I don’t remember when it was that I had my first bacon cheeseburger, but I remember biting into it and having the mixture of beef, cheese and smoked pork forming a mosh pit of happiness on my tongue. There was no turning back. Whenever wife and I go to a restaurant that serves burgers I always look for the bacon cheeseburger first.
Bacon has become a meme unto itself now. I’ve seen shirts that say, who doesn’t like bacon? Hell, my daughter’s pediatrician when told that bacon was the only meat my daughter would eat said well, who doesn’t like bacon?OK, I know if you’re a Kosher Jew or observant Muslim bacon is on the no go list, but I have to admit that even most of my vegetarian and vegan friends are looking for a bacon substitute and if they can’t find it they sneak some bacon in while hiding in a dark room late at night to preserve their veggie cred.
Then there’s Bacon Bacon. My first encounter with them was at the SF Weekly Web Awards where I was nominated for Best Political Blog in San Francisco [thank you very much for giving that to an aggregator site that doesn’t write any of their own material] and I had to dip my tongue into the deep end and try the chocolate dipped bacon. I had heard lots about this combo, but never found a place that was selling it until now. One bite had me. Why aren’t more people doing this? Now I wanted to try the bacon doughnuts I had heard about, but while Bacon Bacon is a bit edgy, they don’t offer them. Still that was enough for that night because I was broke and didn’t have any more money to spend so I went inside and drank lots of free beer.
I’ve frequented the truck in several of it’s locations, but I haven’t had a chance to get by the Cafe version. I’ve been close several times, but I’ve just never made it or the timing wasn’t right and then I find out that the storefront might be closed. [cue dramatic dum, dum DUMMMMM music]. Apparently Bacon Bacon had a neighbor that didn’t like the smell of bacon all the time. I don’t know why, I’m sure it would have been better than some of the other smells that fill your nostrils in that area. Why I’m sure the smell was probably even increasing property values because, who doesn’t like bacon? Well apparently this neighbor didn’t and that was causing a problem with Bacon Bacon doing business.
They had to renew some of their permits back in 2011 because there were changes to the regulations. When this happens they allow the public to bring any concerns before the Planning Commission. This was a sticking point because why bother installing an air filtration system for around $35,000 if they would get closed down anyway?
Well the good news came on Friday in that the neighbor is willing to work with Bacon Bacon and will withdraw the complaint if Bacon Bacon installs the filtration system. Now I still have a chance to make it by their Cafe, daughter firmly in hand who I’m sure will be yelling Bacon! Bacon! the second we get inside. While they don’t go insane with their bacon ideas, they push the edge just enough with their bacon jam [available on any sandwich], bacon mayo and of course their chocolate dipped bacon and their bacon caramel corn.
Then of course I woke up this morning after writing this article early Friday to read the following on SF Gate:
“[The neighbor] had a change of heart yesterday and said they want to run more tests,” says Angelus [owner of Bacon Bacon], who must now close for three months, until the July hearing where they can procure their proper permits. He says four employees will likely lose their jobs, unless they want to hang around for the approval, which he hopes will happen.
“I feel really comfortable that it will get approved,” he says. “We have tons of neighborhood support.”
So it looks like their doors will be closed for three months so that they can get the changes made. At least they have a truck once again after it caught fire and had to be replaced, but I’m still waiting for the cafe to come back so I can happily bring my daughter to worship at the temple of porcine smokiness.
I felt that I couldn’t talk about a burger joint yesterday without giving some time to that venerable processed tubular meat product known as the Hot Dog. I wrote an article some time ago about Treasure Island Hot Dogs that I couldn’t find very much info on, but Uncle Frank from the Hot Dog Hall of Fame [yes there is one] who mentioned Schwarz Sausage Company of San Francisco so I did a little more digging.
