4 food podcasts to subscribe to today

When I first came to San Francisco, I was reading up about the new SF Chronicle Food Critic, Soleil Ho, and decided to check out a podcast she helped host in the past, Racist Sandwich.

It was probably the first time I actually took time to listen to a podcast although I certainly intended (and failed) to make time in the past for podcasts. The conversations were interesting and gave me some new perspectives I may not have shared in the past about food and racial or cultural issues.

Since then I have looked around for some food podcasts to listen to that can give me some insight into thoughts in the food industry and just some great entertainment.

Here are 4 food podcasts to subscribe to today that I recommend:

#1 Carbface for Radio Podcast – This food podcast is wild and out there just like the hosts themselves and I love every last second of it. Carbface is a podcast about chefs and food writers. The podcast was produced by Anthony Bourdain in the past, but continues on with some great interviews. Certainly NSFW – but a great listen.

Listen: https://carbfacepod.com/

#2 Meatless: A Podcast About Eating – Alicia Kennedy explores the reality of eating animal products with specials guests including chefs, writers, and more. I’m not a vegan personally, but I do want to know about their thought process and more than just that veganism is a trend for restaurants. I find her podcasts to be enlightening and I enjoy the deep dives in this podcast.

Listen: https://howwegettonext.com/meatless-a-podcast-about-eating-cfeef8967f89

#3 Sit Down, Be Hungry – One of the chefs I know in San Francisco from Trademark recommended this show to me. It’s locally based in California, but has really interesting conversations about food in general. Hosts Chavid Dang and Dinepiece talk about all things food. Listening to them argue over whether to give up Salt & Pepper Pork or Peking Duck for life and talk about Tinder for farm animals is quite enjoyable.

Listen: http://sitdownbehungry.club/

#4 La Ventanita – Down South in Miami, Food Editor Carlos Frías is doing good work covering the chefs and scene with interesting interviews in his La Ventanita podcast for Miami Herald. His podcast features interviews with national chefs such as Chef Jose Andres, Thomas Keller, Norman van Aken, Pitbull, and others.

Listen: http://bit.ly/2H8wXIs

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The Great San Francisco Corn Dog Festival this Saturday 3/9

Is there anything more American than enjoying a corn dog with beer? This Saturday is The Great San Francisco Corn Dog Festival is this Saturday, March 9th, 2019 from 11AM-5PM. The event is organized by SoMA StrEat Food Park (428 11th Street San Francisco, CA 94103) and FunCheapSF.

Vendors will fry, dip, sauce, and serve specialty corn dogs all day long.

The history of corn dogs in the United States dates back to at least the 1920s. National Corn Dog Day is actually in March and is happening on March 23, 2019 for those of you who need a double dip. 

There will be a Corn Dog Decorating Contest by Sticks and a Corn Dog Eating Contest held by Batter Up. This is your time to shine if eating corn dogs is something you excel at. Those who dress up in a corn dog costume may win special prizes so get creative.

Tickets are now available, including a special addition that will allow for unlimited beer pours. General Admission is just $5 pre-sale.

Waffle Dog from Fil Gud.
Longanisa Corn Dog from The Sarap Shop.

On the menu:

  • Sticks — classic gourmet beef corn dog | Louisiana hot link corn dog
  • Batter Up — Madbum corn dog : 1/3 hot link, 1/3 mozzarella cheese, 1/3 chicken apple | chili cheese corn dog
  • Cochinita — elote dog: corn dog topped with Mexican street corn off the cob (corn, mayo crema mix, cotija cheese, cilantro, chile, and lime | Mission dog: bacon-wrapped corn dog topped w/ ketchup, mustard, and grilled
  • I Love Cheesesteak — cheesy bacon dog: corn dog topped w/ nacho cheese + diced bacon | chile cheese corn dog: corn dog topped w/ home-made chile, nacho cheese, and diced onions
  • Fil Gud — waffle dog | waffle dog + ice cream | lumpia hot dog + fries | mini corn dogs
  • Nava Sausage Co. — Frankfurt corn dog | hot spicy Polish corn dog | smoked Polish corn dog
  • Nombe SF — Kimchi-battered corn dog | tofu kimchi-battered corn dog
  • Firetrail Pizza — hot dog cheese pizza
  • Chef’s Truck — chili cheese corn dog | classic corn dog | honey-sweetened beef corn dog | mini corn dog bites | cheese-dipped corn dog
  • Kokio Republic — hot and sweet corn dog
  • Gyros on Wheels — corn dog with french fries | cheese rolls w/ sausage + cheese
  • Nucha Empanadas — mini corn dogs with chimichurri sauce
  • Street Meet — bacon-wrapped corn dog
  • The Sarap Shop — longanisa corn dog | vegan corn dog nachos

