Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Street Feast

And after my late night out with the meeting of the incredible nations?

Unfortunately hangover city. But that's kind of what happens when you go out for after work drinks then you continue the festivities with expats. I have got to get back into running a bit more.

Anyway, I did more morning routine at the farmers market before hitting the hay again for a sweet afternoon nap. After that and checking the weather forecast it was time to get on with my actual weekend plans - food festival.

Yes, I had actually planned a delightful food festival weekend. Once again. But this time I was going to try to hold off a little more in attempts to not make myself sick. We'll see how well I'd do.

I was meeting up with Church and the bunch of friends she'd introduced me to at the VIP corporate night at the V&A earlier in the week. The Finnish couple who had gone had said they were going to go and we were all invited to join them. After describing to us what it was all about (beer and local food magicians getting together in one place) wasn't exactly a hard sell.

The only thing that was kind of a bother about it: the location. It was located in Hackney, which I hate to say it, is not the nicest part of town. Known as a dodgy-turned-trendy-but-still-dodgy area, it's almost safe to say that it's only safe during the day and only potentially only at night in groups. So...well, we met up there in a group.

Anyway, none of us live near there (especially not me; it took me an hour to get there..and this was after a train, tube, tube, and another train). But we all made it at the appointed time (around 4:30 in the afternoon) and commenced trying to find the place.

Hilariously it was also not that easy to find, but we did eventually find it. But not before finding this artsy gem:

Delightful. Basically a huge slanted mirror over a piece of floorwork that looks like a building. Hilarity ensues when you step onto it.

Unfortunately the queue for it was an hour and a half long and we were all interested in the food festival a bit more (called Street Feast). So we decided it wasn't worth waiting. We did take a minute to think of all the hilarious things one could do on it though. I decided in my mind if I'd had the chance I would have done something obscure. Like stood up normally...which would have looked like I was walking sideways on a building. Illusions, Michael!

Anyway, we did find the fest after that and scoping of all the gorgeous food commenced. It was an adorable venue:

I know it is hard to see in these pictures, but we luckily did the very smart thing of strategizing and securing a position very early on. Street Feast happens on Fridays and Saturdays, with Fridays being the busier of the two days, so Saturday wasn't so bad. Having come between lunch and dinner it was pretty empty when we arrived as well. Because of these two things we definitely got the pick of the litter when it came to sitting places...and with the forecast of super rain for that evening, we decided to take cover in a lovely little place that served end-of-supply wines. It's right next to the Dalston Yard sign you can see in that last picture. Lovely place.

We definitely sat there the entire time we were there, which ended up being a good 4-5 hours. This meant someone would go and scout out new food, come back with it, and we would eat it as we drank down good wine. Fantastic plan.

And when it started to really pour down with rain? An even better idea. Great great and greater.

So of course the real question that everyone wants to know: what did we eat!?

So many many things. I did do a better job of restraining myself versus when I went to the Soho Food Fest but man...not by much.

In order of consumption:

Beef and chicken tacos

And what I meant by beef and chicken tacos was really 10hour slow roasted chipotle short rib beef tacos and habanero, lime, agave chicken tacos with mango slaw. Yeah, that kind of food festival. Real food. Fancy delicious food.

One of the Finnish girls who came with us made the bold but correct statement, "I love eating beautiful food." She's absolutely right. And so do I. It doesn't need to be gorgeous all the time, but man, that sure does help. And it makes photographing my food adventures so easy. So easy. Beef on the left, chicken on the right.

The verdict? My god so delicious. I've always missed Mexican food, ever since I moved from California. It's one of the great sadnesses that has pervaded my life since my leaving America. This definitely helped it to a degree. The beef was tasty and stringy-tender, juicy in all the right meaty ways. There was raw sliced radish, cilantro, sprinkled cheese, fresh tomatoes, and some very spicy cooked salsa as well as sour cream and a little dash of guacamole. Yes, yes, and yes. I want all of the above, all around and in my face.

Surprisingly between the two I actually preferred the chicken (this doesn't happen meat almost always wins out for me). But the mango slaw is what did it for me. The sweetness of this combined with the mega spicy of the cooked salsa and the creamy coolness of the sour cream was amazing. There were pickled habaneros should you choose as well. Crunchy, spicy, creamy, savory. Fresh. This thing fell apart in my hands and I didn't care. I just wanted it all. Glorious.

Oh yes, there were sprinkled dried chili flakes and seeds on there as well. And some lime juice. Like we needed more amazing flavor. Hah! Fantastic start to the day of food. Really nice.

Korean fusion tacos and quesadilla

Yeah you read that right, more tacos. But this time, Asian tacos.

The whole Asian-fusion tacos thing has exploded in the food truck arena back home in California but unfortunately it's not made a huge dent in the world food market (at least not in the countries I've been living for the past year and some). This is unfortunate, since both of those together sound amazing to me. Anyway, this was one of my first times being able to having this combination since I'd been reading about it (for almost 2 years now) on my food blogs and I was more than happy to try it in person.

Since Church and I couldn't decide which ones to go for from the list on the menu...we just decided to get all of them. Really, we got all of them - both types of tacos and the quesadilla. Now that's what I call the spice of life (variety).

What you see there is a bulgolgi ox cheek taco and pulled pork belly taco. Each of them is then smothered in grilled kimchi, sliced radishes, roasted nori (seaweed), red cabbage and chives, and a delicious Asian mayo.

This was fantastic and by far the winner of the night. Asian-Mexican fusion? Absolutely! Yes, yes and yes. If I could have this in bowl or burrito form I definitely would. It would be perfection.

The words I would use to describe these tacos: tart, crunchy, juicy, and fresh. The kimchi really added that vinegary preserved kick that I've come to love and miss from my Asian foods.

The other item on the menu? The quesadilla. Melted cheese with roasted eggplant, kimchi, and chives, smothered in a coriander/cilantro sour cream. It was quite tasty also (I absolutely love eggplant with an unhealthy abandon now), but somehow (maybe because it was lacking meat), this one somehow did not cut the mustard.

Hilariously we ended up chatting with the part-owner of this restaurant. She's from Japan but loves Finland because of Marimekko (fair enough I suppose). She's originally from Harajuku (where I've been before and am obsessed with the sock stores). Her first name and Church's real first name are strangely similar in sound. They bonded over this.

British wood fired pizzas

This was probably the least exciting food of them all but we were running out of ideas and some of the food stands had closed by this time of night. Plus it was pouring rain so our food party scouts were only willing to run so far for our food.

Although it is hard to tell in the photos, one of these is pork and the other beef. They're both covered in sour cream and watercress, hence making them British (we felt this was a very lenient interpretation).

Tasty (especially the beef, which had clearly been stewed for hours and hours), but otherwise not particularly spectacular.

The other food items of interest at the food fest that we didn't get to try (at least not me personally): Chinese fusion crepes (like hoisin duck) and some sort of extremely deep fried Thai chicken that we were all drooling over when we arrived but didn't have the nerve to go get near the end of the night (blame the rain and the sort of disinterest in super fried at the end).

Overall a spectacular set of eats and not even that expensive. We enjoyed the festival from our haven in the wine tent and had great company the entire time. Will I go again before the summer is over? Likely not since Hackney is horrible to get to, but I am glad that I went.

More information on Street Feast here.

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