My Six Top Bites from SF Street Food Fest

29 Aug

In the Mission district of San Francisco a couple of  Saturdays ago, an expansive variety of street food was served at the 3rd annual San Francisco Street Food Festival, put on by La Cocina. Food carts, trucks, stands, coolers, grills, and brick-and-mortar restaurants showcased their offerings of food and drinks priced from $1-$8. People carried cash or special event passports in search of all the best food they could find. I was on the scene scouting local foodie goodness.

Here are the top picks from this indulgent day:

#6 Watermelon Gazpacho from Commonwealth

In several years of covering food events, I like to think that I have reached some kind of method for the madness. For instance, after judging a cupcake challenge, I go straight to a vegan restaurant for some on-the-fly cleansing. Rational? My approach perhaps makes no nutritional sense, but it’s what I do. Another well-honed tactic: There is something to be said about starting an event off with a shot of liquid courage, so that is another food fest rule. For this afternoon, I started with a shot of watermelon gazpacho with lemon verbena oil artfully decorating the top. It was sweet and tart as I shot it down, prompting a handful of fellow foodie goers to ask, “That looks so refreshing, where did you get?”

The answer was Commonwealth, a top Mission restaurant who had a stand for this event and offered the shooter for $2. It was an inexpensive way to coat my stomach with something ostensibly healthy before the delicious abuse it was about to endure.

#5 Thai Grilled Chicken with Sticky Rice from Lers Ros

Next up was the most beautiful-looking chicken and sticky rice I’ve ever seen. I was on the prowl for something substantial but not too heavy (read: fried). I was excited to encounter Lers Ros, a top Thai restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant features a diverse menu including items such as frog legs and alligator. I have yet to visit and try these exotic meats that “taste like chicken,” so it was beneficial to see how they actually prepared their food. They do it very well. It fell off the bone. I generously rescued it with a spoon and grabbed some sticky rice for a full dip in the sweet and spicy chili sauce. My first thought? Oddly enough, that this is how mall food should taste.

#4 S’mores from Kika’s Treats

In an interview I did with San Francisco local and Top Chef: Just Desserts winner, Yigit Pura, he confessed that Kika’s Treats were one of his favorite sweets. I endured the long line to see what spell the chocolate-dipped graham crackers held over a master pastry chef. One look at the torch turning a marshmallow and a graham cracker into a S’more and I got it.

#3 Banh Mi and Pad Thai Taco from The Peached Tortilla

Some out-of-state vendors were present and I was so intrigued by one menu that I had to try all of the offerings. A food truck from Austin, Texas that was serving a Pad Thai taco and a Banh Mi taco? Obviously I had to try both. I got the Pad Thai taco with tofu and was a little turned off by the look it. Noodle-free, essentially a mash-up of toppings, I had my doubts. One bite in and I realized the best part of pad thai: the sauce, the crushed peanuts, the bean sprouts and the lime wedge. The tortilla was just the vessel for this flavor powerhouse. The Banh Mi taco was similarly fashioned, but had Vietnamese braised pork belly with pickled Daikon and carrots topped with Srichacha mayo and cilantro. Once again, the toppings were supreme. If I lived in Texas, you can guarantee this would be my go-to truck after a night of cocktailing.

#2 The Yes Please! from The Crème Brulee Man

Living in San Francisco, the Crème Brulee Man – and his Twitter feed – is one of my regular haunts. For the festival, I had a mouthwatering brulee featuring Nutella and balsamic strawberry. I can now die and go to heaven.

#1 Arepa de Queso from The Arepa Lady

I do not recall when or where I first heard about The Arepa Lady, but like a mythical creature, I knew she existed. Hailing from Jackson Heights in New York, she also goes by the nickname “Sainted Arepa Lady.” As part of the visiting vendor program, she graced us and gave us all a great Arepa gift. It may have the same appearance as a Salvadorian Pupusa, but the Arepa version is much denser and sweeter. Summed up? Imagine tender dough cheese-filled, buttered and grilled to a brown and crispy sweet perfection – and then topped with more cheese. This was, without question, the best thing I ate at the festival. Possibly ever. (Butter! Cheese!)

For the final paragraph, please see the full article on EcoSalon.

Side note: My whole life I’ve wanted nepotism but despite the awesome editor and I having the same last name, sadly, we are not related.

Livin’ It Up with the “Hotel California” Menu at Orson

10 Aug

The dish is called "Can't Kill the Beast," but it looks dead to us - via Robin Jolin Productions

“Hotel California” by the Eagles is best known as a slightly spooky song that every dummy at a party will bust out on the guitar in an effort to impress girls. At least that’s what I remember from college, other than running for the door.