Event Name: San Francisco Corn Dog Festival

Venue: SoMA StrEat Food Park

Address: 28 11th Street San Francisco, CA 94103

Date & Time: Saturday, March 9th, 2019, 11AM-5PM

Cost: $5 entry

Buy tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-great-san-francisco-corn-dog-festival-tickets-55548193141

Tampa Bay Pizza Week coming March 21-31, 2019

Tampa Bay Pizza Week 2019 is quickly approaching with Creative Loafing Tampa. I am excited to be partnering with them for this celebration of one of the best things in the world: pizza. Whether you like pineapple on your pizza or not you are welcome to join us for this cheesy and saucy week.

The event is presented by First Home Bank.

During Tampa Bay Pizza Week participating restaurants around Tampa Bay will offer signature pies and secret menu items for just $10 and under. Grab your friends and family and ditch that low-carb diet you never wanted to start anyway. You only live once.

If you need a warm-up for the week check out my Top 7 Local Spots in Tampa list – not all these restaurants are participating, but these are some of my favorites in town.

Participating restaurants:

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/2235660283370235/

For more information visit Tampa Bay Pizza Week online at www.tampabaypizzaweek.com.

Monthly Filipino-inspired Taco Tuesday with Eats by E in Berkeley March 5th

Looking for a different kind of Taco Tuesday? Eats by E Chef Eric Pascual is hosting his monthly Filipino Taco Tuesday pop-up on March 5th, 2019. The event is happening at 2940 Seventh Street Berkeley, California 94710 with Feastly from 7PM to 8:30PM and tickets are now available.

Chef Pascual has hosted Feastly pop-up dinners for the last few years. He recently did a round of funding for his new spot in Berkeley. Feastly seeks to help connect passionate chefs to diners by offering chefs a platform to host private dinners.

Yours truly at an Eats by E dinner a few years ago. Delicious.

Chef Pascual is an active member of the Filipino community in the San Francisco Bay Area and hosts a number of Filipino-themed dinners and kamayans regularly mixed with Hawaiian and Peruvian influences from his upbringing.

Eats by E holds a 5-star rating on Feastly with nearly 3,500 reviews.

On the menu:

  • Vegetable Lumpia – Filipino-style egg roll with diced vegetables. Served with a spiced vinegar dipping sauce.
  • Salad – Mix greens, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, radishes. Calamansi vinaigrette. Coconut/garlic croutons.
  • Braised Beef Taco – Beef slow-cooked in garlic, calamansi, Tamari, lemongrass, ginger, Roli Roti beef bone broth, and spices with a roasted tomato salsa diced onions, and cilantro on a corn tortilla.
  • Chicken Adobo Taco – Chicken stewed in vinegar, Tamari (gluten-free) soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns. Topped with a roasted tomato salsa, diced onions, and cilantro on a corn tortilla.
  • Veggie Taco – Roasted Mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, peppers with a roasted tomato salsa, diced onions, and cilantro on a corn tortilla.
  • Shrimp and Avocado Poke Taco – Poached shrimp, avocado, sesame, Tamari, Adoboloco Hawaiian chili pepper sauce. Topped with a roasted tomato salsa, diced onions, cilantro on a corn tortilla.
  • Bibingka Churro Donuts – Fried pastry made with rice flour and coconut milk. Coated with cinnamon and sugar.

