 30 minutes for it to dry, but let’s hope it’s worth it and the students at school approve!
There were so many stands with deep fried zucchini, but Siva’s zucchini pakoras ranked among the best. A light but crunchy breading had surprisingly little grease, and it was seasoned well so that it didn’t need an extra sprinkling of salt out of the fryer. A thin, dip-like hummus was a nice change from ranch, which was what every other food stand had to offer with their deep fried zucchini.
When we see lamb we get it, and Siva’s curry with lamb and zucchini was no exception. We chatted with the matriarch and she said that zucchini was not something she normally used as the feature in a dish, but we thanked her for being one of the few out of dozens of food vendors that provided something more than deep fried zucchini – even while many vendors had no zucchini at all. The entrees like this curry come with white rice, dhal (the yellow lentil and potato dish in the foreground of the picture), chapati (thin, flat wheat bread), and raita (a cooling yogurt condiment, hiding behind the chapati). All exceptionally fresh ingredients tasted great with the lamb, which wasn’t gamey or too tough.
Technically food but not in the food area of the park, we found a few stands with edible goods ready to take home. Since August can never have too much dessert, we picked up a small bag of Black Tie Caramel. We tried a snippet of salted caramel on site, and it was super soft and perfectly salted. The smooth kind without nuts, like we got, was recommended as a nice touch to stir into coffee.
Primo’s Gourmet Food Co. showed mustards, fruit butters, and salsas at two tents. Fruit butter is essentially jam without pectin or seeds, resulting in a smooth and almost syrup-like spread. We tasted the berry pie butter and got a jar to use on toast and bagels for school morning breakfasts.
Tres Classique is going through a transition. Due to suppliers discontinuing the balsamic vinegar that they use for their base, Tres Classique is refreshing their ingredients as well as their label. We saw Tres Classique items as well as the new California Balsamic line, and after sampling several, Zach picked out a sweet balsamic that tasted like apple pie. He’s looking forward to using it as a dessert pairing with fruit and ice cream.
The drying process is rough, trying to keep the skin still and not bump into anything. But once the minimum time was up and all the bits of henna had flaked away, August was left with a beautiful design. Hopefully this will last at least a week, although sometimes henna designs can last three weeks, so we’ll see!
We came home loaded with loot and stuffed with zucchini. The festival was well organized with multiple bands scheduled to play, marauding trash patrol, and an efficient parking system. Happy but not overwhelmed, we had a wonderful time and think that anyone who likes zucchini should make their way here if possible. Although, even if you don’t like zucchini, there are tons of vendors with no zucchini on hand, so there’s no excuse not to come.
Hot dogs, bock wurst, or kielbasa, this recipe can be done with a variety of links to please any guest. What ties the coleslaw and link flavors together is the bacon. We did a recipe for Sonora dogs not long ago, so you can check out pictures there for insight into the process. For our Bacon Blow Out dinner party last night, Chef Zach served his dogs with a creamy and mild coleslaw, which by itself was the perfect condiment to offset the savory meat.
For 15 people
15 hot dogs (although we snuck in a few bock wurst to try out)
15 hot dog buns
15 strips of Applewood Natural Sunday bacon
1 green cabbage head, shredded
1 red cabbage head, shredded
4 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of buttermilk
4 tsp. of Beaver Brand Sweet Hot mustard
2 tbs. of white sugar
The juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. of cayenne pepper
Mix mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustard, lime juice, and sugar to make the dressing for the coleslaw. Let the dressing marry for about an hour in the refrigerator.
Wrap each hot dog with a strip of bacon. Secure with toothpicks. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F to warm the buns later.
If you have multiple levels in your grill, Chef Zach recommends that you first place the hot dogs on the top rack to help render some of the fat. Let the fat drip down but expect flare ups, so be prepared to move the hot dogs around to avoid flames. Therefore, you don’t want to overload the grill, because you need room to move around the hot dogs.
After about 6 minutes, place the buns on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for 6 minutes, leaving the hot dogs on the grill for a total of 12 minutes.
While the hot dogs are on the grill and the buns are heating, take the dressing from the refrigerator and fold the dressing and shredded vegetables with tongs.
