La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival is a celebration of community, culture and entrepreneurial spirit. The festival brings together micro-entrepreneurs, food vendors, renowned chefs, and cooks to celebrate and promote incredible food to over 80,000 attendees! This festival is an opportunity for vendors to showcase their food, while making a living doing what they love. For all these reasons, this is why the San Francisco Street Food Festival is my absolute favorite food event to attend. This year marks its 6th year running and sadly, this will be the last year the festival operates on Folsom Street. Thankfully, they are considering other locations for future events, like the warehouse below. If you love food as much as I do, you will not want to miss out on this amazing event on August 16, 2014 where 90 vendors will be cookin' up some of the best food you'll ever consume.
I was super stoked and honored to receive an invite from La Cocina to attend the media preview dinner for the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It was a true honor to be surrounded by 50 amazing local food entrepreneurs and vendors and to taste what they're cooking up for this year's upcoming festival. I was happy to share this experience with Patrick and a couple of my food blogger friends Sandy from Foodhoe and Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat, who were also invited.
The best part of the event was how much positive energy, passion and love was in the air. You can tell that each vendor was so proud of the food they made and that they were pumped to be involved with the festival. I had a blast - not only because I tasted some of the most incredible food but because I was getting to know the story and the people behind the wonderful creations. It made the entire experience meaningful. These are true artists who are telling their story in the form of food.
Preview Guide to La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival
Here are photos and highlights of the dishes I had at the media preview dinner, sorted by vendor in alphabetical order:
I am a big fan of 4505 Meats. They were serving smalls bites of their Pimento Cheese Dip and Pork Rinds, which were really good but it isn't what they plan on serving at the festival. Instead, you can look forward to their cheeseburger, which I've heard great things about.
I am glad to finally get the chance to try out these Tamales. We shared 3 flavors as a group: chicken, cheese, and pork. Loved the consistency of the masa; moist and tender. The three filling types were tasty across the board but I enjoyed the cheese the best. I think breast meat was used for the chicken, so that's something to consider if you're not a breast meat fan. The filling was generous across all tamales. The salsa verde was also delicious.
When I tasted Anda Piroshki's Russian Sushi, I was instantly in love. We first started off with a shot of vodka and used the Russian Sushi as a chaser. It was a pleasant mix that I never would have thought of. The bite itself consisted of fermented herring with pickled apples and beet horseradish on black rye. It was unique and the flavors worked very well together. It made for an excellent chaser to get the vodka taste out of my mouth. I wanted more and can't wait to get an order of this at the festival.
Bicycle Banh Mi is run by the most adorable mother-daughter team, Jessica and Kim Nguyen. They rocked my world by combining two of my absolute favorite things together - fried chicken and Vietnamese food, serving up Fried Chicken and Root Slaw Spring Rolls. The fried chicken batter consists of lemongrass, cilantro and coconut milk. The fried chicken and root slaw is wrapped in rice paper. It was as good as it was creative. The Vietnamese herbs and flavors were represented well and the herbs were nicely fragrant in each bite. The chicken had a nice little crispy crunch. I look forward to having these again at the festival. I would highly recommend trying this out.
Bini's Kitchen is a catering company the focuses on "Nepalese Cuisine from the Soul". I am a big fan of momos (Nepalese dumpings). I tried two types they offered - the first one was the Turkey Dumplings and the second was the Vegetable Dumplings with clear soup. Both were served with spicy tomato cilantro sauce. We all loved the Turkey Dumplings the best - the texture of the dough was nice and not too soft or chewy and the meat was nicely seasoned and juicy. The sauce brought it nicely together and has a nice spicy kick.
Nigeria native Chiefo Chukwudebe began cooking at the age of six. Her dishes represent the rich culture of Western Africa. I had a bite of her Plantain and Rum Bread Pudding topped with vanilla creme Anglaise, TCHO chocolate and hibiscus sauce. It was rich, moist, and sweet. It was definitely a memorable treat! I loved the focus directed to the plantains. I am curious to try out her akara fritters with habanero sauce that she'll be serving up at the festival.
Crumble & Whisk is an elegant and mini-cheesecake business owned by Oakland native Chef Charles Farriér. What a treat these cheesecakes were! I tried both flavors they offered, Regular and Vanilla Bourbon. The cheesecakes were blissfully rich, fluffy and satisfying. The shortbread crust was incredible. I am definitely going to be back to get their vanilla bourbon option.
D'Maize is a catering company that focuses on organic Salvadoran food, most known for their Pupusas! The pupusa was filled with pork and drenched in a nice sauce, served with some pickled cabbage. Very satisfying and delicious.
