If food is my religion, then San Francisco is mecca.
No sooner had I landed in this little city by the bay did I catch wind of the fifth annual San Francisco Street Food Festival, a food event of monstrous proportions boasting over 80 vendors and representing some of the best street food in the nation. There was really no discussion about whether we were going or not. We were going.
The San Francisco Street Food Festival is part of a three-day celebration put on by La Cocina SF, an amazing organization that supports female food entrepreneurs, particularly low-income and immigrant populations, by providing affordable kitchen space and assistance for their budding food businesses.
Thousands of people (I think it's something like 80,000) flood Fulsom Street in the Mission to celebrate one of the best and brightest food communities. From small businesses to restaurants I've drooled over in issues of Bon Appetit Magazine, I nearly lost my damn mind looking at the festival map.
EVERYONE brings their A-game appetite!
Each vendor hawked a small bite, a non-alcoholic beverage (which totally rocked my sober little world) and larger plate running the gamut from soul food to contemporary bites to global street food. Holy Fried Macaroni on a stick! No, really, there was fried macaroni on a stick with chunks of uncured hot dogs from 4505 Meats. They called it the Frankaroni.
Here's the rundown of what we ate:
- Lamb Shawarma from The Whole Beast- easily one of my favorites. Marinated lamb sliced on site and served with a cucumber/onion slaw tossed in a preserved lemon vinaigrette with mint and harissa. It was supposed to come in a pita wrap, but my foodie partner in crime is gluten-free so we ditched the bread which turned out to be the best idea ever.
- Okonomiyaki from Namu Street Food- The traditional Japanese pancake, only with street cred from the guys at Namu. Savory cabbage pancake topped with kimchee, scallions, bonito flakes galore and kewpie mayo. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better- they put an egg on it! We also ate the real Korean taco, beef bulgogi with pickled vegetables wrapped in nori. Sounded great, but the nori wrap didn't hold up, making for a soggy execution.
- Beef Pho Rolls from Rice, Paper Scissors- A stranger passed me a plate of these rolls (sharing with strangers happened all afternoon), marinated hanger steak and herby Thai trinity wrapped up in cold rice noodles with sriracha. Totally glad to eat them, although it didn't make up for missing out on the grilled baby octopus which sold out while I was in line. Sad face.
- Kimchi juice shot from Hapa Ramen- I love the fermented tang and spicy kick of kimchi so we had to have a kimchi juice shot. If I didn't have to actually talk to people on the regular, I would drink this everyday. We also learned about the kimchilada- kimchi juice and beer. Try it sometime. My cohorts seemed to enjoy it.
- Lamb skewers from Beijing- Two skewers of lamb flash fried and rolled in red pepper flakes and cumin.
- Tomato Giardiniera from State Bird Provisions- Fresh golden tomatoes, artichokes and peppers marinated in plenty of olive oil and spice made this perfectly pickled bite the pick me up we needed after having consumed a long list of fried eats. Sadly, this was my only taste of State Bird since the restaurant was closed for renovations until mid-September.
- Banana and chocolate filled empanadas from Taino's Puerto Rican. Holy. Crap.
- Sope topped with carnitas and nopalitos from Chaac Moool- this is the one item I wished I would've gotten for myself. Perfect sopes and carnitas made by instinctive hands begotten by generations of knowing hands. AMAZE.
- Fried green beans with a dill crema from Jarred SF. Fried. Pickled. Good.
- A beautiful drink with persimmon, cinnamon and cardamom from To Hyang that was out of this world.
All of this and we hardly put a dent in the festival. We missed out on items that were 86'd before we got there and because we couldn't fit any more food into our fat faces.
You'd think this would be the apex of my trip to SF, but this was only the first day. Epic eating continued for another three full days. More to come!