Ft. Mason is a hub of infinite activity, and year after year we find ourselves here for the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. We’re doing a “staycation” weekend for our fifth time at the Salon, checking into the Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf and touring the City through food. Fitting that our last stop this weekend would be at Ft. Mason, so was our first one for Off the Grid.
We’ve been to enough Off the Grids (like this one, this one, this one, and this one, twice), so many of the trucks here this night we have seen before. But, with a space as big as the parking lot at Ft. Mason, there were over two times as many vendors here as any of the OTGs we’ve been to before, so we found plenty of delights from trucks (and canopies!) that were totally new to us.
At our previous OTGs we had never seen canopies, but they were aplenty here. Fritas Shack was the first of the non- truck food stands that caught our eye for their lamb tacos. The two deep fried taco shells were super crispy and very reminiscent of Jack In The Box tacos, but with luxurious and luscious lamb. With very few, simple ingredients (onions, cilantro, cotija cheese), the meat was allowed to shine. It had been braised and then pulled, so it had a smoother, more delicate texture than any chewier meat you’d find in almost any other taco.
While ordering, waiting for, and eating our lamb tacos, we surveyed Bok Ssam next door and we couldn’t resit their version of chicken and waffles with coleslaw. The chicken was all thigh meat with a supremely crunchy batter, drizzled with a lightly sweet and salty soy glaze. Backed by traditional buttermilk waffles but with a hint of vanilla, the flavors of the chicken, its batter, and its glaze melded so well with the vinegar-based coleslaw. The freshness of the coleslaw lightened up what had the potential of being a heavy dish.
Drewski’s had been on our radar before, so this time we didn’t let it blip by. Zach’s kicking himself just a little for not trying them out before today, because “hands down, (this is) the best fried mac I’ve had so far. There’s a lot that have good flavor but they’re really greasy, or the ones that aren’t greasy are super dry in the center.” The trio of deep fried mac and cheese balls with smoky bacon and a proprietary spicy sauce was served so piping hot, we had to crack them and let the heat ascend into the rapidly darkening night sky. Proportionately, the ratio of breading to macaroni center was on point. The glue holding together the macaroni center was creamy and cheesy, not at all dried out from the frying process. We didn’t catch what made the sauce spicy but Zach suspects it was chipotle; it was creamy but it packed a bunch that sneaked up on us.
Because Zach can’t resist a tagline like “Eggs On Everythang!” we tried the sliders from Hula Truck. The Twin Peaks sliders, made of succulent Kalua pork and each with its own fried egg, were served on Hawaiian rolls with “Bacon JAMMMM and our special Hula sauce.” It’s quick and easy, simple, Hawaiian comfort food, so if the ingredients sound appealing to you, then you won’t be disappointed.
Dessert came in two rounds tonight, the first from 3-Sum Eats. As a special for St. Patrick’s Day only four day’s away, the truck was making whiskey espresso whoopie pies as big as teacup saucers. The cookies’ texture was somewhat cake-like with chocolate morsels scattered throughout to give something to chew on. Between the two cookies, the buttercream filling was smooth and rich. This treat is suitable for children despite the name – the whiskey flavor translated into a muted smokiness to highlight the dark coffee and chocolate. We weren’t about to dissect the whoopie pie just to pinpoint where precisely the whiskey and espresso laid among the cookies and the filling, so taking it bite by bite as a whole, it was overall a delightful goodie.
For the coup de grâce with a little je nais se quoi made à la minute, we had foie gras and raspberry cotton candy – an avant-garde and risqué pairing of haute cuisine by Sugar & Spun, whose owners love to experiment with molecular gastronomy. The tangy tart and sweetness of the raspberry cotton candy base would have been overwhelming on its own without the salty foie gras to balance it, and all at a fair price. The foie gras had been freeze-dried, powdered, and liberally shaken onto the mounds and mounds of cotton candy. Combining sweet, savory, tangy, and tart, with the richness of foie gras and the sprightliness of raspberry, this is something to put on a bucket list. To eat this, one must be wary of the weather: wind can transfer the foie gras from the fairy floss to your clothes, and the humidity will make the fluffy clouds shrink after not too long.