Starting Thursday, Aug. 11, it will be the inspiration and thread for a four-course menu with cocktail pairings at Orson, in an effort to impress cocktail geeks, Eagles fans (we think they still exist), and foodies alike.

According to chef Elizabeth Falkner, “We have made up a dinner menu with cocktail pairings loosely based on this classic song that will change as the California seasons change.”

As the menu stands, before the eerie fog rolls out to change it, it begins with an “Any Time of Year” amuse featuring a bitch of a shooter, bloody Mary gazpacho, paired with a “Spirit of 1969” cocktail: gin, watermelon-tomato mignonette, and cinnamon syrup. You can drink to remember or drink to forget.

The following course takes you to “Such a Lovely Place” with a scallop over corn purée paired with a Pisco cocktail.

Any guesses for what the main course is called? Obviously it’s “Can’t Kill the Beast” with roasted pig, cornbread, pickled peaches, and broccolini, topped with Tabasco butter and Fresno chiles for a little more action on the back of your throat. Holla! You cool the hotness of the course with a bourbon and muddled peach cocktail.

For dessert, since it’s “The Last Thing I Remember,” you get chocolate, smoke, plums, and black olive ice cream.

The saltiness of the olives is nearly nonexistent, and you remember that they’re actually a fruit and that Falkner is the ultimate dessert slayer. To bring even more of the smokiness back from the ’70s for the dessert course, the accompanying cocktail is peaty Laphroaig 10-year single malt with cherry brandy, chocolate, and cayenne.

The entire song-inspired meal is quite the journey. Whoops, wrong California ’70s band.

Falkner joked that on some emptier nights she looks at her neighbor, Hotel Utah, packed and gets mad for not naming Orson the Hotel California.

To experience this special menu, you must get a free code from Blackboard Eats available for only 24 hours starting Thursday, Aug. 11. You can then check out the Hotel California menu for $45 any time you like, as long as it’s between August 11 and October 11. We believe you will be allowed to leave.

Our recommendation: Eat this dinner, drink these cocktails, see a rock show at Hotel Utah, and then dance to forget!

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Just For You(.S.A) Cafe

28 Jul

Just off the main Dogpatch strip, 3rd Street, lies Just For You Cafe where posters that say Neverland and feature the King of Pop reside near a Smashing Pumpkins concert sign: a little slice of my kind of Americana.

You seat yourself and begin browsing a menu that is a road trip across the U.S.A. and Mexico, a bit of everything from po-boys to pancakes. For my recent meal I had an order ticket that zigzagged the contiguous states. I began in the big apple with a Reuben. I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to find decent corned beef in this city and this hit the mark. Most of their sandwiches come on homemade bread but this one is on Acme rye, relax, I totally wasn’t kvetching. Since I’m American, hells yes, I got fries with that.

Although I dipped into the great southwest for my fry dip. Without question the best thing at Just For You is their Hatch, New Mexico green chili sauce. It is tongue-numbing good. Put it on your eggs, fries, home fries or grits but just order a side of it ($2.95) and put it somewhere. My waiter of the day explained that he personally drives to SFO every week to pick up these green chilies from the town of Hatch. Within seconds my Reuben turned into a dip and my mouth was joyfully on fire as I dove into the chili sauce thickened with chicken stock.


For my lunch dessert, I finished off with another Just For You and NOLA specialty, beignets: sweet pillowy goodness. There are only two types of patrons at this café: those that start with beignets and those that finish with them. I’m like Brian Wilson; a closer. Towards the end of the meal I noticed that I was completely covered in white powder: I don’t have a coke problem; I have a beignet problem. It’s my problem, get your very own addiction that is just for you!

The Doughnut Burger: Dining with the Devil

22 Jul

Lucifer melting

 

Here’s some new burger lingo, courtesy of the new Civic Center-area restaurant Little Griddle: a Lucifer burger. You might think that means flames of hellfire or hot sauce, but gluttony will also get you to hell. In this case, the devil resides in a bacon cheeseburger with a glazed doughnut for the bun.

The Lucifer is the exact opposite order of a “protein style” burger, which can purport to healthiness in an Atkins world because the meat goes inside pieces of lettuce. This is a burger that sweet-talks you into mortal sin.

Yesterday we tried one. It required a lot of preparation: The Devil should not be confronted lightly.

First, we made a gym date with a friend later in the day, to hold ourselves accountable. Second, we didn’t eat anything before we arrived for this monstrosity.

