Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pasta or Mein, Everyone Loves Noodles

The noodle plays a major role in the culinary cultures of Italy and China, and this Sunday I went to the first event in San Francisco celebrating this basic carb.

The 2010 Noodle Fest took place on a sunny (yet windy) day in the city's historic North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods. Just like New York, these two neighborhoods representing the early immigrants from opposite parts of the world abut each other like bordering countries.

The San Francisco event was like a street fair in two nearby streets that were going on simultaneously. About 30 neighborhood restaurants offered up dishes at food booths, and for the $20 admission I got to try three dishes from the Chinatown section and three dishes from the North Beach section.

OK, is this from Chinatown or North Beach? They kind of look like dumplings right? But they're asparagus ravioli from Colosseo Restaurant.

More ravioli, this one from Sotto Mare. It actually caused quite a long line, but mostly I think because the chef was so animated when dishing out his pasta.

So on the North Beach end, the three pasta dishes I tried included the Wild Boar Penne from Cafe Divine (top left). Just the idea of wild boar sounded interesting, and the ragu was so rich and meaty. There was more tender boar bits than pasta, but I wasn't complaining. Also tried one of the last ravioli from Sotto Mare (top right). I couldn't tell what was inside, but the sauce was so comforting. I actually went to the North Beach end near the end of the event so a lot of Italian stations were selling out, including a very popular pesto gnocchi from Bocce Cafe (the only gnocchi being served). So I ended up for my third dish from the North Beach end going to King of Thai, who had a booth dishing up pad thai (I love pad thai so never miss up a chance to eat it).

I thought I could handle all the pasta eating, but it was actually a lot. I had to take a break and watch some of the demonstrations. Here this chef (sorry, forgot his name) makes colored pasta. This one was squid ink pasta, but I'm so bad because when I first saw it the first thing that came to my mind was tire tread. Come on, tell me you don't see it!

Over on the Chinatown end, it was like a school fund-raiser because the organizers got all these kids to handle the booths for the restaurants. In the beginning, there was a bit of panic as the kids tried to organize the tables while hungry diners started to create lines. Above, a group of kids check the storage containers for food.

Over at the Chinatown end, I tried the Beijing tan tan mein from Pot Sticker Hunan Cuisine (top right). I loved the meaty sauce, just like bolognese but slightly savory. Bottom left, I tried these cold noodles with spicy Szechuan sauce from Z&Y Restaurant. Unfortunately, I got this early on so I think the kids dishing it out didn't do it right because it was supposed to have cucumber slices and it didn't. Still, the sauce was good and very spicy. To just fill my craving, my third dish was the soy sauce chow mein from Good Mang Kok Bakery just because I love the thin crunchy noodles made simply with soy sauce with some bean sprouts.

Noodle Fest was organized by the Chinatown Development Center and the North Beach Merchants Association, and along with highlighting the noodle, I'm sure it was a way to attract people to these two landmark neighborhoods. Since it was such a beautiful day, I took a break between carbo-loading to wander the streets and alleys of these two neighborhoods and it just reminded me of the history of these two places. While these two neighborhoods have become frequent stops for tourists, you shouldn't miss out exploring them yourself, and not just when noodles are involved.


Amy Sherman said...

Great post! I think we liked the same noodles. I'm linking your post in mine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. At least I can live through you.

Kim said...

What a neat idea for a festival! Great photos!

Miso said...

Cool! Noodle Fest!! Thanks so much for blogging this - these events are the stuff of dreams. Well, mine at least ;)