Fort Mason Off the Grid Kicks Off 2014 Season

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Lou Bustamante
The arrival of spring marks the time of year when birds and bees get busy, but also the yearly migration of colorful food trucks back to Fort Mason.

This past Friday, the biggest food truck rally of them all, Off the Grid Fort Mason, kicked off its 2014 season with a brand new theme: carnival, as in the county fair. The ranks of vendors include 19 returning crowd favorites like Bacon Bacon, and premiered 14 new ones, along with games like shuffleboard and skeeball.

See also: Food Truck Bite of the Week: Finding Home with Laksa at Azalina's Malaysian
Food Truck Bite of the Week: Plenty of Bling Without the Grillz at Casey's
Food Truck Bite of the Week: Turkey Momos from Bini's Kitchen

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Vietnamese Street Food Comes to the Marina

Categories: Marina

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Saiwalks
When it comes to Asian food, the Marina has little to offer aside from sushi bars and Americanized Thai food. So if you happen to be in the neighborhood and get a craving for pho, banh mi or noodles, Saiwalks, recently opened to fill that void. With a full menu of meat-heavy and vegetarian options, the selections lean more towards southern Vietnamese street food, which seems to be the preferred style in this city.

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Drink of the Week: The Elder Statesman at Presidio Social Club

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Lou Bustamante
When the weather gets cold, with shorter days and longer nights, my drinking habits increasingly shift to less juicy and more spirit-driven drinks. While a good Manhattan or a simple pour of whiskey is my go to, I found myself at Presidio Social Club hanging out with the Elder Statesman ($10, rye whiskey, vermouth, sambuca, crème de cassis). It tasted like fall: crisp and refreshing, with the color of autumn leaves.

See also:- Drink of the Week: Ichi-ing for a Drink at Rock Bar
Drink of the Week: Apple Brandy Sour at Presidio Social Club
The Presidio Social Club's Tim Stookey Turns Back Time

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After Midnight: Memory Lane at IHOP

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It had been a rough couple of months for After Midnight, and that's how I ended up at the International House of Pancakes on Lombard. After weeks of unexpected repair bills, major car drama, and a near miss on making rent narrowly averted by a mad dash to one of those change conversion machines at Safeway, I was ready for some comfort food. And there's really no comfort food like pancakes.

See also: Bouncer Pays Tribute at Tribune Tavern
After Midnight: Prowling Around in the Sunset

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Drink of the Week: Getting a Kick out of the Baltic Mule at Delarosa

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Lou Bustamante
The after-dinner drink is one of those old world traditions that Americans, even the most culinary obsessed, never seemed to have embraced. Our lack of interest in eau de vie, grappa, and aquavit, those potent spirits meant to act as digestifs after a big meal, may be due to the pace of our lives, rather than our taste. But put into a cocktail, and suddenly we're aware of the nuances, flavors, and aromas.

See Also:
- Tennessee Margarita at Pican
- Jasper's Orchard Malt Mule
- Cucumber Collins at Goose & Gander


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Drink of the Week: Apple Brandy Sour at Presidio Social Club

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Lou Bustamante
With apple season in full force, and the weather kicking its final throws of Indian Summer, the cold weather cocktail season officially begins. At Presidio Social Club, bar manager Tim Stookey is adding two new drinks to the line up designed to unfog our lenses for a bit.

The fall leaf red Picante Pisco Punch ($10, pisco, lemon, lime, pineapple, rocoto pepper syrup) braces against the cold with the slow building and warming heat of Peruvian rocoto peppers that use the pisco punch as the delicious delivery system. The warming glow quickly turns to light sweat, but thankfully keeps the heat at a low simmer rather than a full boil.

See Also:
- The Presidio Social Club's Tim Stookey Turns Back Time
- Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch

- The Vida Vieja at Zero Zero


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Mamacita's "La Hora Feliz" Has Cheap Margaritas, Duck Confit Tacos

Tamara Palmer
Mamacita's camaron al pastor tacos.
Happy hour at Mamacita runs Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Friday until 6 p.m., and features taco and drink specials that don't break the bank without the annoyance of an after-work meat market prowl -- even though it's in the Marina.

