Sorry for the delay in getting this up, folks – I had lots and lots of pics from the trip to go through, and then had to edit, organize and upload them all. Finally we get to the fun part, recollecting the trip. I’ll be telling the story in four parts – Day 1, Day 2 (Part One), Day 2 (Part Two), and Day 3. I’ll link to each as I put up new entries. These recaps will be very picture heavy, so please check it out under the cut.
While I don’t mind trips on a plane, traveling westward on a plane really does a number on me, since we end up going through a few time zones and gain three hours in the day. No biggie if I’m traveling mid-day, but I was taking a 5:30am flight out of Columbus, which meant I only ended up getting 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 2:00am to get ready to leave my house by 3 (wish I had known that security at the airport doesn’t even open until 4:15am – I would have slept in an extra hour!). And why is there no rhyme or reason to where your layover city is? I ended up going to Charlotte, NC for the first leg, only to fly back out to go west to San Francisco and have it take an extra hour!.
At any rate, I was offered an upgrade when I checked in, so since it was a long flight I decided to splurge for first class. Lovely. Wish I had the money to do it all the time. From the free-flowing cocktails, to the nice hot washcloths, to the extra space, to the full breakfast, it was worth every penny of the extra $200 it cost to make the switch. Also, there was WiFi available on the plane so the time went by fairly quickly as I got some work done on my Netbook. Here’s a view of the Rockies from my seat as we were flying over Colorado Springs.
You all already know the story of my hellish experience getting from the airport to my hotel. After I got settled in, I decided to go walking to look for that ramen shop, but this hill on Powell Street got the best of me. And from what I understand, this is a baby hill compared to some of the others in San Francisco.
I ended up at Katana-ya (430 Geary Street, just north of Mason) on the advice of a Twitter friend. Some say it’s the best ramen in the city, some say it’s mediocre – I was unsure what to get so I got their eponymous Katana-Ya Ramen ($12.50?), which was a ginormous bowl with a little bit of everything – pork, fried chicken pieces (which stayed remarkably crispy), gyoza, corn, hard boiled egg, scallions, etc. I chose to get it in a shoyu (soy sauce) broth, and it was delicious and comforting and just what the doctor ordered after the tough morning I had.
Next time around I must try this, through – buttered corn ramen in a salt broth. Sounds divine. Service was exceptionally friendly and patient and accommodating to my many questions. While it wasn’t packed when I went in the mid-afternoon, I hear this place can fill up quickly in the evenings and during the weekend. But if you’re in Union Square anyway, it’s just a short two block walk away from Union Square proper along Geary.
Needless to say, the ramen portion was so generous that I was unable to finish it, so I packed what was left up to go – it made a wonderful mid-afternoon snack in my hotel room.
I napped for about an hour, and then we all headed to the Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason for the Foodbuzz Street Food Fair. I had heard raves about the porchetta from Roli Roti from last year, so was happy to see the porchetta – which I smelled before I saw. Rotisserie porchetta has to be one of the best smells in the entire world. Note the potatoes below catching the pork fat dripping down.
On our way into Fort Mason, I saw a whole parking lot of food trucks, similar to some of the events back here in Columbus where we have multiple vendors out of a single parking lot – later, I came to find out that they have something there every Friday called Off the Grid, which is very similar – Bay Area folks, this Friday (November 19th) is the last one for the season – be sure to check it out. @Appetite TV made an awesome short video that will give you an idea of the look and feel of what to expect:
After watching that, it makes me wish I would have followed my instincts and headed down there to check it out personally. Not to say that the Foodbuzz event sucked, by any means – just that I need to learn how to follow my instincts. Because there were so many people at the Foodbuzz event, it felt a bit impersonal, and extremely claustrophic as people raced from one truck to another to get food and take pictures.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was the Foodie Gift Exchange, where someone had to bring something homemade or having to do with their blog or city to gift to another attendee. I brought a selection of macarons from Pistacia Vera for the vivacious and super-nice Natalie of Perry’s Plate, and got a jar of homemade granola from Stephanie of Lick My Spoon (delicious!!)
Although it seems like cupcakes are the hot thing of the moment (and with good reason – I’ll take a cupcake over a slice of cake any day!), I can really appreciate the Mission Minis business model – smaller cupcakes, smaller price, all the flavor. Greeting us into the warehouse was a huge table with “Foodbuzz” spelled out in three different colors/flavors of cupcakes. My weak-sauce camera couldn’t get the whole thing in frame and focused, so you all will have to settle for a single corner. I steered clear for the most part, since the Food Network was filming a segment for Cupcake Wars, and I’m about as camera shy as it gets.
The appetizer plates in the middle of the tables were provided by Frog Hollow Farm. And see those pears on the platter? I’m not a pear lover, but absolutely fell in love with these – they are called Warren pears and Frog Hollow is only one of two commercial growers of these in the U.S. It was sweet and juicy but not mushy at all. I think it would be delicious with some gorgonzola cheese.
The appetizers they passed, these tarts, were not good at all – way too dry.
This is Farmer Al from Frog Hollow Farm, talking about how food is community.
And after he spoke, we were set loose to eat. This, unfortunately, is one truck I didn’t get to try. The line was insane. From what I hear, he competed in the Great Food Truck Race.
After seeing the menu showing what he had to offer, I could understand the popularity.
So I went across the way, and had this short rib barbacoa taco from Tacolicious – one of the best tacos I’ve had in a long time. The meat was tender and flavorful, and I fell in love with his avocado-based salsa verde.
By the time I got to the Pizza Politana truck, there was one lone cold piece of pizza left. Cold or not, it was really good – and I’m one of those people who think the best judge of a good pizza is how it tastes cold.
And then there was my favorite dish of the evening – the Porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti served with roasted potatoes finished in sea salt. The sandwich was insanely good – tender, garlicky porchetta with a super-crispy skin, then topped with caramelized onions and arugula. I wasn’t enough of a oink-piggy to go back for seconds and thirds (but oh, was I tempted!), but I did manage to find out he’d be selling his porchetta at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market starting at 9am.
I really tried to love these Korean tacos from Namu – and I did really like the innards, but the nori just wasn’t doing it for me.
One of the most popular dishes overall was this jalapeno-brined cornmeal-crusted pork loin – I thought it was good but not crazy good.
I did not like this vegan paella at all – the flavor profile was all wrong for paella.
I finished my eating that night with a scoop of Brown Sugar Banana ice cream from Strauss Creamery. Wish we had this locally, because I loved this ice cream.
Full and super-tired by this point (I had been up since 2am eastern time, and by the time I got back to the hotel it was essentially midnight eastern time), I headed back to the hotel and tried to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the plane ride screwed up my circadian rhythm, so I didn’t get to sleep for several more hours…
To be continued in Part 2, where I visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.