Tickets cost $35 and can be bought online: http://eatfeastly.com/meals/d/191615028/a-filipino-inspired-taco-tuesday-4/

Lack of seasoning at Cilantro SF Taqueria

Have you ever felt a powerful craving for a burrito taking you over? That was me a few weeks ago. I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how, but I knew I needed to eat a burrito.

Just the thought of a burrito in front of me was bringing a goofy smile to my face. I could practically taste it on the tip of my tongue. Food cravings are like that.

Finding a good Super Burrito in San Francisco can be a difficult venture when you are not able to visit the hotspots most people frequent, such as El Farolito or La Taqueria in the Mission District, and when you find yourself without cash or a bank close by.

I randomly ended up at Cilantro SF Taqueria near Fisherman’s Wharf after the Women’s March and decided to give it a try. The prices are fairly standard for San Francisco and will run you about $9.99 for a Super Burrito made with carne asada steak prepared all the way. Tortilla chips are complementary and there is a salsa bar for all diners to enjoy. Debit and credit cards are accepted.

Initially, I was excited to see the salsa bar and ran over to grab some picante, salsa, and tomatillo sauce and a generous supply of salt for my chips. I ran over to my seat and began to dunk my tortilla chips into the sauces. Although the sauces had a wonderful hue to them, the actual flavor of the sauces was pretty bland and left me wishing for more spices and flavorings. It was a bit of a tease.

The super burrito then arrived at my table inside its signature aluminum foil wrapper. I peeled the aluminum back and took my first bite. The carne asada steak was diced into small pieces that became messy and spread all my over my table, some pieces falling below me on the floor, which I’ll admit was slightly embarrassing. I took a giant bite and munched on my food, the flavors were mostly there that one expects inside their Super Burrito, but something was missing.

The carne asada steak was cooked, but not charred how I like it. The quality of the steak was forgettable and the seasoning was not up to par. The pinto beans and rice as well as the sour cream, guacamole, and other ingredients, however, were all good. I devoured the burrito out of hunger, but felt like I could’ve probably had a better experience elsewhere in San Francisco.

It was ironic that a place called Cilantro did not have spices that were memorable.

The location of Cilantro certainly makes it competitive, especially since El Farolito nearby closes in the early afternoon on weekdays and weekends and most restaurants nearby are tourist traps. They also accept credit cards which makes it a more attractive option for travelers who may not be carrying cash like local do when frequenting restaurants.

The staff at Cilantro is also incredibly friendly and hospitable which can be a little difficult to find in Mexican dive restaurants that are often too busy to actually provide service to customers. The environment at Cilantro was relaxed and casual, the mobs of foodies are nowhere to be found at this dining spot. There was ample seating inside.

Overall, Cilantro has a few thing going for it but simply cannot compete with the household names that have made San Francisco famous for Super Burritos and continue to please the taste buds of hungry diners well into the wee hours of the morning and the shortfall ironically comes down to seasonings.

Restaurant Name: Cilantro SF Taqueria

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: North Beach

Address: 2257 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone Number: (415) 655-9948

Cost: $$

Are the prices at San Francisco’s Jijime too good to be true?

I was in the Richmond District today and was looking for a bite to eat. A friend recommended Jijime to me. Jijime is a Korean restaurant that can also be described as Asian fusion since they also serve ramen and various Japanese dishes and appetizers.

I was thinking about ordering the Katsudon, a long-time favorite dish for me that I scoped out before my visit, but the waitress informed me quickly after seating that it was not available. The seafood pancake was also not available and clearly whited out on the menu. No matter – I decided I would move instead towards the bulgogi bowl ($12.95) and the okonomiyaki fries ($6).

Okonomiyaki Fries at Jijime restaurant in San Francisco's Outer Richmond area.

Okonomiyaki fries have become popular nationwide as a starter in Japanese pubs and trendy spots, but usually are underwhelming. That was not the case at Jijime. The fries were actually the best part.

