Monday, 6 September 2010

I left my heart there...

...or at least any hope of wearing summer clothing again this year. The blueness of the sky was incredible. I would wander around San Francisco's audacious slopes fairly pinching myself to be there, in it, amongst it - revelling in having suddenly transported myself to one of my favourite cities in the world - all on a stomach pulsing whim.

They catch you sometimes, these gut-fuelled desires. Whether it's sensible or feasible or not, that part of your instinct will not hush up until you obey it. I like obeying it. Makes me feel like I'm on course. Keeps me alert.

The last one I had was on a rock in India where I became consumed by the need to return to Uni and study Urbanism. I'm fascinated by how cities work, by how we all negotiate the space that we occupy within them. How every city has a different personality, like people, and functionality akin to the human body. And how public spaces, with a little imagination and vision, can provide a city and its people with a vital aspect to this personality.

So it is that Choc Star + + my upcoming Masters amounts to a deep interest in the question of how instrumental street food is to the animation and integration of urban public space. When I heard that over in Fog City La Cocina were holding a street food festival and two day conference on this very subject I got all hot under the collar and was on a flight in a matter of days.

You can read about the festival here and I'll be writing about the conference shortly but, for now, here's a little round-up of the sweetness coming my way during my San Fran Express trip.

Pud number 1 in La Dunya on Polk St. Settled into my hotel and then headed straight out in pursuit of my first glass or two of some really good zinfandel. I love a cheeky zin. And they always give you the most enormous glass to quaff it from in Cali. For fear of falling off my perch I ordered some food, culminating in the owner wheeling out three different puddings for me to try. The brownie was perfectly fine, the Tiramisu nice enough, but this lemon situation above had me all up in my clover. A great buttery layer of tangy lemon curd atop a crunchy base of ginger biscuit. It worked for me - I felt perfectly normal the next morning, like I'd been on Pacific Time for weeks.


Soon turned to this:

and I was off into those streets like four dogs on a three-legged cat.

Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream (Salted Caramel and Malted Vanilla for me).


Tartine friand, cacao nib rocher and Mexican sugar cookie (there was something else in there which was way too good to wait for its pic to be taken). I love Tartine. There's something almost apothecal about imbibing from it. Feels like it'll help you to live a long and prosperous life.

Equadorian, hi-camp jellies at the street food festival. I've never seen anything like it. Reminded me of those T-shirts you grow in water.

I'd heard so much about the Creme Brulee Cart and was devastated not to be able to try the Mexican Chocolate. They were dishing out frozen ones to the people a few in front and then torches down, party over.

But I did get to have this as consolation...

Hot off the press, slippy-slidey, melting choc/mallow, squidgeable, crunchable hot mess. Thanks to Kika's Treats for the light relief!

Then someone hawked me this Alfajore (Peruvian dulce de leche cookie) for $2, which I ploughed into before remembering to snap. That keeps happening to me lately.

Oh, and these cheeky little Madeleines were sat winking at me - all sassy and keen - as I passed by Delfina on my way out of there. When it comes to pure comfort cake this has to be up there. And you just feel so damn special with one of those in your hand/mouth/tummy.

Speaking of Delfina, if there was one thing I needed from my San Francisco express visit it was meatballs, California style. I took myself off for a cosy dinner a une (such a luxury) to the Pacific Heights branch and got well stuck into those polpette. I mean seriously stuck in - to the point that, along with a dozen or so other memorables, I swear I'll be recalling them well into my granny years. Anyway, of course I needed dolce after and opted for a moreno cherry sundae with bitter chocolate sauce and toasted pistachios. I did have something of a waddle to my walk home that night.

Brunch at Americano the next day - ahead of the conference - was knock-out. Along with empenadas, panzanella, corn frittata, beef satay, a whole world of Bloody Marys and other deliciousness, they hit us with some sweetness too.

This was a Malaysian porridge:

Nice but perhaps a little too wholesome for me.

More up my strada were the homemade 'pop tarts' - ricotta and blackberry compote:

and the mini cupcakes:

Pink lemonade, Guinness, spiced and Red Velvet. I banded around the idea of the 'cupcake backlash' to the people I was sitting with and they thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. No visible signs of this phenomenon hitting US shores as far as they were concerned.

Later I hit the Humphry Slocombe/Big Gay Ice Cream truck party in the Mission (but not before getting an education in real bourbon from a ripped guy in a low-down dive bar round the corner). What a contrast it was between that and this:

The cake was fine but what really got me inspecting the back of my head was the much raved about Humphry Slocombe ice cream. Hot diggity. My eyes pulsed with fever as I surveyed the list. The queue was ridiculous, I had to be ready with my order. In the end, despite stiff competition from the Salt & Pepper and Balsamic Caramel flavours, I went for Malted Milk Chocolate and Secret Breakfast with hot fudge sauce and frosted peanuts.

I nearly keeled over, straight into the arms of an enormous Tranny. People - it was that good. Not French cleverness, nor Italian velvet, but a pure creamy, delicious pleasure with an almighty flavour that I haven't experienced in London so far.

The next day my hangover (after a heavy duty session with Southern food legend John T Edge) prevented me from exploring sweetness much further. It was all about the tacos, the Po'boys and the empenadas. Except these did catch my eye and I did have to try.

Organic doughnuts. Who knew? This vanilla cookie one did actually feel like it was doing me good in a fairly wholesome way. Not wholesome green pulsey porridge, more soulfood wholesome - my favourite kind.


Helen said...

That's one of the things I admire most about you Petra, your ability to just follow your gut instincts and make things happen. You're going to be awesome on that course I know it. The food looks amazing in that city, DAMN! I've always wanted to go. And that sky IS so blue. Incredible.

Petra Barran said...

Thanks H - When you get there you will literally WYP. Rampantly exciting food everywhere! X