Sustainable, Local and Really Delicious!
What could be better than good food, good drink, and lots of sleep? Doing it with the one you love—ah, life is good! Or so our favorite t-shirts say. Last week’s Street Food Festival in San Francisco was a bust. Fast forward to this weekend’s follow-on event, Eat Real, in Oakland where we found more food, more space and more sunshine than we could handle. Oh, we tried to eat everything in sight, but pulled back from the edge in time to save our stomachs from over stuffing – barely.
When you’re as food obsessed as we are, it’s hard to walk away from the lobster rolls or the ramen or the pulled pork sliders or the spicy sweet Mexican ice pops or the … you get the idea. The bits we did eat were delicious (OK, we didn’t love the vegan “donut”) and perfectly priced. While the lines grew and drifted, they moved quickly enough. With two of us standing in separate lines, we were able to cover more ground in less time which meant more food and a greater mix of impromptu conversations with other die-hards. It also helped that we arrived at Jack London Square before noon and before the crush of weekend warriors.
We got started with a refreshing “virgin” pomegranate Mojito. The price was right at $1 and the icy drink took the edge off the rising temperature. With our drink in hand, we stopped at Pizza Politana’s stand for a piece of their perfect thin crust pie with greens and other things, for $4. We wandered through the crowd and made our way to an out-of-the-way Latin American stand where the good cooks were grilling papusas and serving up delicious fresh ceviche. We bought the $5 ceviche tostada plate and the two of us gorged on a very generous portion of this amazing fish. The ceviche was still cold and tasted great. We don’t think it would be one of those things you would want to eat later on such a hot day, but it was so early in the festival we felt safe in eating the chemically cooked seafood.
A ceviche tostada in each belly, we set off to explore the rest of the booths and the large indoor expo of vendors that included picklers, raw milk evangelists, endive champions, our favorite Capay Valley farm and more interesting and unusual foods than you’re likely to find in many other places. We poked around, took some pictures and headed back outside to get in line for the next round – Korean “tacos” and fresh pulled mozzarella cheese and heirloom tomatoes.
Let me just say that the mozzeralla and tomato salad from Jon’s Street Eats was the best thing we had at the festival. The freshly pulled mozzarella was being made on-site and the plates were prepped a la minute. The cheese was still warm and formless when it hit the plate. This was so much better than any mozzeralla I’ve purchased from cheese shops and grocery stores. It was heaven on earth! The plate was finished with large white crystals of sea salt, pepper, and olive oil, but really it didn’t need it. The warm cheese and the fresh tomatoes were perfect. It put our tomato mozzaralla salads to shame. I’ve put Steve on a quest to make home-made mozzarella (we update you when that happens).
The Seoul on Wheels Korean taco was good. It consisted of thinly-sliced spicy pork and kim che (fermented cabbage, similar to saurekaut). Worth the wait and just enough for each of us to get a good taste.
We found Oren’s Kitchen, a tiny stand serving deliciously roasted and flavored nuts by the cone. We opted for the fragrant Ajwan Cashews, but we were tempted by the Rosemary Almonds, Smoked Paprika Pecans and Coconut Chili Cashews too. Thank goodness for modest restraint. The adorable little girl serving them up undoubtedly made the nut meats just a little sweeter and we’re sure that if she’d been a little less shy she could have talked us into buying more. Thank you for a memorable treat!
It would seem that no real street food event would be complete today without the elusive Creme Brulee Guy. Finally, our first encounter with a man who has become synonymous with the gentrification (improvement?) of street food. We took our places in a well meaning line that tried to keep its composure, but we all wanted to watch the man torch those cool creamy custards. While we waited, Steve ran over to the popchips tent to grab a free bag of the potato chips taking San Francisco by storm. They were a sort of salty preparation for the contrast of creamy sweetness soon to come. We’d read the rave reviews of the lavender creme brullee and placed our order. Yes, the creme brulee was exceptional and the lavender flavor was so subtle and fine, it was hard to believe the cows that produced the cream hadn’t been grazing on it. Perfect! And Curtis, the man behind the cart, served everyone graciously. It seemed he thanked everyone who stopped by.
We weren’t done after that perfect dessert. No, we needed to make a couple more stops to prove a point to our bellies. We’d been better off just hitting the road, but when presented with so many delicious options, we just couldn’t leave. Our thought was to end with one of the several pulled meat slider/sandwich options and headed back to the mojito van for a brisket sandwich and some potato salad. The salad wasn’t half bad, but the sandwich was dry and uninspired. Too bad. It has such promise.
Sadly, we didn’t escape our gluttony in time to avoid the vegan “donut” from Wholesome Bakery. We ordered a chocolate donut from a very friendly person and headed off into the heat and toward the exit. We each took a bite and felt the same disappointment upon realizing we’d been given a cinnamon one instead. It was meant to be a cake donut, but the texture was too dense and the cake wasn’t sweet or fragrant. They seem to be getting great press. We’ll have to give one of their other products a try … some time.
The organizers are to be commended for pulling off such a well intended, well attended event. Oakland is better for it and so are those of us who soaked it up. Here’s hoping for many more real food festivals. Great food is always worth celebrating.
One last word of thanks to Food & Water Watch for supplying free drinking water to those who brought their own containers. It sent a great message to thousands of people. We all need to give up our mass bottled warehouse water. We’ll have it from the tap, thank you!