Monday, October 7, 2013

Burma Road: Lil Burma Food Truck Comes To SoMa StrEat Food Park

We've seen Korean food trucks on the streets of San Francisco.  Chinese food trucks. Japanese food trucks. Filipino Food trucks. Vietnamese food trucks. Thai food trucks. Until now we've not had a Burmese food truck (not counting a rogue Burmese food purveyor that operated briefly a couple of years back from a borrowed truck at a borrowed location).  Now comes Lil Burma, a fully permitted food truck with a Rangoon chef and a menu of authentic Burmese specialties. The founder of Lil Burma, which also does catering, is Lewis Eng who, according to the company's website, is originally from Rangoon, with parents from Meiktila and Mandalay, and a chef since 1985.

Lil Burma debuted at SoMa StrEat Food Park just last Friday and I caught up with it there today while on a Costco run.  It was featuring a menu of signature Burmese dishes, inclucding Burma's "National dish" (by most accounts), mohinga, and local food fan favorite, tea leaf salad:

1) Catfish Soup with Rice Noodle (Moh Hinga)
2) Coconut Chicken Noodle (Ohn No Khauk Swe')
3) Tea Leaf Salad (Lap Pat Thouk)
4) Noodle Salad with Chicken (Kyat Tha Khauk Swe' Thouk)
5) Burmese Curry Prawn (Pa Zune Se Pyan Chet)
6) Burmese Curry Chicken with Lemon Grass (Kya Tha Zapalin)
7) Indian Style Curry Chicken (Kalar Kyat Tha Se Pyan)

I chose the mohinga, a benchmark of sorts for me, which I have eaten from ceramic bowls at sitdown restaurants, from paper bowls on my lap sitting on the grass at Thingyan festivals, and now from a plastic soup takeout container from a food truck. It's basically a catfish chowder with rice vermicelli, chopped clilantro, chick peas, shallots, garlic, chilies and lime wedges. Although my bowl (er, container) of mohinga had the Stoneware Soup Principle* working against it , it was a substantial and savory creation and a worthy example of its genre. and inducement enough to return to the Lil Burma truck and work through the rest of the menu.

Given the City's reputation among gastro-tourists as a place to try out Burmese food,  It's only right that SF now has Burmese in it's food truck mix.

*The heavier the bowl, the tastier the noodles

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Richmond's Xi'an Gourmet Restaurant Brings Welcome New Choices to San Francisco

I fell in love with many of the foods of Xi'an more than five years ago at David Shih's Xi'an Famous Foods in Flushing, NY's now legendary Golden Mall and have been lamenting the near total absence of this cuisine from San Francisco ever since.  I am happy to report that it is now possible to get my Xi'an food "fix" in San Francisco, thanks to Xi'an Gourmet Restaurant at Geary Boulevard and 2nd Avenue.

A couple of weeks ago, San Dong House restaurant, looking for a way to distinguish itself from the growing number of local hand-pulled noodle joints (with and without "Shandong/Sandong" in their names), morphed into Xi'an Gourmet. It was not a gratuitous makeover: the chef at San Dong House was from Xi'an and, it appears, has an assertive grasp of his hometown cuisine, at least judging from to two items I had today.

I found out about Xi'an Gourmet over breakfast, from perusing the Yelp listing of new businesses (say what you will about Yelpers -- they may not always get it right, but they almost always get it first). After that Big Reveal I resolved to be there for lunch, and so I was.  Xi'an Gourmet's menu is quite long and varied, since the Shandong cuisine items remain on it, as well as the requisite Chinese food Golden Oldies. The 30-odd Silk Road dishes are quite easy to find, though, in the two sections of the menu labeled "House Special" and "Hand Pulled Noodle" though you might want to throw in some skewers or Shandong dumplings as well. I chose two bell-wether Xi'an items, a lamb roujiamo ("Shaanxi Sandwich with Cumin Lamb") and a noodle dish called you po mian or sometimes you po che mian (here "Shaanxi Hand Made Noodle"), both items which I  am quite familiar with from New York and Shanghai.