Tacos are typically served three to an order for $13 to $15, but they're two for $6 during "La Hora Feliz." Choices are pollo taqueria (crispy chicken), camarones al pastor (achiote-spiced prawns), carnitas cerditas (pulled pork), carne asada (skirt steak), and pato à la plancha (duck confit). They're tiny but surprisingly filling, particularly the duck, stuffed so full it's a challenge to eat them without half the meat spilling out.

Fancy margaritas are a specialty of the house and run from $8 to $12, but you can down a pint of original ($4) or pomegranate margarita ($5) for half price. Other happy hour drinks include a classic mojito ($4), sangria ($4), or Tecate with fresh lime and salt ($2).


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Cedar Hill Kitchen + Smokehouse Has Flashes of Greatness

Categories: 'Eat', Marina

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Melissa Barnes
Cedar Hill's barbecued chicken, brined and smoked over white oak.
West Coast barbecue, almost any Southerner/Texan/Missouran/carnivore will tell you, is not known for its excellence. But lord, do we keep trying. San Francisco's BBQ boom -- I can count nine restaurants and food trucks in the past 18 months -- has brought in a couple of promising newcomers. One of them, Cedar Hill Kitchen and Smokehouse, is the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review.

Jon Rietz and Emily Lai opened the Marina restaurant after working together at Memphis Minnie's, arguably the city's most polished barbecue stop. Rietz, a Texas native, is smoking a variety of meats Texas-style over white oak: brisket, ribs, chicken, pulled pork. The restaurant is frustratingly uneven -- especially when it comes to its brisket, which by rights should be the restaurant's focal point -- but his pulled pork is often fantastic and his barbecued chicken, downright awesome. I'm hoping that, as with the best pit masters, time only improves Rietz's barbecue.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

Number 25: Cobb Louis Salad at Nettie's Crab Shack

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Jonathan Kauffman
Cobb Louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack, $25.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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"Arrange lettuce leaves around the inside of a salad bowl, with a few sliced leaves on the bottom," writes Victor Hirtzler, chef of the St. Francis Hotel, in his 1910 recipe for Crab Louis. "Put crab meat on top of the sliced leaves, and a few slide hard-boiled eggs and sliced chives on top of the crab meat. In another bowl, mix one-half cup of French dressing [ed note: vinaigrette] with one-half cup of chile sauce, two spoonfuls of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and one teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the salad, and serve very cold."

Was the crab louis (and its poorer cousin, the shrimp louis) invented in San Francisco or in Seattle? And who was Louis? Given the absence of proof, you're free to invent your own myth -- but the salad has been served in this city for more than a century. Over the years, the salad has evolved and then devolved again, often spotted as a gloomy mass of iceberg and frozen crab drenched in sugary orange glop, with canned black olive rings and hard-boiled eggs strewn over top.

It would be unthinkable for a San Francisco restaurant with a name like Nettie's Crab Shack to pass over the Crab Louis. It would be equally unthinkable for the cooks to let the salad stand on its reputation, such as it has fallen. So they've combined elements from another historic salad (the Cobb, invented in 1930s Los Angeles), and dressed a giant bowl of romaine up like a spring frock: jade-colored avocados and cucumbers, beets in swirly rose and gold hues, splotches of saffron-colored egg yolks, and at least a half-pound of pale-pink Dungeness crab meat. Everything is sweet and crunchy-crunchy, pitched to keep the flavor of the crab at the forefront. And the salad dressing is spiked with just enough Tabasco to sparkle, but reminds you that mayonnaise, in its pre-jar days, once played an honorable role in American cuisine. 

Eating the salad is like reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time and realizing that Jane Austin's acid-etched characters and sly humor are far more interesting than Masterpiece Theater made her out to be. 


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Exploratorium After Dark: Gastronomy

Categories: Events, Marina

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Lou Bustamante
Making science fun at the Exploratorium
Where: Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon Street (at Marina)
When: Thurs., April 5th, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: Free with general admission to museum; 18 and over

The rundown: The big brains at the Exploratorium have teamed up with Maxime Bilet, head chef and co-author of the Modernist Cuisine for a special night exploring the magic behind cutting-edge cooking techniques. A few of the cutaway pieces of equipment used in the book's striking photos will be on display, along with plenty of experiments. Bilet will be discussing the culinary applications of centrifuges and homogenizers, along with how adding hydrocolloids and emulsifiers to your pantry can make dinner a lot more dazzling.

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