Monday, August 22, 2011

Street Food Festival in the City

SF Street Food Fest Creme Brulee CartFrom one food festival to another, this summer has been all about eating in the city. I love summer in the city!  The SF Street Food Festival is held in the Mission District and is organized by La Cocina, a non-profit incubator kitchen. They closed off four city blocks and a school ground so that over 70 food truck vendors can sell food.

SF Street Food Fest FoodiesThe food sells from $3 to $8 depending on the serving. As always, we couldn't try all of the food that day. In fact, we've only tried around seven or eight vendors all in all because the lines were long.  

This street food festival is the perfect event to try more than one food truck. This is like food vendor haven because these food trucks don't have a permanent place.  They are all over the map so to try their food you have to subscribe to their Twitter or follow them via their Facebook page to know their current whereabouts.

Here are the top savory food plus one sweet dish that I sampled.

SF Street Food Fest Fried Peppers and CornVendor: Flour+Water
Dish: Fried Padron Peppers and Corn
Chef/Owner: David White & Thomas McNaughton
Find them at: 2401 Harrison St.
Comment: This is my favorite. Subtle flavors of corn, fried peppers and lime juice were wonderful. The spicy hot flavor was subtle too. The yellow and dark green colors were nice on the eyes.

SF Street Food Fest Nom Nom TruckVendor: Nom Nom Truck
Dish: Honey Grilled Pork Sandwich
Chef/Owner: Jennifer Green & Lisa Chien
Origin: Vietnam
Find them at:
Twitter: @nomnomtruck
Comment: I like the blend of spices and sweetness of honey and the pork and the bagguete bread came with all the tasty juices stuck on it.

SF Street Food Fest Creme BruleeVendor: The Creme Brulee Cart
Dish: Honey Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Chef/Owner: Curtis Kimball
Find them at: Mission @ 22nd St.
Twitter: @cremebruleecart
Comment: Very good crème brulees considering it is sold from a cart. Their lines went the fastest because of their excellent ordering-pickup system plus their efficient chefs taking turns prepping and torching each crème brulee.

This is worth mentioning because it is unique, bordering on the bizarre.

SF Street Food Fest Don BugitoVendor: Don Bugito
Dish: Sweet Toffee Crisped Mealworm Ice cream
Chef/Owner: Monica Martinez
Find them at:
Comment: I did try the mealworm first before buying the ice cream.  They are seriously crunchy with hints of grilled shrimp shell. Eat them while they're dry. Otherwise, they'll lose the crunchy bite and the texture will turn back to sort of wormlike. I also asked if the icecream contained worm essence and the answer was No.

I noticed there were plenty of vendors selling ceviches but the lines to their booths were super long. So next year I plan to fall in line and wait and I am just going to try all the cevecherias.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fifth Floor and good friends in the City

Fifth Floor
My good friends Karen, Monette and I got together on Thursday evening for a dinner that has been long over due. We had a great time.  The three of us used to see each other when we were younger and had less responsibilities. I remember we always had a good time.

Since both of them were coming into the city, I thought of something on the fancy side to make their bridge-cross worth it.  We went to Fifth Floor in Union Square.  Here's what we munched on that evening while catching up on family stuff, work and personal goings on.

Fifth Floor Foie Gras Charcuterie Foie Gras and Charcuterie and Cheese plate. As soon as our server placed these plates on the table, my heart started palpitating. Not because of the tasty goodness oozing out of these precious little things but because I knew they are loaded with cholesterol and fats and all the bad things our doctors tell us. Why is it that food that tastes good is usually bad for us? Luckily, there were three of us sharing and the serving of the fattened duck liver, the greasy cured meats and aged cheeses are small. The plates were perfect with the complimentary bread and butter.

Fifth Floor BeignetAlmond Beignet. Ok this is fancy schmancy beignet but this is my favorite that night. The beignet is small and its chewy almond taste was perfect with the creamy milk sauce and the cherry preserves and it came in three. I am not sure if they did that purposely just because there were three of us and we told our server we were going to share? It was also at this time the good looking chef came by to check on us. Wow!

Fifth Floor Baked Alaska Baked Alaska. Monette ordered this one. It was on fire when it got served. That was a nice touch. It is icing over custard over ice cream over custard over ice cream which sits on a sauce made of liqueur. Though the liqueur was not potent, the taste was so strong that it felt like it left a burning sensation on my tongue. This was also good.

Fifth Floor Lavender CocktailLavender cocktail. I don't remember the exact name of this cocktail. Something like lavender ginset or ginlet. Anyway, it was sour but it is a good kind of sour with a hint of lavender. The mixologist, he was very friendly and attentive. Too bad I couldn't talk to him at one point because I was busy texting Karen and Monette to tell them I got there early.

Fifth Floor FreebiesComplimentary Dessert. I always like a place which gives freebies. The place consists of small slices of almond macaron, peanut bar, lemon bar, and some fancy cookies and pastries.

Fifth Floor is on the expensive side but the service was very good. I'd probably be back to try more of their cocktails.

The place also has very low lights so it was hard to take photos of the food and drinks discreetly, that is, without the use of flash. (It wouldn't be a discreet photo anymore if I use a flash, would it?). This justifies my poorly lit food pictures.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Everyday Wines in the City - Tempranillo + Cigare Volant

2002 Bonny Doon Cigare Volant 

Cigare Volant by Bonny DoonWe got to the park exactly two hours before the free Latin music at the 9th Sunday of the Stern Grove Festival. Mijo, my friend from college Mike and I brought a picnic mat, some snacks, breads, cheeses and couple of bottles of wines to share.  The weather cooperated because the summer fog retreated to the ocean so it was clear that afternoon.

