San Francisco’s Mobile Eateries: SOMAny Food Trucks, So Little Time

In a city like San Francisco, there’s so much to love, it’s easy to veer into bad poetic cliche (the fog rolling in on the Golden Gate; how, on unseasonably warm days, the entire city appears to be picnicking on every available patch of green; the dreamy views of the bay from the top of Pacific Heights).

There are other things about SF that rock, however, despite an obvious lack of romanticism. There’s the food truck scene, for example, which in less than five years has become a firmly entrenched part of the city’s culture. Like SF’s ethnic restaurants, the trucks roam the culinary map, from Eritrea and Malaysia to the Philippines, Hawaii, India, the Deep South, Latin America, and even, god help us, dessertlandia (cupcakes have nothing on the crème brûlée truck).

I’ve written before about Off the Grid (OTG), the ginormous, weekly food truck fiesta held down at Fort Mason (there are other, smaller venues and food truck “pods” in SF, the East Bay, South Bay, and Marin County, as well). Featuring over 40 trucks, music, and stellar views of the Bay, it’s become a beloved celebration of all that’s great about life in San Francisco. My favorite vendors include The Chairman (as in Bao), and Gohan.

I’ve been to OTG before, but until last week, I’d never visited its more urban equivalent, SOMA strEAT Food Park. Located just south of Market Street (SOMA), this formerly dumpy, sketchy block has been transformed into an oasis, complete with landscaping, attractive seating areas, music, a beer garden, and an indoor tent for inclement weather. SOMA has long been an up-and-coming ‘hood for hipsters thanks to its bars, cafes, and restaurants, but it’s also convenient to the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Metreon entertainment complex, Yerba Buena Gardens, Moscone Center and the Union Square shopping district.

Unlike OTG, the Food Park is also open daily. A number of the same vendors work OTG and the Food Park (which has different vendors every day), but others are unique to each location. My favorite at the Food Park is Adam’s Grub Truck, which specializes in Pacific Rim-inflected sandwiches that are the bomb. There’s also Del Popolo, inarguably the most famous – and high-tech – food truck/pizzeria on wheels in the nation. It alone is worth a trip down to SOMA.

Whether you head to OTG for the scene, selection and bayside location, or the strEAT Food Park for a convenient shopping or cultural break, you’ll come away stuffed, satiated and waxing a little poetic about SF, yourself.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Gary Soup]

California Restaurant Month Kicks Off In January

The land of goat milk, arugula, and honey continues to prosper, and no surprise, given that California’s 81,700+ farms produce nearly half of all domestically-grown crops.

Thus, the third-annual California Restaurant Month kicks off in January, offering up 33 destinations where visitors and locals alike can savor the flavor of the nation’s most cutting-edge culinary state (sorry, New York).

Select California restaurants will offer special dining promotions such as prix-fixe menus, wine pairings, and other treats designed to promote the state as both food and vacation destination. Add-ons to culinary tourism are available, including skiing, surfing and spa visits.

Nine new dining destinations are a part of the 2013 promotion, including Berkeley (above photo is of the legendary Chez Panisse, now in its 40th year), Beverly Hills, Downtown Long Beach and Santa Monica. Established locales include the wine regions of Temecula Valley, and Santa Maria, Monterey, and Santa Ynez Counties, and small-farm epicenters such as Marin and Shasta counties.

[Photo credit: Robert Holmes]

Sex and Violence, Elk-style

With a goal to get some exercise in during a gluttonous trip to San Francisco, friends took us for a hike in the striking Point Reyes National Seashore Park, only an hour northwest of the city. After eyeing us, the jovial ranger suggested we take the Tomales Point hike. “It is about 5 miles each way, sandy but moderate, and there is a good chance to see some sex and violence along the way,” he said. We were sold. Yes, cheaply.

Hiking is not for everyone. However, throw in the possibility of viewing live sexual acts, and urban dwellers pour into the woods by the Jeep-loads. OK, when you get there, you realize the only participants are elk. But still, if you are into viewing fellow mammals procreate, hiking Point Reyes might be for you.

Although we did not plan our trip with elk (or sex) in mind, last weekend we found ourselves in the middle of the elk mating season, which usually runs from the end of July through October. Literally hundreds of elk surrounded us along the sandy path with magnificent views of the ocean. The mating process itself is every feminist’s worst nightmare. During the mating season, elk bulls gather females into harems. Each harem has about 20 or so females, or as many as a bull can defend from competing males.

Still, scientific curiosity aside, it was slightly disturbing to see all the tourists, photographers, and experts set up their tripods and telescopes to see exactly what is going on, hoping to document the act first-hand.

Without completely giving away the details, there is a lot of elk sniffing-around and bugling going on. While the males seemed very much into it, the females stayed blasé, if not bored. An on-looking photographer summarized the scene: “This is like the worst pick-up bar ever!”