Appetite: 2 delicious food events on the horizon

Grab your fork for Eat Real and an improved La Cocina Street Food Fest


8/21 LA COCINA SF STREET FOOD FESTIVAL: Everyone who was there last year recalls the nightmare that was the SF Street Food Festival: three hour waits for a bite, only to find much of it gone by the time you reached the front of the line. I went at the 11am start time last year, yet still only got to try two vendors in two hours. At least I was able to hang out in the cocktail and beer garden awhile, as I heard that, too, was an impossible wait before long.

The organizers of the event are intent on making it different this year. Only time will tell, but the physical space is seven times larger, with four times as many vendors. I have long been a fan of La Cocina as a community treasure, and there are some new people behind the scenes this year who have a good track record with organizing large events. I'm hopeful... but you'll still find me there at 11am, just in case.

Yes, beer, wine and spirits gardens have returned. You know I'm looking forward to cocktails by bartenders from Rye, The Alembic, and Beretta. There's an eating contest hosted by none other than Pepto-Bismol (oh, the irony!) How about a scavenger hunt and silent auction? Or an after party at Cocomo with live salsa, dancing and street food? La Cocina will host the first annual San Francisco Street Food Conference on August 22-23 following the festival, with panelists discussing the political, economic, and social impact of street food vending.

At the festival, expect 40 food vendors and restaurants, plenty of drink and a celebration of all things street food in SF. Whether you're eating street food treats from stellar restaurants like Aziza, Nombe or Flour+Water, from actual street carts and trucks like Curry Up Now or Kung Fu Tacos, or La Cocina greats such as Kika's and El Huarache Loco, you should not leave hungry.

Saturday, August 21, 11am-7pm
In the Mission at Folsom from 24th-26th Sts., 25th from Shotwell-Treat Sts., Treat St. from 25th-26th Sts.; Garfield Park
Passports for eating range from $25-$150 can be purchased in advance, or bought a la carte the day of

8/27-29 EAT REAL FESTIVAL IN JACK LONDON SQUARE: I also attended Oakland's three-day Eat Real Festival last year and, being in a much bigger space with more vendors, it was considerably easier to navigate than the SF Street Food Festival. In fact, I tried well over a 15 vendors last year, finding many exciting eats and drinks from SF and East Bay purveyors. About five hours into Saturday, the heat and lines became unbearable, but I got in five great hours of eating first, with no body-to-body crowds.

Eat Real Fest focuses on sustainably produced products and regional food producers and farmers. With 80 street food trucks and carts comes a limitless amount of eating possibilities. There's also an Urban Homesteading Zone highlighting DIY food acts like canning and preserving, cheesemaking, animal husbandry, and vertical gardening - with contests, in case you want to enter your own wares. Try fermentation tasting stations with kombucha, wine, handcrafted beer, iced teas and lemonades. There's an outdoor short film fest, a literary portion of the festival with Bay Area writers talking food, and an entertainment stage with music, sure, but also pizza tossing, noodle pulling and a Flying Knives butchery contest.

Friday-Sunday, 8/27-29, 2pm-9pm (Fri), 10:30am-9pm (Sat), 10:30am-5pm (Sun)
Jack London Square, Oakland
Food and drink tickets will be sold on-site


This is a letter I wrote to La Cocina;

Aug 27th, 2010
Dear La Cocina,

My letter is in regards to last weekend's, Aug 21st, La Cocina Street Food Festival. I live on Folsom St, between 24th and 25th one of the blocks were the Food Festival was held. I would have to say, for all that La Cocina promotes about local sustainability and empowerment it was a disgrace to the neighborhood. I saw neighbors who for generations lived on the block and always have a weekend bbqs with friends and family, locked inside their house traumatized, hiding from the commotion outside. When I went to leave my house around 1pm in the afternoon, there were strangers stacked up on my stoop, trash slipped all over the stair case, and I struggle to make it to the exit of 24th street (mind you my house is only 4 houses away from 24th Street). I felt caged, bombarded, and disrespected in my own home. An hour later, when returning home, I decided to try out the food from one of the venders, I struggled once again through the crowd of I don't know how many people- definitely not locals from the mission or even from San Francisco- to find a food vender I might like. After standing in line for more than 30 minutes, mouth watering, I got to the front of the line to be told that two of the three items on their menu were out. What!? I wandered off to a local cafe, where I got a larger, better meal for about the same price as one of those sample plates. But I watched disappointed folks from my line, file into other lines, destined to wait another 30 minutes. What human being would keep torturing themselves like this? There wasn't even any live entertainment, just crowded people and food booths.

While I was walking to get food from a “local neighborhood” cafe, I was shocked to see how many local restaurants were almost empty. I was shocked because, there were thousands of SF outsiders, loitering and consuming on 2 blocks, while the real local business and residence were suffering from it. I have read about La Cocina and I think its a great concept, how it trains, supports new business entrepreneurs and small businesses, however this Street Food Festival seemed to completely contradict the organization's mission. Here stacked one after another, were high end restaurants from downtown, Embarcadero, Ferry Building, ect, placed infront of a residential neighborhood, drawing in heaping loads of people from who knows where, making stacks of cash, and pulling away from the charm and businesses of the mission district. What is the rational in having this food event? Why not host the event in different neighborhoods, supporting different local businesses?

Wait! It doesn't end here. While the event was going on, a great musician, very talented and know throughout the Bay Area, came to set up just his guitar and small amp to play on “our” staircase to make a little “local” change from all the tourists passing by. Within 5 minutes of playing, cops came up to him and told him to stop, when he told them he lived as this residence they said he would get a ticket if he kept playing. Meanwhile, all this loud noise from generators and people's voices echoing off houses, and our friend could not even play some good music. Where's the mission love? When any other day of the week or weekend he would have been able to play on “our” stoop for the whole day without getting stopped. My frustration with La Cocina Food Festival continues. In comparing it to other events like say, Mission Carnival, Bay to Breakers, the Music Make Festival, and Folsom Street Festival the difference was La Cocina Food Festival was overbearing for a local residence, went on all day and night, had no flow to it, no music, no culture, just tourist stagnant, standing like cattle, stuffing their faces plate after plate, leaving the neighborhood residencies house's stairwells, sidewalks, littered with trash. After the Food Fest I felt abused, disrespected, and helpless in my own home, and I'm sure, although others on the block may not be voicing it, they felt the same way too.

I hope this letter provides a little refection of respect to the local neighborhood, a little more notice, a little more outreach to the local businesses, and a little more curtsy to the people who have to put up with your tourist corral. And maybe next year you won't do it on Folsom Street, and find a place that is more appropriate for the crowd you attract.

A disappointed Folsom neighbor.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 10:16 am