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Posts Tagged 'food'

Food Trucks Then and Now

Food TrucksSan 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.

Have Farmer’s Markets Become Superfluous?

Farmer's MarketMy wife and I took a trip past a farmer’s market yesterday and as we walked around we began to notice something that I remarked to her about. When I was a kid my parents used to go to the farmer’s market out on Alemany Blvd every few months. My Mom was into pickling and she could buy large flats of cucumbers and wax peppers to pickle and can up because they were cheaper. What we found yesterday wasn’t exactly the case.

Today there’s more than produce at farmer’s markets which makes them kind of more interesting to visit. While it used to be though that you would go to farmer’s markets to get things you couldn’t find anywhere else and to get them cheaper this isn’t really the case today.

Many of the non-produce packaged foods can be found in local upscale grocery stores usually at less price than at a farmer’s market because they just have to deliver the product and not stand around all day to hock their product. With the produce, I’ve seen the same trucks that work the markets at our local produce markets unloading larger amounts than they bring to the farmer’s markets and they are the same quality and cheaper.

So I thought for a second about why would you go to an outdoor market to buy your vegetables and other items when you could get them any day of the week for less at a produce market? I have yet to figure that out. I think it’s nice that there are a few food trucks there because they’re something different, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $20+ to feed my family when there are local restaurants that I can get it cheaper.

While I find them fun to walk around and see what’s available I usually don’t drop more than about $5 and that’s usually at one of the booths set up by a bakery. Frequently we’ve found that the produce we’ve purchased at a market doesn’t last more than a few days and you can never tell if the same business will be there next week.

So if you enjoy purchasing at farmer’s markets please comment and tell me why because I’d like to know.

Don’t Move Here!

Talk-to-the-handAs I was spending my day surfing the web I came across a few articles about people who’ve moved to San Francisco like this one. My suggestion is don’t move here. Most of the people who were complaining about San Francisco have lived here for 3-5 years at the most, tend to be hipsters from the Mission, and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t understand that there’s more to San Francisco and I’m going to tell you some of the only reasons you should move here.

First, you’ve got an Aunt Gladys who bought her house in the pre-Prop 13 days and stayed there. Then she died and left you the house. Depending on the size of the house you’ll get stuck with paying between $800-$1500 a year in property taxes and the bit of house upkeep. Having a house handed you means that you have the equivalent of $42k/year income a year since you don’t have to pay rent. If you’re rich buy away. Once your house is paid off you’ll be paying per year less than what you’d pay per month to rent. I have a friend who bought a two bedroom house about 10 years ago and his mortgage is less than what he could get for renting the place plus it has a built in bar.

Second, if you choose to rent and now isn’t the best time you pretty much missed the boat by about 15-20 years. If you do decide to rent try to stay there. We’ve got a thing people refer to as rent control. My wife and I rented a two bedroom house 10 years ago that we payed $1200/month. Mind you we moved in there in 1997 before the dot com 1.0 pushed rental prices up to a ridiculous rate. If we stayed there we might be paying $1500/month…for a two bedroom house. When I first moved out to the Mission and that was around 1991 I split a two bedroom house with a full living room, full dining room, big kitchen, two huge bedrooms and a sun room for $400/month and that was my share. Our rent never went up while we stayed there and any fix ups the house needed we got to take off the rent.

Other than that, don’t move here. Rents are high and some of the employers are paying stupidly low wages. People who work in grocery stores and the like are here because they live with there parents, inherited their house from their parents or are section 8 disabled. Seeing guys in their 50’s who live with their aging Mom or Dad isn’t something to look down on here because they’re able to live here and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant every once in awhile while working for $17/hour. If you don’t already own and have your house paid off you need to earn about $35-$50 an hour to live like you would in other parts of the country. I don’t understand why some people move here and work long hours and then go shopping on the weekends for prepared foods because they don’t have time to cook or they go out to eat for half the week at an overpriced eatery when they could make enough food on the weekends at home for the whole week if they just made the effort, but that’s not my place to judge. I did used to shake my head when I worked with a girl who made $14/hour, lived in the upper haight with several roommates and would go to Whole Foods to buy her lunch. I would go around the corner for a $2 taco and bring a soda from home if I hadn’t brought my lunch and this was last year.

If you move here you don’t know the City well enough before you move here and don’t understand things like you can get the best and cheapest burrito outside of the mission because there aren’t those kind of hipsters where this place is located. You can get good food cheap if you know where to look [hint alley ways], but you’ll only know that once you’ve moved here and been around the City for about six months.

PBR is not what cheap San Franciscan’s drink. It’s Budweiser. PBR also tells everyone you’re a broke hipster and you’ve just labeled yourself even if you weren’t trying. While there aren’t that many born and raise in SF people left they’re the ones with the money in this city. Face it, until you’ve got 30 years under your belt here you’re going to have a rough time of it.