Delicioso Creperie started by Gabriela Guerrero, who originated from Mexico City. She served up a Mexican Chocolate and Strawberry Crepe with a mint garnish. It was simple and tasty. I am curious to check out her savory offerings.
Isabel Caudillo's El Buen Comer specializes in food from Mexico City. Her food is all organic and made completely from scratch, even the masa! They served up Tostaditas with a choice of Nopales (cactus) and Tinga. I have a special place in my heart for tinga, so I was really excited to try her version out. It was delicious and really hit the spot; there was a nice spicy kick at the end. The nopales version was also very delicious. The food is very memorable and the flavors are bold, full of authentic spices. I look forward to visiting them at the festival and their restaurant when it opens at 3424 Mission Street.
I'm a big fan of Veronica Salazar's El Huarache Loco and find myself ordering from her food truck at Alemany's Flea Market. We tried the Huarache de Nopal (cactus), which consists of two masa sandals filled with beans topped with cactus salad, crema and queso fresco. The nopales has a nice pickled bite and the huarache was crispy outside and moist/tender inside. It was wonderful.
Guadalupe Guererro's El Pepila focuses on food from Guanajuato, the heart of Mexico. The dishes are created from traditional recipes passed from generation to generation. She served up some delicious Nopales (cactus) Sopes (grilled cornmeal patties), chile negro, tomatillos and onions. I can't wait to try out her other Guanajuato offerings!
Estrellita's Snacks offered Bean and Cheese Pupusas that had a great crispy texture and stands on its own without any sauce. They also sampled corn covered in a thick house made mayo sauce with cheese; it was probably the best version I've had of this style of corn.
This place was our very last stop after eating so much food, so it was a bit hard to fit in. We had the Dynamo Donut with Coffee Custard, split in 4 - it was pretty big in size and the dessert overall was really intense! The custard is soft but still thick and creamy. If you have a major sweet tooth, this rich and decadent dessert is definitely for you.
Pashmina, the owner of Indian Bento focuses on making Indian street food using organic and locally sourced ingredients. They recently received a grant from Whole Foods Market and it's no surprise because their Saag Paneer Roti Paratha are absolutely delicious. The dough's flakey and the paneer is seasoned very well. I enjoyed the nice bold flavors.
Cristina Arantes' Kika's Treat served up Frozen Bananas Covered in Chocolate with Graham Crackers. It was delicious! The texture of the banana was amazingly soft inside and the chocolate coating was dreamy.
If you have a sweet tooth like I do, these fluffy and moist cupcakes will be hard to resist! I had both the Red Velvet and Tres Leches Cupcakes. I enjoyed both a lot but the Tres Leches was my ultimate favorite. It nailed the flavor down without being soaked heavily in a milk mix as I expected it to be. Thumbs up!
It's been on my list to visit Los Cilantros in Berkeley, who just recently opened up shop a few months ago and is known for their crack-like 5 hour slow cooked carnitas. For the festival, they will be serving up some Halibut Ceviche marinated in lime juice, tomatoes, red onions and habanero. The fish was refreshing and I loved the marinade. I definitely wanted more.
Being a huge fan of fried chicken, I was excited to see Minnie Bell's table. Their Fried Chicken was a dream come true. It was the crispiest chicken that I've ever had in my life with just the right amount of rosemary and seasoning. Their in-house spicy ketchup gave it a nice kick and flavor boost. This was the only table that I came back for seconds - three hours later the chicken was still hot and crispy. I can't wait to get my hands on that chicken again and to try their cornbread bites.
These folks know how to cook up some mean Veal-Pork Meatballs! Mozzeria is an Italian restaurant located in the Mission that I still have yet to try. Now I have all the more reason to after tasting these heavenly moist and flavorful meatballs. The tomato sauce covering the meatballs is nicely seasoned and bright. If you're a meatball fan, you will want to order their meatball sandwich at the festival.
Kai Kronfeld's Nosh This offers some exceptional confections. I sampled the Almond Crack and it is as good as it sounds. It's a flaky butter-toffee made with darkly toasted organic Kashiwase Farms almonds, Gilt Edge Creamery butter, organic, fair-trade cane sugar and esprit du sel. Then its dipped in 72% cacao Guittard chocolate. It's so good that it won the 2014 Good Food Award. Once you try a piece, you'll want to have another. Kai prides on using local and sustainable ingredients, if you can't already tell from the list of ingredients above. I also love the packing design - makes for a great gift for a special person.
Osha Thai has 7 restaurants located in SF. I frequent the Embarcadero location often for lunch and have always enjoyed the food options. I sampled their Pumpkin Curry with Chicken and it was as I expected it to be - a nice and creamy coconut curry base with lots of strong Thai flavors. It was very comforting rice dish.
