Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)

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Cranberry sauce is used/eaten like jam at our house. It’s cooked up in batches and used on everything from the Thanksgiving bird to toast every morning for the next several weeks. It’s also eaten with peanut butter and poured over ice cream. It’s pretty versatile. That’s why I hesitate just calling it “cranberry sauce.” It’s very limiting.

I decided to start this season’s batch early because I wanted one less thing to do for Turkey Day, and it keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks anyway. The second jar went straight into the freezer for later use.

This recipe is so easy to make, so reliably delicious, that my official taste tester (my 4 year old) grabs a bowl of it every time it’s fresh off the stove.

And remember, it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

Simple Cranberry Jam (Sauce)

– 2 twelve ounce packages of fresh cranberries. If frozen, thaw before using.

– 1 cup granulated sugar

– 1 cup water

Combine all ingredients into a saucepan and let it come up to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom and sides of the pan. The cranberries will pop and hiss as they get hot.

20131117_201407Then, turn down the heat and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. Once the mixture is shiny and coats the back of your spoon, it should be done. It will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.

ImageLet it cool for 30 minutes or so before placing into a tupperware, bowl, or mason jars for freezing/storing. It should keep for 2 weeks.

Fall is pear season…and this is the perfect pear.

“Oh my God, these pears are beyond words! Where can we get some more of these?”

Those were the first words out of my husband’s mouth after tasting his first Warren Pear. The folks at Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood are one of the few farms in the country to grow this specific type since they can be a bit difficult to grow. But it’s SO worth it!

They were nice enough to send me a box to sample since they were blessed with a stellar crop this year. Fall may be apple season to most, but for these guys, it’s the start of pear season.

I had every intention of doing something fun with these pears…like putting them into pre-made pie crust and making a lovely pear galette, placing some slices in a grilled cheese sandwich, or coring them and placing some maple syrup, raisins and cinnamon down the middle to make some perfect baked pears. The texture on these is wonderfully firm so they’d hold up better to baking then some other more common varieties.

But in the end, my husband and toddler couldn’t stay away. I let them have two of the six we received to eat and try and they were instantly hooked. These are simply the perfect pear: ridiculously sugary sweet with a creamy buttery texture and aftertaste. There’s no hint of any grainy, mealy mouthfeel. You have to taste these things to believe it.

Recipe for Frog Hollow Farm/Chez Panisse’s Warren Pear Crisp

You can order these puppies online at http://www.froghollow.com or find them at select Whole Foods Markets. They’re also popping up all over restaurants in the Bay Area.

*This is not a paid post. Free product was received but not in exchange for content.

Aida Mollenkamp’s Top 11 Spots for Bay Area Foodies

Aida Mollenkamp. Photo by Julie Michelle
Aida Mollenkamp. Photo by Julie Michelle

Recently named one of the eight sexiest women on TV cooking shows, Aida Mollenkamp also happens to have a wealth of culinary expertise and knowledge in addition to being a hot TV food personality.

The host and co-creator of the television show “FoodCrafters” and “Ask Aida” she attended Cornell University and then the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu in Paris where she studied culinary AND pastry arts. She ended up in San Francisco when she became one of the editors of the online food magazine, CHOW. Currently, she’s working on her first cookbook, tentatively titled, “Keys to the Kitchen,” due out in 2012.

She recently took some time out of her hectic schedule to tell me about her love of food and the top spots in the Bay Area she’d recommend for food fiends like herself (that aren’t restaurants).

Elaine: You call yourself a “long-time food fiend.” Where does your love of food come from?

Aida: Oh, that’s a hard one. It’s like asking me why I like to dance (she’s a former classical dancer) — it’s just the way it is and always has been. My family showed me to respect food and through gardening and shopping with my mom, I also learned where my food came from. But, I guess there was this kismet moment in my teen years where I realized that food was like a cipher to understanding various cultures. From that moment on, I’ve looked at cooking as a means of traveling through my tastebuds.

