Media Preview Dinner: Guide to La Cocina's 6th Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival 2014

La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival Media Preview

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. 

La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival Media Preview

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. 

La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival Media Preview Photobooth

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: 

4505 Meats

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. 

4505 Meats Pimento and Pork Rinds

Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas

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.

Alicia's Tamales

Anda Piroshki

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. 

Anda Piroshka
Russian Sushi

Bicycle Banh Mi

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. 

Bicycle Banh Mi
Bicycle Banh Mi

Bini's Kitchen

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. 

Bini's Kitchen

Chiefo's Kitchen

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. 

Chiefo's Kitchen

Crumble & Whisk

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. 

Crumble & Whisk
Crumble & Whisk

D'Maize

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. 

D'Maize

Delicioso Creperie

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. 

Delicioso Creperie

El Buen Comer

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. 

El Buen Comer

El Huarache Loco 

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. 

El Harache Loco Nopales

El Pipila

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!

El Pipila

Estrellita's Snacks

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. 

Estrellita's Snacks
Estrellita's Snacks

Frozen Kuhsterd

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. 

Frozen Kuhsterd

Indian Bento

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. 

Indian Bento

Kika's Treats

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. 

Kika's Treats

La Luna Cupcakes

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! 

La Luna Cupcakes

Los Cilantros

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. 

Los Cilantro

Minnie Bell's Soul Movement

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. 

Minnie Bell's Soul Movement

Mozzeria

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. 

Mozzeria

Nosh This

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.

Nosh This - Almond Crack

Osha Thai

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. 

Osha Thai

Rasoi

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. 

Rasoi Papdi Chaat

Rice Paper Scissors

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.

Rice Paper Scissors

Rye on the Road

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! 

Rye on the Road
Rye on the Road - Highland Daisy

Sabores Del Sur

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. 

Sabores Del Sur

Sugar & Spun

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. 

Sugar & Spun

Sprogs

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. 

Sprogs

Three Twins Ice Cream

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. 

Three Twins Ice Cream

Yum Yum Tonics

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. 

Yum Yum Tonics

Yvonne's Southern Sweets

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.

Yvonne's Southern Sweets

Zella's Soulfood Kitchen 

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. 

La Cocina Street Food Festival Goodie Bag 2014

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. 

2014 SF Street Food Festival Menu - 1/5
2014 SF Street Food Festival Menu - 2/5
2014 SF Street Food Festival Menu - 3/5
2014 SF Street Food Festival Menu - 4/5
2014 SF Street Food Festival Menu - 5/5

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.

Incredible Roasted Pig Face and Wood-Fired Pizza Feast in Fairfield - Feastly Meals

Feastly - Group Dinner

On a beautiful hot and sunny day, Patrick and I traveled 40 minutes to the town of Fairfield to attend a Roasted Pig Face and Wood-Fired Pizza Feast, a Feastly event hosted by Chef Don Stefano and his lovely wife, Bubbs. Don personally invited us to his beautiful lakeside home to check out what he's got cookin' up and to introduce himself to the food community. There were 7 of us, including my awesome food blogger friends, Christina of East Bay Dish and Sandy of Foodhoe. I couldn't have thought of better people to join in on this special experience. 

To our surprise, Fairfield is becoming a pretty happening place! They have a few great wineries, some local farms, and great food purveyors. Here are two facts: 

  • Fairfield (Green Valley) is not located on the other side of the world - in fact, it's actually 15 minutes closer than Napa if you're coming from the East Bay, SF, Walnut Creek, or Sacramento
  • You might just find some good food if you make the trek like we did

ABOUT FEASTLY

Feastly is a website that allows you to find homemade meals and food experiences prepared and served in a cook's home, pop-ups, or any inventive space. You can think of it as social dining or the AirBnB for food experiences, where you're having a meal at a friend's place without having to help clean up. From this experience, you can bet that I will be attending many more Feastly events. 

ABOUT DON STEFANO

Don is a former winemaker and self-trained chef who started out cooking in classic French but branched out to different types of cuisine. He is a humble and generous host who is very personable and interactive with all the guests. It was great getting to know him and his wife. Just simply talking to both of them, you can pick up and feel the passion that they both have for food. 