Heena and Paresh Patel's Rasoi was a top favorite at the event serving up one of my favorite Indian chaat dishes, Papdi Chaat. The dish consisted of crispy wafers, potatoes, onions, yogurt, sev and chutneys. The potatoes were lovely - not bland and flavorless like most restaurants serve them. You can taste the great tamarind chutney and yogurt flavor which are the two ingredients that bring the dish together. The crispy wafers are made in-house and were the best I've had. I would be happy eating an entire bowl of this.
Rice Paper Scissors has a very interesting spin on Vietnamese food. I tried both the Beef Pho Roll and Mushroom Pho Roll. I liked both but loved the beef pho roll the best. You get the nice pho flavor without the broth. It reminded me of another Vietnamese dish called banh cuon but more sophisticated. It was simple but flavorful. The nuoc cham (fish sauce) brings it all together. These pho rolls are small bites packed with big authentic flavors.
Rye on the Road is a cocktail catering company founded by Jon Gasparini and Greg Lindgren after 10 years of owning and running bars in San Francisco, including 15 Romolo, Rosewood and Rye. They had an open bar and served up some amazing drinks: Highland Daisy, Aperol Spritz, International Sour, and Old Fashioned. I had all of them and they were crafted beautifully. You can't go wrong with any option. I highly would recommend buying 4 drink tokens and trying each one. Some of the best cocktails I've had!
Guisell Osorio, the chef and owner of Sabores Del Sur, a South American restaurant in Walnut Creek, is a total sweetheart. I loved her lively energy and how excited she was about serving her Mussels dish. The mussels were nicely sized and reminded me of a ceviche - it's unlike any style that I've had mussels before. It was hard to resist the urge to grab another one. I'm looking forward to seeing what other items she plans on serving.
I've been wanting to try Sugar & Spun and was so happy to see them at the preview event. They blew my mind away with their creative Cotton Candy flavors. I tried both Cookie Monster and Spicy Mango - I loved it so much that I want to try all the rest of their flavors and give them out as gifts to all the people that I think will appreciate this. I never thought cotton candy would be so good.
Ching-Yee Hu's Sprogs is a food company that makes on-to-go fresh eats for healthy foodies. They sampled their Rice Scooters, which are fresh snacks made from brown rice hand-pressed with veggies and/or meats. I had a taste of the Coconut and Lentil option and it was interesting. It's like a rice ball mixed with your favorite things. It is usually consumed at room-temp but it's up to preference.
I was so excited to see Three Twins at the event - they are one of my favorite local ice cream brands. I tried their Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich and it tasted nice, silky, and creamy. There's nothing to not love about it. There is usually a pint of Three Twins in our fridge.
I am a big shrub fan, so I was excited to try out Yum Yum Tonic's Strawberry Rhubarb Apple Cider Vinegar shrub. It is heavy on the vinegar side but very refreshing with light hints of strawberry - the nose is fruitier than the taste. You'll like this if you appreciate vinegar and fruit preserves - think of the two marrying each other and forming a drink out of it but not as sweet.
Yvonne's Pecan Pralines is a popular treat. Think nutty, buttery, and very sweet. I'm not much of a praline fan but if you have a big sweet tooth, this is definitely worth checking out.
It was a delight to see Zella's unique offering of their BBQ Turkey Leg. It was very scrumptious - the meat is tender and loaded with a nice smokey BBQ sauce. I look forward to checking out their other offerings and will definitely get an order of Jacked-up Hushpuppies at the festival. They also recently opened up shop in West Oakland directly across from the BART. There is no photo for this one due to bad lighting but I assure you it looks amazing!
Overall, I was living a dream at this preview event and I am looking forward to going to the festival this year. We also received a very generous goodie bag on our way out thanks to La Cocina and the sponsors of the festival.
The Official 2014 SF Street Food Lineup Menu Guide:
There will be 90 vendors participating this year. If you are a planner like I am, this official guide we received in advance at the preview dinner will come in handy so you can prepare and mark off what you want to eat at the festival. It's best to go with friends and share dishes so you all can taste more vendors.
How to Attend
The event is on August 16 from 11am to 7pm. You can get all the details here: San Francisco Street Food Festival. I would highly recommend purchasing Passport Tickets in advance to get some additional freebies - it's worth it. If not, you can always pay as you go.
For the first time this year, they are also introducing a sit-down Fried Chicken Family Meal from chefs all over the country with open bar, unlimited food, live music, and games.
About La Cocina
La Cocina is a non-profit food business incubator that provides affordable commercial kitchen space and technical assistance to low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs who are starting, launching or growing food businesses. La Cocina creates avenues for economic self-sufficiency through food businesses and places a priority on women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.