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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Flavor of Portugal in San Francisco

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2015 at 11:00 AM

BLAKE MENEZES
  • Blake Menezes
Not all of us are blessed with wallets packed full of VC money, which can make semiannual foreign trips out of the question. Fortunately for us moderate-income San Franciscans, people from foreign countries come to us, and they bring their food with them, giving us a portal through which we can glimpse their culture.

I’ve lived in California my entire life, but I had no idea there were concentrated communities of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants here until a friend casually mentioned that his native Modesto was one of them. The Central Valley inspires imagery of tanned farmers, right-leaning ideologies, and a whole shitload of cattle, but somehow Portuguese dance halls with their festas and bloodless bullfights have escaped the stereotype.

There’s a certain amount of ignorance on my part at play here, either from my assumption that all Western Europeans have been assimilated and diluted into American culture, or simply because I grew up in a household of mixed heritage and never had a central community with which to associate my own unique culture.

However the answer is simpler than whatever brand of white guilt I’m experiencing: there’s no Portuguese food.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Taqueria Is Tasty Enough for an MS-13 Member to Risk Getting Shot?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM


View Tacos on 24th Street in Norteño Territory in a larger map

SF Weekly reporter Lauren Smiley followed up on her (stunning) cover story, "A Rat's Life," with a blog post yesterday, "The Insider's Guide to the MS-13 Gang." In between tidbits like not using gang funds to buy broken-down Impalas and why even MS-13 doesn't like Muni, we noticed one tip in particular:

10. You can cross into rival gang turf -- for a tasty taco.

In one of the more bizarre moments of [former MS-13 member Abraham] Martinez's testimony, he said he'd venture into the heart of [rival gang] Norteño territory on 24th Street to get food at one of the taquerias. "I'd make a dash for it, in and out really quick. Or I'd have someone go for me." Try Yelping that.

Which got us wondering: Which taqueria was serving up food so good that Martinez was willing risk assault or even death for it? This information came up as defense attorney John Philipsborn cross-examined Martinez during the trial.

Philipsborn: There are some taquerias on 24th Street you like? There are times you'd go in disguise to get some food?
Martinez: That's incorrect. I'd make a dash for it, in and out really quick. Or I'd have someone go for me.

Intrigued, we looked at Norteño territory as defined by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2007, when his office filed a gang injunction against Norteño members. Norteño territory, says the City Attorney, is "an L-shaped area generally bordered by 23rd Street to the North (but extending to 21st Street at Alabama Street), Valencia to the West, Cesar Chavez to the South, Potrero Avenue to the East, and extending to encompass La Raza Park, also known as Potrero Del Sol Park."

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We then plugged in every taqueria we could find that was in Norteño territory and along 24th Street and came up with this (nonexhaustive) list, which you can also see laid out in the Google Map above:

Papalote Mexican Grill
El Farolito Taqueria
Taqueria San Jose
El Tonayense
Taqueria Vallarta
El Farolito Taqueria
Taqueria San Francisco
La Taqueria Guadalajara
El Trebol Restaurante
Chavita's Numero 2
Usulutan Restaurant
La Torta Gorda

Glancing at this list, we'd feel pretty confident in tossing out Papalote Mexican Grill. Our picks (which are completely based on guesswork and reflect nothing on the establishments beyond the deliciousness of their food): Martinez was probably headed to El Farolito, Taqueria Vallarta, or La Taqueria Guadalajara.

What do you think? Which taqueria listed above has food good enough you'd be willing to die for it?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No. 40: Cultured's Burdock Kasu-Zuke

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Kasu-zuke ― burdock roots pickled with sake lees, $13 ― from Berkeley's Cultured. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Kasu-zuke ― burdock roots pickled with sake lees, $13 ― from Berkeley's Cultured.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

sf_92.jpg

Coiled, dark-skinned, sprouting wiry root wisps like unplucked mole hairs ― Cultured's burdock pickles are frightening to look at, and that's after you rinse off the thick, beige goo. Straight from the jar they look like mini specimens of long-necked geoduck clams that somebody's punked your Jif with.

Cultured's owner admits to having a bit of a Japanese culinary fetish, especially when it comes to pickles. "It's a fascinating world, and generally unexplored," Alex Hozven says, "so different from Western pickling." For instance, Hozven's kasu-zuke burdock root uses neither brine nor vinegar to effect a pickle, but sake lees ― the leftovers of the sake-fermenting process, whitish solids sunk to the bottom of the tank. That's what Hozven likes about the lees, or "kasu" ("zuke" means "pickled"): They're garbage, essentially, like the rice bran Cultured mixes with salt to make its takuan pickles.

Hozven gets her sake lees from the Takara brewery in Berkeley, just blocks from the 5-year-old Cultured shop. She mixes the kasu with sea salt and sugar, and then buries scrubbed but unpeeled burdock roots (pressed with salt to leach out some of their moisture) in the pomade-like pickle anywhere from six months to a whole year. "I like them thoroughly infused," Hozven says.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kombucha Cuisine

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Scallop crudo. - HOUSE KOMBUCHA
  • House Kombucha
  • Scallop crudo.

Kombucha Dinner

Where: House Kombucha, 498 Natoma (at Sixth St.)

When: Sat., Mar. 19, 7-10 p.m.

Cost: $48

The rundown: At the intersection of live cultures and cultural experience, the earnest apostles at House Kombucha are teaming up with the arty foodsters of Oakland's Canvas Underground for a dinner you never you knew you wanted. With eyebrow-raisers like kombucha bacon with green tea soba noodles; tomatillo and avocado soup with white tea/orange blossom kombucha; and scallop crudo with beet tartare and a kombucha-serrano chile mignonette, this event begs the question: Are you ready to trip the light kombucha?