Visions from the website This Is Why You’re Fat filled our minds, but we were committed to trying this burger.

We arrived at Little Griddle between noon and 2 p.m., the only time of day you can’t get breakfast. Because the Devil is always lurking, you can get burgers (but not fries) any time, even at 7 a.m.

We ordered the Lucifer ($8.25). Maybe it was because of the devilish name or the double whammy of a bacon cheeseburger that would hurt our Jewish blood, but we decided to go all out to the dark side and order deep-fried pickles as well.

Was it heavenly intervention? We couldn’t have the pickles because Little Griddle hasn’t begun making or serving them yet, like, ever. A lot of the menu was like that, covered in paper or able to be seen but not ordered.

There was an empty spot for Spot bagels above a display of square doughnuts. All we got when we questioned these strangely shaped doughnuts is that they are custom-made at a bakery in Millbrae.

After all of our preparations, we took a deep breath when the Lucifer arrived. The square glazed doughnut was cut in half with the glazed side down, touching the beef patty, American cheese, and apple-smoked bacon. The sugar glaze was melted by the hot patty, and all the lovely juices just mixed and oozed down.

Once your hand holds the doughnut burger for a bite, the whole thing just deflates and smushes together. For all our anticipation, it was sort of no big deal to eat at all, just an unmapley McGriddle.

This monstrosity of a burger was more like a Monsters Inc. creature: We looked under the bed and in the empty closet and were no longer scared. We conquered it! One patty, one doughnut cut in half, a few pieces of bacon, and a couple slices of cheese. Puhlease; we can eat that in our sleep. (Is sleep-eating on This Is Why You’re Fat?)

Actually, we would love this Lucifer just before bed after a night of drinking. Alas, Little Griddle is only open until 6 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends, which means one thing: day drinking! Maybe we should have gone to church.

Little Griddle
1400 Market (at Fell)
415-864-4292

 

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Carina Ost: On Course in My Mission Fruition

11 Jul

Photo Credit: Henri Matisse. Nude with Oranges. My favorite painting.

If there is one universal truth that I believe in, it is synchronicity. Last year, when I moved from LA after a good solid year and a half of writing about food and a building a young lifestyle company for foodies I was unsure of my direction, identity, and next steps. My move to San Francisco, mainly Noe Valley, brought me to a colorful sign that read “Ripe Fruit Writing.” Hmm, my new life plan was to be a writer and no longer dreams of being a reality tv star or media mogul. Two of the six new domains that I bought were entitled Ripeness is All dot com and Mission Fruition dot com. “Ripeness is all” was taken from Shakespeare’s King Lear and is often used to stand solo because those three words are the meaning of life for me, even if not Shakespeare’s intention. Ripeness is All was meant to be my personal growth blog and Mission Fruition is where I would try and talk about my main passion: food. I have done a pretty shitty job adding to both but I’ll blame the luck of great jobs and opportunities falling in my lap for that one.

Anyway, back to Ripe Fruit Writing. It was a writing class in my neighborhood where we had a teacher, prompts, notebooks, and pens and took breaks with hot tea and ripe fruit. In other words, it was the perfect class for me and only blocks from my house. One of my prompts that we did was trying to recall our first memory. What do we see when our mind transports us back in time to our youngest self? Supposedly, this is what will follow you for your whole life. For me, I was probably nearly three. I was just out of the bath with my mom and I refused a towel. I was wet and naked and specifically remember wet hair. I am at my grandma’s house. There are only white walls and then large pink and orange artwork of Matisse nudes, musicians playing in New York, and Asian women warriors riding lions that she batiked. My grandma and I both loved fruit but she  loved her fruit very under ripe and ice cold, straight from the fridge. I hated that feeling on my new teeth. She handed me a peach and it was so cold that I held it to my mouth like it was my egg and I was it’s mother. I would patiently wait until it was the appropriate room temperature before I took a bite. I then remember juices running down my face and deeply looking at the colors, the oranges and the reds closer to the pit.

Immediately I can see how this first memory has continued in my life. First, I still take ridiculously long baths and my mom and I normally are simultaneously in the bath in our respective homes when we talk on the phone together.  It is our bonding time. I also get made fun of for not knowing how to dry myself off. I don’t blow dry my hair and barely use a towel. The most comforting thing for me is getting under the covers wet and taking a 10 minute nap after the exhausting bath. Secondly, my grandma’s asethetic is all over my apartment and embedded in my style. Granted, I have a ton of her artwork but even the pieces I choose are very similar. Asian influences with female subjects and reds, pinks, oranges and yellow. Lastly, on to the peach, fruition is my favorite word and has been since I was 12 and fruit follows me in all that I do. When I was in this writing group we read these aloud and my classmates commented on how sensual that was and it was no wonder that writing about food is what brings me the most pleasure.

