There’s a huge undertaking in San Francisco called “La Cocina”–an incubator kitchen of sorts that provides commercial kitchen space and assistance to folks. The majority of the those receiving help from La Cocina are low-income women who had a big dream and huge talent. But La Cocina is more than just an incubator; it provides an outlet for these new businesses to network, and gain wide popularity in the region, and with partners like Whole Foods, some of these businesses gain nationwide visibility. In addition to providing assistance to the food entrepreneurs, less known are the myriad of workshops and culinary classes that La Cocina hosts throughout the year. Covering topics like “Retail 101: How to Pitch Your Business to the Right Market”, “Bags, Bottles and Boxes: The Quest for the Perfect Package”, and “Holy Mole” — a class taught by La Cocina entrepreneurs teaching the art of making Mexican mole, the organization is chock full of informative and relevant workshops that cater to much more than just food businesses.
For the fifth year in a row, San Francisco is home to the “San Francisco Street Food Festival” on August 17, 2013. It’s an opportunity that gives regular folks like you and me access to the fascinatingly delicious creations La Cocina businesses prepare. Some of the businesses are well-known and already established; others will be brand new–but everything presented is fresh and a delight to the senses.
Last night was the “Media Dinner” for San Francisco Street Food Festival, a preview to the upcoming food festival and the vendors of the “Night Market”, a fundraiser for La Cocina, happening on August 16, the night before the food festival kicks off. Held at Fort Mason, it was food and drink overload upon walking in. While I was checking in for my badge, a server came by and offered me a glass of Chardonnay. (“Don’t mind if I do, thank you.”)
As I walked in, I was greeted in the front with a variety of alcoholic drinks provided by Rye, beautiful and plentiful–and strong, as I quickly found out. I did make it a point to try two out of the three drinks offered–you know, just so I could tell my readers they were good.
From there, the food stations took over.
Now, I’m not inexperienced when it comes to food events, so I knew better than to eat the entire small portion served by each stand. This ain’t my first food festival, folks….right? I took a bite, sometimes ate half of it, and tossed the remainder. My objective was clear: try all of the food, and take photos.
That plan did not work out so well.
First, I get there and my favorite lens, which had been giving me trouble recently, decides to not work at all. Thankfully, I brought a backup lens that I don’t much like–so I was able to shoot photos of each dish I did try. That said, be forewarned, I didn’t even come close to trying all of the food.
Homemade thick tortillas are the foundation for the juicy and flavorful toppings piled on top, of stir-fried nopal cactus, and ground pork, topped with some fresh cream. Both of these were packed with flavor–and dare I say it, the cactus was even better than the meat-topped one. El Pipila had two salsas available to top these creations with, which I gladly did.
There were quite a few tamales available from different vendors. You’d think after one or two, you might be done tasting tamales but on the contrary, each had their one unique take on it, differing in which flavor was highlighted as well as texture and presentation. Some were meant to be consumed with sauces whereas Estrelita’s Cafe presented theirs as-is. Doing so really gave credit to the smooth corn and the subtle taste of chicken. I was unable to try the veggie or cheese ones—despite popular belief, there is a limit as to how much I can eat and stomach space was prime real estate at this event.