THE GUESTS

The idea of having dinner with a group of people that I do not know is not exactly my cup of tea. However anyone who signs up to attend a roasted pig face dinner is likely to be someone I want to get to know; I was right about that. There was a good mix of people ages 30s+ who all had a love for food and drinks. I already knew half of the group personally but the other three people who attended were fun getting to know. It was very comfortable and the conversations were all very interesting. It's really fun to be around people who like to eat similar foods to you. 

THE FOOD

FIRST COURSE:

Tomato and Burrata

Burrata and Tomatoes: The tomatoes were harvested from their garden, which were meaty, sweet, and nicely acidic - very delightful. The burrata was made locally just 2 miles away from their location; it was rich and creamy. Overall, I could be completely satisfied eating an entire plate of this. 

Charcuterie

Charcuterie Plate: We were each given a nice spread of salumi: house-cured Culatello, Coppa, Pancetta, Smoked Pheasant, La Quercia Prosciutto, Mortadella, Salami Cotto, and Finnochiona. The mortadella and smoked pheasant were my favorites, but I loved every single piece of cured meat presented. 

SECOND COURSE:

Don Stefano - Pig Face

Roasted Pig Face: The moment we were all waiting for arrives. We all clapped as Chef Don Stefano comes out holding a plate of the roasted pig head, sliced perfectly in half, with coleslaw made from a family recipe and brioche buns. This dish is inspired by Jonathon Sawyer, the chef and owner of the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. 

I had the honor of digging in first, so I naturally gravitated towards the cheek area. I can't even describe how wonderful this piece of pork is. The skin was soft and gelatinous. It was luscious and packed with a nice sweet and smokey molasses flavor. The meat was so tender that it just falls apart easily. You can see the glistening fat rendered all over every meaty part. I was in complete pork heaven. If you were a witness at this dinner you will see everyone at the table stuffing their faces and nodding at how unbelievably good this pork is.

Roasted Pig Face - Feastly

Let say that it was so good that I had four generous servings of various head parts. I also tasted the special part behind the eye socket and it was such a nice chunk of meat. My mouth is salivating as I am writing this. 

bacon, onions, and melted gruyere over a fromage blanc pizza
Neopolitan style pizza

Wood-Fired Pizza: As if we weren't all completely stuffed already, Don comes out to throw a few pizzas into his homemade brick oven that he built himself last year.

Inside Brick Oven - Pizza

There were two types of pizza served. The first pizza was bacon, onions, and melted gruyere over a fromage blanc base. The second pizza is inspired by the traditional Neopolitan style pizza and had an amazing full-bodied tomato sauce as the base topped with fresh mozzarella and fontina cheeses and their own homegrown Jimmy Nardello peppers, garnished with some arugula and red pepper flakes. Christina also received a hands on pizza demonstration; she did great and her pizza turned out tasty!

Christina - East Bay Dish

Even though we were all stuffed from the pork, each of us had at least three slices. I love both of the pizza options equally. But the sauce on the Neopolitan style pizza was really outstanding. 

I think it's fair to call Don a true pizza expert. He has perfected his pizza dough by trial and error within six months of experimentation. The crust is slightly charred on the edges but thin and bubbly with a nice texture. 

DESSERT:

Limoncello: This lemon liqueur drink was cold, refreshing and cleansed our palates to prepare for dessert. We all sipped this fast to avoid the ice from melting. 

Blueberry Pie with Ice Cream

Blueberry Pie with Ice Cream: The homemade pie was absolutely scrumptious. By this time I am happily uncomfortably full, but I still somehow managed to finish every single bite. I loved the flaky dough! The meyer lemon ice cream (the only non-local item presented) was a great addition. The flavors really complemented each other.

ALCOHOL

The alcohol portions were very generous and we shared bottles throughout our table. Don is a former winemaker, so the pairings are very well thought out for each dish whether it was a glass of Alsatian Pinot Gris or a brown ale. 

OVERALL

I cannot wait to go back again! The food was incredible and made with so much love and passion. I admire Don's mission to source his food locally and to grow it at his home. This entire experience was memorable and wonderful thanks to fantastic hosts, awesome company, and incredible food. It makes the drive to Fairfield completely worth it. 

Don also sent us home with some homegrown freshly picked tomatoes!

Homegrown Tomatoes

HOW TO ATTEND

Don hosts a couple of food events per month. You can join in on the fun here: Roasted Pig Face and Wood-Fired Pizza Feast. The $49 price is worth it for this high quality family style meal. I will bet that you won't leave hungry. 