Here are my notes.

Tasting Date:  Aug. 14, 2011
Tasting Partners: Mijo and Mike
Wine Name: Le Cigare Volant
Producer: Bonny Doon Vineyard
Region/Appelation: California
Grape Varieties: Grenache, Syrah
Vintage: 2002
Alcohol: not indicated
Color Hue: dark red, purple
Aroma Intensity: less fruity
Developments: medium body
Aromas: banana, cherry, coffee, toasted rice
Dry/Sweet: less sweet
Body: Full body
Acidity: low acid
Tannins: high level
Flavors: coffee, chocolate, cherry, banana, toasted rice, cranberry

2009 Vega Oliveras Tempranillo

My friend from college Mike brought this wine. Here are my notes.

Tasting Date:  Aug. 14, 2011
Tasting Partners: Mijo and Mike
Wine Name: Tempranillo
Producer: Vega Oliveras
Region/Appelation: La Mancha
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: not indicated
Color Hue: dark red, purple
Aroma Intensity: less fruity
Developments: medium body
Aromas: cherry, soy sauce, italian herbs
Dry/Sweet: less sweet
Body: medium body
Acidity: high acid
Tannins: high level
Flavors: soy sauce, cherry, cranberry


Sunday, August 07, 2011

SF Chefs 2011 in the City

SF Chefs 2011
My good friend Dinah finally convinced me to go to this year's SF Chefs. SF Chefs is the city's premier food festival where locals, foodies and culinary stars mingle three days every year. The tasting event's venue is a huge tent that almost occupied that entire Union Square plaza. There were other foodie sessions happening around the city the entire weekend. As expected, the Saturday afternoon tasting event was well attended to the point of being sold out. There were four grand tasting events - one on Friday evening, one on Saturday afternoon, another one on Saturday evening, and one on Sunday afternoon. The grand tastings last for four hours.

SF Chefs 2011There were plenty of culinary stars that day. Unfortunately, I only know a few names like Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence and Chris Cosentino. But for Dinah and the rest of the foodies present that day? They know them all, and I am sure they know their signature dishes as well. I can't help but smile or sometimes roll my eyes everytime I hear side comments coming from all around me. I have to admit that most of the chefs are quite good looking.  San Francisco may be a town where chefs are glorified like rock stars but for me, I'll just enjoy eating their food.

SF Chefs 2011 Food Galore
The plan was to sample as small amount of food as possible and no repeats so we won't get full right away. If the sample is generous, Mijo and I will split it.  For the wine, we decided we will only do tastings and we will only sample the reds. This means no more than two sips of red wine for each tasting. In the end, we couldn't resist the call of food. We were too weak to stick with our rules and I am guilty of going for more ahi tuna, sardines, pork belly, cured meats, and cheeses. We couldn't sample everything inside the tent that day because we were stuffed just after two hours!  

SF Chefs 2011 Local FoodThere were a lot of good food and good wine that day so it was really hard to narrow down my choices which three I should blog. Plus they were all different so it was a challenge to qualify which one is better. For example, a tuna dish from one featured restaurant will taste different from another tuna dish by a different featured restaurant because of the sauces, garnishing and presentation. I wish these chefs would seat down and plan among each other next year so there won't be repeats of ahi tunas? Anyway, what I did here is put together a short list of memorable dishes I sampled that day and the most delicious wine I tasted.

Here they are...

SF Chefs 2011 Gazpacho by Fleur de Lys Dish: Chilled avocado and tomato gazpacho with cilantro and topped with crab meat
Restaurant: Fleur De Lys
Chef: Hubert Keller
Taste: I've had good gazpachos before and this one is equally good but with an added bonus of the creaminess of the avocado.

SF Chefs 2011 Pork Belly by Savor
Dish: Five spice and tamarind glazed pork belly
Restaurant: Savor
Chef: Jeff Hall
Taste: I call this a dressed-up lechon. It is thin and crunchy with sauce that is sort of a lighter version of a Filipino gravy called Sarsa ni Mang Tomas and with hints of tamarind.

SF Chefs 2011 Marinated sardines by Poggio
Dish: Marinated sardine, cucumber, heirloom tomato, mint oil
Restaurant: Poggio
Chef: Peter McNee
Taste: Most of the sardines I had at restaurants were grilled and came with capers and glazed fruit to mask the fishy taste. This one did not come with those. Great combination of garnishing and the marinated sardines.

SF Chefs 2011 Landmark wines
Wine: 2008 Pinot Noir
Winery: Landmark Vineyards
Appellation: Sonoma County
Notes: good balance, less fruity, less dry, light, can be drank solo or with food pairing

SF Chefs 2011 Guest chef Fabio VivianiA great addition was the cooking demos by celebrity chefs. Toward the end of the tasting event, a Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani was on stage where he demonstrated how to make gnocchi.

All in all I thought the food festival was great and featured great dishes that show San Francisco Bay Area's fresh and innovative food culture. We also sampled food from restaurants that we haven't dined in and this gave us a glimpse of their menu. We also discovered boutique Sonoma wineries whose select wines are not available in supermarkets. 

It was fun playing foodie for a short time. We'll try it again next year.