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SOMA StrEat Food Park, San Francisco CA

the center of the park

the center of the park

The SOMA StrEat Food Park is a triangle of magic.  Over 50 food trucks cycle so that a variety of vendors congregate every day of the week.  Because it’s a permanent fixture just off the freeway, the Park is laid out with ample room for foot traffic, outdoor patio seating, indoor heated areas, and schmancy restrooms.  Here you can always count on a good meal in a more than comfortable atmosphere.

For a cold night in San Francisco, The Fish Tank Truck offers a great warming soup.  The sweet summer corn and crab chowder was a light pick-me-up, not heavy like the rich traditional cream chowder.  There was a medium spiciness from the pepper, adding a nice touch to the chunky vegetables and savory dungeness meat.  Don’t worry about the corn being sweet – it’s just right.

Adam’s Grub Truck makes sandwiches with a Chinese twist.  Everything on the menu looked pretty tempting, but it was the Falkor that called to us: panko-crusted fried chicken with pepper jack cheese, bacon, and a fried egg topped with “grubbin'” Asian slaw on a toasted brioche bun.  The chicken’s breading was light and crispy, coating meat that was treated with a teriyaki-inspired light marinade.  Even with its own kick the pepper jack cheese, being dairy and gooey, helped tone down the slaw with an even stronger kick.  Crisp, smoky, salty bacon gave it a different kind of crunch to contrast the breading and slaw.  The ideally prepared easy over egg brought a creaminess that united the fusion of flavors.

MeSoHungry Too, the second San Francisco truck of the MeSoHungry family, changes its menu seasonally so who knows for how long the Duke will be around – we say to come and try it sooner than later.  Angus beef, smoked applewood bacon, onion rings, spring mix lettuce, barbecue sauce, and cheesy Texas toast was a tasty combination.  The hand-formed patty of tender beef was extremely flavorful and easy to bite through.  The sharpness of the Parmesan on the cheese bread fostered an excellent balance with the barbecue sauce, which itself was the most classic pairing for the crunchy breaded onion rings and smoky bacon.

Bob Cha had some of the tastiest vegetarian options, including Bibim Bob, their Korean-Mexican fusion of bibimbap.  With zucchini, shiitake mushroom, onion, sprouts, and lettuce over steamed rice with an egg, this was very light yet very filling.  Meaty mushrooms and aromatic, crunchy sprouts gave the dish excellent texture extremes, and the creamy yolk of the perfectly cooked sunny side up egg was the middle ground to bring them together.  We took this one step past vegetarianism and added bacon spicy fried rice, which brought heat without being anywhere near sweat-inducing.

We didn’t eat dessert first, but the CandyBar Dessert Truck was first in its class for satisfying our sweet tooth tonight.  CandyBar is San Francisco’s first “dessert lounge” offering sweets, wine, art, and recreations; the dessert truck is an abbreviation of the lounge with some of the best sweets from the storefront’s menu.  Apparently back by popular demand, we were compelled to try the tres leches.  Both tender and dense, the soft cake was soaked with just the right amount of condensed milk.  Rich and thick caramel was on the lighter side, not too dark and deep, drizzled over fluffy and creamy whipped cream.  The s’mores tart was built on a graham cracker crust with caramel, chocolate ganache, and pillow-like homemade marshmallows.  The crust was as crumbly as the ganache was smooth, so scraping the chocolate around helped to pick up all the graham bits.  Toasted right before our eyes, the marshmallows had a faint vanilla flavor to add an extra element of sweetness.

We did not visit all the trucks tonight since some we had tried before, but it’s a guarantee that there will be something new to experience each time.  Once you’ve cycled through all the trucks, look out for updated and seasonal menus to change.  Bring friends and family, since there’s enough seating, amenities, and diverse food to please everyone.

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Stone Levitation Ale Barbecue Sauce

stone bbq sauce

stone bbq sauce

October is fast approaching and we’re scheming and plotting to host our own Oktoberfest for readers, family, and friends.  We’re looking for any and all things with beer as an ingredient to use in the menu, and Stone Brewing Co. has a variety of condiments infused with its libations.  As a session beer, Levitation Ale is extremely flavorful without being overpoweringly high in alcohol, therefore it’s ideal for a barbecue sauce – since the amber ale’s flavors reign instead of the effects, those flavors translate well to the sauce.  There are more predominant garlic and onion notes with a medium smokiness in the beginning, followed by a distinctly tangy and vaguely sweet hint of the ale.  Levitation Ale isn’t available in all states, but the sauce can be shipped anywhere.  Even dry counties and states can celebrate Oktoberfest, just through taste instead of inebriation.

Off the Grid, Belmont CA

belmont off the grid

belmont off the grid

Mondays.  The reason we dislike them is because it’s challenging to find a reliable restaurant that’s open for dinner.  It’s the day that so many take off.  Thankfully in the Bay Area we have Off the Grid, an organization that coordinates space for food trucks, plus permits, garbage service, and live music.  Tonight we followed Off the Grid to the Caltrain station in Belmont, a city of the Bay that neither of us had visited before.

