Gastronomic Adventure: Why I left my Heart in San Francisco Part 2

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by Lizette Barretto-Gueco, via FoodfindsAsia.com |

Food Truck Party at The Grid

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“There is no such thing as a bad lunch in San Francisco.”  I‘ve been told this by several locals I know and so far, I couldn’t prove them wrong.  In a town where most everyone are foodies or at least have a strong opinion on food, it is no surprise that San Francisco has been said to be in close competition with New York when it comes to the food scene.  Anything you want to eat can be found in the city or its outskirts.  San Francisco has recently been named the best Food City in America by Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit beating New York this time.

In the week and a half that I’ve been in San Francisco, I have had the extreme pleasure of indulging in my favorite cocktail and eating my perfect steak at Morton’s The Steakhouse and then again at Ruth’s Cris Steakhouse, enjoyed eating with my hands, the famous Roasted Dungeness Crab with Garlic noodles at Thanh Long on Judah Street and shrimp with shambalang sauce at hole in the wall, Claw Shack all the way in San Jose.  Including the meals I’ve had in nearby Tiburon town, (Servino’s, Guaymas and Blue Barn at Corte Madera), I really can’t complain! I am just getting started eating my way through San Francisco. At the rate I am going, it’s a good thing I packed my appetite.  It seems like another part of my anatomy is in danger of being left behind.  My stomach.  Uh Oh!!!

    Cocktails, perfect steak & great company at Morton’s The Steakhouse
Cocktails, perfect steak & great company at Morton’s The Steakhouse
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Cocktails, perfect steak & great company at Morton’s The Steakhouse

But anyway, back to my pleasurable task at hand.  I have always been fascinated with the food truck concept and been wanting to have my  very own. Not an easy thing to do in the Philippines or anywhere else, I imagine. So I really made sure to visit some and see how really popular it has become in San Francisco.

Food trucks have become quite an institution in America.  It certainly has come a long way with a colorful and interesting history.  It started with the Chuckwagon in the 1880s.  They traversed the old west and served hot meals to the cowpokes and cattlemen. In pre-war 1936, Oscar Mayer set up a portable hotdog cart and called it the Wiener Mobile. In the 1950’s, America saw the advent of the ice cream truck complete with their very distinctive music which was designed to lure children out of their homes as they roll down the street.  The 1960’s brought on the “Roach-Coach” which started servicing construction sites all over America.  It was so called because of the less than sanitary conditions it was operating in.  In 1974, Raul Martinez converted an old ice cream truck and made it into America’s first taco truck and parked it outside a bar in Los Angeles. Finally in 2008, Kogi BBQ food truck started selling Asian infused tacos in the streets of L.A. which started the whole food truck revolution as we know it. Whew!!!

Party at Off the Grid Fort Mason
Party at Off the Grid Fort Mason
Party at Off the Grid Fort Mason
Party at Off the Grid Fort Mason

Off the Grid in San Francisco, according to their Instagram page is “Making Street Food happen all the time. OTG is a roaming mobile food extravaganza that travels to different locations daily to serve delicious food.”  Since it is a Friday, we make our way to The Fort Mason Center where Off the Grid is at. It seems like we are just in time to join the party.  My baby bro Angelo meets us there and immediately gives us a summary of all the food trucks around. Most of the trucks and stalls peddle gourmet streetfood not ordinarily found anywhere.  Or they are usually extensions of already established gourmet kitchens. He tells us that the 2 most popular are the Chairman which specializes in Taiwanese “gua boa” which are pork, chicken, miso or duck sandwiched between steamed or baked buns and Senor Sisig, a Filipino truck, which really have the longest lines.  I feel proud that our very own sisig has made it’s way to the American shores and their palette.  Although, my brother says  it’s not the same sisig that we Filipinos know and are used to, it is nonetheless, delectable.  I guess we can’t expect everyone to get excited over pig’s cheeks and ears. It has to be modified and sometimes “prettified” to fit into what most people will eat as food. By the looks of the long line on Senor Sisig, it must be really good.

We have a plan!  Since we realize that our growling tummies won’t allow us the luxury of time nor patience to wait in line to get all the food we want pronto, we break up our big group and agree to each line up at our food truck of choice then meet in the center so we can all share and have a taste.  It is hard to choose from the variety that is presented at the site but I had earlier made up my mind to satisfy my recent craving for lechon and Pinoy barbecue.  I really must be homesick. So off I go in search of the Jeepney Guy.