We must admit, we were a little daunted by coming to Ft. Mason on a Friday night. We had only ever been before arriving on a Sunday morning, early enough to find very close parking and also in broad daylight. But parking is vast and you’ll no doubt find some, just as long as you’re ready, willing, and able to amble next to an expansive view encompassing a myriad of boats with bosky hills in the horizon. There are broad walking areas, public restrooms, and multiple driveways, so non-locals should have no issues going on a foodie adventure any time there is one at Ft. Mason.
We were marooned in San Leandro today, after arriving at a store that had the wrong hours posted online. Making the best of the locale, we furiously searched for a restaurant on our smartphones while parked on the side of the road. The phones told us that Porky’s Pizza Palace was not far from where we were, so we followed the GPS to this very popular family-owned and family-friendly restaurant.
Besides its namesake, Porky’s Pizza Palace is famous for its fried chicken. We got a four-piece dinner, not expecting the pieces of meat would be as big as they were! Moist, tender, and juicy but not so greasy, the chicken was packed with flavor encased by a well seasoned crunchy crust. Zach would put money on the potato wedges being hand-cut, but the cole slaw was surely made in-house. It was crisp and fresh with a somewhat creamy poppy seed and mustard dressing.
A twelve-inch pizza was plenty big for the two of us, and even allowed for leftovers for August’s lunch tomorrow. Two pizzas would have been too much, but we’ll admit it was tempting to think about as we placed our food order at the front counter, watching the pies go in and out of the oven. The pizzas are prepared with a homemade dough recipe, baked with a substantial and chewy crust that was nicely browned. The variety of specialty pies cover enough tastes that there’s no need to build your own, although you’re more than welcome to if you wanted. We went half-and-half with our pizza, half Porky’s Combo and half Grilled Chicken Club Gourmet. We skipped on the bell peppers for Porky’s Combo, but kept the salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, and onions. The rich tomato sauce was boldly herbed and spiced, but it did not overwhelm the delicious freshness of the toppings. Sometimes combo pizzas can be soggy due to the excessive water from the vegetables, but don’t worry, the vegetables are fresh enough here that the pizzas don’t become soggy. The Grilled Chicken Club Gourmet was a good choice to go half-and-half with Porky’s Combo because it had a strikingly different flavor combination. Instead of zesty tomato sauce, this half had a light garlic cream sauce to go with mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, and grilled chicken. The tender chicken hunks were big and savory, but the bacon added an extra layer of flavor and chewiness. Be prepared to eat this one with two hands – one to hold a slice, and the other to help pull at the extreme strings of gooey cheese because they don’t skimp on the real California mozzarella.
Meredith helped take our order and she made great recommendations, and standing near her was the owner himself who told us about the celebrations coming up in September. Porky’s Pizza Palace has been a San Leandro landmark for 50 years now, so festivities are being planned for this incredible anniversary. The city should be proud to be home of this restaurant that has been a part of the community for so long.
Hot dogs, bock wurst, or kielbasa, this recipe can be done with a variety of links to please any guest. What ties the coleslaw and link flavors together is the bacon. We did a recipe for Sonora dogs not long ago, so you can check out pictures there for insight into the process. For our Bacon Blow Out dinner party last night, Chef Zach served his dogs with a creamy and mild coleslaw, which by itself was the perfect condiment to offset the savory meat.
For 15 people
15 hot dogs (although we snuck in a few bock wurst to try out)
15 hot dog buns
15 strips of Applewood Natural Sunday bacon
1 green cabbage head, shredded
1 red cabbage head, shredded
4 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of buttermilk
4 tsp. of Beaver Brand Sweet Hot mustard
2 tbs. of white sugar
The juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. of cayenne pepper
Mix mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustard, lime juice, and sugar to make the dressing for the coleslaw. Let the dressing marry for about an hour in the refrigerator.
Wrap each hot dog with a strip of bacon. Secure with toothpicks. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F to warm the buns later.
If you have multiple levels in your grill, Chef Zach recommends that you first place the hot dogs on the top rack to help render some of the fat. Let the fat drip down but expect flare ups, so be prepared to move the hot dogs around to avoid flames. Therefore, you don’t want to overload the grill, because you need room to move around the hot dogs.
After about 6 minutes, place the buns on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for 6 minutes, leaving the hot dogs on the grill for a total of 12 minutes.
While the hot dogs are on the grill and the buns are heating, take the dressing from the refrigerator and fold the dressing and shredded vegetables with tongs.
Remove the toothpicks from the hot dogs, place in the buns, and pile the cole slaw on the hot dogs (and offer a fork, as well).