Naked Chorizo, boasting “Spapino” cuisine (that’s Spanish + Filipino), has fusion food with a good mix of ideas.  We think some of the items weren’t really Spanish by definition, like tacos and burritos, but any cuisine born in California follows its own rules.  We got tocinolog, a plate of braised pork with rice and eggs.  Tangy and sweet, the tender pork was flavorful with good char from the grill.  The egg had a nice texture as well, so it was an enjoyable item to start our evening of sampling.

Since trying Indian food for the first time a few months ago, Zach is becoming more curious about the flavors.  He was happy that Curry Up Now represented with some enticing items, but with a faintly Hispanic twist.  The “sexy fries” are criss-cut sweet potato fries, cheese, and onions, and you can choose one of four styles; we got m.e.a.t., with halal beef and chutneys.  The fries were baked, not fried, and made a bed on which the rest of the ingredients were piled.  Together, everything was packed with spices, like cumin, curry, and garlic.  Lots and lots of savory beef was accented by the green sauce that was medium spicy, more tangy, with a cilantro base.  The same green sauce was on the deconstructed samosa, “an inside out phenomenon.”  It has garbanzo beans, pico de gallo, chutneys, and mini samosas, mounded onto a huge samosa dough mass.  This, too, is served one of four ways, so we went with paneer.  The paneer was plentiful and grilled on one side, adding an extra bit of flavor to an otherwise very mild cheese.  It, along with a sweet sauce, helped to balance the warmth of the green sauce.  Fresh vegetables and dainty mini samosas topped it all off; crispy with curry and potato, the mini samosas were the cutest part of the night (besides toddlers dancing with live music).

We wanted to try SAJJ Street Eats‘ most traditional Mediterranean dish, and we couldn’t go more traditional than the “traditional shawarma wrap.”  With beef, lamb, hummus, cucumber and tomato salad, sumac onions, pickled cucumber, lettuce, and tahini sauce, this was everything that we expected – fresh, well balanced, and mellow.  The fillings were traditional, but the wrap itself was not, as it’s just a tortilla.  Regardless, after having some spicy food, this was a good change of pace.  In fact, if you’re planning to do Off the Grid like we do, sampling an item from each truck, it’s wise to pace yourself and keep things varied.

The Rib Whip was popular with its Midwest style barbecue.  The Holly Hill pork sandwich looked the tastiest, featuring pulled pork, creamy slaw, and South Carolina mustard sauce.  The pork was tender, moist, and rich with a great smoky flavor.  The tangy mustard sauce added a bit of kick, while the crispy slaw provided bold texture to match the bold flavors.  A soft roll made it very easy to eat, though you might want to grab an extra napkin.  No doubt you’d get every crumb of the buttermilk pie, though.  Grandma Ruth is over 100 years old, and her recipe for buttermilk pie is something this centenarian should be mighty proud of.  She does a housemade graham cracker crust with buttermilk custard and whipped cream.  Silky and creamy, this pie is so simple but so delicious.  Our eyes lit up on first bite, and immediately Zach new that August would be asking him to replicate it.

Sam’s ChowderMobile is clearly known for chowder, but since we just did a chowder recipe last week, we went for something different.  The lobster roll comes in two sizes and we got the smaller of the two (“shortie”), but it was still plenty big after having already sampled so much food.  The brioche was grilled but still buttery and soft, perfect for holding the fresh Maine lobster with warmed butter.  The meat was so tender, sweet, and succulent, as it was butter poached, and the crisp celery set off the richness even more.  The side of cole slaw was slightly creamy and its dressing had onions in it, something different but pleasant.

We’ve seen The Crème Brûlée Cart before, but we reached it in time tonight before most of the flavors sold out.  After eliminating those which we had tried previously, we were surprised that we still came out with four distinct crème brûlées.  We took pictures on site, but had no more room even to try a bite at the time.  You can request lids to make transportation that much easier and take them home like we did.  Now that we’re sitting here, thinking about the evening, we have the chance (and the space) to try them now.  In the top left was “candy bar” with chocolate creme base and toppings of golden grahams, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel sauce.  The golden grahams added a great contrast, along with the traditional shell, to break up the creaminess of the milk chocolate custard.  The top right was “godfather,” also with chocolate creme base but toppings of midnight cookie crumble and salted caramel sauce.  This one was super decadent with rich chocolate flavors and a gooey saltiness from the caramel to offset the near overload of chocolate.  Bottom left was the delicious “take a hike!” with vanilla bean creme, “naughty” granola (with nuts and chocolate), and both salted caramel and chocolate sauces.  The crunch from the candy top was accentuated by the crunch of the granola, and this was likely the most over-the-top crème brûlée we will see in a long while.  Finally, the wallflower of the bunch with no toppings in the bottom right, was the lavender.  Simple but constructed well, it had a medium lavender flavor enhanced by a touch of vanilla.

sunset, and goodnight

sunset, and goodnight

Easy to get to (even when coming from across the Bay), plenty of parking, and more seating than we’ve seen at prior Off the Grids, this is a great spot to have a great Monday night dinner.  Bring the family, as your kids will enjoy dancing with the upbeat music, but please leave the dogs at home – we saw way too many that weren’t service dogs.  We support service dogs and other service animals, but only certified ones should come out because we must keep in mind the patrons with allergies or other considerations.  Bring Fido and Fifi their own treats to have at home like we do for our Bea, just like you’ll likely get a few crème brûlées for your own personal doggie bag.