SF Street Food Festival Recapped!

Ahoyyyyyy, mateys, and happy Tuesday! My weekend was swell, filled as it was with good company, restorative sleep, and street food. That’s right: I spent most of my Saturday wandering Folsom, eking through masses of people, and waiting in line to try some of the city’s tastiest morsels.

Confession: I miss the Minnesota State Fair. I don’t miss too much about living in Minnesota — my family, thunderstorms, and the megamall are notable exceptions — but I do miss our annual trek to the fair. Weeks before our trip, I’d consider the foods I had to try: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was always on the list*, as were the cream cheese wontons served at the International Bazaar. Sometimes I’d get a Pronto Pup; sometimes I wouldn’t. Ali would inevitably wander to Sweet Martha’s, where she’d purchase a plastic pail of baked-on-the-premises chocolate chip cookies. As we wound our way through the barns (which were sharp with the odors of livestock), we’d swing the cookie pail, nimbly sidestepping cow pies.

Cow pies! Good times.

Now, instead of looking forward to the State Fair, I look forward to the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It’s like the MN State Fair, minus the livestock, John Deere equipment, Midway, grade-C early-2000s pop stars, and flocks of grandmas wearing khaki shorts/white New Balances.

A trip to the SFSFF requires some prep: you’ve got to review the list of vendors, determine which foods you’d most like to try (because you can’t try ’em all), and arrive early. EARLY. Like, right at 11:00. Alex and I got there at 11:05, and already the booths were crowded. San Franciscans are serious about their food.

I won’t recount every item I tried, because 1) the rest of this entry would just be a list, and sometimes lists are boring**; and 2) you’d consider me a glutton if you got the full recounting of everything I ate. (Seriously: I had to take a nap before making a second trip to Folsom.) Highlights it is!

First, NO, I did not try the wax-moth-larvae tacos (or the mealworm ice cream). Jasper tried the former, closing his eyes for the first bite or two, then realizing that moth larvae don’t taste like much. This absence of strong flavor isn’t enough to get me excited about eating insects, though. Cultural bias? Sure. I also dislike bugs in a way that I don’t dislike cows, pigs, chickens, or tofu blocks.

Prior to the fest, I decided that I’d only try foods that I couldn’t get anywhere else (or that would be difficult to get). That stipulation ended quickly. The first bite Alex & I tried was A16’s Duroc pork meatball, pictured above. A bit larger than a plum and smothered in sauce, the ‘ball was tasty — but not tasty enough that I can recall specifics three days later. (Sorry, A16!)

In direct rebuttal of my “no everyday foods” rule, I had a cup of Three Twins’ lemon cookie ice cream, which was divine. With Smitten now on the scene, I’ve gotten spoiled; rarely am I awed by plain-old, non-liquid-nitrogen-produced ice cream, but this scoop was different. After so many heavy foods, the delicate lemon flavor was a necessary palate-cleanser. I am, admittedly, a sucker for ice cream with cookie bits: I love how the cookies soften, retaining a semblance of their shape. Mark my words: I’ll be back for another cone.

Around 1:30, deep into round one of sampling, Alex and decided we needed to nap. The sun was high; we were full of pork and tequila. Nap we did, and once we awoke, we were ready for round two.

Round two was much tamer than round one, this owing to the denser crowds and the fact that we’d eaten a goodly amount. Still, I had a mild hunger: hunger enough to justify a 20-minute wait for Kung Fu’s Nunchuck Chicken Tacos. Confession: I wasn’t super stoked about these tacos — I almost always prefer carnitas or carne asada. As in the Three Twins Ice Cream Incident, Kung Fu’s tacos unraveled my loose-constructed bias. Oh, man: the chicken was soooooo savory: umami savory (#marinatedfordaze). It had a depth of flavor I normally associate with beef. Garnished with diced red onions, brilliantly dotted with sriracha, these tacos were a hit. I only wish I’d eaten two instead of one.

Against all odds, Endless Summer Sweets’ funnel cake was my favorite item of the day. Seemingly brainless, the funnel cake is a true marvel of food engineering; the intricacy with which the dough coils and solidifies is, frankly, pretty badass. So many cakemakers smother their goods with powdered sugar, but not Endless Summer Sweets — the cooks dusted just a few shakes of sugar, followed by a spatula’s worth of fresh whipped cream and quartered, late-season strawberries. Those berries? Those were what did me in. Mercilessly sweet and bright as lacquer: oh, strawberries! I wish I had some of them now.

At one point, twenty minutes into the wait for my funnel cake, I asked myself, “Is this worth it?” The jostling, the cost, the empty calories: so worth it.

***

*When I was ten, B&J’s seemed hella gourmet. Remember the time before artisan ice creameries popped up on every corner? I do.

**Not always, though. The Awl usually has good lists.

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