I consider Xi'an Famous Foods' lamb roujiamo a benchmark, simply because I've eaten so many of them, and Xi'an Gourmet's stacks up well to them.  Overall, XG's version was about the same size and as full of meat as XFF's version.  XG's lamb seemed slightly less fatty, but at least as aggressively spiced with cumin, jalapenos and chili oil as XFF's.  Xi'an Gourmet's buns were a bit denser and more impermeable than Xi'an Famous Foods', which gave them a nice crunchiness but made XG's roujamo messier, as the buns didn't absorb the chile oil and juices as well. XG's lamb roujiamo are also more expensive, at $5.95, though they also serve a pork version for $3.95.

The you po mian is a tossed noodle dish, with rough, fat, hand-pulled noodles sitting in a puddle of spicy oil and topped with ground dried chilis and other condioments, then tossed.  I'll be writing more about this noodle dish in my separate noodle blog, but will say that it was very similar to a version of the dish I had in Shanghai, and didn't suffer by comparison to with any other version of you po che mian I have had.

I'll be returning within the week to vet the yang rou pao mo (a hearty lamb soup that uses torn up flatbread instead of noodles) and will have a further report once I've analyzed and cherry-picked the menu.

Xi'an Gourmet, 3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., San Francisco

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lap Cheong and Latte -- Only at iCafe

Guangzhou King & King (L) becomes iCafe (R)

Guangzhou King & King was one of the last two places in San Francisco Chinatown offering house-made Chinese sausage for retail sale, so I was somewhat dismayed when it appeared to have morphed into a coffee shop, iCafe, even though it was serving "the best coffee in Chinatown." To tell the truth I'd not often been in the market for lap cheong (Chinese sausage), but it was comforting to walk by and see the strings of various types of Lap Cheong hanging at the back of the store. It would be sad to see it go. Fortunately, it was not so. A Twitter follower who saw the Instagram I posted pointed out that the Chinese sign on iCafe mentioned BBQ, so I decided further research was in order.

Sure enough, I discovered when I returned early enough in the day to tolerate some caffeine, several varieties of house-made lap cheong were on display, laid out horizontally in glass cases behind the counter, which was adorned with pastry cases.  It was just a "remodel," said the owner with a grin.

Lap cheong can be see laid out behind the coiunter
iCafe offers a full menu of coffee and tea trinks including espresso drinks, Vietnamese iced coffee, Hong Kong Milk Tea and even the peculiar Hong Kong mix of coffee and tea, as well as hot chocolate and ovaltine, but blessedly, NO bubble tea drinks. There are also a variety of pastries and packaged munchies to accompany your drink.

A menu that would look at home in Hong Kong

To complete the transformation of a Chinese charcuterie into a Western cafe a la Hong Kong, where is artwork on the wall for sale by an artist named Nate1, a friend of the owners.  Fittingly, the art work even included a bit of lap cheong art.

Lap cheong art.
As I sipped a tasty latte and pondered the metamorphosis, it all began to make sense to me.  The storefront had never been used as a work space, and the goods on offer were mainly strung up behind the counter, leaving a lot of unused space. The loyal sausage customers were going to wade through whatever was in their way to score their handmade lap cheong, and any additional revenue from a coffe shop would be gravy, as it were. And, I suspect, there was another good reason for the enterprise. Nobo, half of the couple that owns the establishment is as friendly and garrulous as an Irish bartender, and probably happy to have some ears to bend to get him through the day. He, incidentally, not only makes the lap cheong, and, on this day, the coffee drinks, but also bakes the pastries, I was told.

Butcher, baker and latte maker Nobo of iCafe
Incidentally, I didn't get to meet Nobo's partner Diana, who, unfortunately, was recuperating from an illness. According to the scattering of Yelp reviews iCafe has garnered in its short existence, Diana is every bit as friendly as Nobo. Stop by for some coffee and conversation, and grab some artisanal lap cheong to take home.

iCafe is at 57 Walter U. Lum Place, jsut off Washington, on the backside of Portsmouth Square

Thursday, June 20, 2013

France Délices Truck Debuts At SoMa StrEat Food Park. They Had Me At Merguez

If you know me, or even if you only read my blogs, you know I'm not a Frenchy food kind of guy. But when Carlos Muela told me a new French street food truck would be slangin' sausage sandwiches, I decided to check out the debut of France Délices at Muela's SoMa StrEat Food Park.

