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The Spoon Diaries – The Tasty Attractions of San Francisco

Looking for good food and drinks in San Francisco, California and the rest of the exciting world? Follow me! Delicious appetizers on great food & fine drinks in The City, the Bay Area & on the Peninsula and far beyond – freshly prepared & served by Matthias Kothe

„Off the Grid“: San Francisco’s Food Truck Party at the Bay

San Francisco is a melting pot of world cultures and the food scene is an excellent example of this diversity. One of the best and certainly most enjoyable moments to experience and taste the culinary kaleidoscope of the Northern California metropolis is an evening at “Off the Grid” – a Friday night event held at Fort Mason Center at the Bay.

Wikipedia describes “off the grid” as “a self-sufficient way of life, which has little dependence on public institutions” and which is best translated with “net-independent”. Well, that doesn’t sound very appealing and certainly does not whet your appetite. So here’s my take: “Off the Grid” is an open-air gourmet extravaganza consisting of 20-30 food trucks and a dozen kitchens, which corral regularly at determined places in The City. They feature freshly cooked meals, live music on a stage, benches and chairs, fairy lights and hundreds of (lively) hungry and good-humored people of all ages cosily ensconced in its core. In summer this happens every Friday night at the historic Fort Mason Center from where you can see the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge and the reflexion of the city lights in the Bay!

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“Food Trucks” have been in fashion in the USA for years. You’ll find the mobile mini-kitchens on four wheels at many street corners. They provide treats throughout the day to office workers, shoppers and night owls alike. Streetfood at it’s best: delicious, fast and affordable. The trucks are equipped with cooks and grills – and they feed you the best tastes of the world: American burgers and hot dogs, ribs and steaks, Mexican burritos and tacos, Chinese Dim Sum, Indian and Thai curries, Japanese sushi and kushi, Greek gyros, Italian pasta and pizza, Vietnamese noodles, Korean fries with kimchi, Nepalese pastries with spicy chicken and pork or simply sandwiches with lobster, crab or pulled pork with homemade fruity dips and exuberant relishes.

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It is only since 2010 that these “Off the Grid”-happenings are taking place on a regular basis all over San Francisco, in the smaller towns on the Peninsula, as well as in Sacramento and in San Diego. The highlight, however, for me is Friday evening at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center!

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Lobsta Truck’s specialty: fresh Maine Lobster and Dungeness crabs on roasted baguette
with herbal mayonnaise ($14 and $13).

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Best of Boneyard: the “Roasted Pork Tenderloin Sandwich” with herb crusted pork fillet,
rocket salad and wasabi mayonnaise and the “Texas Beef Brisket” for $12 each.

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Chilled: The Boneyard’s “Bar” featuring craft beer and soft drinks.

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Curry in a hurry: the “Naughty Naan” (Chicken Tikka Masala Naan sandwich for $10)
and the “Deconstructed Samosa” (beef or chicken mini-buns, topped with beans,
tomato hot sauce, onions and chili peppers for $8).

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Hot stuff: “Bobcha” serves the Korean “Bulgogi” as a beef burger marinated with spring onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, pepper and sugar – grilled over an open fire.

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Southern Special: the food truck of “Southern Comfort Kitchen” offers New Orleans style handmade and hearty Cajun delicacies such as “Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya”
(kind of paella with spicy chicken and smoked sausage, vegetables and all kinds of
Caribbean spices for $12) or “Fried Shrimp and Cajun Fries” (peppery potato pieces
with cayenne pepper, fresh garlic and coriander, $10).

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Tiny but great: at “Happy Dumplings” not only are the pots behind the tent a sight to see with their full head of steam. The pasta filled with vegetables and glass noodles, with chicken and coriander or with pork and white cabbage are already available for $1.50.

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Try the Mexican tacos with grilled chicken, coriander, onions and a sprinkled lime juice ($7) and the huge mango lollipop powdered with chili powder ($4).

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Once you make your selection and get your food stay where you are or walk around,
sit at tables, on stairs or get into the queue in front of another food truck next door:
delicious and entertaining!

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Drinks & Drums: In the center of the Food Truck-corral is space for the bar tents (cocktails, sangria and wines from the neighboring Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley for $10- $14 the glass) and the stage with jazzy live music til 10pm. Then, believe it or not, the lights of San Francisco, turn off for the night. Only a few night life places remain open after that!

Off the Grid
@ Fort Mason Center
San Francisco
Fridays 5-10 pm
www.offthegrid.com

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Hoppy Hours in SF’s “Barrel Head Brewhouse”

SF’s cool Brewery-Pub taps its home-brewed beer from a torpedo.

Craft Beer fans, welcome to California! Nowhere else in the United States can you find more microbreweries than in the sunshine state, many of them located in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. They are well known and notorious for their unconventional beginnings and sometimes crazy ideas – such as adding pink grapefruit, peaches and/or pumpkin to their brews. Creative, great tasting and ideal for the almost continually sunny and warm weather and good-humored people who are open to new ideas in the land of limited impossibilities.