Lunch Spots in San Francisco - June 2014 Edition

June was a spectacular jam-packed lunch month loaded with new restaurants from fine dining to cheap eats. Of the ten places I visited last month for lunch, eight were fantastic, one was alright, and one was pretty awful. 

Of all the great places that I dined at, there were two places that went above and beyond expectations in food - Roka Akor and Chaya Brasserie. 

The worst place I ate at was Rotee Express. My nose completely fooled me and led me astray. Unfortunately, the food simply doesn't live up to its fragrant wonderful smell. Why there are long lines out the door, I really don't understand other than the efficient service. 

Here's a quick list of the new food and/or places that I've encountered, followed by reviews and photos: 

  • Chaya Brasserie @ EMBARCADERO, SF
  • Roka Akor @ FiDi, SF
  • Galette 88 @ FiDi, SF
  • Gott's Roadside @ FERRY BUILDING, SF
  • Hog Island Oyster Co. @ FERRY BUILDING, SF
  • Rotee Express @ FiDi, SF
  • Blanc et Rouge @ FiDi, SF
  • La Fusion @ FiDi, SF
  • DELICA @ FERRY BUILDING, SF
  • Ramen Bar @ FiDi, SF
Chaya Medley - SF

Chaya Brasserie @ EMBARCADERO, SF

The food at Chaya Brasserie is one of my favorites in the area. This visit, I ordered their Chaya Medley, their version of a bento box, which consists of meat, fish, salad, and a chef's choice roll. The fish served as a miso cod that was lip-smacking good! The fish was nice and flaky with a rich, buttery miso taste. The beef was tender and seasoned very nicely. I loved every item served and would highly recommend getting the four compartment medley. For dessert, I order the croissant bread pudding. I instantly fell in love with the nice crisp and flaky croissant layers combined with chocolate and ice cream. Chaya really knows how to rock my world. 

Miso Cod - Chaya Brasserie SF
Bread Pudding - Chaya Brasserie

Roka Akor - Sashimi Chef Selection - 7 Kinds

Roka Akor @ FiDi, SF

The food here is one of the best that I've had in my life. I do not think that I have ever had such fresh sushi or the best marbled wagyu steak ever in my life until I had lunch here. The photo above is of the Sashimi Chef Selection (7 Kinds for $46). The photo below is their Wagyu Flat Iron (6oz) with Maitake Mushroom and Egg Yolk. It was incredible! This place deserves its own separate review post - stay tuned. 

[Roka Akor - Wagyu Flat Iron (6oz) with Maitake Mushroom and Egg Yolk] 

Galette 88 - The Lumberjack

Galette 88 @ FiDi, SF

The Lumberjack Crepe was amazingly rich and decadent. It's everything that I ever wanted in a crepe come to life: ham, melted raw Raclette cheese, caramelized onions, potatoes, crème fraîche + a soft-cooked egg. I highly recommend Galette 88 - this is a must go-to destination! 


Gott's Mahi Mahi Tacos

Gott's Roadside @ Ferry Building, SF

I went to Gott's two times in June. On my first visit, I ordered my usual cheeseburger, a Three Twins ice cream shake, and their onion rings. On my second visit, I decided to try something completely new and tried their Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos and Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos, along with regular and sweet potato fries. 

Gott's Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos

The Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos were very bland. There was a side of sauce given, but it wasn't enough to add in that boost of flavor. I would not recommend it. The Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos were amazing and I've been wanting more. The fresh chunks of fish were nicely seasoned with green onions, roasted sesame seeds, and spicy mayo dressing. 


Hog Island - Oyster Po Boy Sandwich

Hog Island Oyster Co. @ Ferry Building, SF

Hog Island was closed for some time for a renovation and expansion. Upon their reopening they added some new items on their menu. Patrick came up to have lunch with me one day and we were excited to try their Oyster Po Boy Sandwich. It was very tasty. The oyster was super fresh and nicely breaded in cornmeal. I enjoyed the slaw that came with it - slightly on the more acidic side. The bread was a bit thick for my preference, but it wasn't a big deal. I do wish that there were maybe one or two more oysters given because the oysters were quite small; I will just order to add in some extra next time. The sandwich also arrived with a side of fries, which were one of the best fries I've had in the area - thin and crispy with just enough potato filling inside. If you want a good and fresh Oyster Po Boy this is the spot. 


