2012 San Francisco Night Market (SF Street Food Festival kick-off)
Quick report from last night’s inaugural San Francisco Night Market, anyone else who was there, please jump in.
Nearly abandoned the idea of attending when my 85-mile drive from Sonoma County turned into a three-hour ordeal. Arriving at 5:45p, I was able to get a parking space on the street two blocks away. Prices for dishes ranged from $5 to a maximum of $10.
Made a beeline to Jim n’ Nick’s BBQ rig at the righthand side, as the night’s draw for me was the chance to taste Scott’s BBQ (from South Carolina). But I made a lucky mistake, ordering from what turned out to be Taino’s Puerto Rican, offering up lechon smoked on Jim n’ Nick’s rig.
Using a Mangalitsa/Berkshire cross, the thick slivers of pig look pale and dryish but turned out to be moist and the essence of pork. Not much smoke pick-up or seasoning, the herb aioli on the side added some contrast, but I mostly enjoyed the pure flavor of the pork.
Next door, Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ was serving up whole hog.
Already shredded and dressed with a spicy vinegar sauce, the $5 serving was topped with a handful of pork cracklin’s. I added more of the sauce from a squeeze bottle. Very good flavor from the dip, but rather hard and dessicated, even the dark muscles. I liked the cracklings.
Between the two whole pig offerings, Taino’s had better texture and showed off the pig’s natural taste better. Scott’s seasoning made the day, and who wouldn’t like those cracklings.
Next stop, Maite Catering for Colombian ajiaco, $5. Ladled from a giant tureen, then a float of heavy cream is added, and here she’s asking me if I want capers too. No avocados available as garnish.
Hot and comforting, just the ticket for a cold and windy night. Chunks of waxy deep yellow potatoes, tender and succulent chicken, fresh herbs, and the ever important guasca made for a delicious bowl. Though I’d planned to only taste this, I couldn’t help but finish every bit.
Locanda offered up short ribs chinotto negro, Lucky Dog’s beef marinated in bitter chinotto and orange, rubbed with spice, and grilled over mesquite.
At $8, the most I paid for anything, and the one real disappointment. The LA-style cut ribs were thinner than typical at Korean kalbi specialists. Undersalted, overcooked, dry and tough with little flavor of the grill, these were decidedly unpleasant though the flavor was interesting. I appreciated the bit of bitter rosy-colored radicchio as a side garnish, since the ribs were inedible, but putting together two markedly bitter components seemed an odd choice.
And last stop at Baja’s Mision 19 stand for what turned out to be my favorite bite of the night. Javier Plascencia was another of the visiting celebrity chefs.
For $5, a pair of banana leaf-wrapped tamales filled with mushroom (enoki) and cheese in a smooth and firm masa topped with luxurious black mole. On the side, salt cured nopalitos.
I especially loved the salt cured cactus salad, mixed with pickled red onions and Rancho Gordo beans. I returned to the booth to ask how to make the nopales. Chef Plascencia said to cut the cactus into strips then pack them in kosher salt. After 15 minutes, rinse well and drain.
The Alemany site was warmed with space heaters and blankets were provided. Still, I left before 8pm as the cold wind was getting to me, collecting a bag of nice swag on the way out.
Ticket sales for the night market were limited to 1,500 and the crowd seemed somewhat smaller than that to me though I did leave early. This was a great opportunity to preview San Francisco’s street food weekend without long lines.
Yes, the Puerto RIcan lechon was quite good, but, as I reported on another thread (about the Saturday affair), the high point for us last night was Azalina's laksa with calf's (?) brain augmented by a sous vide egg. It was really delicious. She didn't offer it at today's market.
Also really nice last night was a fried pork and pulled pork and greens and ... on a muffin like roll from Bone and Gristle Boys (associated apparently somehow with 4505 Meats).
Agree with Melanie (who we probably bumped into with recognizing her) that the admission fee for the Night Market was worth the reduced crowds and more extensive vendor offerings. We will certainly do it again next year, even if it doesn't approach a true Asian (Taiwan) night market for variety, intensity, and depth of quality.
All in all my impression was that the offerings were much more basic and understandably focussed at mass production at today's Saturday affair compared to the Alemany night market.
Oh ... and the Sainted Arepa Lady did not seem to be at the Saturday Festival today, as some had hoped. Too far from Flushing, I guess.
re: Thomas Nash
We would have been good tasting partners, since we ordered different things!
Since I was not sure I'd be able to make it back to the City, I bought a ticket but didn't invite anyone to join me. I had a $5 off discount code from Tablehopper and figured that if I were a no-show, I was happy to be making a contribution to La Cocina.
Surprisingly, I only saw a couple people I knew and was on my own with food purchases. So I mostly stuck to the lower priced items to be able to afford more diversity. Also, was bummed that I forgot to slip a ziplock bag into my purse for leftovers. And I was disappointed that Don Bugito was not serving any insects.
Besides the lines for cocktails at Rye and the beer stand, the longest line I observed was for the Boss Hog that you got to try. The menu description and the behind the scenes photo are below.
Next year I'll add a hat and scarf to my ensemble and I can probably brave the weather a bit longer.
Your other post,
Vendor menus and check list
re: Melanie Wong
Your Boss Hog image and check list remind me of two things I should have mentioned.
The Boss Hog sandwich included a very surprising slice of a sharp cheddar between the fried and pulled pork. It really made the whole thing come together in an out of the ordinary way.
Also, there was an excellent mole and tamale from a place called Mision 19. I asked them where they were from and in the confusion did not pick up that the little town near San Diego was Tijuana. Turns out a search on Google discovers this is a quite upscale and interesting relatively new restaurant just across the border doing beautifully presented nouvelle Mexican. Probably there is more about it on the San Diego board.
re: Thomas Nash
The mole, tamales and nopalitos by Mision 19 was my favorite of the night. It was a thrill to talk to Chef Plascencia. I had asked his helper at the counter how to cure the cactus and she had said it was packed in salt for a week. That seemed too long to me, so when chef was not busy I struggled in broken Spanish to try to verify. He answered me in perfect English, explaining that only 15 minutes is needed to firm up the cactus strips.
Here's the search result for Mision 19 on the Mexico board to learn more about his place and Baja Med cuisine,
re: Melanie Wong
Melanie, I didn't put 2+2 together and realize you had written about Mision 19 until now. I had remembered the name of the offering and then found it associated with Mision 19 on the checklist you posted. So independently we zeroed in on their excellent offering. I was attracted to try them by the mole and nopalito salad, both of which lived up to their promise.
I was totally clueless about the celebrity of the chef when I chatted with him and asked if he was planning a place around here. He said it was too cold... not surprising given the wind blowing the fog in.