They had me at merguez.

I love the spicy Mediterranean sausage known as merguez. It's my favorite of all sausages, especially when made from my favorite of all meats, lamb. On my trips to Montreal, a well-dressed grilled merguez sausage sandwich on a french roll from An-Nasr at the Jean-Talon market trumps a medium fat from Shwartz's at the top of my must-eat list. A Montreal merguez sandwich, especially with its Lebanese twist, is probably not replicated anywhere else in North America, but I'm always ready to applaud a good stand-in, and here was a credible candidate staring me in the face.

France Délices' menu is simplicity itself. There are four choices of grilled sausage sandwiches: lamb merguez, chicken merguez, wild boar with apple and cranberries and one with -- wait for it -- my second favorite animal flesh, duck, somehow combined with figs. (The cunning bastards, they know I'll be back to try that one.) A sausage sandwich on a soft French roll with your choice of two toppings is $7.00.  The truck also offers hand-cut frites (Freedom fries to you) served Euro-style in a large paper cone, with your choice of dips for $4.00.  But wait! There's the "meal deal," which gets you a sandwich, fries and a drink (soda or bottled water) for a flat $10.00. That would be me, see?

I ordered my merguez sandwich with sauerkraut and sweet peppers as toppings. It did not disappoint. There were two decent-sized links of merguez sausage, and the spicing and texture seemed right on, compared to what I have become accustomed to.  With a slightly firmer bun and some chopped green olives as a topping option, it would have been a pretty good facsimile of my beloved Montreal merguez sando.  As it is, it was a winner of a sandwich on its own, and the fries went down well too, especially with the ailoi dressing I selected.

The artfully and whimsically decorated France Délices is from the same people who created the Golden Waffle cart that graces SoMa StrEat Food Park on Friday nights.  I'll be checking for future appearances, and returning for the duck sausage sandwich, guaranteed. And probably for the wild boar and.....

And by the way, France Délices folks, if you are  listening, let me put a bug in your ear. Since you've already got the sauerkraut and four kinds of sausage going, how about putting together a nice robust choucroute garni platter for dinner service at SoMa?  That, some cold beer and a Giants game on the telly would be a great way to while away a couple of hours on a not-too-chilly evening.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Notable Nosh: Frikadelle Slap Chip Roll at Amawele's South African Kitchen Leaves Me Frikkin' Slap-happy

Sometimes you find things in the oddest places. Tucked away in the northwest corner of the cavernous Rincon Center food court, home of the grandiloquent dim sum palace Yank Sing and a neighboring flock of well-scrubbed and generally dumbed-down quick service outlets, you'll find Amawele's South African Kitchen.  Yes, it's shiny and new, but it's a mom-and-pop (uh, make that mom-and-daughters) operation and boasts a menu filled completely with Durban street food-type items entirely new to the eating experience of most of us.

I headed to Amawele's today hoping to test drive Durban's iconic Bunny Chow, which is featured on their menu, but they were out of it by 12:45 when I arrived.  I'll get back there for that and have a full report later (hint: "bunny chow" is not a lettuce salad), but in the meantime, I settled on something equally intriguing in name, a Frikadelle Slap Chip Roll.  A frikadelle is a spicy, flat South African meatball (beef, in this case). The name apparently comes from a similar German or Danish meatball, but a Malaysian friend, claims the South African frikadelle was inspired by Malaysian-Indonesian bergedil; given the multiple cultural influences on South African cuisine, that's entirely possible. The frikadelle roll uses a banh mi-like baguette, stuffed with the meatballs, french fries (or "slap chips") all coated with a thick curry. Think of it as banh mi meets Bombay meets Primante Brothers. As is obvious from the picture at the left, it's a messy affair, so grab lots of napkins. According to Amawele's menu, the frikadelle roll contains "South African meatballs stuffed with mint, onions, basil, green peppers flavored with fennel, lavender basil and thyme served in a bread roll with grilled onions and vinegar french fries (Slap Chips)" It's not entirely clear which condiment is in the meatball and which is in the sauce, but the bottom line is that my very filling frikadelle roll was frikkin' delicious.