Elaine: Where did the idea for your show “FoodCrafters” come from?

Aida: My friends would say the show is just an extension of how I naturally live as I’m constantly hunting down new tastes and food stories. The real story is that it is a creative collaboration with a producer I worked with on “Ask Aida.” We shared a passion for good quality food and would constantly trade stories about the latest tastes she hunted down in Brooklyn and those I had found in San Francisco. “FoodCrafters” became this natural fit of a show where my passions could be explored while giving the small guy the spotlight as we uncover foods, flavors, and stories from around the nation.

Elaine: You’ve lived in some of the best food areas in the world: Los Angeles, New York, Florence, Paris, and now San Francisco. How is the Bay Area different from all of them, food-wise?

Aida: Each city I’ve lived in has its own culture, and with it, its own food personality. San Francisco’s food scene is integrated into our daily lives in a way that I’ve only seen in Europe, but it’s also decidedly Californian as we’re simultaneously playful, respectful, and creative.

Aida Mollenkamp. Photo by Julie Michelle
Aida Mollenkamp. Photo by Julie Michelle

Elaine: What are the Top Eleven places in the Bay Area that you’d recommend for food lovers?

Aida: Here’s my list:

  1. The Pasta Shop — 1784 Fourth St., Berkeley
    I don’t remember the first time I went to The Pasta Shop, but I do recall that I liked the selection so much I considered convincing them to let me live there. Everything from 4505 Meats‘ chicarrones to sodas I’ve never seen this side of the Atlantic, they do a marked job curating their food and everyone on the staff is highly knowledgeable.
  2. Cheese Plus — 2001 Polk St., S.F.
    When I first moved to SF, I lived in Pacific Heights and would walk to work and quickly got in the habit of making a detour to Cheese Plus. As the name suggests, there’s not just cheese and I’ve also discovered instant favorites like crackers from The Fine Cheese Co. I’d spend the majority of my meager start-up salary on all the treats in there and have my friends laughing that instead of buying designer shoes, I was splurging on rare cheeses.
  3. Bi-Rite Market — 3639-18th St., S.F.
    It’s a 5-minute walk from my place to Bi-Rite Market, so I have become a regular there. In fact, I credit my many trips to Bi-Rite — where I discovered new foods and their backstories — as the source of my idea for FoodCrafters.
  4. Miette Confiserie — 449 Octavia St., S.F.
    With décor right out of the pages of a Roald Dahl book, Miette is as aesthetically pleasing as it is tasty. I lived in Hayes Valley when the confiserie opened and was immediately drawn to the carefully selected sweets, including chocolates from all over the world.
  5. City Beer Store — 1168 Folsom St., S.F.
    I arrived in San Francisco a wine drinker, but have been versed in the world of cocktails and beer thanks to knowledgeable places like City Beer Store, where there are always new beers to discover.
  6. Nest — 2300 Fillmore St., S.F.
    When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was over in Pacific Heights and would longingly walk by the eclectic boutique, Nest, everyday. When CHOW went from print to online, I treated myself by buying a set of hobnail glasses that I’ve kept to this day.
  7. Heritage Culinary Artifacts — Oxbow Market, 610 First St., Napa
    The Ferry Plaza is unparalleled — except perhaps by downtown Napa’s Oxbow Market. There’s an antique store there, Heritage Artifacts, that I became addicted to when we filmed in the market for last fall’s FoodCrafters.
  8. Heath Factory Store — 400 Gate 5 Rd., Sausalito
    Heath has a cult following among the food and prop styling crowd, but it’s not all that affordable unless you go to the factory store. When I first found out about it, I headed over in an absurdly large van thinking there was no way I needed all that space. But a few dollars and a couple of hours later, I filled the van to the brim with boxes and boxes of discounted, yet still gorgeous plateware.
  9. McEvoy Olive Oil Ranch — 5935 Red Hill Rd., Petaluma
    There’s moments when you travel somewhere and the environment has just as much impact as the food. The McEvoy Olive Oil farm in Sonoma is one of those places. But be warned: by the end of their tour, you may be considering olive oil farming as a new career.
  10. The Marshall Store — 19225 California 1, Marshall
    Definitely the farthest I’ve ever driven for oysters, The Marshall Store is as out of the way as it comes but is worth the trek. Fresh oysters, tangy BBQ sauce, and cold beer — need I say more?
  11. The Tourist Club — 30 Ridge Ave., Mill Valley
    It’s the hidden gems of the Bay Area that make it ever more interesting and Tourist Club is one of those very places. A few miles deep into the Muir Woods, the Tourist Club is a century-old German brauhaus that is closed to the public, except for a few hours each weekend. After an exhausting hike of Mt. Tam, there’s nothing better than pitchers of draft beer with friends on the Tourist Club’s sunny deck.

