The shorts were short, the cocktails were complicated, and the most popular dish was … grasshopper?
By Marke B.
August 17, 2015 — There may have still been lines for Nombe’s infamous ramenburger, but this year the threat of being trampled by thousands of other casual foodies evaporated in the weekend’s shimmering air.
Yep, the seventh annual San Francisco Street Food Festival was a big hit in its new, much-more-spacious home at Pier 70 (soon to be developed into a Mission Bay-like mini-city of its own, with, as its representative assured us, up to 30 percent below market rate housing, although the details are still a bit fuzzy about whether it will actually be affordable, and whether anyone wants to live next-door to a giant power plant and buzzing switchyard).
For now, though, the wonderful, rundown industrial aesthetic of Pier 70’s main area made for a carnival-like atmosphere, as dozens upon dozens of booths represented most of SF’s most exciting restaurants and pop-ups inside and outside the pier’s enormous light warehouse, while food trucks hummed along the periphery, almost as loud as the rumbling in my belly. It’s all in benefit of La Cocina, the nonprofit food business start-up incubator for women, which in and of itself is a pretty darned cool thing.
Arriving at noon on Sunday proved to be perfect timing — no lines, all the stalls prepped and ready, and the dizzying sunlight and swoon-inducing heat not quite reaching their apogee. The place buzzed with cheer; Hunky Beau and I grabbed our compostable forks and dug in to big bites ($8-$10), small bites ($5-$6), and about 1000 different versions of lemonade (many delightfully spiked).
One thing I get every year, and the perfect way to kick things off: scrumptious turkey and vegetable momos from Bini’s Kitchen, a dumpling-like Nepalese treat drizzled with nuclear orange tomato-cilantro chutney. The wrappers on these babies are the closest to mouth-feel heaven you will probably experience. I love them so much.
Once that bit of appetizer was scooped up, and passing friends gave us a taste of their Filipino lechon (decadently fatty sliced roast pork) from Jeepney Guy, we regretfully passed up the cheesy man’oushe (Middle Eastern roasted flatbread) from Reem’s and the sizzling cumin lamb buns from Beijing Restaurant.
We were in search of some thing a bit more adventurous, and we found it at the Lanxang Kindom stall: fried whole grasshoppers and crickets. Eating insects has become less of a big deal, thanks to groundbreaking food truck Don Bugito’s (who know larvae tacos would be the bomb?) and a growing consciousness about the necessary sustainability of creepy-crawly cuisine.
A nice little serving of grasshoppers (kind of leggy) and crickets turned out to be just the ticket for hundreds of others, too, all chomping into the snack — a tangy hot sauce helped, as did a refreshingly coconut-y Lao iced tea chaser — with aplomb.
After that it was time to head to more surer ground, with a hefty bowl of rainbow-colored chicken and shrimp paella from Gerard’s (a little moister than I’m used to but perfectly spiced) and a slice of Peking duck pizza topped with hoisin sauce from deaf-run pizzeria Mozzeria, where we leaned that the sign for pizza is basically “hang ten.” The slice really did taste like a savory green onion pancake, as the promotions attested.
We snagged a tangy agua de tamarindo from Salvadoran booth D’Maize, and headed inside the warehouse to chow down and check out the vast array of sit-down eateries and bars featuring wonderful concoctions featuring celery gin, watermelon, Meyer lemon bitters, and other bright flavors, perfect for our sudden summertime.
Then there was really only the matter of desert left, now that we were too stuffed to move (what lightweights!) A nice, thick slice of peach pluot pie from Three Babes Bakeshop seemed season-appropriate, and it was gone in seconds, devoured as one of the live bands on stage tore into jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.”
But wait! I wasn’t going to quit until I was entirely defeated. So yes, I headed back out into the blinding light to grab some irresistible mushroom pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors, whose perfect rice pastry wrapping and luscious, aromatic filling topped off a perfect afternoon of tickled tastebuds and culinary wanderlust. It was time for a nap.