Taste of Potrero 2014

And so it is… another year, another event. My posts have become so infrequent that you’re likely to find the annual ToP post half way down this same page. It’s not because I don’t love you, my dears. Rather, it’s because I’m focused on the just living the epic life and have decided that part of it is not talking about it so much. You remember my post on the social media narcissist back in 2010? Well, I decided to try and practice what I preach.

But there are a few reasons I’ll sweep off the cobwebs and pull out the soapbox. Judah, who turns nine on Thursday, is a big reason. He continues to illuminate my own existential cobwebs with every brilliant and innocent thought that comes from his brain. Together we’re writing our own blog by just being us, together, and it manifests in the way he shines his light on the world. I can’t wait to see what he becomes but will fight bare-knuckled to remain present in him, now. Every day I find myself in gratitude, high on my great fortune to be his dad.

And that leads to Taste of Potrero. I do it for him. Plain and simple. When we made the choice to forego private school and embrace public education in San Francisco, I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power to give him an experience that was comparable, if not better. Money was the issue, so we found a way to raise some. And it continues to grow. With Taste of Potrero we’ve reached the levels of the fundraising efforts of schools with very active and endowed parent communities, which we don’t. We cannot have an auction within our community and walk away with $200k. We had to go outside.

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This year the event has matured. Last year was hands-down the best event for many reasons. Very few hiccups, great flow, great food, great drinks, big money. We figured out most of the details that make this a successful party and kept the formula. 2014 proves to be another level…here’s why:

  • We’ve moved to the NWBLK at 1999 Bryant. The venue is bigger and sexier. The event should big bigger, but won’t FEEL bigger.
  • San Francisco Magazine is our media sponsor. They bring big chops.
  • The restaurants and bars are all amazing. This year the cocktail offerings will blow your mind thanks to Anchor Distillery.
  • We’ve got live entertainment and food trucks outside (Del Popolo, El Sur, Gabriel Angelo – the Trumpet Kid and Gabi Holzwarth).
  • It’s all you can eat and drink for $100, $200 for VIP. Every penny goes to public education.

Tickets are nearly sold out, but I’d love to keep it in the family – so snag up the remainders.

May 8, 2014
NWBLK 1999 Bryant Street
General Admission 7-11pm $100
VIP 6-11pm $200
tasteofpotrero.com

Banana Pudding

THIS IS A GUEST POST FROM MY DEAR FRIEND STUART SHELDON. IT’S DESTINED TO BECOME A CLASSIC. ENJOY AND COMMENT, PLEASE.

BananaPudding

Food is magic.

We all have that special dish, the one that instantly activates the way-back machine and jumpstarts a potent emotion. What is yours? For me, it’s banana pudding.

Whenever we visited my grandparents mobile home on the other side of Florida, my younger brother and I beelined it to the fridge the moment we arrived. There, bathed in cool light on the second shelf, stood neatly arranged cups and cups of pudding. Banana and chocolate. Smooth as velvet and dolloped into small glasses the size of an open palm.

My mother’s parents loved each other with a rare intensity that started as handsome high school kids in Queens, New York. They never went with anyone but each other, and when he asked for her hand, my grandfather bestowed upon his beloved a simple elegant diamond solitaire which cost all his money and which she cherished and wore always … until a three-pack-a-day habit killed her at fifty five. That was July 1970, a month before I turned seven.

Lovebirds, 1931

My mom was crushed to lose her anchor so young. To watch her mother succumb to the brutality of lung cancer. See her lithe body dwindle. Hear her gasps.

Me? I saw none of that. I ate pudding.

My specific memories of my grandmother are scant. A squinty smile dusted with a marvelous hint of naughtiness. A nonchalant way of standing with her hip cocked. She was not girly but certainly feminine. She favored pants to dresses. Camping out West to fancy hotels.

One memory, however, burns bright yellow. Standing before the glowing fridge, I’d seize a cup of banana and begin my ritual with the big cold door still open. The tip of my teaspoon cut a fingernail-sized crescent into the unwrinkled, neon-lemon-colored skin. I dabbed the tip of my tongue, shut my eyes and absorbed. The next bite got slightly larger, half a spoon’s worth, eaten slowly to savor. Those that followed increased in size and vigor until I scooped like a gravedigger, occasionally pushing pudding through my missing front tooth hole to make my brother laugh. Lastly, I scraped and clinked and licked that glass clean of every trace.

Unbeknownst to my grandmother, her pudding was the magic potion she conjured to make her eternal in my heart.

My beautiful mom's beautiful mom

Last night, my wife and I attended a dinner party, where a guest brought banana pudding made with love from a recipe gleaned from an upscale Manhattan bakery. The color resembled French vanilla ice-cream, not the too-bright synthetic “banana color” in the stuff my grandmother made. Instead of little glass cups, my friend scooped her pudding into ceramic dishes from a large glass bowl that featured crushed Nilla Wafers across the top. The surface was lumpy with chunks of banana, not flawlessly smooth like my grandma’s little servings.