*Cross posted on Bay Area Bites

Foodies Have Their Pick of Online Coupon Sites

collage of online coupon websites

Courtesy of Bay Area Bites/Wendy Goodfriend

It’s no secret that online coupons are exploding in popularity, especially for foodies looking to spend less on a great meal. I’ve purchased more than my fair share. And a recent study released by BlogHer even states that 51% of all women online are using coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

However, a recent New York Times article discussed whether restaurants actually benefit from the online coupon trend. It seems to be a trade-off with some establishments finding them a positive marketing tool while others claiming the discounts do not boost profits.

Let’s breakdown the different types of online coupon sites recently popular with food lovers.

Sites like Scoutmob and Blackboard Eats offer users a discount passcode to various eateries that they can access on their mobile phones and use the next time they frequent that business. There’s no pre-purchasing a certificate or gift card, involved. Blackboard Eats, however, does charge $1 for each passcode you want, or a fee of $20 for unlimited access to their discounts for one year.

Restaurant.com allows you to purchase gift certificates to a large list of pre-determined restaurants affiliated with the site, at a huge discount. Many times, you can find a discount code online for up to 80% off the listed price, which can bring a $25 gift certificate down to $5. There are many restrictions, though, and they differ with each restaurant, so it pays to read the fine print before you confirm your order.

That brings us to sites like DealPulp, TownHog, LivingSocial and Groupon, which require you to pre-pay for a largely discounted deal at a variety of different merchants, including eateries. Deals are usually 50% off or more, and have less restrictions than a certificate from Restaurant.com. Deals change daily, so you have a limited amount of time to purchase it.

There have been horror stories of some merchants being overwhelmed by the popularity of their online coupon or discount, and not being able to handle the response. But the owner of Milkshake Werks, Leslie Widmann in Redwood Shores had a great experience working with one of these sites.

“Groupon helped us set up a structure that would be good for our business. It was a great experience for us. The result was almost instant increased awareness of our business. Even folks who didn’t purchase the offer came by because they didn’t know about us. Now many of them are regulars.”

But success in the world of online coupons for a merchant doesn’t necessarily translate into dollars. It’s more about marketing.

Widmann explains, “You have to look at it in terms of effective advertising and where you’re going to spend your ad and marketing dollars. We’ve done some print ads and the effect was very subtle. The urgency and instant name recognition of a site like Groupon sparks excitement and people feel like they have to take advantage of the deal right away.”

Scoutmob’s social media manager, Nicole Jayne, has a similar theory for why online coupon sites are so successful.

“In the past, for a local small business, the only advertising options they had were billboards, radio, television and print. There was no real way to measure the success of that type of marketing. Online coupon sites allow these businesses to measure the effectiveness of getting their name out there almost instantly and translate that into traffic and revenue.”

