Monday, August 30, 2010

Stay Classy America

I've been particularly interested in billboards and other forms of advertising over the years.  They illustrate our increasingly unhealthy relationship to food in this country. Take this recent offering from 14th and Valencia.
In other words, you might feel like shit for eating to your little hearts content, but don't worry about it. You can just drink this magical liquid and gorge yourself closer to your inevitable death without the pesky side effect of physical sickness. You've tried to eat well and it just doesn't work. Oh well. A few blocks down the road you will see another billboard that will make you feel bad about your body. At least it doesn't feel like there are knives ripping into your gut.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Street Food and El Tonayense Taco Truck

Street food is all the rage in San Francisco. A growing fleet of twitter based chefs have taken to the streets with brief communiques telling followers where they can find them on a given evening. Craving a creme brulee? A curry? Filipino Adobo? Look for them on twitter and then if you are extremely lucky, you just might get something. Their hours are short, their supplies limited, and popularity impressive. I've had the last couple weeks free to explore my newish city and have found the opportunity to sample the twitter carts exactly zero times. Maybe it's because I don't have an iphone. Maybe my timing is just off. Maybe I just find the whole thing boring. Maybe this is all a bunch of hot air.

The other day I was craving some tacos. Excellent tacos. Instead of looking on twitter to see if one of the army of twitter vendors might grace my neighborhood, I chose a taco truck that is always in the same place. What a novel idea. I had been hearing praise for El Tonoyense so I made a taco date.

A friend and I took a liesurely walk, ended up in front of one of a truck, made an order, and parked ourselves on a sidewalk between two cars. What could be simpler? I ordered three tacos with tripitas. My friend tried one of them, a chicken, and pastor. Her favorite? Tripas.
Solid. As I had heard, El Tonoyense know their tacos. Nuff said.

The current twitter movement makes a lot of sense given the overly restrictive licensing and zoning laws. This makes a the product more or less questionably legal. While the end product does reflect the diverse tastes and population of San Francisco, as of yet, it still serves a very small population. Are you one of the lucky ones who have actually gotten your hands on (insert twitter food cart name here)? I have better luck scoring drugs throughout the city and those are illegal too.

At the moment of this writing a few of the better known carts aren't serving anything up for a few days. In other words, the immense popularity of street food has not been met with an impressive supply.Things are changing and this city is slowly making efforts to speed up the licensing process for the hungry hordes. So far, the current street food phenomenon is mostly limited to planned events and festivals. You're unlikely to just stumble across a diverse group of carts on any given night.

In closing, when I want to eat some street food I don't want to go on a scavenger hunt. I certainly wouldn't warn anyone away from their favorite twitter cart, as the reviews have been solid. However, there already was and is reliable street food in the city.  Visit El Tonoyense on Harrison (and a few other locations) street and have your fill whenever you like.

El Tonayense
1719 Harrison Street,
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade Blackberry Cobbler

The other week I travelled to a super secret location in San Francisco to pick blackberries. I wanted to make one of my very favorite desserts: blackberry cobbler. Just across the bay in the Oakland and Berkeley hills, there are tons of places to pick, but I wanted to stay in the area. More importantly, I wanted to avoid crossing the bay. More specifically, I wanted to not hand BART any money unnecessarily. So I jumped on my bike and rode the three or four miles to the secret location. It was so secret that just about every berry had already been picked. It took just about an eternity to fill a yogurt container with mostly ripe berries. It seems that the entire city picks at one meager patch.
The blackberries that grow out west are invasive. They take over vacant lots, gardens, and summer afternoons. Where I grew up in Oregon, you can pick them by the bucket full. My super secret location in San Francisco proved to have minimal yields. Sorry California, your limited rainfall only retards the berries, not the invasive species.

My favored recipe was missing so I threw a few different recipes together and made my very own.  To make the exact recipe that I made you need:

Mix together three cups of berries
between 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar (I did closer to one cup due to less than perfectly ripe berries)
1 tablespoon of corn starch

Set aside and let them get all juicy.