While the Hamburger originated in Hamburg, Germany by Russian traders who brought their habit of eating raw minced meat [ala steak tartare] the Hot Dog started it’s life in Frankfurt, Germany as well as Vienna, Austria [where the name weiner comes from]. It wasn’t until Germans brought them to America that some schmuck here got the idea of wrapping them in bread so you didn’t burn your hands while walking around eating them.
The Hot Dog predates the origin of the Hamburger in the U.S. by a number of years and it has spread all over the U.S. in various forms creating localized renditions through out the country. It was here that I had to start my search. If they are everywhere what would make them so special to San Francisco? We have dungeoness crab that while you can find it all up and down the coast, it tastes different here. Then of course there’s sourdough bread that only can exist here because of our local bacteria that even if you got some starter and were using it in another part of the country it would last you a couple of weeks and then it would be gone.
So what is so San Francisco about the Hot Dog? Well as it turns out if you’ve ever gone to a local sporting event and purchased a hot dog [not sushi and chardonnay] you probably had a Schwarz Sausage Company hot dog. They began life in a part of the Mission District sometime around 1911 in a part that was known as Germantown. That was the first I had heard of a Germantown being in San Francisco, but we are a city of change after all. There was also Casper’s Hot Dogs, but they actually started in San Leandro in 1934 so their close, but no hot dog, er, cigar.
Schwarz also was a big supplier of the public schools so those hot dogs you ate growing up here were probably from Schwarz. They make several types and not just the all beef type, but they also have some with pork and veal inside and while I tend to gloss over the hot dog at times as being more about what you put on it than in it, you can taste a difference between them. While Schwarz has been bought by Engelhart Gourmet Foods and moved to Fairfield, CA they still have a consumer outlet in the part of Mission that’s referred to now as La Lengua.
Say, did I just say sometime in Spanish? Well the San Francisco experience for hot dogs is usually found by street vendors in the Mission who sell grilled hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Apparently the Mexican immigrants brought that from Mexico and it has caught on here at least in the Mission. We don’t have too many hot dog joints and when you do find them they’re more fast food than localized. The best place [in my opinion] to get a hot dog is from a hot dog stand. While I have grown over the years learning to put different things on a hot dog [note I used to put only mayo on a hot dog that would creep out anyone who watched me do it and eat it] I’ve found that grilled hot dogs never did it for me. Now if you wrap it in bacon that changes things because the bacon fat would keep the hot dog from blistering and well, as we all know, everything is better with bacon.
Note that if the danger dogs from a Mission Street cart scare you there’s always the palace of tubular meat products, the Rosamunde Sausage Grill that makes it smothered in onions called the Mission Street that I notice is available at every location except the Haight Street location. Well, at least they have it at their Mission Street location.
When my Mom died we had an awful task on our hands. We had to go through all the junk she had collected over the years that was useless to us now. We happened to save a few things that we weren’t sure why until I came across a piece that struck me as something I had to play around with. My Mom’s old cast iron pan.
This pan was a Wagner #10 pan and my experience with cast iron only had been in the Boy Scouts when we were camping and from what I know now they didn’t teach us how to handled the cast iron pots and pans very well. My Mom’s old skillet had seen better days and I wish I took a before picture just to give you an idea what it looked like before I started reconditioning it. I did find a couple of pictures below which are pretty close to what it looked like before I started, but it was actually worse than this.
I started searching google for different ways to recondition a cast iron pan and found a lot of information, but most of the techniques were minor variations on the same thing.
1. Coat the pan with an oven cleaner and leave it for up to a week spraying more on every few days
2. Wash it with soap and water
3. Use fine #000 steel wool to remove any of the left over bits that haven’t come off
4. Re-season the pan
That’s all pretty easy stuff to do so I started off to work on it. I sprayed it down and had it bagged up in my basement where I’d re-spray it every few days and then one day when I was looking at some info I found on cast iron pans I found the following information, The Wagner Sidney, OH plant was closed in 1903. Uh, wait a sec, WHAT?! I started looking up pictures and found an exact match for my Mom’s pan and it turns out that I had a cast iron pan sitting in a caustic solution for close to a week that turns out she got from her Mom who got it from her Mom. I had my Great Grandmother’s pan from the late 1800’s to beginning of the 20th century sitting in a death bath of evil chemicals.