Crispy and perfectly cooked, the texture and cut was similar to a McDonald’s french fry (recently named #1 by LA Times Food) with kewpie and katsu sauce mixed together. Yum. I was in love with these fries and devoured every last bite. The bonito flakes on top was a nice touch. I would order this again for sure, maybe with some other appetizers.

Bulgogi Bowl at Jijime in San Francisco.

Now the bulgogi. The bulgogi at Jijime was the disappointing part of my meal. It took quite some time to come out and when it finally did the actual serving of bulgogi meat seemed small and fluffed up by a huge amount of plain salad and white rice with noodles attached to the beef. The plating of it made it look even worse with large pieces of green lettuce covering most of the bowl (I actually pulled some out for my photo so it would show up in the shot).

The marinade for the bulgogi was sugary sweet and stomach acid reflux inducing. Restaurants that are catering to American sweet tooths will normally do this, but I don’t feel like it has become as common these days and especially not at an independent Korean restaurant. The actual cut of meat was fairly cheap and tasted like every bulgogi I’ve ever had at an All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ restaurant (which I intentionally don’t order to avoid it), except this portion was not unlimited.

Of course – the price for the bulgogi at Jijime is affordable at just $12.95 so I can understand that you can’t expect a great cut of meat for that price point, but to be honest I would rather be charged more and have a better cut of meat ($16-21 is standard in Florida) and actually like the meat than to pay less and be disappointed.

There were a number of things I wanted to try on the menu at Jijime and the ambiance of the restaurant is very welcoming and perfect for catching up with friends or a date.

Service was satisfactory, although I did find it a little odd that my waitress did not know what samgyeopsal is when I was asking about their pork belly dish and the taste of it. Her inability to explain the dish made me shy away from it.

Jijime also seems to be a nice spot to have a drink so that may be something to explore in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the okonomiyaki fries are excellent and that the bulgogi is completely disappointing and I will not order it again. I’ve had better bulgogi at restaurant chains and corporate concepts which is sad, but true. As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for”.

Restaurant Name: Jijime

Cuisine: Korean, Japanese, Asian Fusion

Neighborhood: Outer Richmond

Address: 5524 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

Phone Number: (415) 221-5353

Cost: $$

Website: http://www.jijime.com

4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Fest Recap

The 4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival came and passed this weekend at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. The Carlos Eats Team headed out on-location to cover the event and, of course, enjoy some Cuban Sandwiches.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people showed up to the event – there is certainly a large following in Kissimmee and Orlando area for Cubans. Competitors at the event were dueling for who makes the best traditional and non-traditional Cuban Sandwich as well as people’s choice award.

Here is a recap of the event:

The judges were made up from a variety of locals in Orlando and food specialists who judged the sandwiches based on different metrics. The traditional Cuban Sandwich is from Tampa and participants needed to keep their ingredients the same, but can take different approaches in how they execute the ingredients.

The organizers made one of the world’s largest Cuban Sandwiches and donated the sandwiches to the homeless. They do this at every festival and it is a spectacle to see as all the La Segunda Bread is lined up and arranged by volunteers and participants.

La Segunda Bakery is a Tampa and Ybor City institution that goes back over 100 years – back when Tampa first began serving the Cuban Sandwich that is now popular worldwide.

Continue reading “4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Fest Recap”

Memories at Isobune Sushi in San Francisco’s Japantown

I was in Japantown this past week and noticed that Isobune Sushi is now closed and has been for some time. It was the first restaurant I tried sushi as a five-year-old kid in 1994 and I have been hooked ever since.

Isobune was filled with memories and I always loved the sushi boat concept and how you could see the sushi chef preparing the sushi right in front of your eyes. It is the first restaurant where I tried Unagi or BBQ Eel. Isobune was also the first restaurant where I became accustomed to having a hot towel or oshibori given to clean my hands before a meal.

One of the best parts of visiting Isobune Sushi was stacking your plates at the end with a sense of accomplishment before the bill arrived.

The last time I was at the mall a year or two back, it was obvious that the more modern conveyor belt sushi was taking over as a concept and seemed to be providing cheaper overall pricing.