BUT … that first bite was all Marian Saltzman.

Flooding back through 50-year-old lips came the selfless love of a woman who knew how much two little imps cherished her simple treats. Who made trays and trays of the stuff so we could finish one and grab another. And even a third. Whose whole face laughed when she did, her joy ironically amplified by laugh lines deepened by cigarettes.

Today, Marian Saltzman lives in the rich, squinty smiles of my sons. My mom still speaks with her out loud. And my wife proudly wears her engagement ring, a daily reminder of what a marriage is supposed to look like.

Spoonful of pudding

And, for me, my grandma lives forever in the tip of my spoon.

It’s Tricky

I’ve decided to like hipsters. It’s not because I particularly have much in common with hipsters. I don’t possess industrial-ultra-slim clothing, ironic facial hair, youth, tattoos. I don’t live in the Mission, slackline or hula hoop in Dolores Park, drink trendy coffee or date girls with thick-framed eyewear and colorful tights.

Photo Courtesy of FogandFoundry.com

Photo Courtesy of FogandFoundry.com

In fact, for the past couple of years I’ve been known to ridicule hipsters. Not necessarily because I had anything against them, but more so that I bought into a covert trend unto itself. The anti-hipster club (kinda like the he-man woman hater’s club of Lil’ Rascals) is a prodigious movement that can be traced to it’s origins in the darkest corners of places like 25 Lusk, RN74 and Delarosa. I often think that nobody actually believes themselves to be a hipster. I’ve never met a person that has self-identified in this way.

Yet, there is no doubt that there is a citywide class war being waged between Mission hipsters and Marina types. Cute and fuzzy bunnies (points for the knowing the reference) and professionals of the North gaze somewhat scornfully at hipsters.  I secretly think they desire or envy the hipster indifference, while at the same time loathing their fashion sense. Whereas the hipster looks towards those from the Marina with decided scorn.  I don’t believe there’s anything about the Northern life that appeals much to the hipster, except maybe said cute and fuzzy bunnies.

Photo Courtest of Sf.FunCheap.com

Photo Courtest of Sf.FunCheap.com

I’m between worlds. I run with all crowds. I can hang with the cutest and fuzziest of them, doing my Mayurasanas, Adho Mukha Vrksasana and Koundinyasana B (don’t press me on hip-openers tho). But also spend most of my time Southside, with the exception of the essential Nopa late-nights (neutral territory), and SPQR, who equals my beloved F+W for pasta supremacy. Plus, I live in the Dogpatch where I prefer the sunshine and the shipyard views – and is also the neighborhood where aged hipsters go to nest.

To the point: One thing the hipsters and I do share is Trick Dog. The brainchild of the Bon Vivants (and decidedly hip) Scott Baird and Josh Harris, Trick Dog is a Gastropub that appeals to my sensibilities for Gastro-ing and Pub-ing (really, you went there?). And apparently it also appeals to those of the Mission-hipster species, because it’s teeming with them.

Photo Courtesy of SFGate

Photo Courtesy of SFGate

The aesthetics of Trick Dog are lean and modern with elements of Prohibition-era charm, mixed with some steam-punk accents. It feels very hip without being ironic or cliché. Scott and Josh themselves have formed a design business based upon the work they’ve done at the bar. There’s a cutting edge European sensibility to the layout, that reminds me of some of my favorite places in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Paris. You could easily find this bar tucked away in the Marais, The Born or the Chueca (yes they are all the gay neighborhoods – problem?).

But moreover, it’s about the food, the drinks and the intangible in the atmosphere that keep me coming. The crowd never gets too dense, and always feels upbeat with lots of engaged groups split between the upstairs in the downstairs. The upstairs being a compact sit-down dining space – the downstairs bar stacked a few deep with some open floor area to stand around. Flow is well considered. Noise is manageable.

Photo Courtesy of SFChonicle

Photo Courtesy of SFChonicle

The cocktails are exactly what you would expect from the Bon Vivants. Everything has been very, very well-considered. The drinks are incredibly balanced, often surprising in their subtleties: never sweet, never heavy. They go down easily, too easily. I love me some Baby Turtle, a concoction with Ocho tequila, campari, grapefruit, cinnamon, lime, egg white. And the bartenders themselves could be the most affable lot I’ve encountered in any trendy establishment in town. Just plain good-folk.

But it’s the food that really stands out to me. Not what you’d expect from a bar’s bar. The menu is not extensive – it’s very accessible. Yet, there are enough options, and it changes regularly, so that you could go a few times and still find surprises. Most things are functional for sharing – and share we do.

Some of the standouts are the Salt Cod Scotch Egg, which has a gooey yolk to balance the fishy crust and a lovely shredded beet salad underneath. The Fried Green Tomatoes they’re serving right now are outstanding – crispy, yet light with an al dente tomato center. The Radishes with Campari Butter and Smoke Se Salt are incredibly surprising in their simplicity, yet thrilling in their complexity.