I yanked it out of the bag and started washing it off to make sure I hadn’t ruined it. I had forgotten something, it’s cast iron. The pan was fine, but still had a few spots of over a hundred year old seasoning left on it so I put it back and sprayed it some more. When I was finished I added another step that the Black Iron Dude suggested of soaking it in two parts water to one part white vinegar to counter act the lye in the oven cleaner.
Now it was time to re-season the pan. This is where people differ in their views. Some like it hot others like it not so hot. I chose the not so hot since some people seem to like this first and then move up to the hotter seasoning plus I’m not sure our pot holders would help me with a red hot 550° skillet. I put it in the oven after washing it off set to around 150° for about 15 minutes to make sure it was completely dry. I pulled it out and turned the oven up to 350° and started rubbing some coconut oil all over the inside and outside of the pan. It then goes back into the oven for about an hour and then when you let it cool down it’s seasoned. I’m going to do this a total of three times so I’m not finished yet, but you can see how far it’s come from the picture. After the first seasoning you can see that the pan is a little spotty, but it’s still smooth as glass on the inside.
I’ll start off Sunday by cooking eggs in it. On a side note the inside of this pan is a smooth as glass even before I started to restore it. That’s a sign that it’s an old pan. Looking at this pan taught me something in that when I got married 16 years ago we were given a lot of pots and pans, almost all non-stick. Most of those aren’t what you would call non-stick today. The teflon wears down and just doesn’t exactly do what it’s supposed to after awhile while friends of mine who swear by a good seasoned cast iron pan say it never sticks. Here I’ve got a pan that lasted over 100 years and was pretty easy to bring it back to looking better than new. I’m hoping to get another 100 years out of the pan now. If this works out like I hope it will our non-stick pans will be going away very soon and I’ll be adding more antique cast iron [hint, it’s usually cheaper than new non-stick if you want to do the work].
San Francisco has been over run with food truck culture just like many other cities. This time the food trucks are different than they used to be. When I was younger [not a kid, but this lasted into my early thirties] there weren’t really any food trucks other than the taco trucks you would see usually of the El Tonayense variety. These early food trucks were real working man’s kind of places to grab a bite to eat. Now the food trucks have slicked themselves up to cater to the foodistas around San Francisco.
The taco trucks were great when you were on a budget because I could get a burrito I could never finish and a coke for about $4.50. Now the food trucks are pushing up their prices selling gourmet, artisanal and organic foods to the foodistas who have lots of extra cash and in many cases don’t realize that they’re eating the food that the working middle class eats for around four times the price.
I have seen the trucks all over the city and I find it hard to pay $6-$8 for some variation of a grilled cheese sandwich plus the soda is separate from that price. My wife and I were watching The Great Food Truck Race where one truck was selling their hamburgers for $10 and lost due to lack of income and afterwards they were talking that they could have stayed in the game if they charged $12 per burger. I don’t know about you, but I can grill up a might fine hamburger at home with a side of fries and a coke for about $2. I also know of many foodista sit down places where for my $12 I get to have a seat at a nice table and I get the fries and coke for my $12.
I have this little hand gesture I make where I hold my hands flat in front of me to represent the amount I’d have to pay to purchase what they’re selling at cheaper price. Let’s say I pay $10 for lunch for two at In-N-Out burger. Now if I go to a food truck the same thing would cost me closer to $30, so I raise one hand up to show the price difference and ask, for 3x the price is it 3x as good? Honestly, I can’t and don’t think many people can taste organic, artisanal or gourmet in most cases. I can taste a well made hamburger, but gourmet and artisanal are words that are just used for packaging in my mind. I hand made some silver dollar pancakes for my daughter because I thought it was cheaper than buying the pre-made ones for her. Mine ended up being tossed aside for the mass produced perfectly round pancakes. Oh well, at least I and my friends and family know I’m a good cook.