There’s also no doubt the popularity of these sites is due in part to the recession and unstable economy. However, couponing is no flash in the pan trend, says Denise Tanton, the senior community manager at BlogHer. She, herself, recently started writing a popular series of blog posts about extreme couponing. “I started noticing couponing blogs more and thought this was a new trend. But after researching, I realized it wasn’t new, it’s just that the media has caught on because of the recession. And now TLC has latched on to it with a new show.”

She says coupons have been popular since the seventies. Even with the slowly improving economy, coupons will never go away, just evolve.

“I think we’re going to see more e-coupons, texted and mobile coupons. As smartphones become more pervasive, we’ll see more companies offering digital and smartphone based coupons. Companies will get more control over their offers that way.”

As for the money-saving food lover like me, there are three rules I live by before I hit “purchase”:

  1. Would I actually go to this eatery, even if I didn’t have this coupon? If I don’t answer yes, I’m out.
  2. Did I read the fine print? Some of these places don’t allow you to use your offer on a Friday or Saturday, have restricted times, or have expiration dates that are sooner than you’d like.
  3. It’s not a deal, unless you actually use it.

Off the Grid is Making Street Food Mainstream

Off the Grid at Fort Mason Center
Off the Grid at Fort Mason Center. Photo courtesy of Off the Grid

Almost every food craving you could ever think of could be satisfied by at least one of the food trucks at any given Off the Grid location in San Francisco. In just a couple of years, OtG in Fort Mason has become the single largest weekly block party for foodies in the Bay Area.

But with almost every food category being represented there, is there fear of street food being a trend that’s reaching oversaturation? Off the Grid’s man-in-charge, Matt Cohen, says absolutely not.

“I think of Asia and how prolific street food is and how it’s a part of people’s lives. Will all of them launching right now stay in business? Probably not. But there’s a long way to go before we hit the saturation point. The rest of the world has experience with street food and we were so far behind here in the Bay Area. People had to think of them not as roach coaches, so we just had to catch up.”

Cohen fell in love with street food while living in Japan as an English teacher. When he returned to the States, he tried to start his own food truck in 2007. His plans got halted after the recession hit, and he decided to turn his experience with getting a mobile food business started, permits, rules and all, into a food truck consultant business in 2008. Eventually, the idea of Off the Grid got off the ground.

“My clients were asking how we could find better locations and how trucks could group together at different locations. There was obviously a need and it was clear that no one truck could handle the task alone. Off the Grid is more of a curation of these food trucks.”

There are now six Off the Grid (OtG) events throughout the week in San Francisco, and possible OtGs in San Mateo, the South Bay and East Bay expected to be announced within the next six weeks. But is all this street food too much?

“What we’ve learned is that the only ‘destination’ OtG is Fort Mason in the city, where people from all over the Bay Area come to visit. Most of the other current locations are driven by locals and their needs in those areas. We like to create and attract community in the places we go, and those spots seem to have a need. And we try to make sure we switch out the trucks so it’s never the same experience every time.”

Cohen says they have 30-40 food trucks on their roster right now, but expect that number to DOUBLE by the end of the season! And there’s no threat of too much culinary overlap, either.

“No one would argue that we don’t need more fusion taco trucks and cupcake trucks. But there are a number of burger, sandwich, soup, pizza and salad food trucks coming soon.”

It’s only been about four years since food carts, trucks and the like hit the Bay Area, but the category has seen a lot of evolution since 2007.

“I think we’re sort of entering a third wave with the food truck scene here. There were guerrilla street food carts for a while with the Magic Curry and Crème Brulee Karts. They brought a lot of attention to the fun and whimsy of eating on the street. Plus, they really knew how to cook.”

“Then the second coming was when those guys, along with formal chefs, saw a demand for it but realized you couldn’t make a living with underground street food. It’s not a long term job, it’s a hobby. And experienced restauranteurs liked the simplicity of the truck.”

“Now, there’s a third wave happening, where people are taking that blueprint of the mobile food truck and going in all sorts of directions, like Rib Whip and Le Truc. There’s a ton of new trucks coming out now.”

