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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!