"Amawele" is the Zulu word for twins, and Pamela and Wendy Michaelson who run the place, helped out (or perhaps shown the way) by their mother, are in fact, twins. The establishment recently moved to Rincon Center after a brief existence at an obscure Ninth and Noriega location and, judging from the lines and instant fan club they've generated, it was a wise move. In addition to the Bunny Chow and the Frikadelle Roll, Amawele's menu includes Cape Malay Curry rice, Durban Curry Roti Wraps , and Vetkoek, a deep-fried donut-like roll sliced and stuffed with (you guessed it) chicken curry. All items come with vegetarian counterparts. Based on my experience today, I'll be returning to try them all.

Where noshed: Amewele's South African Kitchen, Rincon Center, 101 Spear St., San Francisco

Monday, April 29, 2013

Food Truck Of The Month: El Calamar Peruvian Cuisine

I'm not really planning a literal "Food Truck of the Month" feature. There may not be another Food Truck of the Month for another six months in this blog; then again there could conceivably be be two FTOMS in one month. The simple fact is that once in a while a food truck comes along that stands out so prominently that it deserves an honorific of sorts, so why NOT "Food Truck of the Month?" El Calamar Peruvian Cuisine, which started appearing frequently at the SoMa StrEat Food Park a month ago, is  just such a truck.

El Calamar is not a hipster creation of social media; as far as I can determine, El Calamar doesn't have a website, Facebook page or even a twitter account. It's a family operation, and you'll run into most of the family over the course of a couple of visits. The owner, chef and pater familias has great creds: he cooked at the Michelin-starred La Costanera Restaurant in Montara Beach.

El Calamar serves traditional Peruvian classics; there's no fusion or crossover foods on the menu. Yes, there's the familiar lomo saltado and papa a la Huancaina; but you'll also find less familiar platos, like carapulca, a stew of chicken, pork and dried potatoes in a peanut sauce, and jalea, a mixed grill of sorts featuring (mostly) fried calamari, grilled fish, shrimp and yuka.  Calamar means calamari, of course, and you can also get a standalone order of fried calamari or, also in the fishy deparment, grilled tilapia.  The current menu also includes papa rellena, and a Peruvian tamal. The refreshing Peruvian purple corn beverage chicha morada is also offered, and alfajor cookies for dessert.

So far, I've tried the lomo saltado, carapulca, and jalea and enjoyed all three immensely.  I was particularly impressed with the fried calamari in the jalea, tender with a crunchy breading that had not even a soupçon of greasiness. I intend to work my way through the entire menu at El Calamar. I find myself checking SoMa StrEat Foods lunch roster on Twitter each morning, to decide if I need something at Costco, Rainbow Grocery or Best Buy; if El Calamar is scheduled to be at the Park, I do.

Another thing: if you are a chili head, ask for the hot sauce if it's not included.  You won't be disappointed. If you're not a chili head, approach that little tub of green stuff with caution. It's not guac!

And oh yes, if you are listening, El Calamar, let me whisper something in your ear:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Field Notes From a Fishy Fortnight: Rocking the Ceviche from Sanguchon and Shrimp & Love, and More

Peruvian Leche de Tigre Cebiche from the Sanguchon Truck
I last left you, dear reader, with the taste of Shrimp & Love's Shrimp-aguachile ceviche still on my lips and a desire for more in my gut. I didn't wait long, for the next night I found the Sanguchon truck serving ceviche alongside their Peruvian sanguches at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center.  The Sanguchon truck is a side venture of the owner of a Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant, and as might be expected, its ceviche comes exquisitely plated, er, styrofoamed. Sanguchon's ceviche is a classic Peruvian ceviche with the catch of the day (in this case red snapper) marinated in leche de tigre ("tiger's milk").  There are many recipes for leche de tigre; The Sanguchon truck's uses lemon juice, rocoto (a form of pepper) and ginger. It came accompanied by cancha (roasted corn kernels), choclo (fresh corn kernels) and camote (sweet potato). It is served "dry," i.e. with excess marinade drained off. In restaurants, the excess marinade is sometimes served in a small glass as an aperitif, "spiked" or not.