The intimate lighting was also a great part of the ambiance that Isobune that was welcoming and left you with a nice feeling of joy when you visited with someone special. Isobune Sushi was one of the first conveyor belt sushi concepts in the nation and operated in San Francisco’s Japantown for 38 years.

When I visited Isobune Sushi back in 2006, the original waitress that had served me as a kid was amazingly still working there. I am sure many people in San Francisco and Burlingame have memories of Isobune Sushi. Times are changing as new food concepts emerge and rising rent in San Francisco is making it more difficult for restaurants to thrive.

Farewell Isobune Sushi.

2 Tampa Bay chefs named James Beard Award 2019 semifinalists

Tampa Bay is on fire this morning with two chefs named James Beards Award semifinalists for 2019. The James Beard Foundation awards are the most prestigious award a chef can receive in the food industry.

Chef Jeannie Pierola from Edison: Food + Drink Lab has been nominated as a Semifinalist for Best Chef in the South 2019. Chef Pierola has been nominated numerous times in the past for the James Beard Foundation awards. She previously worked as a chef at Bern’s Steak House and SideBern’s in South Tampa. Her most recent project is Edison’s Swigamajig at Sparkman Wharf.

Chef Rachel Bennett from The Library in St. Petersburg is nominated as a Semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year 2019. The Library is the latest project from the owners at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Rachel is a graduate of the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Culinary Program. Her past projects include Bern’s Steak House, Edison, Puff ‘n Stuff Catering, and the Oxford Exchange itself.

Congrats to these chefs and keep up the great work!

Food Critic Laura Reiley leaving Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Bay Times Food Critic, Laura Reiley, is retiring after a 10 year run at the paper and heading over to Washington Post.

Laura Reiley was an entity I always knew about throughout the last 9 years I have written this blog, but due to the anonymity of newspaper food critics, I had no clue what she looked like – so I would only imagine what she looked like as I perused her reviews and as chefs and restaurant industry folks constantly gossiped about her to me.

Most of the time we disagreed over the years about restaurants (especially when a top restaurants list was involved) and also the kinds of stories I would read from her, but there was a moment where Laura Reiley made a huge difference to Tampa and to the restaurant industry nationwide.

Laura’s Farm-to-Fable story was a super-sleuth investigation into how Tampa restaurants were manipulating and lying to their customers about organic and farm-to-table cuisine. Laura worked overtime to get to the bottom of this story and to be quite honest I am sure there could be an entire book filled with this topic alone.

The story was incredibly embarrassing for the City of Tampa, but also very necessary for the future of our city. Suddenly, I stopped receiving a thousand press releases claiming organic or farm-fresh cuisine, and when I started to question where the food was coming from when waiters or chefs spoke, they were more careful about their words and I warned them they wouldn’t want to be on another story like that.

For me the story didn’t just speak about the food industry, which is vast and complex, but also about the customers in Tampa who were not demanding more from restaurants. The difference between grouper and tilapia is quite great, yet diners were buying up fake Tampa Rolls at premium prices. Why do people in Tampa continue to support business that lie to them in their faces? I have questions.

Sometimes my discourse with diners in Tampa can be like this and ultimately along the way I came to appreciate Laura Reiley as a necessary being that operated in the shadows.

There is a benefit to having a critic whose job is simply to write and cover food. Not just to consumers, but also for people in the restaurant industry who are working on their craft. Laura asks the questions people do not want to answer and takes deep dives into what makes people and businesses tick and I do respect her for that.

Then – one day Laura exposed her identity and showed what she looked like which was a little strange for me to witness.

San Francisco Chronicle Food Critic Soleil Ho can attest that times are changing though and anonymity is no longer what it once was.

Many restaurateurs would brag to me that they had printed out photos of Laura Reiley hidden behind their counters. Indeed, being anonymous in today’s food critic world may be impossible for someone my age (thanks Facebook).

I wish Laura the best at the Washington Post and thank her for her hard work writing at the Tampa Bay Times.