Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tasting the Good Things to Come at SF Street Food Festival

Penang Curry Bomb from Azalina's
Fort Mason was the center of street food action last Friday night when La Cocina and the San Francisco Street Food Festival played host to members of the media, teasing with a sampling of food to come at this year's festival. The food spanned the gamut, from the established Off the Grid vendors to the small entrepreneurs who are still working toward widespread introduction to the public. I had the chance to sample some of San Francisco's best, and by the end of the evening I was so full that I could barely get off my chair to snatch that last alfajor from Sabores del Sur off our family-style tray.

The evening began with a tour of Off the Grid, where selected vendors prepared food for us to sample. I purposely visited the vendors who I hadn't tried in the past, which meant I bypassed two of my favorites, Onigilly and Curry Up Now, but I wanted to see what the others had to offer. The highlight for me came from Azalina's, where she served up the Penang Curry Bomb, a delicious and creamy spicy coconut chicken curry presented with blueberry and cucumber pickles on a golden bun. I liked this Malaysian treat because of all the varying flavors: sweet, tangy, creamy and of course, coconut! The sweetness of the blueberries added a refreshing sweetness to against the bun. And what a bun it was! It was baked, steamed and then fried to give both sizzle and crunch, and it gave the dish the extra something special.

Jello Shots from Sweet Collection
From there we went inside for cocktail hour and passed appetizers, and immediately I was drawn to the amazing work of art by Sweet Collection. Rosa Rodriguez offered Jello shots, but these were not your typical spring break favorites. She transforms gelatin into amazing edible art, creating colorful flowers which are suspended in the vibrant jello. It took me a while before I mustered up the courage to destroy this masterpiece by eating it!

The passed appetizers which topped my list included the Brazilian Cheese Bread from Kika's Treats and the Jambalini from 15 Romolo. The Cheese bread was warm and toasty for a melt in your mouth treat. Think Red Lobster, but then take it up about 100 notches! The Jambalini, while not exactly your typical street food since they hail from 15 Romelo's brick-and-mortar bar, were an interesting twist on the Italian arancini, but instead made with jambalaya rice and served with a Creole aioli.

Jambalini from 15 Romolo
Already my poor tummy had more than it could handle, but we then sat down for the dinner portion of the evening where we were given 13 (yes, 13!) more dishes to sample. Perhaps it was bad luck for my stomach but very good luck for my taste buds. In between courses we heard from La Cocina Executive Director Caleb Zigas, saw the announcement of the Vote Your Vendor contest and watched a short film about Estrellita's Snacks, a La Cocina success story.

I can hardly believe it myself, but I did manage to at least try all of the food presented and even finished some of the ones that were a particular favorite. While they were all great, a few lingered on my lips and left me wanting more. Topping my list were the mini tamales from Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas, who will be opening her new food cart at Justin Herman Plaza in the next few weeks. The tamales were fresh, flavorful and topped with a green avocado sauce that tasted like a lot of time was put into it. Even in my fullness I was able to eat my entire portion because it was so delicious!

Tamales from Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas
El Buen Comer's Tostaditas de Mole Verde was another favorite of mine. Shredded chicken breast that was simmered in a mole sauce was set atop a crunchy, homemade tostada shell for a home style, tasty treat. The Takoyaki from Nombe suffered only slightly due to the serving time but still retained its creamy octopus center and charred, smoky exterior.

Lastly, what would dinner be without dessert? And I can always muster up space in my "dessert stomach" for some sweet treats even if I was completely saturated with dinner foods. The winner was, of  course, the alfajores from Sabores del Sur. The cookies were flaky and buttery, the dulce de leche filling was sweet and creamy and this fantastic South American cookie just melted in my mouth. There were eight of us at a table for 10, so we always had two of everything leftover. When the servers came to take away the tray, I pounced on it to claim one of the two extra cookies. Come festival time, I will be first in the queue to take home a bunch of Guisell Osorio's masterpieces.

Celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of  San Francisco's street food scene, the Third Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival takes place August 20th, 2011 on Folsom Street between 22nd and 26th Street. Bring your appetite, a wad of cash (or prepaid passport) and a bag to take home some tasty treats!

San Francisco Street Food Festival (@streetfoodsf)
Sabores del Sur
Azalina's (@Azalinamalaysia)
Sweet Collection
Kika's Treats (@kikastreats)
15 Romolo (@15romolo)
Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas
El Buen Comer
Nombe (@nombe)

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