Sunshine, crisp October air, and volunteers in bright orange shirts greeted visitors at La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival on Sunday, October 13, 2018. Nestled in the Power Station in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, the setup was unassuming and casual, welcoming eager eaters from across the Bay Area. I attended the festival in the hopes of eating great food and better acquainting myself with some up-and-coming food businesses in the Bay, and left feeling beyond satisfied with my experience.

Bini's Kitchen

Megan Huff

I started my tour of the festival at Bini’s Kitchen. Described as “Nepalese food from the soul," it certainly hit the spot. I ordered lamb momo—a traditional Nepalese dumpling dish with creamy tomato cilantro sauce. The heat of the sauce was mild, but paired deliciously with the rich, juicy, and perfectly spiced meat encased in an appropriately thin dumpling wrapper. I enthusiastically devoured each momo in no more than two bites—a sign of a good dish.

Alexandre Family Farm

I moved on to Alexandre Family Farm’s stall, curious about what a dairy farm could be doing at a street food festival. What I found was a surprising highlight of the day: organic A2/A2 milk flavored with caramel, chocolate, or my personal favorite, ginger and turmeric. What set this milk apart is its protein composition: while most cow milks have both A1 and A2 proteins, Alexandre Family Farm’s milk only has A2 protein, which makes it much easier to digest.

I attended the festival with a lactose-intolerant friend who was bold enough to try the milk and see whether this was true or not. An hour later, she felt no discomfort, indicating to us that this protein distinction was more significant than we’d realized and that this milk was a great option for people with dairy sensitivities.


Annabelle Long

Continuing on with the dairy theme, and continuing to try my friend’s luck, we moved on to the Illy stall, where the workers were serving affogatos, which are espresso shots poured over gelato. I enjoyed a vanilla affogato and found that the balance between bitter espresso and sweet gelato was perfect. The sharp taste of espresso or the saccharine sweetness of gelato did not dominate any one bite. Instead, each bite represented a marriage between two opposing flavors, expertly paired to satisfy my hankerings for caffeine and sugar.


Annabelle Long

Taking a sharp turn away from the milder flavors of the last two stalls, I then moved on to the Tabasco hot sauce stall. Visitors got to take home tiny, eighth of an ounce sized Tabasco bottles. Gallon jugs of hot sauce loomed over the food we’d be trying—popcorn seasoned with any one of a bounty of hot sauce flavors. I opted for the garlic pepper hot sauce, ranked third on Tabasco’s scale of hotness, behind the chipotle sauce and the original red.

I was pleasantly surprised by how flavorful the sauce was despite its spicy kick. I’ve always found Tabasco to offer more in the way of spice rather than flavor, but that was not the case for this kind. Behind the initial punch of heat were rich, warm, garlic undertones and a hint of black pepper, for good measure. Paired with popcorn, it made for the perfect light snack as I continued around the festival.

The Uncreamery

Megan Huff

Next, I visited The Uncreamery stall, which offered a number of vegan cheese options. As a brie-enthusiast, I had to try its vegan brie made from cashews. I was highly skeptical of the concept—brie has a butter-like creaminess that I didn’t think was replicable with any non-dairy product. I was pleasantly surprised. While this vegan brie was certainly not as rich or creamy as its dairy counterpart, it maintained the richness characteristic of brie and even had the slight bitter undertones often found in the rind of traditional brie, making it a delicious and authentic-tasting alternative.

After eating that, I was compelled to try The Uncreamery’s truffle brie. The earthy flavor of truffles pairs well with the richness of cheese, and as a huge fan of truffles, I was excited to try it. While the cheese lacked a distinctive punch of truffle, it was still delicious. The rich creaminess of the brie nicely interacted with the subtle, earthy truffle flavor, making for a well-balanced and tasty bite of cheese.

Pass the Sauced

Annabelle Long

I headed over to Pass the Sauced’s stall next, hoping to satisfy my never-ending craving for spicy food. I tried the chipotle salsa and the “pasto” sauce and was not disappointed. The salsa had all the makings of a new go-to dip—smokiness, a tinge of heat, and an expertly crafted balance between sweet and savory flavors.

However, it wasn’t the salsa that ultimately ended up blowing me away. The "pasto" sauce—no, not pesto or pasta—draws its name from the Colombian Spanish word for grass because of its distinctly grassy coloring. It’s an herby sauce that would pair well with grilled fish, and tasted strongly of cilantro, ginger, and lemon to tie it all together. Despite all of these individually powerful ingredients mixed together, it wasn't an overwhelmingly strong sauce, and each element was distinguishable and enjoyable. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I purchased a small jar immediately after trying it.


Megan Huff

The last stall I visited was Mozzeria, where I was greeted in sign language by the stall operators. On the menu was vegan eggplant parmesan, and I indicated what size I wanted, using the sign language gestures written beside the dish. Making an “a” with my fist, I ordered the smallest size to share with my lactose intolerant friend, excited to try a dairy-free alternative to the classic Italian dish.

Emboldened by our positive experiences with dairy-free cheese at The Uncreamery earlier in the day, we dug into the saucy eggplant slices with great vigor, and were both pleased with the dish. It avoided the common rubbery eggplant pitfall and was perfectly cooked, easily cuttable, and chewable. The eggplant slices were lightly breaded, offering a crisp complement to the soft eggplant, and bathed in a hearty marinara sauce. It was the perfect conclusion to our time at the San Francisco Street Food Festival.

Megan Huff

My experience at the festival was overwhelmingly pleasant. I enjoyed every dish that I tried, and will definitely be visiting all of the eateries I was lucky enough to sample dishes from, in the near future. Even better than enjoying delicious food was knowing that I was supporting vendors that were 90% women, immigrants, and people of color, as a part of La Cocina’s mission to bring marginalized populations to the forefront of the culinary world. I left the festival with a pocketful of tiny Tabasco bottles, a full stomach, and an appreciation for the hard work of all the vendors producing some of the best food I’ve had in the Bay Area.