Set in oven at 375 until they start to simmer, then add your favorite biscuits. I chose drop biscuits. I chose them because I am lazy. They do taste great. Bake until golden brown.
Top with ice cream or don't.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Socialism and Berries

It was with great excitement that I received my San Francisco library card early this summer. One of the many joys of living in a large metropolitan area is the access to quality public institutions such as libraries.

Sadly, certain members of our country, when not sniffing glue or listening to right wing radio, are currently attacking our public institutions. Conservative members of our country for years have been doing their damnedest to undermine public education, much like they've recently fought like hell to keep health care privatized and crooked. For whatever reason, the constantly selfish or simply manipulated would rather see their fellow citizens turned out of their homes and die of treatable diseases than receive treatment befitting the citizens of the world's remaining superpower. Recent cuts in library funding have me worried. What's next? Are we going to do away with police and fire departments, the postal service, and municipal water supplies? If the red scare of the 21st century makes a casualty of our public libraries, I would certainly hate to have to buy all those shitty Michael Crichton novels myself.
Where was I? Oh yes, berries. The day I got my library card was also my first time of really shopping at the Civic Center Farmers Market. Every Wednesday and Sunday people descent upon the United Nations Plaza to freely spend their wages on fruits and vegetables for the week. And on the radio they tried to say that we were heading toward socialism. I mean communism. I mean fascism. Oh boy.

Anyhow, it was near the end of raspberry season so we picked up half a flat for seven bucks. Beautiful.
Look at those berries!
The cyborg girl seen above made a delicious tart, but first we had to go stand in a long line just to pick up our monthly rations of flour and sugar. It was worth the wait.

Heart of the City Farmers Market
1182 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Wednesday and Sunday 8AM-5PM

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Taco Happy hour at Taqueria Pancho Villa

Just about every time I walk through the mission I start feeling kinda uptight about not branching out and trying more of the ubiquitous taquerias. I might be missing something. There might be something special waiting on each and every corner. But I doubt it. While a good burrito is always around the corner, most places serve variations of the same thing. Constant reader polls and bloggers tout their favorites and the same few always come out on top, but they all have their strengths. The food is good and cheap and one's reason for liking one taqueria over another can be rather arbitrary.

I first visited Taqueria Pancho Villa a few years ago and have been coming back ever since. While they are solid for a burrito, I don't think they are the best. However, their salsa bar is great, the seating is plentiful, and you can't really beat the location. Also, they've got taco happy hour. Weekdays from three to five, tacos are a buck, and beer is two. With an order, you also get a serving of chips and a visit to the award winning salsa bar.
While I find these tacos a tad unorthodox with the addition of beans, it makes them larger and an even better value than your standard taco truck fare. While they aren't cooked up on a comal as all great tacos should be, you can dress them up with one of the many salsas and condiments on offer.
A Corona or other excellent Mexican beer to wash all this down and you're eating well. The above carne asada tacos were my first dinner of the night. They also makes a great second lunch.

Taqueria Pancho Villa
3071 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Welcome Home Burrito at The Little Chihuahua

I feel dirty. It's not the thick layer of grime that sticks to my body after a lengthy ride down America's west coast. No, I've been cheating on my favorite burrito places and now I have a new favorite.

A short thirty five mile ride home, shower, and it was out the door for a burrito I had craved for the last couple hundred miles. It was gone before I knew it and I imagined eating another.
Above is a vivisected garlic and shrimp burrito from The Little Chihuahua.  Everything inside from the black beans, rice, avocado, and pico de gallo are all solid, but the real star of the show is the quality shrimp. The folks at The Little Chihuahua use only CleanFish shrimp, so it tastes better than your everyday commercial shrimp, and it also comes to your plate with a lower impact upon our irreparably battered planet.

For the last couple of years I've been hitting a handful of burrito places in the Mission, and this is the first one outside that area that's got me hooked. What's more, I don't even think about my previous favorites any longer. Instead of a grimy, festive, and old school joint, I find myself sitting in a rather clean and modern interior. Surrounded mostly by white people, I don't hear any Spanish. Alarm bells would usually sound. But the burritos are a religious experience. 

I'm sorry Taqueria Cancun, El Faralito, and Pancho Villa. I really am. I will try and visit you soon.

The Little Chihuahua
292 Divisidero Street
San Francisco, CA 94117