After several days of dark, gray, and (relatively) cool weather last week, the skies opened up to a gorgeous weekend. We spent an amazing Sunday afternoon at the Presidio in San Francisco. Sprawled out atop picnic blankets on the lawn under an impossibly blue sky, we contemplated playing lawn games, sipped cocktails, and stuffed ourselves with revel-worthy food at Off the Grid‘s Picnic at the Presidio.
Crossing the stately markers flanking the entrance to the Presidio is like a portal into a mystical grove of eucalyptus trees far away from the city. As we wound down through the forest we were treated to peeks of blue sky and picture perfect sailboats floating across openings in the trees. Passing more and more cheery brick red buildings, we started to hear a lively bumping beat.
Compared to the last food festival I went to (the surprisingly packed and pulsating Eat Real festival), the mood was so chilled out. About 15 tents, food trucks, and a bar lined the perimeter of the lawn, which had no shortage of groups on picnic blankets but still offered plenty of room to sprawl out. Parking was close, free, and no problem at all.
Baelson and I were joined by our good friends Carol and Justin (SF transplants from my days back at school in Austin), and we were so excited to meet their brand new daughter, Chloe (8 weeks!).
We laid out our picnic blankets and got to scoping out the eats. I had to check out the new behemoth shipping-container-turned-pizza-truck, Del Popolo.
The wall of gleaming windows lets passersby ogle the pizzaiolos pulling pies in and out of the impressive wood-fired oven.
When each pie is done cooking, the pizzaiolo pulls it out using a long-handled pizza peel and places it on one of the small platforms (just left of the oven) suspended on a metal arm, ready to be quartered and served to the salivating customer. Pie after pie came out with a beautiful leopard-spotted char on the crust, glistening heat-licked toppings, and an exhilarating smoky aroma.
The Bianca pizza was simple, yet so rich, flavorful, and balanced. The ricotta added salt and tang with its relatively dense and dry texture providing a nice contrast to the mellow creamy mozzarella. The bite of garlic and floral freshness of basil added interest. This one was my favorite.
The Wild Boar pizza was intense. How can you argue with crisp-edged salty cured meat, spicy orange oil, and sweet and bitter notes from the crisp frizzled kale? It was very good. The thing is, it was also very salty, even for a salt-tooth like me. Perhaps it was the amount of boar salami (a generous portion) or that its saltiness intensified as it shrank in the searing heat of the oven, but it pulled the flavors out of balance.
The crust on both pizzas was full of flavor and had a distinctive stretchy chew to it. The texture reminded me a little of the chewy bacon mochi that Chotto was selling a few stalls down. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it would have to grow one me.
This fried chicken from Wing Wings. Oh, this fried chicken. It seemed so simple — almost understated — but it was so very delicious! The breading was crisp and crunchy without being hard, dense, or oily, and was seasoned just enough to be full of flavor without flirting with overly seasoned or outright salty. One of the pieces (you can see it on the right) had a sheath of chicken skin that had separated from the meat and was just a light shatteringly crisp sheet of heaven. The meat within was moist, juicy, and flavorful — even the white breast meat! While eating this one, we kept having to interrupt conversation to marvel at how good it was.
Our eyes were peeled for the advertised booze “delivered blanket-side by roving vendors,” but as far as we could tell, this service were nowhere to be seen. So, we were forced to walk several yards across the grass in the warm sunshine to the bar area instead. Terrible conditions, really :).
There was a nice selection of creative cocktails, as well as wines, beers, and bubbly to choose from. The bartender was so sweet — she kept calling us pet names like “honey” and “dear,” and even gave my friend a taste of each of the cocktails to help her make the right choice.
Baelson and I have adopted the habit of each ordering a different item, and switching at “half-time.” That way we get to try more things, and also hedge bets in case one of the items is a dud. We selected the Presidio Mule and the Mr. Pickles Bloody Mary to go halfsies on, which were both excellent.
The Presidio Mule was light and refreshing, with a little bite from the ginger, and complexity from the Peychaud’s bitters.
The Bloody Mary was, in my opinion, just what a Bloody Mary should be. The texture was smooth and had body (no thick or puree-like texture resembling a can of V8). It had a tart juicy tomato flavor, balanced with assertive yet pleasant heat, pepperiness, and savory depth, and brininess from the pickles and pickle juice. If only I could hold my liquor better, I would have had been happy to put away several rounds of just these two!
Carol and Justin did plenty of damage as well. In addition to pizza from Del Popolo, they tried Bacon Mochi from Chotto, Butterfish Crudo (not sure where it was from, but I suspect Bar Crudo), and Cheddar and Scallion Hush Puppies from Dixie. The hush puppies were Carol’s favorite.
Now, what to have for dessert…
The Salty Honey Walnut pie from Three Babes Bakeshop was described as “baklava in pie form.” We thought it tasted like pecan pie filling with a crumbly brown slightly savory crust on top.
The “Naughty Cream” doughnut from Doughnut Dolly was filled right before our eyes when we ordered it. The ladies said their naughty cream is a crème fraîche vanilla bean Bavarian cream and it tasted as amazing as it sounds. The doughnuts were light and tender, like biting into little toasty clouds.
Before we knew it, over 3 hours of eating, lounging, and basking in the glow of the sun had flown by and the vendors were packing up. I would say an event you don’t want to leave until you find that it is, well, simply over is a successful one.
We got to sample dishes from several great San Francisco restaurants and food trucks all in one place, enjoy delicious cocktails, work on our tans, and do it all with great company (leashed dogs were welcomed, so Lucy joined us, too!).
From Presidio.gov, here is a list of vendors participating in Off the Grid’s Picnic at the Presidio:
The event is every Sunday in the month of October 2012, so you’ve got two more Sundays to go check it out, October 21 and October 28. The event is from 11am to 4pm.
© 2012 by Revel Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.
- The Best Picnic Ever … (greenavvocato.wordpress.com)
- Obsessed: Off The Grid’s Fancy New Presidio Picnic Is Off The Hook! (refinery29.com)
- Food Truck Heaven (stonerchic.wordpress.com)