I survived my first visit to the 3rd Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival last Saturday. Yeah, I know I already posted a preview of it here, but going to the actual event was pretty awesome and I wanted to share… It was a crazy food extravaganza presented by La Cocina which celebrates the talent, the taste and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people who are involved in making movable feasts.We enjoyed selections from 70 or so food trucks along with some local restaurants in booths located along Folsom which was closed to traffic between 22nd and 26th Streets. Admission is free, you only had to pay for the food which was priced at $8 for a full plate or $3 for a smaller bite. The streets were jammed with hungry hordes and the lines were long, so I recommend that you go with a pal or two and have a game plan to break out to stand in the various lines and then share the bounty to maximize your eating options. Too bad the festival is only a one day event, but I guess it must be hard on the neighborhood to have the streets blocked off. Gotta love la Mission style and its unique aromas…
Here is Maria Piedad Cano, best known as The Arepa Lady from NYC. She is one of the original street food vendors according to this NYT article from 2004. She still sells food from a cart and has gained some sort of sainthood via the interwebs and especially chowhound. This seemed to be one of the longer lines, which allowed me ample opportunity to watch the venerable chef cooking or supervising her small crew of volunteers at the griddle, which seemed rather small as it could only fit 6 arepas to cook at a time.
I had never had colombian arepas before, which are thick and flat, and brushed with butter then griddled until brown and crispy. I ordered the Arepa de Choclo, made from a sweet corn batter and folded over salty grated cheese. It seemed to me like a big pancake, which I would have preferred with more butter and doused with some maple syrup. Yes… I just said that. I should just admit that I am a philistine… My reaction is like someone pouring soy sauce over already seasoned fried rice, no? Anyways, it was beautifully cooked, but heavy and dense and I wasn’t feeling its subtleties. But I was glad to have been able to sample this legendary dish without having to travel out to the east coast!
One of my favorite tastes from the day was a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with caramelized mealworms from Don Bugito. The worms were sweet and crunchy with a rich nutty flavor that was very good with the ice cream.
I didn’t try the tacos, which I thought were a bit gruesome looking, especially the tortillas… Are these huitlacoche (corn smut) tortillas? There was a fellow enthusiastically noshing on one, who assured me it was quite tasty.
Mr. K picked up this lovely ceviche from Los Cilantros. It was full of fresh flavors brightened with lime and cilantro I loved the slices of avocado and wished we had some chips.
Later I stopped by for the Elote, which is a mexican delicacy of freshly grilled corn on the cob that is spread with mayonnaise and sprinkled with grated cotija cheese. There were bottles of hot sauce and a bottle of Tajin, which is a spice mix of lime and chili for an extra kick. It was really lip smacking good.
Walking along the sidewalks behind the trucks was easier than trying to bulldoze through the lines and afforded the opportunity to watch some of cooking behind the scenes. I loved watching these women making tortillas for the Chaac Mool truck.
Mr. K brought over a plate with one of those freshly made tortillas topped with their yucatecan specialty Cochinita Pibil, a slow cooked pork flavored with achiote seed. I’m going to visit their stand at Dolores Park for more soon, those just-made tortillas really knocked this out of the ballpark so to speak.
My media pass entitled me to a secret snack from the Artisan Tortilla truck!
The secret snack was made by Bill Corbett, who was busy working when I took a peek inside their truck. Carolyn Jung, aka foodgal, interviewed him recently because he is a rockstar pastry chef currently at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar.
The secret snack was a very provocative take on a quesadilla. The artisan tortilla was filled with cheese and corn, griddled, then topped with a generous smear of guacamole and an intense looking orange mound that turned out to be an ethereal poof that filled my mouth with the rich flavors of pimento and creamy cheese. Yes, that was a special snack indeed!
I loved the Chicken Larb and Thai Iced Coffee from the Lers Ros Thai Food booth (pronounced Lert Rot btw), which reminds me that I really need to get myself over to their restaurant for a nice sit down meal. The larb was bright tasting and spicy, so refreshing after all of the heavy foods I had been chowing down.
Mr. K ventured over to the Kung Fu Taco truck and came back with two Nunchuck Chicken Tacos for us to share which was all they had left. Grilled marinated chicken, onions, cilantro with a spicy sweet sriracha sauce.
15 Romolo had an incongruously dapper dude taking the orders.
The Jambalini (round balls of jambalaya breaded and deep fried) were a bit dry to my liking, but offered an interesting taste sensation. I had hoped for a more soupy experience…
There were some delicious sweets to be found too. Luna Cupcakes, had these charming cupcakes topped with oreo cookies.
These green dudes? I’m not sure what that was about, but they did have a certain appeal…
It was a huge effort and just so awesome to be able to snack your way through all of the unique and amazing dining options. Definitely worth going to and for a very good cause.