Street food may still seem new to us, but there’s no reason why it can’t be here to stay, much like it is in other parts of the world. Of course, Cohen has a business stake in it all, but he’s attracted to this type of culinary experience for personal reasons too.

“I love eating outside! We can all try different foods and sit outside, have a great time, run into friends, and it’s affordable. Your kids can run around, you can bring your dog, and run into people you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a community space.”

As for the food truck he bought in 2007, he’s still got it, and just recently decided to start renting it out.

“We actually just started using the truck I bought back in 2007. We’re not serving food off of it, but it’s great for demos for chefs who are considering starting their own street food business, or for someone who wants to try it out before considering buying one for themselves. And it’s got televisions attached to it so it’s great for broadcasting Giants games.”

Off the Grid
Various locations throughout San Francisco. Check out their website for exact days and locations.
@sfcarts
facebook.com/offthegridsf

Vegans, Vegetarians and Carnivores Dine Together at Gather

Can vegans, vegetarians and carnivores really share a foodie-worthy meal at the same table? They certainly can at Gather in Berkeley. And that’s just the way Esquire Magazine’s 2010 Chef of the Year, and Gather’s Executive Chef, Sean Baker, likes it.

“We want to show the same enthusiasm for every dietary preference, whether it’s lactose intolerance, gluten-free, or veganism. We want to make sure they all get to have the same experience.”

Chef Baker may be a classically trained chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, but he’s always been personally interested in being meat-free, even becoming vegan for a time, before he went to culinary school. Now with his fiancee being vegan, he’s even more personally invested in making dishes everyone can enjoy.

“It’s frustrating,” he says. “We eat out a lot and sometimes she can’t have the same experience that I can. Veganism is not an eating style that is embraced by a lot of culinary folks.” Fortunately, Chef Baker says that thinking of a 50/50 vegan/meat menu comes to him quite naturally these days. Must be from his previous stints at Millennium Restaurant, San Francisco’s premier high-end vegan restaurant, and Gabriella Café in Santa Cruz, where he oversaw a meat-heavy menu that sometimes offered offal options.

Chef Baker says, “I read obsessively, eat out obsessively, and I cook obsessively. I love what I do. It’s never a struggle to come up with menus that appeal to everyone.”

But that doesn’t mean it requires less work.

He says, “Vegan food is much more labor intensive in the kitchen, but you can do a lot of great culinary techniques when preparing it. We spend hours and hours doing vegetable stocks. We smoke our tomatoes and caramelize our onions until they can’t be caramelized anymore. We blanch our cardoons and then sous vide them for six hours until they come out perfect. We’re always messing around with things to improve the flavor of food and improve our craft.”

Chef Baker believes in offering comfort food in unpretentious surroundings that are not only beautiful, but eco-friendly. For example, they filter all of the water in the restaurant themselves, used recycled pickle barrels to create the back bar and cabinetry in the open kitchen, and even re-used old leather belts to make the seat cushions in the banquettes.

But this is no tree-hugging, alfalfa-loving hippy eatery. The menu here is inventive, surprising, and worthy of a four-star chef.

On a recent visit for brunch with some friends, we had the Egg Sandwich with bacon and mushrooms; the Acme Walnut French Toast with blood orange confit, cranberries and walnut sauce; and the Burrata salad with chicories, walnuts, anchovy and bruschetta.

We loved the Egg Sandwich with its fresh torpedo Acme roll, smoky salty bacon and those fabulous braised Portobello mushrooms! Apparently they’d been cooked with red onions, smoked chopped tomatoes, their own veggie stock and something they call “tomato condiment” which is like a housemade ketchup. It’s the basis for many dishes and the Chef was nice enough to offer up the recipe below.

We also ordered two pizzas for the table, including the vegan Spicy Tomato with capers, olives, cashew garlic puree and herbs; and the Farm Egg Pizza with bacon and caramelized onions.