I understand the whole idea of the experience of eating at a food truck gathering. Off the Grid is a great example of pulling in people who have a large choice of food to choose from. It strikes me though as kind of like a food court that’s outdoors though. I’ve eaten food from several of the food trucks, but while they were good in most cases I’ve been able to get just as good from other places that are cheaper where I can sit down inside.
I don’t think San Francisco is the best place for food trucks because we don’t have the weather to support them every day unlike say, San Diego where the weather forecast is always, nice. We’re an expensive city to live in and the costs get passed on to the people. If anyone disagrees with me please post a comment because I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I’d like to see what I’m missing here. Please note that I haven’t mentioned anyone by name as I don’t want to upset any of the food truck owners, yet I do find it interesting that when I visit their websites they never list prices. Most restaurants do list prices and I just think the old rule of, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it shouldn’t apply to a truck were I have to sit outside in a windy area to eat my food that’s gotten cold half way through it.
I like going out for breakfast when I can. I love me some bacon & eggs with a side of toast and hash browns. I don’t really need an upscale kind of place to eat, just one that’s clean, quick and cheap. That’s where the Park Cafe comes in because you’d never know it was there. It’s small, hidden in the Stonestown Medical building and you’d never think about it and probably miss it when you’re walking by.
My wife and I decided to try it one day after I had a dentist appointment. It was close to noon and I hated going to the dentist because he always treated me like a five year old tell me how awful my teeth were and how they were all going to fall out if I didn’t brush them 3-6 times a day with fluoride rinses afterwards. Needless to say, I changed dentists and found one who was nicer and cheaper. I digress a bit. We decided to try the Park Cafe, at the time bacon and eggs with toast was just $2.99 each and you got coffee with it. This of course was prior to the dot com bomb, but today they prices are now $4.99. That’s still a deal in my book. The nice part is they can scramble your eggs well so their fluffy and hard and overcooked and you get three slices of bacon, not the skimpy two most places offer. You can also swap out the toast for a bagel at no extra charge.
Hardly anyone goes there, except probably the doctors in the building during their lunch who are too lazy to walk across the mall. There’s no windows inside the place so the best view you’re going to get is of beverage container. I was always a kind of odd duck there as I used to get Martinelli’s apple cider to go with my breakfast there. I can’t stand orange juice unless you add in some vodka [which I don’t recommend for the mornings] and apple juice for some reason made me want to drink more water. I think we were one of the only houses prior to having kids that stocked apple juice.
To find the place you walk in the front door of the building and walk straight toward the elevators then turn left. They have no website and you’ll hardly find anything on them if you search google. My apologies for the shaky picture, but it was a quick shot on the way out of the building this morning. We would have stopped in to eat, but our daughter doesn’t like doctors too much yet because she’s been getting vaccines every time she’s gone, so I could understand her wanting to get the hell out of there, but if you’re ever out that way check them out and tell them I sent you.
My wife and I were out shopping yesterday and wandered into Cost Plus just for the heck of it. I’ve always liked the food section because you can find odd foreign foods. Well today we found a truly weird food and it comes from San Francisco’s own Torani Syrup and it’s bacon flavored.
I posted the picture you see to the left on FaceBook and that started a mass of comments after I said, I’ll get some as soon as I figure out what to do with it. Torani suggests Manhattans, Old Fashioned, Bloody Mary’s and Milkshakes [GACK!] My friends came up with better ideas, vodka bacon on the rocks, bacon carbonara sauce, etc. I’m sure more will come. I added Chocolate bacon truffles because after trying bacon dipped in chocolate I can see why people like the combo.
Something I thought of afterwards was that there is no bacon involved in the production of this just like with Bacon Salt [which incidentally is one of my favorite things to add to french fries or popcorn], so that means that it’s kosher and vegan friendly as well as being fat free.