Posing with chilhood friend Trish Dimayuga-Villafranca of Jeepney Guy
Posing with childhood friend Trish Dimayuga-Villafranca of Jeepney Guy

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The crew of Jeepney Guy
The crew of Jeepney Guy

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Jeepney Guy is owned by our childhood friend Trish Dimayuga-Villafranca and her husband chef Dennis Villafranca.  They do boneless pork lechon belly slowly roasted in a specialized oven that they set up on site as well as other pinoy favorites like vegetable lumpia and pork barbecue. The lechon sauce is heavenly. Chef Dennis says he believes in thoughtfully prepared food that make people want to linger…. and linger we definitely did.  Trish hands us a heaping plate of lechon on a bed of hot steamed jasmine rice to share and it is instant gratification for me.  It feels like being back home with family. I momentarily forget about having to share it with the rest of the gang.

Meanwhile, the gang has put together an interesting mix of food. The lobster roll from Lobsta Truck also hits the spot.  Coca cola braised Pork buns from the Chairman food truck does not disappoint. Neither does the Rice burger and kamikaze fries from Koja Kitchen. Chocolate covered bacon from The Bacon Bacon truck is something to try.  And last but not least, the sweet ending, lavender crème brulee from the Crème Brulee cart.  Can’t leave Fort Mason without satisfying my sweet tooth. Worth mentioning is the roast duck taco with mango salsa at Kung Fu tacos.  Don’t have the space in my tummy to try it but heard it was good too.

 Crème brulee
Crème brulee

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Cold beer is always a good idea
Cold beer is always a good idea
Lobster roll from Lobsta Truck
Lobster roll from Lobsta Truck
Chairman foodtruck
Chairman foodtruck
Rice burger from Koja Kitchen truck
Rice burger from Koja Kitchen truck

Everyone happily rubbing their tummies and yawning at the same time is a sure sign that it is time to call it a night. Another adventure ticked off my gastronomic bucket list.

Next on my clipboard, our amazing river rafting adventure at the South fork of the American river. Plus food and wine tripping at Napa.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I am now safely and happily back home. My husband Enic recently brought home a lot of crabs from Davao.  Although not the huge Dungeness crabs that I had at Thanh Long, I decided to try out my own version of the popular and beloved Thanh Long crab and garlic noodles.  It turned out really well.  Sharing with you the recipe below.

Thanh Long Crab and Garlic Noodles

Thanh Long style crab

5 pieces medium sized crabs

¼ cup minced garlic

1 med sized finely chopped onions

½ tsp black pepper

2 tbsps fish sauce (patis)

1 ½ tbsps. Brown sugar

½ cup unsalted butter

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp red chili flakes

Garlic Noodles

½ kilo chow mein noodles, pancit canton or spaghetti

1 whole garlic bulb minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

¼ cup unsalted butter

Maggi or Knorr seasoning to taste

I tsp brown sugar

Pinch of black pepper

Clean and half cook the crabs in a pot of boiling salted water. Remove from the water and let cool for a few minutes.  Remove top shell and cut the body in half and remove legs and claws.

In a large casserole, heat up butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions.  Saute till lightly browned.  Add sesame oil, fish sauce, sugar, chili flakes and pepper. Add crabs and claws and legs to the pot and stir well till crabs are coated in sauce mixture. Transfer to 375 degree oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes.  Make sure crabs are not overcooked.

Noodles: Cook the noodles of choice.  Saute garlic in butter and olive oil.  Add the sesame oil.  Add Maggi or Knorr seasoning, sugar and pepper to taste.  Add cooked noodles and mix till coated in the sauce.

Serve while hot and enjoy!

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About the Author

Lizette Barretto-Gueco
Lizette Barretto-Gueco

Lizette Barretto Gueco is a regular columnist at FoodFindsAsia.com.  She writes about her life’s passions which are family, home, food, relationships and how they fit in perfectly in her scheme of things and in the circle of life.

Lizette is now a busy home based mom after working in marketing and the travel industry for some time. She also ventured into jewelry design while she was a partner at a prestigious jewelry store at Greenbelt 5. Aside from juggling family schedules and managing the home, she also finds time to bake and sell her sweet offerings from her home as well as indulge in her other hobbies like jewelry making and arts and crafts.  She is an amateur filmmaker, traveler, foodie, dreamer and lover of life.

Lizette is a graduate of AB Communication arts from the Ateneo de Manila University.  You can email her at lizbgueco@gmail.com

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