By all means though, come and visit us. We have a lot to offer. Great parks and museums and as others have noted great food. Affordable housing just isn’t one of those things.

Have A Burger For Christmas

IN-n-Out BurgerFor me I grew up with the tradition of ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey Christmas Day. I ate it, but luckily I discovered my parents were putting the presents under the tree at an early age so we switched to turkey on Christmas Eve and leftovers Christmas Day. I was never very fond of turkey so after my Dad and Grandmother died I switched us over to prime rib. I mean it’s prime rib and 2-3 bones worth would feed us for a few days.

This year was different. We had decided after last Christmas that we’d do things quasi-Jewish style. Prime rib on Christmas Eve and Chinese food on Christmas Day. This came from the fact that Jews only had Chinese restaurants to go out to on Christmas Day for dinner instead of other restaurants. Why they just didn’t stay home and cook something was beyond me.

We had a couple of friends come over Christmas Eve during the day and when they left my wife informed me that she hadn’t taken out any food for dinner. So what were we going to do? Chinese food? The Pizza Place? El Burrito Express was probably closed to give the girls a day off so they could spend all day sitting at home cooking and not getting paid. My wife came up with In-n-Out Burger. At first I was a bit horrified. Burgers on Christmas Eve?!?!? There was something in that made that feel wrong, but we went.

I have to say for under $9 two burger, fries [make sure you ask for them well-done] and a coke wasn’t a bad idea. Now for me being on a low salt diet at first I thought it would kill be, but then I thought about how much salt I had that day and figured I could get below the 2000mg [1500mg was my total for the day]. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought of this as there were several people there. Not as many as usual, but still other people thought of it. The fact that it was the first hamburger I had in over a month made it taste even better. It actually was worth it, but I’m not sure if I’ll do it again.

Christmas Day we had a NY Strip Roast that I had never done before, but considering it’s a bunch of New York steaks all together in a roast made the idea even better. ours was 5.26 lbs which means we’ll be eating beef for the rest of the week. We would have gotten prime rib, but the cost was too much. This was boneless so it made it even easier to cut. I made the gravy and pulled out our gravy boat and made sure it was boiling hot because my wife like all her food to leave blisters in her mouth.

Christmas Day made me happy at least except half way through I forgot that I usually make some Yorkshire pudding to go with the roast. It didn’t really matter to me and I can whip some up for tomorrow. We both were satisfied by this as she got her burger and I got my roast. To top it all off we had all the dishes done afterwards so we didn’t have any clean up in the morning like we usually do.

It was a good Christmas for us even if it included burgers.

Tommy’s Joynt

Of all the places in San Francisco, as I was driving back from downtown I saw Tommy’s Joynt and when I got home I couldn’t believe in my six plus years of writing this blog I had never written about the home of the meat lover’s Tommy’s Joynt. If you’re even the least bit hungry this is the place to go. It’s got the old San Francisco feel and your plate will be filled and I dare you to finish it all.

I took a few friends from out of town [about 30 actually] once because it was across the street from the hotel they were staying at. A few got confused by the soup nazi attitude, because you have to know what you want when the guy asks you what you want or else you’re in for it. I’ve tried lots of things there [brisket is always great], but I keep coming back to the Buffalo stew because where else are you going to find Buffalo stew for $10.95. I’ve also gotten the $8.95 Buffalo stew sandwich which is for when I just need a little snack [which if you’ve eaten there you know is a joke]. You order your food, grab your silverware yourself and then find a table amongst the three floors going back up the hill.

As you walk up the first set of stairs you’ll see a tub of pickles that says, Help yourself to pickles, but please take only as many as you can eat. All that food and free pickles? You get to see a host of crusty old native San Franciscans there and the occasional person who falls off their bar stool. Incidentally they stock over 100 draft beers in stock and supposedly have a full bar, but for some reason I suspect that if you asked for a cosmopolitan you’d get a knife thrown at you or just thrown out of the place. This is probably part of the reason I’ve never seen cops eat here as they’d end up having to work instead of eat.

If you like turkey and order it as a platter you get the equivalent of a Thanksgiving day meal. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. If you ask for a side of green beans you’ll usually get a WHAT?! from the carver and you repeat it and he yells side of green beans. This is not a place for vegetable lovers. Probably one of the reasons Metallica loved to hang at Tommy’s Joynt. Just a little side note, Metallica has a rider on their contract that bacon must be available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now that is a bunch of meat lovers.

Tommy’s Joynt offers sandwiches, platters, stews and of course their special of the day. Someone like Gordon Ramsey would probably say they had too many items on the menu after which he’s get gob smacked by one of the owners. They do offer salads, but only one is a mixed vegetable. The rest or stuff like potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and then some other vegetable mixes I never thought of. They also offer desserts such as apple pie, carrot, cheese and chocolate cake so even with the desserts they’re staying very old school. I always like to go as far back as I can when I visit just because it’s quieter and you have less chance of someone falling off a barstool and hitting you.