Which brings me on to me next subject, did I find what I am supposed to be doing? I don’t know yet. However, I do know that the other day I was looking through my closet and stumbled across some old school  papers. Among them was an alphabet book that we had to make. For my subject, I chose food and while flipping through the pages I discovered that I have been writing about food and taking pictures of food for far longer than I ever imagined. I also remembered in Jr. High doing a presentation where you were supposed to teach the class a skill and I did cake decorating. It was a complete and utter diaster, but again food was my beacon.

Anyway, I can’t describe how good it felt to connect the line in the map of my life from the past to the future and realize that there is a reason that I am doing exactly what I have always done and representing the person at my core. I mean, it’s impossible to ever really go off course, at then end of our lives we can clearly see the path and it will make sense but I really felt so lost just a year ago: new career ambitions, new city, new friends, and new life.  My college application essay for undergrad was called “Why I Deserve to Be Like Merv” about Merv Griffin. First, I wanted to own hotel. Later I wanted to be Martha Stewart and made a brand plan that looked identical to hers. Now, I can say that I am paving my own way and it is more true to myself than I could have imagined. As someone who grew up reading nothing but biographies there is something so profoundly liberating about filling up my own pages instead of reading and following along to someone else’s.

A First Look Inside Bottle Cap

8 Jul

Long before the term douchebag was used to refer to a person in North Beach, Herb Caen (coincidentally he was best friends with my Grandpa, and pretty much everyone else’s in San Francisco) coined the term Washbag for the iconic Washington Square Bar & Grill. The doors of the restaurant have been closed for nearly a year and a hole in the neighborhood was present. Last night the doors were opened ever so slightly for a soft opening and the place was filled with the most varied mix, every demographic was hit, as the neighborhood and July tourists said hello to an old space and met a new friend, Bottle Cap.

White tablecloths were removed and bright blue tables were showcased along with lime green walls and coordinating wallpaper. The place was more of a hip diner than anything else but the wood bar and piano in the back remained.

I came from dinner so I stopped in for the two best parts of a meal: cocktails and dessert. The cocktail menu was classic with French 75s, Negronis, and Sidecars ($9) and nothing signature, although we heard rumors that barrel aged cocktail will be coming soon. For dessert, I had the butterscotch pudding ($7) with toffee and a lace cookie. The number one pudding complaint is graininess. The first spoonful was exactly what I didn’t want, but it ended up being perfect. I assumed that I wanted smooth and light and this was grainy and thick, but it so totally worked. Much like the mixed old and new décor, the consistency of the pudding with pumpkin pie filling texture and sweet candy taste were a match.

The menu features grilled cheeses, chops, and more but it was the perogies that I most want to try. Even with a little hint of what is oozing from within the Bottle Cap we are anxious to take a real swig and try more.

Bottle Cap: 1707 Powell St. bottlecapsf.com.

Taste Honey Harvested from the Fairmont

5 Jul

The smallest rooms at the Fairmont are for the hardworking honeybees

 

​What delivers the highest buzz in San Francisco? Rooftop beehives.

The Chronicle and Bi-Rite have their own colonies, but the bees with the best zip code in town are at the Fairmont Hotel: Nob Hill views, access to the penthouse suite (if the resident opens the windows just after a flower delivery), and ample gardens.

Does that urban splendor result in better-tasting honey? Here’s a chance for you to be the judge.

Executive chef J.W. Foster of Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar in the Fairmont is as much of a bee advocate as beekeeper Spencer Marshall. The bees have been producing some great stuff in their first year at the hotel. The first batch was highlighted with lavender notes, while the second was far more savory with eucalyptus undertones.

Laurel Court has used the more savory honey to cure gravlax and in tartare. As for the third harvest, we don’t know yet, but according to @FairmontSFbees, last week hotel workers harvested 150 pounds of honey.

Starting this week, the restaurant will be doing an exclusive three-course $50 Honey Hive Menu in conjunction with Blackboard Eats. The menu launches July 7 and runs for 30 days for Blackboard Eats subscribers who download a special code.

There will also be a special “hive” cocktail with honey produced by these highly organized, though nonunion, hotel workers. It’s a chance to get sticky at the Fairmont without getting a room.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post