The vegan Spicy Tomato pie was the highlight of our entire meal, and I say that surprisingly because we were a table of hearty meat-eaters. We were skeptical that any vegan dish could satisfy, let alone surprise us, the way this pizza did. The flavor combination of the salty capers and olives with the zesty sauce and creamy nut puree made for a winning combination. And texturally, the crust on both pizzas was stellar. It was thin and crispy on the bottom, and the dough around the edges was soft and tender, like the perfect breadstick.

Each and every plate was fresh, bright and alive with flavor, thanks to all the fresh produce from the folks at Lindencroft Farms. And it’s not just high quality ingredients we tasted, it’s the obvious care in preparation.

“I don’t want the vegetarians to know they’re eating vegetarian food. I want you to feel like you’re eating something that tastes like steak,” says Chef Baker. “My goal when cooking is for people to try a whole new array of flavors every time they come in and make it fun for everyone at the table.”

Tomato Condiment
(Yields 9 quarts so scale down!)

12 qts red onion (1/4 inch dice)
3 qt apple cider vinegar
6 cups tomato paste
5 cups Sucanat (or natural cane sugar)
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
3 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground clove
2 Tbsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. cayenne
6 oz pure olive oil
1.5 cups Tamari/Dark Soy Sauce
3 qts Water

Caramelize the onions and then fry the tomato paste. Add all other ingredients and reduce to slightly looser than ketchup consistency.

You can use this as a basis for braising vegetables and meats or as a condiment.

Gather on Urbanspoon

*This piece is cross-posted on KQED’s Bay Area Bites.

Food Trucks: Curry Up Now Is Here To Stay

Curry Up Now truck.
Curry Up Now truck. Photo: Rana & Akash Kapoor

As one of the first food trucks to hit the Bay Area culinary scene, Curry Up Now has seen all the trials and tribulations that come with this niche business. They specialize in authentic Indian street food with some fusion elements thrown in for good measure.

Their menu items and locations change regularly so it’s always a good idea to check their website, Facebook or Twitter posts for daily updates. But they usually have a few regulars on the menu that stay constant, including their made-to-order Chicken or Paneer Kathi Roll and creamy Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito, mixed with fragrant saffron basmati rice and then wrapped in a tortilla. But my personal favorite is the Deconstructed Samosa, which is their homemade potato and pea stuffed pastry pocket, fried and then topped with mini-samosas, spicy chickpea curry (chana), tomatoes, red onions, tamarind sauce, their secret green sauce and your choice of ground beef (keema), chicken or paneer (vegetarian option). Their food is so good, it’s now become a weekly craving for me. And I’m obviously not the only one because their fourth truck is expected to hit the East Bay soon.

Deconstructed Samosa
Deconstructed Samosa. Photo: Elaine Wu

I sat down with husband and wife team, Rana and Akash Kapoor, to ask them what they’ve learned, what’s next, and why it’s all worth it.

Where did the inspiration to start a food truck come from? You were one of the first ones on the scene.
AKASH: The idea started in early 2009. Then we got serious in the summer and launched on September 26th, 2009. It was a trend in Southern California and in Portland and we kind of took inspiration from everyone else’s ideas and threw ours in there and that’s how we started.

With weekly appearances in San Francisco, the Peninsula, the South Bay and now the East Bay, is your Bay Area wide domination complete?
AKASH: We’ve always wanted to serve our food to people all across the Bay Area. So now we’ve got 4 trucks hitting all the major areas, and we’d like one or two more as a “backup” or roving truck.

What are your plans for the future? I’d heard speculation at one point about franchising.
AKASH: Right now we’re very serious about opening a brick and mortar restaurant. In fact, it’ll hopefully happen within the next 90 days or so. That’s where we see the growth potential. We’re hoping eventually to start franchising and perhaps grow to multiple locations all over the country. A bit like a Chipotle or Panda Express, but with quality Indian food. The food quality is still and always will be the number one priority for us. But the restaurant will serve everything we do on the truck with perhaps 10 or 15 more items. Some things we’ve always wanted to serve but are impossible to make on the truck, like desserts and more entrées. As far as the trucks are concerned, we’ll keep them as is and maybe add a couple more. They all have to go through health inspections and the permit process. It takes a while.