Almost everything is good here but the real standout to me are the French Fries. They have an option of Manimal Style which emulates In-N-Out Burger with a tangy sauce and fried onions. And these could be the best french fries I’ve had in San Francisco and beyond. In fact, I was recently in Belgium and I’d put them up against the best I had there. They’re listed as thrice-cooked, which I assume means they’ve been boiled and then fried a couple of times. No matter, they got it right and they’re the most crispy delicious flavorful little piles of spuds you’ll find anywhere.

It took a few visits to slide into the vibe at Trick Dog and frankly, in the early weeks they were still cutting their teeth. After The Bauer gave them three-stars for food, the crowd settled in and the bar hit its stride. It’s too easy to pop in on a weeknight after some Tittibhasanas and Tolasana through to Vinyasa. I’m even thinking about getting a few tattoos and maybe reconsider my stance on dates with thick-framed eyewear – so that I can move freely amongst the hipsters as a regular.

What is Beautiful?

I rarely link out to other blogs. Not that I wouldn’t, but my posts are so infrequent that I often focus on what is important to me. Tonight I was reading my friend, Caroline Wachsmuth’s magnificent collection of impressions on the topic of “What is Beautiful?”. She has curated the posts from her inspiring and creative community and each perspective shines a unique light on interpreting beauty.

I am drawn to, and inspired by, the notion that there is no formula for beauty. In fact, the clichés and conventions that commonly define attractiveness don’t apply to these enlightened perspectives on beauty (many of whom work in fashion and beauty in France and abroad). Rather, they are shadowed by an appreciation for elements like metamorphosis, originality, emotions, balance – it is ephemeral, unexpected, free, nature.

But my favorite came from textile artist Sasha Duerr, who said “For me, Beauty is often planted in the now. Grown in the process. How just a moment can encompass a memory. A glimmer of being able to see the visible in the invisible.”

I encourage you to visit and perhaps find inspiration for your own take on beauty. Click the image to visit her blog:

What is Beauty

Son

Eight years in and I still cannot begin to evoke the words to properly describe the feelings.

As I navigate this world I have encountered many words to describe myself – I am a man, an entrepreneur, a friend, a traveler, a chef, a community activist. I am passionate, capable, smart, generous, creative. I am stubborn, reactive, opinionated, disorganized. But no words, no descriptions, no associations or character traits can compare to this – I am a father.

Every moment of every day, I am grounded by the fact that this person and I get to navigate the world together. I guide him the best I can but he often teaches me more than I could ever envision. His intuition, strength, pure emotions and fearlessness serve to guide me to become a better man, and hopefully a better father.

There is rarely a day that goes by where someone does not tell me what a great person Judah has become. They don’t have to say it, he just inspires it. My pride as his father is only exceeded by the joy that I get to be a part of his continual development as the world unfolds. Son, I look forward to experiencing it all together. Son, I am proud to be your father.

Happy birthday Judah.

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Taste of Potrero 2013

My darlings,

Tis’ the season where my world is consumed with the spirit of giving and good will to man. That’s right children, it’s Xmas in May, better known as Taste of Potrero.

You all know the story by now… My kid goes to public school. The system is in the shitter. We need serious shekels to keep the thing going. So, we do what every poor school would do, we put on a serious food event. Duh!

First year brings in $40k. Second we hit $93k. But this year is different. The school has grown by small bits, which puts us in a different bracket for district funds. So, get this… we are in an even deeper hole. We barely were able to get PE, art, computers, literacy and supplies last year and the funding drops out so we’re short two (that’s 2 not 1 but 2) teachers for next year. We’re nearly $200k behind in our budget. We’ve got some fundraising to do.

Taste of Potrero always had great talent. Restaurant owners and chefs are rockstar heroes for this sort of stuff. First year we led with Flour + Water, Hapa Ramen, Bon Vivants, Tacolicious. Next year we brought in Ame, Comstock Saloon, Nojo, Hog & Rocks. There’s never been a question that this event is top-knotch.

But we’ve just completely outdone ourselves for 2013. Make no mistake about it – we have the best lineup of restaurants of any event in the city. Add to that the fact that tickets are all-inclusive this year (meaning taste and drink to your heart’s / liver’s delight / demise). VIP ticket holders will get exclusive access to Trick Dog, Smitten Ice Cream, American Bao Bar, Commonwealth and, get this, State Bird Provisions.

Not to be outdone, general admission will add in the likes of HiLo BBQ, Wise Sons Deli, Lolinda, Roli Roti (yes, the ones with the lines) and Beretta, Comstock, Homestead pouring their devilish elixirs. There’s nearly 30 vendors this year and EVERY last one of them are high quality. Check out the full list here

We’ve also got a sexy little video here.

So, if you like food and are a human living within a driving distance to San Francisco, you owe it to yourself, the kids, your holy maker and me to get you’re butt over to Taste of Potrero. Details follow. Tickets on sale now.

Taste of Potrero
May 9, 2013
SomaARTS Gallery
934 Brannan St., San Francisco
6-7pm (VIP Exclusive Preview)
7pm – Midnite (Main Event)
Tickets Here

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