Tag Archives: USA

StrEAT guest blog post – Monster trucks and munching pre-historic grubs

25 Apr

Guest blog post from Navina Bartlett of StrEAT

I love the UK’s street food movement so much. And I love what Petra’s been doing. She’s one of the visionaries, one of the ‘slog your guts out’ type people, who are passionate about street food. I wanted to find out where this movement was first cultivated, so I decided to head across the pond to check out Off the Grid first hand.

Off the Grid is the San Francisco equivalent of Eat.St – but on a much bigger scale.


Wow – pretty massive

Founder Matt Cohen and his team have been running regular food truck gatherings for over three years now. And they’d just mailed the spring schedule for the first weekly Fort Mason shindig when I arrived.

                                         Matt Cohen

Friday night shenanigans include a congregation of over 30 independent food vendors from countries like Peru, the Philippines, Mexico, India and Korea. Crème brûlée experts and purveyors of gourmet cupcakes are thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and was lucky enough to have local blogger, @garysoup, as my knowledgeable guide.

Let’s start with the trucks. The bigger the better and they’re ALL custom wrapped.

Little Green Cyclo is a Vietnamese beast of mammoth proportions, with 27 items on the regular menu + another 10 specials available on and off. I personally opted to share a Masami lemongrass grilled pork banh mi with my new bezzie mate Dave (more about our fated paths crossing in the StrEAT blog post out next week).


Look at Dave next to that monster truck

Some of the other ‘big guys’ at Off the Grid include well loved veterans of the food truck scene – Chairman Bao (Chinese steamed pork buns) and Curry Up Now (with their veritable mix of dosa fillings including chilli gobi to ‘Am-ree-kan’ a combo of egg, ground beef & bacon (holy cow!). Then there’s Hapa SF which serves refined Filipino/Californian cuisine, by ambassador and head chef William Pilz. He conjures up beautiful dishes like sour diced pork sisig & marinated chicken adobo, all sold from the front of his truck.


Off the Grid has even more impact in real life

There are smaller vendors too – my personal favourite was Don Bugito whose specialty is pre-Hispanic snacks. Crispy cricket tostadas are served with mashed avocado, toasted sunflower seeds and pickled red onion (they also have a wax moth larvae option). The food is factually correct. How do I know this?

From CBBC’s ‘Horrible Histories’ of course – a credible source of ancient history as parents will know well!

Hmm, I look a bit like a bug, and I’m eating bugs

I loved Off the Grid. It has the same camaraderie as the UK scene and shows street food gatherings are  here to stay. It’s perfect for bringing communities together under the auspices of sharing and trying food. I’m really glad it’s catching on in the UK. Let’s just hope the rain doesn’t spoil our fun!

For all the latest goss from our little ole collective, knuckling down on the cool streets of Bristol, follow
@streatuk or sign up at www.streatfoodcollective.com

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Masa Revolution – this documentary needs YOU.

19 Apr

I’ve just found out about the Masa Revolution happening over in L.A. Synchronicity is a funny thing. There I was, writing an essay for my Masters about the dualised street food scene in Los Angeles and its socio-spatial implications, when an email arrives for me talking about just that.

Award-winning journalist, Patricia Nazario, has produced, directed and self-funded the first stages of Masa Revolution, a documentary about how inexpensive Mexican street food inspired a pop-culture gourmet phenomenon. L.A’s social, cultural and economic cleavages are shown through the lens of food vending on its streets – who has the right to the city, how Latino cultures have ‘tropicalised’ public space and now, how the new-wave movement has been mediatised and harnessed for its creative pull.

It’s fascinating stuff and is destined for great things at independent film festivals. But it won’t be completed unless they can raise $20,000 for post-production – by the 4th of May.

Is this up your strada? If you’d like to help contribute to making this almost-completed project a reality then head to Kickstarter.com and pledge whatever you can – every dollar helps!

I’m excited about this project and hugely impressed by what’s been done so far. Follow that Revolution and learn about how a city is enlivened and challenged by the determination of its people to serve food in the open air.

Follow Masa Revolution on Twitter HERE.

Eat St Canada…

4 Apr

The Food Network, Canada have just launched a new show…and it’s name rings a bell.

Together with The Food Network and our host, James Cunningham, Eat St. takes you across North America, showing you the coolest food trucks and the most inventive food creations. We’re exploring the food scene in the hottest street food towns like LA, Portland, New York and Austin and bringing the best to you.

We’re looking forward to checking it out (but feel a bit like we’re entering the twilight zone at the same time…)

San Francisco Street Food Festival

4 Sep

I heard about the 2nd Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival some weeks ago. Amazing, I thought. Then it nudged up against me again – probably in the form of a Tweet or some other such fleeting message. Then came the news that it would be followed by an entire two day conference on the subject – all organised by local business incubator La Cocina. Arghh! I wanted it – real bad. It played on my mind for the next couple of days until eventually I gave in. My gut urged me to go – both for the comida buena I would surely encounter, and for the dizzying array of great people who would be speaking at the street food summit.

More on the mind food later, but now onto the scoop on that three block section of the Mission district that, on Saturday 21st August, became a-throng with thousands of people, all wanting to get their grub on – and no one seeming to mind a bit that this meant serious queuing and hardcore shoulder rubbing…

After my three hour volunteer shift finished (I love a bit of box shaking in front of a sea of strangers – good window into the general and varied demographic pouring into the place too. And how clever of me to have known to wear hot pink jeans. No chance of avoiding me!), I hit the streets, having breakfasted abstemiously on one solitary banana.

