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Street Food Fest Preview: Politics, Technicolor Cocktails & JELL-O Shot Flower Power

SF. Chefs
SF. Chefs
Photo: Claire Cochran

Friday night saw food business incubator La Cocina host a smashing preview dinner at Fort Mason for its upcoming Street Food Festival (Aug. 20). Our very own Courtney Cochran – author of the Hip Tastes blog and La Cocina volunteer advisor – checks in with highlights from the hedonistic soirée attended by some 150+ members of the food media, friends and fans of La Cocina.

See entire Flickr gallery here. [Photos: Courtney Cochran]

When La Cocina opened the doors Friday night for its first-annual media preview for the Street Food Festival, the non-profit’s brainchild and gastronomic tour de force that will feed an estimated 50,000 later this month, it was clear no one would go home hungry. With a menu encompassing a staggering four multi-plate courses preceded by passed apps and optional free eats at Off the Grid, it was not for the feeble of appetite. Les highlights:

1) This Worm’s For You - Well-behaved attendees including Madame ‘hopper chattered politely while waiting for Rye on the Road-made cocktails; tasty side show curiosities like tequila-spiked gelatin shots boasting intricate flower motifs – created by Sweets Collection via a laborious injection procedure – and moth larvae-topped tacos from Don Bugito – a La Cocina-supported mobile business that hangs its toque on insect-spiked fare – were sampled while waiting.

2) Pork Belly BLT, Oh My - Once seated, an ambient buzz of excitement settled over the room that could be felt all night, as platter after platter of exotic edibles prepared by festival participants alighted on tables. Highlights included an eye-popping platter of Scotch Eggs – hard-boiled eggs wrapped in seasoned sausage, coated in bread crumbs and fried – from West Africa-inspired Chiefo’s Kitchen, Good Foods Catering’s equally filling and seductive Pork Belly BLT and a deliciously indulgent Shrimp Po Boy with remolade slaw from Zella’s Soulful Kitchen.

3) “People Who Make Food Sincerely” - It wasn’t all tasty morsels, hot cocktails and cute speeches: La Cocina program director Caleb Zigas took a moment to talk politics. To draw focus to regulatory hurdles facing would-be vendors and to encourage conversation about the denizens of street food culture – micro-entrepreneurs Zigas calls “people who make food sincerely” – La Cocina will host its second National Street Food Conference after the festival. Top Chef Masters’ Suvir Saran will grace the event with his presence and breakouts will dish on the economic and permitting realities of street food culture.

4) Love Stuffed Tamales, Oh Yeah - Wrapping up the presentation portion of the evening, street food chef Alicia Villanueva of Tamales Los Mayas praised vendors before closing with her business slogan – about as sincere as it gets: “My tamales are stuffed with love and the best people are stuffed with my tamales!”

5) Dinner By Numbers – When the arrival of Osha Thai’s richly flavored pumpkin curry signaled the denouement of the savory courses, attendees breathed a collective sigh of satisfied relief, having consumed a possible nineteen dishes (not including OTG nibbles).

6) Friendly Competition, Dessert to Go – Though essentially a festive, feel-good event, Friday’s was a take-no-prisoners kind of food affair, one in which you were judged (informally by your tablemates, at least) by your ability to continue indulging until the desserts came out, and then some. In a flight of self-preservation, I ducked out after enjoying just one sweet, a melt-in-your-mouth-good alfajore from Sabores del Sur.

I nabbed a pint of Three Twins’ Lemon Cookie on the way out the door to enjoy on an emptier stomach, and marked my calendar for the official festival later this month.

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