What do you think the future is for street food in the Bay Area? Is it just a fad?
AKASH: I think the U.S., in general, adopted street food quite late and Northern California, in particular. There’s street food everywhere, especially on the East Coast. I think it’s here to stay.

RANA: It’s an alternative food movement for those who want to experience the food and culture of a region and the Bay Area street food scene is no different.

AKASH: I think because there seems to be a new truck on the scene almost every week, there’s gonna be consolidation and bigger players will take over because it’s hard to survive and grow and make money. Because if you don’t grow, you’re gonna go away.

We’re hearing a lot lately about brick and mortar merchants complaining that food trucks who park in their neighborhoods are stealing business from them. What are your thoughts around that?
AKASH: I believe some of these mom and pop places need to step up their game! Whether you’re a food truck or a sandwich shop, people have to like your food and you have to offer something different that you can’t get everywhere else.

RANA: We still go through it everyday with restaurants in the neighborhoods we visit. We went through it in Burlingame, but the city and the people have been great. One merchant came and cussed us out early on when we were out there. But you also have to be sensitive to the merchants around you. We try to stay away from restaurants that serve food similar to ours. If we park right in front of a coffee shop, we don’t serve chai because it’s probably on their menu, too. You have to be supportive. I mean, why not work together? There was one instance where the merchant came out and gave our customers samples! When you want to work together, something good can come out of it.

What is your opinion of other street food trucks? Are they competition or is it a community.
AKASH: People should respect when someone’s been in a location for a long time and not show up at the same time with the intent of stealing business. And it’s important for all of us food trucks to obey the parking rules. Everyone will get kicked out if someone steals 5 parking spaces. That doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

RANA: For example, if we want to go to a location that someone’s been at for a while, we call them directly and ask if it’s okay. Just call us! We’d love to build a community.

AKASH: I’ve actually been talking to the folks who run Off the Grid about starting an association for street food vendors and food trucks, especially in San Francisco. When traditional small businesses start bullying a food truck, whose going to advocate for us? We need a collective voice to represent this growing community.

You currently have over 4700 followers on Twitter and over 3600 Likes on Facebook. You’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, but your customers seem to be very loyal.
AKASH: They’re amazing. We listen to them and make changes all the time. When someone says that our food quality’s gone down, we listen. We call people who take the time to tell us how we’re doing. We make changes immediately.

What sort of wisdom can you impart to newer trucks going through it all?
AKASH: People need to do their homework before they go out. We didn’t and we’re still learning.

If it’s so much trouble, why keep doing it?
RANA: The passion. It’s always been there and it’s been a dream for both Akash and I. We’ve always loved to cook and entertain. And I love people. For me, I want people to tell me how they feel about the food and communicate with them. When people care, something good always comes out of that.

THE List is Out. Let’s Discuss.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s food editor, Michael Bauer’s much hyped, much anticipated, much revered, much loathed, much debated Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list is officially out.

We all have our faves and question many of the ones that stay on the list year after year, compared to the ones that are glaringly missing, but instead of going into that endless debate (it really boils down to the fact that everyone has a right to their own opinions), here are the ones that I AGREE with on the list, the ones I DON’T agree with, along with the ones I would LOVE to someday soon.

A RESOUNDING YES!
AD HOC – This place defies explanation. Just go, already.
HOUSE OF PRIME RIB In the words of Carly Simon, nobody does it better.
PERBACCO Exceptional service, sleek design, impeccable food.
TOWN HALL Noisy as all hell, but I’ve never had a bad meal here…ever.

