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Adam’s Grub Truck Challenge at the Sunset Mercantile, San Francisco CA

sunset mercantile

sunset mercantile

Sunset Mercantile is an opportunity for the community to come together, enjoying a day of music, food, shopping, and children’s activities. It’s a pop-up festival at Francis Scott Key Elementary and Pi Day 2015 was the second run; an event coordinator told us the goal is to make this a quarterly event.

There was a set list of musicians and story tellers throughout the day, but in the first hour we listened to a variety of competing music warming up: the capoeira booth had a batch of percussion instruments against the middle school choir doing scales, and passing car radios staccato’d by every now and then. Perfect weather accompanied our ambling among the vendor canopies, featuring artisan foods, handmade housewares and jewelry, non-profit representatives, and produce stands.

One vendor who particularly caught our eye was Lexie with her Dino-Mite! collection from Arcata, who makes mugs, printed towels, and essentially any craft she dreams of. The scenes within books are captivating, and the dinosaur mugs absolutely adorable! She makes mugs for her friend’s coffee shop but the patrons’ kids liked them too, so she started making smaller sizes (for hot chocolate, surely not coffee!). She was sharing her booth with her cousin of Andytown Coffee Roasters, offering samples of deliciously dark coffee.

grub truck challenge (9)

adam’s grub truck

We took this in while waiting for Adam’s Grub Truck to warm up. They knew we were coming for Zach to try the Ultimate Adam Bomb challenge.

the ultimate adam bomb

the ultimate adam bomb

Six pounds in 30 minutes, featuring six slices of bread, grilled chicken, fried chicken, spam, pulled pork, bacon, eggs, waffle fries, dinosaur chicken nuggets, coleslaw, cheese, and sauces, a majestic tower of street food staples. Zach had heart that he would triumph.

first minute in

first minute in

He started really strong, taking out the top layer quickly, but soon found that there was more spam than anticipated. There’s nothing wrong with spam in our book, but, well, this was a lot of salty meat.

10 minutes in

10 minutes in

Avocado was a surprise ingredient, a food Zach can handle in conservative moderation, so he separated the “not my favorite” parts in order to figure out how to tackle them later.

about 10 minutes remaining

about 10 minutes remaining

Getting caught up in eating and forgetting about the “not my favorites,” Zach hit a little wall and began to doubt his ability to finish.

final push

final push

He started to pair small portions from each paper bowl so as to knock down the pile of “not my favorites,” but in the end, the Ultimate Adam Bomb claimed another opponent.

what was left

what was left

For his second attempt at a food challenge, he did not do so bad. Part of what did him in were his personal preferences for ingredients, but taking on a challenge is not meant to be easy. Had it been an hour, or had there not been avocado, it would have been a slam dunk. The fun, though, is looking your opponent straight in the eye, muttering “I’m going to eat you,” and giving it your all no matter the outcome.

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!

JJ Hawaiian BBQ, Clayton CA

When we first met, we lived in Clayton.  Clayton is fairly small, but because it neighbors much larger Concord, there are enough restaurants in range to keep Claytonites sated.  For nostalgia’s sake, we thought we’d return to some of our favorite places from back when our relationship was young.  Similarly, since there is a high school nearby, we’re putting more of a teen-friendly spin on things tonight.

JJ Hawaiian BBQ boasts dishes of true Hawaiian fusion: a little Japanese, a little Chinese, a little Filipino, a little Korean, and a little American.  We picked three entrees tonight to demonstrate the range of comfort food versus bizarre food, at least according to the palates of most adolescents.

chicken combo

chicken combo

The chicken combo comes with hearty portions of barbecue chicken and fried chicken, katsu style.  The barbecue chicken is super moist, and the chicken katsu is equally moist but with that wonderful crispness; plus, the katsu comes with its own special sweet dipping sauce.  Just about all the plates come with two scoops of rice, one scoop of house made macaroni salad, and steamed cabbage.  For having so few, simple ingredients, the macaroni salad is surprisingly flavorful.

spam moco

grilled spam moco

Grilled slices of spam lay across a fried egg, drizzled with brown gravy.  Not everyone likes spam, and some people say they don’t like it without even having tried it; for the curious, this is a great way to taste spam if it’s your first time.

fresh pork lau lau

fresh pork lau lau

For the extremely adventurous, put this on your list.  A hunk of pork is wrapped inside taro leafs with butterfish and pork fat (to keep the meat moist).  It was a little too much for August because, to her, it smelled like a brick of tea she got at Cost Plus in 6th grade for a presentation on the origins of tea.  The taro flavor permeates the meat so you have to like the greenness if you’re going to eat the whole thing.  August ate the great majority of it because she was taught that “you don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it,” but regardless, she’s proud of herself for trying something new.

Students, when you’re craving something filling but made with care and good ingredients, and if you have less than $8 in your wallet, come to JJ Hawaiian BBQ and you will be stuffed.