But I’m not talking about McDonald’s. No! My sis came to visit last week and we spent a lot of time reminiscing about olden tymes (i.e., 1997), shopping (window and actual), and eating. We visited some of our standard places — Papalote, Frjtz, La Boulange — as well as doing some home cooking. The culinary highlight of my sis’ visit, though, was the San Francisco Street Food Festival, held on August 21st and sponsored by La Cocina.
I first learned about the festival about a month ago when Hook and I attended a smallish craft fair, at which I received a postcard advertising the Street Food Fest. (The postcard is notable only in that I pinned it on my bulletin board so that I would not forget to attend the event. You’d be surprised at how many things slip my mind unless I keep tangible reminders of them in visible spots.) So, yes: I long anticipated event, and it did not disappoint.
Knowing that the food offerings would far exceed even this seasoned eater’s appetite, I did a little research beforehand, strategizing about what dishes, exactly, I wanted to sample. After reading and rereading the list of vendors/dishes, I came to only one conclusion: I wanted a Bi-Rite ice cream sandwich. My other food choices would be left to chance — or, more accurately, to whim.
Ali’s selection strategy was much more fluid than my own — she approached the first vendor stand that looked good to her (Endless Summer Sweets) and snatched up a bag of Kettlecorn. I sampled a few kernels — not too sticky and caramelly and saltily delicious.
The next stand that caught Sis’ eye was Anda Piroshki. Growing up, neither Ali nor I was a huge fan of this Russian staple (this owing to the fact that my family’s piroshki were always made with chopped meat, and we picky kids didn’t like meat), but to honor our heritage, we capitulated.
Sis chose the spinach and cheese piroshki (“The Russian Gem”); I chose the variety filled with apples, almonds, and cranberries (“Mother Nature’s Treat”). (If you haven’t noted this trend by now, you soon will: given comparable sweet and savory versions of the same food, I’ll opt for sweet in 90% of cases.) Despite my sweet tooth, I had to admit that Ali’s was the better choice. For one, her piroshki was warmer than mine. The filling was also a lot more flavorful — notes of dill and nutmeg balanced the flavor of the feta. My bite, on the other hand, was a little bland. The apples themselves were mushy, and there were very few dried cranberries and almonds in the filling. (So few, in fact, that I hunted around inside to see if maybe the almonds had been left out of this batch.) Mother Nature’s treat would have benefited from additional spicing, I think: cinnamon and nutmeg, or maybe ground ginger. Further research reveals a potential source of blandness: my piroshki had been made without any added sugar (in the interest of health). Still, the texture and tepidity of the filling undercut any enthusiasm about the health value of this treat. That said, I’ll give Anda another chance; now that I’m fully carnivorous, I’d like to integrate this family staple into my diet.
Where next? On our first pass through the maze of vendor tents, Ali had spotted Zella’s:
To my surprise, Sis (a reformed vegetarian who made a semi-recent foray into veganism) wanted a pulled chicken sandwich and sweet tea. Well, I’m a sucker for BBQ — she didn’t have to ask me twice. We hopped over to Zella’s and got ourselves some chicken sammies.
Served on a basic sesame seed bun, the Zella’s sandwich appeared to be a fairly standard pulled chicken number, saucy and topped with coleslaw. Basic it was not! The chicken was tender, moist, and not at all greasy; it was just spicy enough and I detected hints of cumin in the sauce. The coleslaw, too, had a great, balanced taste: pleasantly spicy but not choke-inducing. From my investigative methods (i.e., digging through the ingredients with my compostable, soy-plastic fork), the slaw was a mixture of red and green cabbages, carrot, mint, and deveined jalapeno. YUM. Couldn’t finish this monster sandwich, but I did my darndest. Zella’s sweet tea, too, was a hit — sweet but not overpoweringly so and tempered with fresh mint. God, I love sweet tea.
And that brings us almost to the end of our taste-testing journey. By this point in the day — noonish, bordering on one-ish — the crowds were building and Ali and I were pretty full. Not too full, though, for a Bi-Rite ice cream sandwich! I chose the chocolate chip cookies with malted chocolate ice cream and shared with Sis. Heaven! The cookies had been made with a lot of love and a lot of butter; the ice cream, as is always the case with Bi-Rite, was creamy and smooth and decadent and of the sort that I would use to fill a swimming pool and then eat my way out of that swimming pool.
Final verdict of the 2010 Street Food Festival? Success! The variety of vendors was impressive, the event supported a great organization (more about La Cocina here), and the prices were very reasonable. (Ali noted that food vendors at the MN State Fair, which is obviously not a charitable event, charge a lot more than did the vendors participating here.) My only regret was that I couldn’t sample more foods — Out the Door had vegetarian steamed buns that looked awesome — but alas! Next year.