A few days later, I hit the SoMa StrEat Food Park for lunch, and the most attractive option at the time seemed to be Icelandic Cod Fish & Chips from Chef Pelle Nillson (he of the tunnsbrödsrulle) and his Nordic Truck. The nicely-breaded and perfectly-cooked cod came with French fries of just the right size (to my taste) though not quite as browned as I like; the latter didn't stop me from eating them all (which for me is a rare occurrence). The F&C was accompanied by a watercress remoulade (by way of a tartar sauce) and some fresh pickles.

The following Thursday I returned to Mission Mercado, drawn as if by a magnet by Orlando and Monica's Shrimp & Love Ceviches, electing this time to try Orlando's version of Peruvian ceviche.  His is a much wetter version, with the fish (cubes of tilapia here) and accompaniments luxuriating in a well-drawn bath of leche de tigre. This version would hit the spot on a very hot day, thanks to the chilled "tiger's milk," though I preferred the spicier aguachile version I had the previous week.

Thursday ceviche seems to be turning into a habit which I'll gladly submit to, at least until I've tried each of Shrimp & Love's ceviches, and it was no surprise to me that my feet found their way to the 22nd and Bartlett Mercado again yesterday. This time I gave the traditional Mexican ceviche a whirl.  Whole and cut shrimp were bathed in a tomato-ey, mildly spicy broth.  Like the other two Shrimp & Love ceviches I've tried to date, it's something I'll gladly return for.

As if the above weren't enough fish for a two week period, I also enjoyed a salt cod (among others, they're small) Sonora-style burrito from the Burr-eatery truck at SoMa StrEat Food Park, and some excellent takoyaki from a popup that only seems to appear on Post Street during Cherry Blossom Festival.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Noshed and Noted: Shrimp & Love Ceviche, Aria Korean-American Snack Bar, La Falafel and Sticks BBQ

And the winner is.......ceviche!. There are two food groups that call my name, but LOUDLY, namely ceviche and lamb. I managed to work both into my grazing over the past few days (lamb more than once), but the fishy one always trumps the barnyard-y one, and it was Shrimp & Love that held the winning card. I ran across this vendor at Mission Mercado, which I visited for the first time today (what have I been doing all these Thursdays???).  Mission Mercado is a neighborhood "farmer's" market for the Mission with many familiar produce and value-added vendors, but has more of a community "street market" feel than other neighborhood farmer's markets are able to achieve. Shrimp & Love is the brother-sister team of Orlando and Monica Trigueros, who have developed a whole range of ceviches from traditional to fanciful (think passion fruit). Their ceviches are prepared off-site and sold in chilled, sealed packages (probably a DOH stricture) but come with a spoon, napkin and a packet of restaurant-style tortilla chips, ready for wolfing down at one of the convenient nearby tables. I chose the "Shrimp-aquachile" ceviche, a Mexican style. As the name implies, it comes with a very soupy sauce, packed with fiery green chiles, slivered onions and plenty of shrimp (I think I counted seven).  Needless to say, I immediately hunkered down and devoured the plastic bucketful of jalapeno heaven. I'll definitely be back for more, and to try the other ceviche varieties on offer.