01c96e5c66b1a402654190445bd3ad0f48409c6329.jpg

Rotee Express @ FiDi, SF

The Paneer Tikka Masala's gravy base is nice and rich with a spicy kick that hits you later, but the paneer itself is completely flavorless and wasn't marinated long enough. The chicken jalfrenzy is very dry; my guess is they used breast meat. The naan that comes with the meal is store bought tasting and they only give you half a naan. The rice smelled like hints of gasoline oil. You can bet that I will never eat here again. 


Croque Madame

 Blanc et Rouge @ FiDi, SF

On some Fridays, my co-workers and I go out for a wine lunch. We stumbled upon this place while walking around our office. I ordered the lunch deal where you pick an item of choice on the menu and they pair it with their selected wine of the day. I selected the Croque Madame and it was alright but far from a great authentic and fresh croque madame. It tasted pre-made and re-heated in an oven. The cheese wasn't oozy but rather hardened. I would not order that again unless nothing else on the menu appeals to me. 


La Fusion - Seafood Pot Pie

 La Fusion @ FiDi, SF

I love this place so much that I visit at least once a month. I usually opt in for their roasted chicken, but decided to get the Seafood Pot Pie, which was amazing and now my favorite dish at La Fusion. The seafood is fresh and the portion size was very generous. Loaded with good sized shrimp, fish, and mushrooms with potatoes in a  creamy chipotle-guajillo sauce. The puff pastry gets a thumbs up. I would highly recommend this dish! 


Delica

DELICA @ Ferry Building, SF

Delica is where I go when I want something quick, easy, healthy and delicious to consume. I selected their pre-packed bento box which gives you a sampling of their salads and main dishes. My box came with their fried chicken, a salad, and rice. Overall, it's a pretty pricey place even with convenience in consideration but there's something so good about the food that makes me keep coming back.


Ramen Bar - Pork Belly Ramen

Ramen Bar @ FiDi, SF

The Financial District and Embarcadero area are slim when it comes to ramen. I went to visit on opening day and ordered the pork belly ramen - read more about my experience in my previous post: Just Opened: The Ramen Bar Review - Fresh Noodles and Beautiful Rich Broth


Just Opened: The Ramen Bar Review - Fresh Noodles and Beautiful Rich Broth (Financial District, SF)

Ramen Bar SF

I've been anxiously waiting for the arrival of Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga's The Ramen Bar. It's a couple of blocks away from my office, so my co-worker and I decided to have an early lunch and make it for their grand opening lunch service. We arrived around 11:45am and the line was about 15 people long but moved pretty quickly. We waited for about 20 minutes to order at the counter and then received our food in about 10-15 minutes. They have quite the assembly line cranking through the orders! 

Inside Ramen Bar

The restaurant design is nice and sleek with small tables and counter seats inside and nice group tables outside. The open kitchen was fun to watch in action. Michael Mina was in the house (can you find him in one of the photos?) overseeing orders to ensure that everything went smoothly - and it did (for our experience)! 

Pork Belly Ramen
Pork Belly - Ramen Bar SF

I ordered the Braised Pork Belly Ramen with Wakame, Soy Cured Egg, Bamboo, and Spinach. It was delicious and different than any ramen I've had before. The portions were small but filling and just the right amount for lunch. The broth was soy-based and very tasty, full of rich flavors. The bowl of ramen came with three pieces of braised pork, which I loved and will get an additional order next time. The garnishes were a very nice touch and brought some brightness. The eggs were perfectly cooked, nice and orange on the inside with a slight runny texture; I ordered extra due to habit and it was worth it. 

While I was at the counter, I picked up some green tea madeleines, fruit gelees (strawberry, mango, and coconut), and milk bread with butter and raspberry compote. I loved the strawberry and mango gelees. I would not get the milk bread again because it tasted like a normal Hawaiian roll or Filipino pan de sal; dense bread and more chew than taste. The green tea madeleines were tasty but doesn't nail down the actual taste or texture of madeleines - I wouldn't recommend getting it. 

Ramen Bar SF - Gelee

Overall, I enjoyed my visit, the food, and the service. I look forward to checking out their other ramen offerings and their donburi soon. 

TIP: For those in a rush, they also offer takeout and online ordering. I foresee myself dining here very frequently! 

