Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mama Cass - Trio of Sliders

It's been a few months since I sat down to chat with Cass Pham Thacher, owner and creator of Mama Cass, and since then I have had her Vietnamese sliders on the brain. Even though her truck has since launched and she has been all around the city with her sliders, it was only recently that I finally got to taste her culinary inventions. They are, in two words, pure magic.

When we chatted before her launch, Thacher described her sliders and the process she undertook in creating them. My interest was piqued because it's such an inventive concept, one that really encapsulates the mobile food movement. She began with some classic Vietnamese flavors, mixed them up a bit to create something that was personally pleasing to her and served them up in a small bun that could be held in one hand. It's a brilliant concept with unlimited potential for new varieties.

Mama Cass' permitted location is at 401 Mission Bay, but the truck recently made an appearance at the SF Kids Festival, an outdoor concert that benefited edMatch and the San Francisco Public School System. This was a fitting event considering her sliders were born from a quest to get her own children to try some new flavors on a familiar vessel. The lawnful of families and children gave her a captive audience, and her queue was consistently long throughout the day.

Since I wanted to try them all, I chose three sliders from her menu: Shaking Beef, Pork Meatball and Chicken Sliders. They all had a similar outward appearance, presented on a miniature golden Panorama brioche bun and universally contained Sriracha aioli, making them all a bit spicy. The similarities ended there, however, and each slider had its own distinctive and unique taste.

My favorite of the bunch was the Shaking Beef Slider, and after my first bite I was glad that hubby swore off bovine so that I wouldn't have to share. The beef filling was super moist and tender, and the preparation gave it a very pleasing overall texture. The marinade was sweet, blending in quite nicely with the soft sweet brioche. It worked well with the spicy Sriracha aioli, which came across as more of a subtle aftertaste. Cool, crunchy cucumbers sat atop the filling, and their neutrality added some color and texture without conflicting with the sweet and spicy.

While the beef was my favorite, that is not to say that the other two were less than stellar. They were both really, really tasty! The Chicken Slider's highlight was the nice char that gave it not only a deep, smoky flavor, but also a nice crispiness. Thacher adds her Sriracha aioli to all of her sliders, so this registered the same as the beef on the spice meter, but it was balanced by the coolness of some avocado slices on top.

The last of the trio was a BBQ Pork Meatball Slider that was the spiciest of the bunch but also the sauciest. There was a pleasant combination of both salty and sweet, primarily due to the sauce, and the pork had a soft, juicy bite. Though the BBQ was inherently sweet, there was a nice smokiness hidden in that slider that only really came out after swallowing. A little bitter arugula added another dimension. Out of the three, this had the most complexity of flavors, which certainly added to its charm.

Overall I thought all of the sliders were great. I just wished I had more! They are a little on the small side, and while they were great for sampling, they were not enough for lunch. Unfortunately the line was much too long to go back for seconds, so I had to be satisfied with what I had. Next time, I'll know to add in a few more.

Rating: 4/5 (ratings guide)

Mama Cass (@gomamacass) $8.00 for two sliders, $12.00 for three sliders

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