Tommy’s Joynt is a place where you will eat like a king on a pauper’s budget and I hope that it never goes away because it’s a part of San Francisco that defines the way San Francisco really is, not some half caf soy frappucino place that’s opening up on every corner or some luxury cupcake shop where you pay $5 for a cupcake that, well tastes like a cupcake you would make at home. Tommy’s Joynt has that old San Francisco soul to it and we need to keep these places around..

Low Sodium Diet and What I Now Can’t Eat

Well, I’ve been put on a low sodium diet of 2000mg/day. That’s not too bad since the average person should have 2300mg/day, but I started looking at the amount of sodium in foods and discovered that I’ll have to be crossing Chinese food off my list and by that I mean American Chinese food. I’ve never been to China, but from what I’ve read they’re more into the spices than dumping tons of soy sauce on the food.

I was amazed and horrified when I found this website. I love Chinese food and grew up on it at least once a week usually having the left overs if there were any for lunch the next day. My wife and I love General Tso’s Chicken and we found a place that said it had the best in the city so we went and had an odd experience after eating it and going home. Little did we know that we have consumed 11g of saturated fat, but 3200mg of sodium. We don’t normally eat that much fat or salt and we were taking turns running in and out of the single bathroom we had in the house.

Now this is restaurant food, If you want to get worse take a trip down to Costco where everyone there has to buy a case of Top Ramen or Cup of Noodles. Those have over 1000mg per serving and aren’t as large as General Tso’s Chicken. I worked for a printer that had mostly Asian employees and most of them have at least one of the aformentioned for lunch every day. I would see my boss lady eat two cup of noodles daily and if I did that it would put me over my limit leaving me with water to drink the rest of the day.

I also have a bit of high blood pressure that was getting worse years ago and my doctor told me to get a small wrist cuff that I could check my BP on an hourly basis. A could of the guys I worked with were Asian and they wanted to try it out like everyone else. Their BP came in at 160/120. I told them they need to see a doctor, but they kept saying they felt fine. Both had strokes within three months.

Now I can’t just knock Chinese Food because there are tons of fast food and other restaurant dishes that are awful. It just turns out that Chinese food comes out on top. You can check here to see some of the horrors you’ve probably eaten. Italian and Mexican food may not have as much sodium, but it’s got lots more saturated fat which isn’t good for you either. I will once in awhile have a slice of cheese pizza, but I’m holding off on burritos for now [my other beloved food].

Just watch what you eat because you don’t want to wind up in a hospital eating hospital food.

Gigantes 2012

This is the first time I’ve been able to get a TV on the weekends before 8pm now that I have a device that let’s me watch over the air channels in HD on my computer and I decided I had to watch the World Series. The last baseball game I attended was in the 80’s and it was Giants vs. Dodgers at Candlestink Park. As a kid, I used to go to Giants and A’s games all the time so I have to compare the World Series today to what I saw as a kid.

Well, it’s a completely different game now and it just kind of seems like a boxing match where you get in close enough and knee the other guy in the groin hoping no one notices. Last game I was at when Mark McGuire would come up to bat all buffed out on steroids you wanted to see him knock one into the left field stands. Just hearing the entire crowd go silent with the crack of the bat against the ball until the fans were scrambling for the ball and then hearing a collective HOLY SH*T from the fans made it all the more reason to go. I haven’t seen that in the three games I’ve watched so far. The outfielders could pretty much be sitting on lawn chairs for most of the game only have to get up once or twice during the inning.

The secret today is with the pitchers. They have a small window to throw through and they always aim high, low, left or right just to be at the edge of the safe zone. Occasionally they’ll offer a free ball, but they usually seem to try and get them to 3 balls 2 strikes tiring them out before they move for a strike out. There’s very little action left in the game today and now I know why Mixed Martial Arts has gotten so popular — at least people kick some ass there. I remember being at an A’s game as a kid and I can’t remember who it was, but he smacked the ball right into the pitcher’s gut. Everyone in the stadium yelled OH! That’s the way baseball used to be.

The price has gone up exponentially on tickets and food at the stadiums. My Mom’s best friend used to go to baseball games all the time and I’d get invited and my Mom would give her $5 to cover my getting in and food. We’d get a hot dog [get your red hot’s here!] and a coke and then later we’d get peanuts and cracker jack. If you had a $10 bill you could get in, get fed and have change in your pocket. Granted that was a long time ago, but now that you have all these artisanal, gourmet food companies supplying the food and drink at the game it just raises the price even more for going out to the game. So I watched it all on TV and ate a hot dog with a coke and finished it off with some peanuts and cracker jack. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man, but I miss the old days. The song Take me out to the ball game just doesn’t seem to fit anymore, so I rewrote it for modern baseball:

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
buy me some sushi and chardonnay
look at the kiss cam that couple is gay
so it’s root, root, root for the home team
if they don’t win it’s a fight
cause it’s $20, $30, $40 for food
at the old ball game