Visiting The Ramen Bar 

Location

101 California St San Francisco, CA 94111

It's conveniently located near the Embarcadero BART. 

Phone

415.668.7228

Website

http://www.michaelmina.net/restaurants/san-francisco-bay-area/ramen-bar/

Hours

Mon – Fri 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

The Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

Not Your Ordinary Chinese Restaurant - Great China in Berkeley Review

Great China in Berkeley

When I eat Chinese food, a lot of the flavors just sort of blend together. Many of the Chinese dishes I'm used to are simplified by repurposing the sauces to other dishes. This allows many Chinese restaurants the ability to support and cater to their massive menu offerings. I recently attended a wonderful and ridiculously large food feast with a few food blogger friends at Great China and we agreed that it is unlike most Chinese restaurants we have been to. 

Great China is a Northern Chinese restaurant that focuses on Shan Dong cuisine located in downtown Berkeley. I've heard nothing but great things about this place, so I was super excited (as always) to finally try this place out. The dinner turned out to be an evening of good conversation, food snapshots, and a whole lotta awesome food with Ben of Focus:Snap:Eat, Sandy of Foodhoe (+ her husband), and Christina of East Bay Dish

Great China - Food Blogger Dinner

The Food Feast

Dinner at Great China in Berkeley

Ben spearheaded this dinner (thank goodness) and knew exactly what dishes to recommend based on research and his last experience dining at Great China. We ordered a lot of food and dishes were arriving so quickly that we ran out of room on our table. There wasn't a thing we disliked. Here's a recap of the items we ordered: 

Soup - Great China in Berkeley

Sizzling Rice Soup consisted of chicken, prawns, vegetables, and puffed rice. The soup is very light but flavorful. Overall, it was very mellow. 

Double Skin - Great China in Berkeley

Double Skin was the most interesting dish and the overall crowd favorite because it was delicious and unlike anything we've ever had. It was an appetizer dish mixed with mung bean noodles, carrots, cucumber, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, onions, mushroom, and pork. The mung bean noodles (also known as cellophane noodles) are translucent and have no real noticeable taste by itself. It's served cold to room temp. In this dish, it's seasoned with a soy base sauce and mixed with a variety of veggies. This is pretty much a Northern China version of a mixed salad. I would recommend this. 

Walnut Prawns - Great China in Berkeley

The Walnut Prawns were excellent. The prawns were nicely sized, juicy and tender, crispy on the outside and had a light citrusy mayo sauce, unlike the thick mayo sauce that most are used to.  It has a nice amount of sweetness to it. 

Twice Cooked Pork Great China in Berkeley

The Twice-Cooked Pork was rich and full of porky goodness. The dish consisted of pork belly, pork shoulder, cabbage, and mushrooms. I loved this and would recommend ordering with a side of vegetables if you're getting this as a main dish. 

Peking Duck - Great China in Berkeley

The Peking Roast Duck is delicious. The skin was thin, nice and crispy as it should be. The meat was tender with subtle tastes of the rendered fat from the skin. The duck comes with 24 pancakes, plum sauce, and scallions. The pancakes resembled eggroll wrapper dough, which wasn't great and their pancake wrapper was difficult to take a part just like an eggroll wrapper is. The majority agreed that we would've liked it better served with bao buns. 

Snow Pea Leaves - Great China in Berkeley

Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves with Century Eggs wasn't unusual as I thought it would be. I liked the century eggs mixed with the snow pea leaves. I never thought of mixing the two together before. This is something I am definitely going to replicate at home. 

Guo Ta Tofu - Great China in Berkeley

Guo Ta Tofu is a simple dish of fried tofu, cilantro, scallions, and garlic. I liked it but with everything else on the table, it wasn't a favorite dish of mine. 

Overall, I look forward to dining here again in the future! The prices are reasonable and comparable to Chinese restaurants in the area, the ambiance is nice, and the restaurant is spacious. Great China is a must-visit - I would highly recommend dining here.

TIP: It can get pretty crowded, so I'd suggest gathering 6 or more friends and making a reservation.  

Visiting Great China

Location

Great China, 2190 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

It's conveniently located near the Downtown Berkeley BART and there are several parking lots in the area. They also validate. 

Phone

510.843.7996

Website

http://greatchinaberkeley.com/

Hours

Lunch: Mon – Sun 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Dinner: Mon – Sun 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.


Great China on Urbanspoon