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.
The layout also got updated, and you now come into the rally near the main entrance to Fort Mason and that corridor leads you straight to the large section in the back where the music and seating are located, a definite improvement in the flow of foot traffic. The bar now stands guard at the entryway (and near the games), which allows you to get a drink in your hand right away, but even if you don't the Magno-Carta roving beer cart from Magnolia offers four different beers.
I got a chance to sample a selection of food from the new vendors (most of which will get a more in-depth review here later), and there are some nice additions to the roster. Most notable was Raj & Singh who are serving up Northern Indian fare, and impressively making naan onsite with a propane powered tandoori oven they built themselves. The fresh, hot flatbreads are used in stuffed rolls, but they also accompany bowls of aromatic curries.
Real regional Mexican food at the market is possibly one of the more exciting developments with the addition of El Pipila, a new vendor featuring the cuisine of Guanajuato (Central Mexico) that include a menu of fantastic sopes. Also new to this market are Burr-Eatery representing the state of Sonora (Northern Mexico) with handmade tortillas stuffed with meats and veggies. For more familiar fare, Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas serves up quick and hot plates of stuffed masa.
The Jeepney Guy is a nice addition, serving a twist on Filipino food that nicely melds American barbecue with traditional Filipino flavors. Their specialty deep fried kettle pork was fantastically crisp with a good sweet-salty balance, but the French-Dip style sandwich with smoked adobo pork will get me back quickly.
There were a few new sweet treats as well, like the carnival staple cotton candy from Sugar & Spun. The unique flavor combinations, like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Banana and Nutella, and the wonderfully tropical Li Hing Pineapple (with a nice touch of salt) make this a lot of fun. Feeling creative? Design your own custom combinations by choosing a base sugar for the candy floss and add you choice of flavors.
Also delivering sweet treats is Johnny's Doughnuts from San Rafael, selling (surprise!) doughnuts. I didn't get a chance to sample the full line up yet, but the pastry cream filled CroDo (cronut style pastry) are crisp and sweet, despite the fact that they were not being made on site.
Keep an eye out here every week, as we will taste our way through the market and bring you reports of the best from the trucks -- here and beyond.
Fort Mason Off the Grid happens every Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. through the fall. Check their website for weekly updates.