Damn, do they like a bit of sweetcorn in San Francisco. One of my favourite snacks, elote, Mexican style, is only served in very few places in London. Covered in chilli, lime and Mexican cheese, you pretty much don’t care that it has your teeth all trussed up with spicy kernels – you just want to devour it whole. Rows of corn occupied almost every grill at the Festival. I got mine from Los Cilantros.


Next, my eye was caught by 4505 Meats. Meat experts supreme – and purveyors of the lightest chicharrones I ever did taste. I ordered my Zilla dog and squealed as it arrived garlanded in the things! Good, toothsome ‘dog, deep and tangy kimchie sauce, marinated scallions in a bun with those suckers crowning them? Gave me plenty of energy to return to the crowds with vigor.

Past the Roli Roti guys with their ‘flying pieces of pork shrapnel’ and onto El Huarache Loco – one of La Cocina’s great success stories. Here I went for a taco Alhambre. I love tacos and must have eaten at least three a day whilst in San Francisco. This was full of that great combination of smoky charred meat, good rich salsa and pricked with the sublime tang of cilantro and lime.

And straight into the arms of another of my favourite things in the world – ceviche! Famed Peruvian San Francisco restaurant La Mar were kicking it with the street traders – playing by their rules – and much in demand for their sudden accessibility to all.

Of course this meant that I missed this…

Yes, it’s a fish taco trike. Wild. The guy has a grill at the front and pieces of fish in a refrigerated box. Once given their food punters can go to the table at the back of the bike and tuck into their snack. He also has a handy beer bottle holder to his left. I stood and watched for ages. This is classic street theatre – an interactive fun-mobile that does more than just dole out food. I want them in London. (Why shouldn’t we have them in London?)

As the sun came out those crowds showed no sign of abating. A band played, people strummed guitars, the replete began to dance and places rapidly began to sell out.

Gutted.

But hope was on the horizon – a gourmet S’more proposition. I dived in as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks…

This little sandwich of joy was from Kika’s Treats. I love how, unlike every single other stall, this one operated a trust system where no ticket was issued after payment. They figure that if you’re prepared to queue to pay and then queue to get your treat, you must be a good sort and tickets are therefore redundant.

After this latest mini-splurge I felt replete myself. I walked through the rest of the Festival sucking up the airborne bonhomie that seemed to be everywhere – even in the penned-in drinking zones (now that is a bit odd). The fact that people’s days were spent almost solely on standing in line didn’t seem to matter. What felt right and good about all this was that it brought together people who love to eat (i.e. everyone) in one space. This space felt like it belonged to us all. Nobody told us where to stand or queue or eat – we negotiated this amongst ourselves.

This is what a satisfactory urban experience feels like. It feels like you’re in amongst it. And this is a true mark of a city’s character. La Cocina, San Francisco – we salute you.

The Street Vendor Project needs you!

6 Feb

This just in from our friends at the Street Vendor Project:

SVP is entered in a national contest, funded by Pepsi, that is giving
away $1 million a month to various non-profit projects around the
country. The winners are selected by the public, via online voting. We
have asked for $25,000 to fund national tour of the Vendy Awards – a
series of events that will highlight what vendors contribute to
communities across the country. This will bring our movement for
vendor respect to a new level, while having a national impact on
debates around immigration, small business development, and food
justice.

Please take a minute to vote here
<http://www.refresheverything.com/VendyAwardsNationalTour>

We are currently in 128th place. We need your help to move into the
top ten, so we can get the money.


Sean Basinski and his team have been working tirelessly for many years to protect and promote the street vendors of New York City. The idea to take their massively PR-able street food lovers event, The Vendys, across the States is a brilliant one. Born out of true grassroots vigor and devotion, The Vendys is about so much more than curbside Twitter mania or rolling with the what’s hot crew. There is a real social aspect at play and it is to do with serving the (mainly) immigrant vendors who make the Big Apple as fruity as it is. We in London – or the rest of Britain – don’t have the same street trading issues as New York (more of this soon), but what is mirrored – and in particular by the eat.st ethos – is the undeniable fact that street food provides street life. When you have a bustling street life the city BUZZES.

The key word is community. Food on the streets brings people together and in our increasingly individualised societies this can only be a good thing. The more it is encouraged the better – better for those who make their living from it, for those who get fed from it and for the areas it inevitably helps bring to life.

Ladies and gents – please cast your votes above.

Hopping over the Pond

29 Jan

As much as eat.st‘s focus is on driving British street food forward, we’re always interested in the movements of other countries’ curbside dining culture. Take the US. Any foodist worth their salt will know about the Twitter-fication of food trucks in LA, NYC, Portland and San Francisco, it’s a hot topic. As much about a search for the social aspect in eating as for the food itself, there are whole swathes of fans dedicated to the pursuit of happiness via truck love.

One of our favourite soldiers in the crusade to showcase food on the streets in all its guises, as well as searching for the reasons behind the craze is John T Edge. Edge is busy researching for a book on all kinds of food trucks across the States. He’s scoping out mad American vehicles knocked together by mad American metal heads that look like this:

RoadHOG!

We’ll be keeping you updated with Edge’s progress – and here’s to the book!