Ddukbokki (as fun to eat as it is to spell out) from Aria Korean-American Snack Bar was a close second in this heat as a spicy treat. Aria is a mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall that opened about a year ago in the space that held the venerable Old Chelsea Fish and Chips shop for nearly 50 years.  Every time I've walked by it I have vowed to try the ddukbokki, dowel-shaped rice pasta similar to Shanghainese nian gao, served in a spicy sauce, and finally got around to to it last Friday afternoon.  I had only had one previous ddukbokki experience, on the streets of Shanghai, of all places and it was disappointing. The  pasta was under-cooked  and the sauce tasted mostly of catsup and was only slightly spicy). The Koreans had do do it better. I ordered the ddukbokki and an order of fried mandoo, the Korean version of jiaozi/gyoza. I wasn't disappointed.  The ddukbokki had great body, firm and chewy, but not jaw-cramplingly so.  They came in a savory soup-like bath in a shallow dish. The sauce was honestly spicy and so good one could slurp it as soup, which I did, until the chili heat got to be too much. The ddukboikki at Aria definitely belongs in the comfort food department, especially if a moderate spiciness is in your comfort zone.

Another treat worth a repeat came from La Falafel. a food truck I found at the SoMa StrEat Food Park one lunchtime this week. La Falafel features (d'oh) falafel sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches and beef-lamb kabab sandwiches (all in pita bread) as well as a side Israeli salad. I chose a half-sandwich with the kababs (you did hear lamb, didn't you?) and an Israeli salad. This choice was easy to make because the salad came with three falafel balls, giving me a chance to sample their signature product while indulging my lamb thrall. \The salad was mostly tomato and cucumber, bathed in a nicely peppery vinaigrette, and the accompanying falafel balls were perfectly spiced and moist, making me promise myself I would go for a whole falafel sandwich next time. The kabab sandwich was also exceptional, with fresh pita, nicely spiced meats, and a topping that included freshly cooked french fries (which I believe qualifies it as "Israeli style").

Last (and least, to be honest) was a stop at Sticks BBQ, whose shtick is skewers of grilled meats and other things. They feature approximately 15 types of skewers, listed on a chalkboard, and little else. I chose lamb shoulder, chicken thigh, and cuttlefish balls to sample. The lamb was nicely spiced and grilled, but a little on the tough side. It would have worked better with a fattier cut, longer grilling or tenderizing (hopefully through marination or some other natural process).  The chicken skewers were the best of the three, being tender and juicy in addition to being nicely spiced and grilled, and the cuttlefish were about as good as cuttlefish balls can be. I have no real complaints, but they weren't anything to make ones pulse race. The small skewers were not overly expensive, not were they great bargains.  In a nutshell, the product seemed middling in every way.  Sticks is located in the midst of a highly competitive after-school snack ghetto (I counted ten places to get bubble tea in that three-block stretch of Irving St.), and unless they have a secret boba formula or something, I don't see Sticks as, well, sticking.

Shrimp & Love, Mission Mercado, 22nd and Bartlett Streets, San Francisco
Aria Korean American Snack Bar, 932 Larkin Street, San Francisco
La Falafel, 428-11th Street, San Francisco
Sticks BBQ, 2138 Irving Street, San Francisco

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Off the Grid Fort Mason Center 2013: More Sizzle, Less Steak For Lovers Of Street Food

Off the Grid at sunset

The 2013 edition of Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center got off to what must be described as a roaring start on March 22. I've been to 78 or so Fort Mason Center events (if you can believe Foursquare), including all four season openers, and don't believe I have ever before seen it inundated so early in the evening or in the season by the hungry hordes that greeted the 4th edition's opener.  Commercially, at least, Off the Grid shows no signs of having jumped the shark. When it comes to food choices, however, a less sanguine picture is emerging.

Depending of where you stand (or sit, if you can afford it) you may be either thrilled or dismayed by the changes that Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center has undergone, Most visible is the "VIP" area featuring reservations-only $40-$50 prix fixe dining from four vendors, including two of the finest Bay Area street food providers, away from the hoi polloi. Here you'll get seating, heating and shelter from the elements, and your own private bar with a "curated" drinking experience.

Even it you choose not to buy into the "Chef's Table" elite,  you'll be happy to find more booze queues for designer label cocktails and artisan beers, more (or at least better deployed) picnic table seating, and louder canned techno-beat music from DJs with names. You'll also find new novel treats like gourmet corn dogs and ice cream tacos.

