Foodcation: California, Part I

21 Sep

No wonder people from California rave about how wonderful and beautiful the state is. It really is. I mean, there are at least 8 songs on my iPod alone with “California,” in the title, more than any other state can boast. I don’t have much to say about LA (visited when I was a tween, had a good time but wasn’t inclined to return) or San Diego (never been) but San Francisco…San Francisco has turned out to be my kind of town.

I fell in love with the city during this trip with my friend D and The Bf.  The weather was beautiful, the people were friendly, the atmosphere was so laid back and the food, well, I’ll tell you about that . Much like New York, San Francisco is diverse and chock-full of options in myriad cuisines and various prices. Even though I allowed myself the luxury of not worrying about money for this trip, after every meal I ate there, I never cringed after looking at the bills. I love it when you can eat good food and still have change for the taxi ride home.

I’m sans photos of this because of a memory card formatting mishap, unfortunately – my first meal upon landing was Hawaiian barbeque at L&L, a fast food Hawaiian barbeque joint. I had never heard of L&L before this trip. I didn’t even think of Hawaiian food as culinary option on the mainland.  But it’s tasty, it’s novel, and I certainly wish there was an L&L somewhere here on the East Coast. I love that you can get something rare like Hawaiian food on the West Coast. And it’s definitely a nice alternative to the mainland’s versions of barbeque.

For dinner that first night, I was introduced to the concept of shabu shabu at the aptly named Shabu House. I had heard of it before on Iron Chef but I didn’t know it was something that restaurants are specifically dedicated to serving. Shabu shabu is basically Japanese fondue or hot pot.  We were served large bowls of spiced broth that are heated on boilers tableside; it comes with thin slices of meat (American Kobe beef, pork, and lamb), various vegetables (mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, sprouts, tofu) and udon noodles. We’re also given ponzu sauce and a garlicky, peanut satay-like sauce for dipping. And bowls of rice, of course. Once the broth is bubbling, you put as much meat and vegetables as you want/can, let it cook for a a few minutes, and then pull it out and dip and eat with the rice. I enjoyed the fresh vegetables and meat soaked in spicy broth – it was the kind of spice that’s addictive enough to make you continue eating even after you’re full. The ponzu sauce, which I customized for myself with some green onions, garlic and a drizzle of sesame oil, added some sweetness to the spice of the boiled meat and vegetable. Eating it all is slightly labor-intensive, with all the boiling and picking food out of the broth and dipping and balancing with rice on your chopstick. But with a few hours and some good company, shabu shabu turned out to be very fun culinary experience for my first night on vacation.

D and I planned to spend Sunday morning brunching at farmerbrown for some chicken and waffles, but we willingly changed plans upon spotting a food truck along the way. (Farmerbrown is officially on my list for my next visit). I normally wouldn’t be taken by a food truck as a viable alternative to chicken and waffles brunch, being that the food truck craze has hit DC and we have our fair share of great options. But this food truck was special – it served Filipino food!  Modern, organic Filipino cuisine, to be exact.  I had heard of the Adobo Hobo truck but not of Hapa SF.  Running into this truck must have been some sort of divine intervention since I was set on trying Filipino food in San Francisco, and we had passed up our main opportunity the night before so I could try shabu shabu for the first time.

Food truck cuisine has definitely evolved in the past few years, and Hapa SF contributes to the growing repertoire of quality dishes that one can get from a refurbished ambulance (or postal truck, whatever). D and I ordered chicken adobo and sisig (sizzling pork, which they also offered in taco form, love it!). Both came with heaps of jasmine rice. The chicken had that classic, briney, adobo-seasoned taste with large pieces of chicken cooked to a dark brown hue. It tasted how adobo should taste, the way my tita makes it so well. The sisig, though not sizzling as it’s normally served with a slice of kalamansi or lemon to squeeze over, still had a hint of lime infused in the chunks of salty, soy-soaked pork. Both dishes were sprinkled with green onions, which bought a peppery crunch to balance the saltiness of the meats. To a Westerner, this would be the perfect post-drunken-late-night-blitz food. But to me, this tasted like home. And it was cheap. For $15, we got two dishes that we both loved but couldn’t even finish, and I hesitated to throw out our leftovers. You could say I have a bias because, well, I am hapa – it’s a term to describe someone of mixed heritage, particularly having at least one parent who’s Asian and/or Pacific Islander. But I have had mediocre Filipino food. Hapa SF is not that at all, and it gives us a taste of what could be Filipino cuisine’s successful foray into the forefront of Western gastronomic trends.

In my next SF posts – lots of wine and lots of dessert. I’m not lying when I say I didn’t hold myself back for this trip. 🙂


5 Responses to “Foodcation: California, Part I”

  1. MLMeyer September 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    Ah! So jealous of your foodcation. Thanks for the posting/update! The Shabu house photo has me salivating ~ the meat looks to die for.

  2. Healthy Coconut September 24, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    I agree, San Francisco is such a foodie city. That’s all I do when I visit San Fran.

    What I like about San Fran too, is that the restaurants support the local farmers and use local food.

    L&L is the bomb, the serving is huge and it’s so tasty. I think a combo plate gives me 3 meals worth, lol!

  3. bk October 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    shabu shabu is the SHIT

    • TheNoviceNosher October 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

      Haha it is, my friend. It is.


  1. Philippine Cuisine in the DMV « The Novice Nosher - December 10, 2010

    […] for getting one’s Filipino grub on in cities like San Francisco and Seattle. SF and LA even have Filipino food trucks!  I mean, New York City has its fair share of Filipino eateries as far as I’ve heard, but I feel […]

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