Who Cares?
A16 – Overrated.
CHOW – Very good, but not worthy of this list.
BETELNUT – So what? Asian tapas. Boring.
BAR BAMBINO – This was sooooo uninteresting to me.
FOREIGN CINEMA – Again, uninteresting and getting outdated.
SLANTED DOOR – Ugh, not again! There are so many other Vietnamese joints serving the same food for half the price!
LIMON – The food and service are SO subpar and have no place on this list.
ONE MARKET – Boring.
YANK SING – Seriously, this is the best Chinese the city has to offer? Look a little harder, Bauer.

When Can We Go?
GIALINA
COCO 500
DELFINA
FLOUR + WATER
FRANCES
REDD
SPRUCE
QUINCE

Why, Bauer, Why?
GITANE – What a shame that this restaurant had to get cut from the list at the last minute. This is a beautifully decorated restaurant with a creative and distinctive menu. Others on this list should’ve been sacrificed for this one.

So Foodies, feel free to let me know your thoughts…

Street Food En Masse

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The Bay Area’s first Eat Real Festival happened this past weekend in Oakland’s Jack London Square. An estimated 30,000 foodies from all over the Bay Area came to enjoy live music, support local farmers and food purveyors, and sample food from over 50 different street food vendors. I couldn’t wait!

Jen and I arrived at around 10:30 am, which was about 30 minutes before showtime, so we could avoid what would be the inevitable long lines later in the day. We came on the last day of the event to avoid the heat from the past two days and avoid the mistakes of others who had ventured there before us. It was nice being there that early. The area had a distinct energy but it was quiet with just the right trickle of people milling about. Vendors were smiling, friendly, and getting their food and selling areas ready for the day’s crowds.

Although there were some other vendors I didn’t get to try, simply because there just isn’t that much room in this tummy, I did try the following vendors:

Urban Nectar (Lemonade & Strawberry fresh juices)

Adobo Hobo (Chicken Wings Over Rice)

Seoul on Wheels BBQ (Spicy Korean BBQ Pork Tacos)

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SLRP Street Ramen (Pork Broth Ramen w/Sweet corn & Homemade Kimchee)

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Liba Falafel Truck (Falafel ball w/Roasted Eggplant)

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Kika’s Treats (Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker S’mores)

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Gerard’s Paella (Seafood & Chicken)

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Creme Brulee Man (Vanilla Bean & Lavender Flavors)

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Unfortunately, I was severely disappointed with Liba’s Falafels. The accompanying roasted eggplant mixture was delightful, but the falafel balls themselves, were so overfried that their outer shells had been become dark brown and were more hard and crunchy than thin and crisp. And the accompanying flatbread was stale, doughy, and flavorless.

The three dishes that had notable elements were Seoul on Wheel’s Spicy Pork Taco (warmed tortillas that didn’t taste store-bought would’ve GREATLY helped), SLRP’s Pork Ramen (the noodles were soggy and flavorless, but the pork belly and homemade kimchee were delicious), and Gerard’s Paella (fresher shrimp and non-burnt ends would’ve made it great).

The one thing that DID live up to the cult following was the Creme Brulee Man’s vanilla bean dessert. It had the perfect crunch from the torched top and the flavor was rich and creamy like an ice cream and smooth and luxurious like a pudding. Pure heaven.

I wish I could’ve tried Roli Roti’s porchetta sandwich, Gobba Gobba Hey’s sweet treats, Jim n Nick’s BBQ (they drove all the way up from the South), roasted pig from Chop Bar, 4505 Meats, Wholesome Bakery’s doughnut bites, and Pizza Politana’s margherita pizza slices.

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I have to admit that nothing I had blew me away. It was all good, but nothing was extremely noteworthy. Amazingly, though, I wasn’t disappointed. I was just happy to be there and share in the positive energy of the day from both purveyors and consumers.  I enjoyed the company, the weather, the variety of food, the environment overall. And I can’t wait to try more next year…