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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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2013 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

We came to Japantown in San Francisco for the day so that we could find every delicious bite at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.  At this Japanese/Japanese American/Asian American cultural celebration, around a dozen food vendors had their own block sectioned off and we were more than happy to support the various community groups that brought out their best for the day.  We enjoyed walking around, shopping, enjoying dance and musical performances, and obviously the food.  We’re proud of all the food providers today, and we want to specifically highlight our top favorites.

chinese chicken salad

chinese chicken salad

The Rotary Club of San Francisco Chinatown, District 5150, made an excellent Chinese chicken salad.  Fresh lettuce, cilantro, ginger, crunchy wonton strips, juicy chicken, and sesame seeds combined for this classic mix, but the ingredients were supremely fresh.  In fact, ginger isn’t usually tolerable for August, but she really liked this and Zach suggested that she stop eating or else she wouldn’t have room for all the rest!  It was a refreshing start to our eating escapade.

red bean soup with mochi

red bean soup with mochi

More like a dessert, this red bean soup from the Japanese American Association of Northern California was a warm respite when the wind gusted strongly.  Giant mochi were like gummy dumplings; August likes gummy candy and tapioca pearl drinks, so again, she had to stop herself from eating a lot of it.

sushi & gyoza combination

sushi & gyoza combination

Miwa Kai Dance Group impressed us with this selection of inari, California rolls, and gyoza.  Inari has always been one of August’s favorites but it was Zach’s first time.  For how simple it is, it was still full of flavor, sweet and tangy from fried tofu, and really delicious.  The vegetables in the California rolls were exceptionally fresh and crunchy.  With seven yummy gyoza, sharing was a hard compromise.

spam musubi

spam musubi

Boy Scouts Troup 58 made delicious musubi – grilled spam with teriyaki glaze, wrapped in rice and seaweed.  Zach worked his way from Webelo to Cub Scout to Boy Scout, thus he respects and understands the efforts put in by the families.  We like spam but don’t eat it that often; usually we find it as a heavy Loco Moco, or we even tried the Spam Festival but that didn’t pan out, so this was a real treat to have here.  The green oceany flavor of the seaweed added a nice layer.

báhn mì

báhn mì

Since finding a great Vietnamese restaurant on Concord, we really like báhn mì sandwiches.  The Vietnamese Community Center of San Francisco made these, like the combination that we tried (others had just pork, just chicken, just veggies, etc).  The bread was great, more like a sweet roll than a french bread, because it had a bit more pull and not as much crunch in the crust.  All the vegetables were fresh and some were pickled.  The chicken and pork were tender and marinated well.

unagi bowl

unagi bowl

San Francisco Taru Mikoshi, besides providing the traditional taru mikoshi, or mobile Shinto shrine, also made this unagi bowl.  The eel meat was super moist and buttery with great seasoning and a somewhat sweet glaze.  The pickled ginger was a nice touch.

The line for the riblets was really long, and multiple grills kept up with the demand.  Asian American Recovery Services, Inc. had a big crew cooking up lots of pork and coleslaw (this picture shows just one of several grills).  Sweet, savory, tender, and for the price as a combo, this couldn’t be beat; plus, you can’t go wrong with Asian-inspired slaw and Hawaiian rolls.

kalua sliders

kalua sliders

This picture does not do justice for how great it was.  Hula Sistas, innovative Hawaiian crafters, offered kalua pork sliders with wasabi mayo.  The mayo was “creamy and with just enough spicy zing that it shook you, but you just had to go back for another bite” (as per Zach).  The shredded pork was moist, succulent, and tender, and the vegetables were crisp and fresh.  Supported by sweet Hawaiian rolls, it was now Zach’s turn to keep himself from eating the whole thing!

kelly's cranes, in collaboration with cynthia sasaki designs

kelly’s cranes, in collaboration with cynthia sasaki designs

August’s thing is to look for a pair of unique earrings at each food event we attend.  She had luck at the Chocolate Salon and the Taste of Yountville, and she was delighted when she saw these delicate origami cranes by Kelly, niece of Cynthia, of Cynthia Sasaki Designs.  August loves everything miniature to begin with, so of course these showed up in her radar.

Zach found some goodies too, from Arakawa Pottery.  We spoke with Thomas Arakawa, the owner and artist, and while he doesn’t have a store front, we will be following him because we want to have a collection of his beautiful ceramics.  Plates and platters, serving and soup bowls, sake cups and carafes, all made with an extremely labor-intensive process, are works of art – but according to Thomas’s Artist Statement, it is half complete as art until it is filled and used. These are dishes that you’ll start to see in future recipe posts!

The Cherry Blossom Festival spans two weekends this year, and today was just the first day.  Make your plans to come April 14, 20, and/or 21 and taste for yourself the array of delights!

Korean Bulgogi House, Concord CA

Today was tax day for us, so we walked around the corner from our local H&R in Todos Santos Plaza and stopped into Korean Bulgogi House for dinner.  Not family style like the last Korean place we went to, here you get huge platters for yourself.

tempura combo

tempura combo

To try a sampling of tempura items, we got the combo.  Four shrimp, four stuffed mushrooms, four stuffed jalapeños, and four pot stickers came with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. The shrimp was sweet and cooked well, and the mushrooms and jalapeños had a savory ground beef filling.  The vegetables for this and our two entrees were all super fresh.

chop chae noodles with pork

chop chae noodles with pork

August got something similar to her favorite dish from her now-closed favorite Korean restaurant.  Glass noodles are mixed with vegetables and choice of meat, plus sides of rice, salad, and pickled radish.  The noodles were cooked just right, as were the vegetables.  The pork had its own marinade and sauce, so she didn’t feel the need to add anything extra like soy sauce or sriracha.

"any two combo" with spicy chicken and bbq short rib

“any two combo” with spicy chicken and bbq short rib

Zach chose spicy chicken and BBQ short rib for his two-item combo.  Also with rice, salad, and radish, the featured meats were tender and flavorful.  The spicy chicken wasn’t too spicy; August tried a bite and liked it.  We agreed that the salad had a nice light dressing, and the pickled radishes were a thoughtful touch.

If you’re in downtown Concord and looking for a cost-effective restaurant with non-American comfort food, make your way here.  It’s very close to the free parking garage and Brendan Theaters, so it can be a great place for a lunch and matinee date.