What you won't find at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center 2013 are noshes  like classic Peruvian anticuchos, fiery som tam, a cochinita pibil salbute, fried Tianjin dumplings or a Trinidad "Double." And you can bet your sweet patootie you won't find the pre-Hispanic insect protein-based cuisine of Don Bugito. There are far fewer food choices this year than last for people who like close-to-the-bone Asian or Latin street food, and it appears that the more authentic or exotic the food, the less likely its vendor was to make the cut when a diminishing number of slots for 2013 were doled out.

Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center's mission statement, revealed in a 2010 press release, states:
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center was established to create a unique San Francisco night market experience that highlights the vibrancy and culture of Asian and Latin Street Food markets, and provides legal opportunities for food entrepreneurs to showcase their products. 
There's always been a little bending the rules, of course, to round out the offerings. You could sell cupcakes or kettle corn if you included an "Asian" flavor such as pandan. (Ironically, they do sell unflavored kettle corn on the streets of Shanghai these days.)  It was easy to wink at this dodge as long as these hipster fetishes were overshadowed by the number of more or less authentic Asian or Latin offerings available, as was the case through last year, when Off the Grid: Fort Mason seemingly reached its peak. It's harder to do so today.

I compared the roster of vendors for 2013 with the rosters for first two Fridays in September 2012 (a handful of vendors were bi-weekly and rotated).  Of the 35 vendors you might have encountered over those two Fridays in September, 2012, 18 have either been written out of the plan, self-deported, or exiled to Oakland on Friday nights; 17 have returned for 2013, along with 10 new (to Fort Mason) vendors in the public area.  It's somewhat problematic categorizing vendors by ethnicity, on account of fusion and crossover trends, but by my own classification 24 of the 35 vendors at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center in 2102 were manifestly Asian or Latin food vendors, but only 14 of 27 in 2013.

NOT in 2013
How does this net loss loss of 10 ethnic vendors break down?  Mexican cuisine was the hardest hit, with five vendors of Mexican food whittled down to one. Alicia's Tamales returned for 2013, but gone are Chac Mool (Yucatecan), Cholita Linda (Tacos), Delicioso Creperie (sweet and savory crepes), and Don Bugito (pre-Hispanic insect-based cuisine).  You won't even find a genuine Mexican taco at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center in 2013, unless you consider the Taco Guys' or Rocko's Chocolate Tacos authentic. Also missing this year in the Latin food  department is Lima Peruvian Food, with its classic beef heart anticuchos.  You won't find Argentine empanada vendor El Porteno around either, but will find new Argentine empanada vendor  El Sur in its stead.

NOT in 2013
Asian food choices were even harder hit over the intersession.  You will find NO bona fide Chinese fare, with the departure of the wildly popular Happy Dumplings; likewise, you will no Thai food, with both its 2012 vendors (Phat Thai and House of Siam) among the missing from Fort Mason. Vietnamese food and Indian food vendor slots have each been reduced from two to one, with An the Go and Kasa Indian, respectively, on the outs at Fort Mason.

If you are craving ramen, you won't find Kirimachi around with its $8 ramen bowls, but you can avail yourself of new vendor Chotto's $12 bowls.  Korean comfort food? Local legend Seoul on Wheels and its robust menu have been banished to Oakland on Friday nights, but perhaps you can make do with a beef wrap or not-so-Korean fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles from new vendor Bok Ssam.

Bini of Bini's Kitchen
In fairness, I did find one bright spot, Asian food-wise, among the new vendors.  That would be Bini's Kitchen, another La Cocina product, now gracing Off the Grid with Nepali food, including delicious momos. (Get there early for the vegetarian ones, they sold out in the first hour on opening night.)

Who else will you not find around at Fort Mason Center on Friday nights this year? You won't find AK Double Up (Trinidad doubles) or New American/fusion/crossover purveyors Brass*Knuckle, Eat on Monday, Kung Fu Tacos and Wing Wings.  They're gone too.

Asian and Latin street food market or Gen-Y scene? Check it out and decide for yourself. And enjoy an artisanal corn dog with your hand-crafted cocktail while you're there.