RSVP at Eventbrite

Check out other upcoming events on SFoodie.

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

House Kombucha Contest Seeks Input for Sixth Street Cafe

Posted By on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 11:32 AM

House brewmaster Ben Graff. - HOUSE KOMBUCHA/FACEBOOK
  • House Kombucha/Facebook
  • House brewmaster Ben Graff.

Kombucha had a rocky ride in 2010, but SOMA's House of Kombucha is starting off 2011 with a kegger giveaway to help build excitement around the café it's helping to open this summer on Sixth Street.

First, the contest, which involves Facebooking: "Like" both House Kombucha and Kombucha Kamp (its info and community user site) on Facebook today or tomorrow, then go back to the primary Facebook page and answer a question about what you'd like to see served at House's Kombucha Café, slated to open this summer. The winner of the five-gallon kombucha keg will be chosen randomly (you'll get to choose from House's five flavors: rose black, jasmine green, lavender green, sun blossom, or vanilla orchid root).

As for Kombucha Café, that'll be a 750-square-foot space at Sixth Street and Natoma, adjacent to House's brewery (it moved there in October from a corner it was renting from Live Sushi Bistro at Gilbert and Bryant). House brewmaster and director of operations Ben Graff tells SFoodie the café was part of a deal it made for scoring a space in the Sixth Street Recovery Zone. Graff and House founder Rana Chang have turned to holistic health students from S.F. State to put together a nonprofit cooperative.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lev's Debuts Kombucha Vinegar

Posted By on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 11:08 AM

TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer

Following the recent release of its kombucha extract, Lev's Probiotics of Treasure Island has just introduced two types of kombucha vinegar. Made with aged green tea kombucha, it's available in original and hibiscus varieties. The price point ($12) puts it below the cost of the extract ($16), though both are smarter general buys than bottled drinks.

In addition to working well on salads, the vinegar also does nicely in a pinch when you don't have extract or a bottled kombucha drink, whether doing shots of it warrior-style or adding a tad to some other beverage. Our next experiment: using it to make quick pickled vegetables. A leap forward for culture.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Humphry Slocombe Introduces Kombucha Sorbet

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Ginger pineapple kombucha sorbet. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • Ginger pineapple kombucha sorbet.
We hurried to Humphry Slocombe today as soon as we saw a tweet announcing the debut of ginger pineapple kombucha sorbet, the first we've heard of anyone using the cultured beverage as dessert application. We got there about three hours after opening and it was almost sold out, a surprise success. The dominant flavor was definitely pineapple, the ginger coming in a lovely muted second. There's proportionally not a lot of kombucha in a batch, so the distinctive vinegar-like taste is also quite mild, which is something for the timid to know.

HS is currently using Whole Foods' in-house kombucha, but operations manager Sean Vahey tells SFoodie he's made his own. That might be the direction they move in at some point soon. In the meantime, a new batch of ginger pineapple kombucha sorbet is being made for tomorrow's curious customers, and other flavors are being imagined.

Humphry Slocombe: 2790 Harrison (at 24th St.), 550-6971.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Punk Domestics' Sean Timberlake Talks Pickles

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Blogger Sean Timberlake will judge Sunday's pickling contest at Eat Real, Puttin' It Up. - GENIE GRATTO
  • Genie Gratto
  • Blogger Sean Timberlake will judge Sunday's pickling contest at Eat Real, Puttin' It Up.
When Eat Real's Puttin' It Up pickle contest assesses the winners on Saturday, Sean Timberlake will be one of the judges (winners will be announced Sunday). Timberlake lives in Noe Valley and pens the Hedonia food blog. Recently, he launched Punk Domestics, a site promoting the old-is-new canning, preserving, and domestic DIY scene. Timberlake recently broke down his fermentation obsession with us.

SFoodie: First off, what makes a good pickle?

Timberlake: First you have to ask, what makes a pickle? There are so many different kinds, from classic fermented pickles, which get their sourness from lacto-fermentation, to vinegar-brined quick pickles; there's even a tradition (mainly in India) of oil-pickled fruits, and in Japan, pickles (called tsukemono) are made with a variety of techniques, including burying vegetables in fermented rice bran (nukazuke). I suspect we'll mostly see lacto-fermented and vinegar-brined pickles, but it would be exciting to see some out-of-the-box thinking.

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Lev's Charts the Next Frontier in Kombucha: Extract

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM

TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
In the wake of the voluntary kombucha recall, Lev's Probiotics of Treasure Island (formerly Lev's Original) has returned to Whole Foods with a vengeance, or at least with a cool new product. Lev's Green Tea Kombucha Extract is designed to be added to all kinds of beverages and sauces ― one tablespoon packs the same nutrients contained in an entire bottle of the company's kombucha. It's a slightly steep investment (Whole Foods Potrero has it for $15.99), but one bottle contains eight servings.

On its own, the extract is not delicious, unless you like chugging vinegar, though, for that reason, it would be a good addition to vinaigrette. Unlike a bottle of kombucha, the extract isn't fizzy, so it can go into lightly carbonated drinks. And it contains no alcohol, so it's unlikely to be yanked from store shelves.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Local Kombucha Makers Actually Benefit from Ban

Posted By on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 at 11:59 AM

house_kombucha_bottles.jpg
It should have been a disaster. Healdsburg-based Vibranz Kombucha launched March 20, 2010, with a promising start. The company had just won a product award at the Natural Products Expo, which had brought them to the attention of natural-foods distributors, not to mention placement in every Whole Foods store in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest.

Three months later, the kombucha-labeling crisis hit. Responding to concerns that the alcohol level of the fermented tea had surpassed 0.5 percent, which would require the drink to be regulated as an alcoholic beverage, many stores ― most notably, Whole Foods ― pulled all kombucha from their shelves. All that momentum: gone.

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