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One of the best examples of this relaxed California way of life is the “Barrel Head Brewhouse” in San Francisco. Natasha Gatto, Brendan Card, Davin Affrunti and Ivan Hopkinson opened their brewery-pub in the Western Edition District (locals call it just “Nopa”, North of the Panhandle) in March 2014, and since then the pub is crowded almost every day!

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People who don’t know where the trendy pub is will likely pass it by, they’ll be looking in vain for a sign. Only a small wooden barrel above the entrance against a pitch-black façade indicates that there’s something really good brewing up inside.

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The 150 seats along the massive tables with their thick wood slabs made out of Monterey cypress are framed by four 350 gallon-stainless steel kettles. From the gallery above the bar you have a great view onto the workstations of brewmaster Kirk Hillyard, who brews a handful of beers every Monday with sometimes unusual ingredients and witty names: “America’s Next Hop Model Wet IPA” for instance (a stocky, 6,2 % Vol., golden-haired beauty made with first-class hop) or “Duffman Pilsner” (the relatively slight 5 vol.% in the glass tastes of grass and orange, thanks to the premium Hallertau hop from Germany) or “Pumpkin Peach IPA” (ingenious beer with refreshing 6.1 vol.% , brewed with pumpkin and fermented with peaches).

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Behind the massive bar the current five in-house beers – plus 24 more, almost exclusively Californian Craft Beer specialties – are tapped from a real torpedo, which got stranded on Baker Beach south of the Golden Gate Bridge. “We’re getting people bombed the right way”, quips Ivan Hopkinson, and reveals in passing that they never brew a beer twice.

DSC_8496The home-brewed beers are on the menu for only a few weeks, per pint they cost between $6 and $8 ($10 for the “Flight du Jour”, five small tasting glasses), and are also sold in 6 pint bottles ideal for a beach picnic or a garden party for $21 plus a $10 charge for the bottle.

DSC_8501The food that chef Michael Kepatanakis prepares is as delicious and imaginative as the beers. Prepared using local ingredients and fresh herbs straight from the Bay Area he cooks, of course, with the homemade beer. His San Francisco comfort food is a creative mix of the best cuisines around the world and a feast for the eyes, the palate and the soul. The “Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters” ($18) are getting their surprisingly sharp kick from the pickled Mexican Serrano chilli, the True Cod Fish for “Fish and Chips” ($17) is cooked with a shot of “Nora Belle’s Oktoberfest Beer”, and the damn good “Pulled Pork Stuffed Naan” ($14) is served taco style cradled in an Indian naan flatbread with tzatziki (a tribute to Mike’s Greek roots), coriander, harissa and a dash of “Duffman Pilsner” finish the sauce.

DSC_8472Those who want to feast through almost the whole menu should definitely reserve a spot during the weekend and come for brunch (Sat noon-3pm, Sun 10am-3pm).
The Happy Hour, called “Hoppy Hour”, offers a $2 discount on all beers on tap,
all Brewtails, cocktails and wine (daily 4pm-6.30pm).

Barrel Head Brewhouse
1785 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
http://www.barrelheadsf.com

Opening Hours:
Mon & Tue 4pm to midnight
Wed-Fri 14pm to 2am
Sat noon to 2am
Sun 10am to midnight

A Feast for the Senses: San Francisco’s “Ferry Plaza Farmers Market”

The sun is shining on a summer Saturday noon in downtown San Francisco. A warm
and a silky breeze swings through the air of The City by the Bay. If you love food –
fresh, local, handmade and delicious – then the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building
at the eastern end of Market Street is the place for you. Take your time. At least two
to three hours. It’s worth every second! And don’t forget your appetite, you’ll need it!

Around the Port of San Francisco, an impressive building right on SF’s waterfront,
more than 100 market stalls line up. Most of them are small, local, family owned businesses. On offer are seasonal fruits and vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and lettuce from organic gardens. You’ll find homemade jams and sodas, hand-made chocolate and freshly baked cookies, refined cheeses, almonds and cashews subtly roasted with Bourbon or exotic spices, high quality meat and sausages, oysters and roasted wild caught salmon as well as premium burgers and succulent sandwiches that are offered at many gourmet stalls as a delicious and inexpensive lunch option.

The slender Ferry Building itself houses many small shops which seduce the adventurous shopper. The in-house roasted coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee, the impressive variety of
hand crafted cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese and the seductive aroma emanating  from the Acme Bread Company just next door, as well as native olive oil produced by the McEvoy Ranch just opposite to it are all so tempting. Let alone the fine fish and seafood freshly caught off the nearby coast found in the San Francisco Fish Company, the exclusive Salumi of Boccalone only a few steps down the aisle and the sinfully delicious pralinés from the Recchuiti shop just around the corner!

Consider the following images as an appetizer for your next Saturday morning in
downtown San Francisco. And if on this day the sun should not radiate from the blue sky
over the Bay Bridge, try again on Tuesday or Thursday – when the Farmers Market
is lined up again around SF’s Ferry Building.

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Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
One Ferry Building
San Francisco
California 94111
www.cuesa.org

 Tues & Thurs 10am-2pm & Sat 8am-2pm
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Guide

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