03 September 2011

The SF Street Food Fest and Drinking in Oakland

As you may already know, my wife and I spent a week in the San Francisco bay area for our second anniversary. Honestly, this is the first trip I've planned where the non-food-related stuff outweighed the eatings. That's not to say some of the food wasn't great, it was, but we did so much other super cool stuff that for the first time my fondest memories don't involve stuffing my face. Our flight arrived mid-morning Saturday the 20th and after checking into our hotel and checking out the view we rushed out the door to stop our stomachs from further digesting themselves.

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The original plan was to check out the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, but once I heard about the San Francisco Street Food Festival taking place in the mission on this day only, we scrapped that idea and made our way to the festival.

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The website provided a handy meal planner so I already knew some of the things I wanted to try, otherwise we just checked out whatever sounded interesting.

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To begin, we needed something to drink and as soon as I saw Beretta’s Mint Ginger Lemonade pleasant memories of Taim’s version danced in my head. Unfortunately, this iteration was barely drinkable.

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It was extremely tart and acidic. Drinks are supposed to quench your thirst, not make you dying to quaff the nearest birdbath. I shook and stirred the hell of out of the thing hoping that the flavors would blend, but it didn’t help. Strike one.

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Fortunately our luck immediately turned around for the first food item we tried ended up being one of the best bites of the entire trip. Feast your eyes on Azalina’s Penang Curry Bomb Bun:

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Slightly spicy coconut chicken curry covered in white sauce and blueberry cucumber pickles all served on a freshly baked, steamed, then fried green onion bun. Holy hell it was like the Ringling Bros. were performing in my mouth.

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You’ve got your creamy spicy coconut and tart-sweet and sour pickles. There was crunch from the veggies and crispness from the bun. This bun had to be one of the most interesting sandwich delivery vessels I’ve come across. Oh, and don’t forget the green onion flavor, that was there too. We raved about this sandwich all day. This sandwich really made an impact, especially after the harsh realization that Tony Luke's had completely sold out.

Since I only had two sips of that train wreck of a lemonade, I yearned for a worthy beverage. I found it at the Hapa SF stand in their Stonefruit Calamansi soda.

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Now this hit the spot. Not too sweet, not too thick with a slight carbonation and strong flavors of peach and apricot. Although it did require some shaking for proper enjoyment due to the pulp’s tendency to settle at the bottom of the cup, my only complaint was that it could’ve been colder.

Thirst quenched it was time for dessert. Luckily, I had one already picked out. Do the words Sweet Potato Pie Waffle with Bourbon Caramel Sauce get your juices flowing? They sure did mine.

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My main complaint with most waffles is texture. It seems like 95% of waffles aren’t crispy enough and the other 5% are leaden hockey pucks.

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This had to be the most perfectly textured waffle I’ve ever had. The key was that it wasn’t crispy, it was crunchy. Crunchy and slightly soft. Not only that, but the flavor screamed sweet potato pie.

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If there was bourbon in that caramel, I’ll be damned if I could taste it, but I didn’t care. The waffles themselves were so delicious that I barely noticed. These things got devoured just as fast as the buns, if not faster. I was tempted to walk over and give these ladies a big hug… Whilst not wearing any pants.

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Our last two dishes were less successful.

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The Grilled Lamb Cheeks from Commonwealth were very tender and the mint sauce was good, but I would’ve liked more char and the quinoa salad seemed like nothing more than filler.

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The Spicy Shrimp Onigilly featured perfectly cooked rice, but as you can see the amount of spicy shrimp filling was laughable. It was basically a $3 ball of rice. And with that we left the festival just as the crowds really started to get out of hand.

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We walked back to the BART station and headed back to the hotel to unpack and grab a quick nap and then we were off to Oakland. Our only sightseeing stop was The Cathedral of Christ the Light.

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While I’m clearly not a religious man, I am a huge fan of interesting architecture, and there was definitely no shortage of it here.

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From there we decided to walk to our first beer stop: The Trappist. On our way down Broadway we happened upon Oaksterdam University which had a museum dedicated to all things cannabis--we couldn’t not check this place out.

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They had some very interesting things on display, but the best part was that I got a chance to catch up with an old friend I haven’t seen since college:

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Finally we arrived at the Trappist.

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Immediately I really liked the space. With the high ceilings and great use of natural light it was very inviting. And just as we entered a couple at the bar was just leaving and offered us their seats. Score. The beer menu was very, very impressive.

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I tried many before finally deciding on De Dolle Boskeun which the menu described as a “strong blonde ale brewed w/ Golding hops and re-fermented with native honey” at 10% abv. Nikki went with a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider.

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Honestly, it felt like I was drinking beer out of a wine glass, but nonetheless I learned to enjoy myself:

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My beer was quite light in body and hid its high abv frighteningly well. It finished a touch bitter and went down smooth with pleasing notes of apple and honey. I’m really starting to dig strong golden/blonde ales.

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Whilst enjoying our beverages we got talking to a great couple from Atlanta who were in town for a wedding. If you look at the picture of the interior they’re the couple wearing blue and gray in the foreground. Once they found out we were celebrating our 2nd anniversary they insisted on picking up our tab. Dave and Nia(Mia?) were cool as hell and I wish we would’ve gotten their contact info.

Next up was Beer Revolution.

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I went in thinking this would be my favorite of the two, but it was darker, louder, busier, and the beer list wasn’t quite as good.

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I guess the experience really turned sour when I went to use the coed bathroom and after knocking twice I walked in on a cracked out chick annihilating the shitter. Why would you not lock a public restroom? That image of her bracing herself against the walls is seared into my brain for all of eternity. What a horrible, horrible thing.

Anyway, while there I sampled a few beers and finally settled on the Great Divide Old Ruffian barleywine at 10.2%.

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It ended on a funky bitter note that I found interesting and the nose was very nice emitting notes of sticky molasses. I ended up not finishing my beer as the high abvs started kicking in. We changed here and hailed a cab to Adesso.

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The original plan was to have a round of cocktails, but neither of us were feeling up to it. So we ordered a few lattes and an appetizer instead. This turned out to be a very wise decision as these were some of the best lattes we had all trip (and we had a lot, you’ll see.)

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The antipasti was simply described as brandywine tomatoes, bread, and basil and that’s pretty much exactly what we got.

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It was perfectly dressed in olive oil and the bread was crisped and crunchy like righteous croutons. The tomatoes were very flavorful and not mealy or bitter. Ya gotta love fresh tomatoes in the heart of the season. We cleaned the plate in about 20 seconds.

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We lingered over our lattes and when the time came we paid our check and strolled over to Commis for our epic set menu multi-course dinner…


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