Remove the toothpicks from the hot dogs, place in the buns, and pile the cole slaw on the hot dogs (and offer a fork, as well).
July 23 is National Hot Dog Day. It’s also Woody Harrelson, Slash, and Daniel Radcliffe’s birthday, so of course we celebrated with the most unique hot dogs we could find in the Bay Area (apart from making our own). Doggy Style Hot Dogs in Alameda serves Asian fusion hot dogs, drawing from the cuisines of many cultures. They say on their website that they “are second to none in [their] innovative style” and after trying six styles of doctored kosher beef frankfurter hot dogs, we agree.
All dogs come on the same seeded French roll, soft and grilled. There are many links to choose from, like linguica, calabrese, and veggie, but being National Hot Dog Day, we had to stick strictly to classic frankfurters. Doggy Style uses links made by a local company with decades of experience, and we tasted a finely tuned recipe for quality meat. Large, smoky, slightly spiced, and flavor packed, the dogs were delicious and the different assortments of toppings just made them enchanting. We started with the All American, with toppings of cole slaw, cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce. The crunchy cole slaw with a vinegar base was super crispy and fresh, offering an excellent texture contrast. The shredded cheddar cheese and bacon were both abundant, piled almost to the tipping point! The bacon was crispy in its own way and even lean, and its smokiness was highlighted by the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.
The next dog took us to Japan, and it was very umai – August looked it up, it means “delicious,” a very fitting name. The umai dog has seaweed, pickled radish, teriyaki sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise. It tasted like hot dog sushi, and as weird as that sounds, it tasted fresh and flavorful. The teriyaki added a bit of tang to the sea and earth essences of the seaweed and radish, respectively. It’s the standard teriyaki sauce you’d have with sushi, and you’d never think it works with a hot dog, but it does.
Continuing on our globally inspired hot dog tour, our palates visited Vietnam for an interesting twist on the traditional sandwich. Pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeño, cilantro, and mayonnaise adorned this dog, with a dash of sriracha on the side. This is kind of like everything you’d want in a bánh mì sandwich – soft but crunchy French roll, exceptionally fresh vegetables, and a bit of kick. We’ve seen some bánh mì with interesting meats (liverwurst, anyone?), so in all honesty, hot dogs aren’t so big of a stretch.
There were a few specials today in honor of National Hot Dog Day, so we couldn’t pass them up. Probably our favorite savory dog of the evening was the ka-re dog (sounds like curry). With homemade Japanese curry and pickled radishes, this was a beautiful combination of Japanese, Indian, and American flavors. The curry is slow-cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions, resulting in a sauce that is mildly sweet with all the spices of curry but zero heat. The pickled radishes, also Japanese (Takuwan and Fujin Zuke, as per the menu description), were an amazing pairing with the curry, not just for flavor but also for contrasting crunchy mouthfeel. It was a flavor symphony of sweet, tangy, and spices.
The other special threw us for a loop – a dessert dog! The Nut-n-Jelly “Crunch” has Chex cereal, peanut butter sauce, strawberry jelly, and a granola mix with almonds. The peanut butter sauce was special with the addition of just a touch of honey, making it very rich and decadent. The house-made strawberry jelly was naturally sweet and tangy. All the crunchiness of the cereal, granola, and nuts made this quite a mouthful, like eating a crazy version of Chex Mix.
Even after trying five dogs, we had to do one more because, well, it’s a waffle dog! Doggy Style’s take on the corn dog is dipped in waffle batter and griddled in a waffle iron shaped specially for a hot dog. If you like fun food and/or waffles, you’ve got to try this. It’s highly recommended that you use the maple syrup; think of this as bacon or sausage in maple syrup, something that more Americans do with their breakfast than would admit.
We had the luck of meeting Mike, one of the owners, who made all of our special hot dogs this evening. He’s a very talented guy with a creative mind, and we cannot wait to go back to try more dogs (once we recover from this binge for National Hot Dog Day). Eight varieties are standard on the menu but with various specials, we’re sure there will always be something to surprise and delight us.