At the Commonwealth Club Last Night, a Diverse Panel Chews on Street Food's Challenges
A full house celebrated San Francisco's street-food scene at last night's panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club, The Street Food Movement: SF Hearts the Cart, moderated by SFoodie blogger Tamara Palmer. In fact, a number of the 250 in attendance were so inflamed by the prospect of sampling street-food wares at a companion tasting at nearby gallery space 111 Minna., they cut out of the auditorium early to go stand in line for treats.
m. Brody Mission Street Food's Anthony Myint (left) with Magic Curry Kart's Brian Kimball.
We were among the stalwarts who stayed to the end of the Q&A session, which -- predictably -- ended with the hopeful Q, "Any brilliant ideas for carts?" Brian Kimball of Magic Curry Kart, who's working towards becoming a licensed psychotherapist, responded, "Make what you're good at." The Slanted Door's Charles Phan, in his role as elder statesman and practical guy, said, "You have to think about time and salability. Production is really important."
m. Brody Charles Phan: Thinking about production is key.
The four panelists were collegial but wildly different. Soft-spoken professional cook Anthony Myint of Mission Burger and Mission Street Food was serious about making charitable donations (in his case, to organizations fighting hunger) part of the business plan. Gobba Gobba Hey's Steven Gdula, who turned to baking gobs when the recession made his freelance food writing career difficult, started baking a dozen pastries at a time in his home oven and has transitioned to being able to turn out six dozen in eight minutes in a commercial kitchen.
Gdula was overcome by emotion when talking of the plight of likely deportee Murat Celebi-Ariner of Amuse Bouche, who was the first fellow street-food seller to be supportive of him. When a jar of Boozely's pickled green beans was handed up to him, Gdula promptly sent it around the auditorium for an impromptu tasting. Brian Kimball (Magic Curry Kart), whose first cart was a Burning Man relic, recommended blogging, Facebook, and most especially Twitter to guarantee crowds. Ironically, Phan originally intended to sell his Vietnamese food from a truck in Oakland, and ended up four-walling it on Valencia when everything from permits and licensing to proper truck design proved too difficult to surmount.
At 111 Minna, the 50 to 100 samples most vendors had brought quickly ran out, but attendees were happy to fork over cash for $4 pear-ginger or corn and black bean pies from Bike Basket Pies, Sweet Constructions' assorted baked goods, and $5 empanadas from Chile Lindo, which was not part of the announced lineup but cleverly showed up partway through the evening with a full tray that was quickly denuded. Lines were longest at the Mission Street Food table, which had the most ambitious offerings. Besides a caramelized Brussels sprout, egg salad, and chicharron canapé, there were pork belly skewers with fry-bread, coriander, and watermelon ($5); fresh mozzarella lettuce wraps with Spanish chorizo, garlic peanuts, and cilantro ($5); and butter-fried cornbread with buttermilk panna cotta and sage honey ($4).
M. Brody The srtreet-food tasting at 111 Minna afterwards was a scarf-a-thon.
Soul Cocina's crunchy Indian snacks were also popular. And Smitten was handing out free spoonfuls of yummy salted caramel ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce from a Rube Goldberg freezer until the last stragglers exited the hall.