STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO Street food has existed in the Bay Area ever since the first paleta hawker tricked out her ice-filled wheelbarrow with leftover Christmas jingle bells and quantum physicists discovered how to wrap bacon around a hot dog. But its recent gourmet food cart incarnation, pimping everything from homey toasty melts to puff-pastried escargot, has gotten a bit, well, precious. It’s time to kick it up to the next level, folks. Maybe this next phase could come in the form of adding a little performance to the mix. If the guy behind the Crème Brulee Cart would start juggling those blowtorches, he’d be a hit at Burning Man. And can we please get a shirtless ice cream hunk like New York City, or porno coffee gals like Seattle? Besides showing a little skin or twirling butane poi, however, here are a few suggestions we have for the post-food cart world.
THE EL BULLI GUY
Spain’s El Bulli, the most famous restaurant in the world, is closing in 2012. But don’t fret about never being able to experience chef Ferran Adrià’s chemically groundbreaking and era-defining “molecular gastronomy.” At this polyspherical cart, designed by Herzog and De Mueron for the Hong Kong World Expo but now moored near the Precita Park swing set, the molecular is combined with the participatory: bring any food you want to the culinary artists in Balenciaga aprons and it will be pulverized by a repurposed Japanese robot, liquefied with marmot aspic, frozen in nitrogen to –290 degrees, and handed back to you as a purpurescent dodecahedron. Yachts accepted as payment. Please reserve 28 months in advance.
THE E-Z BAKE FAIRY
Many have bemoaned the Castro’s lack of food carts — much as they bemoaned the closing of “Hello Gorgeous,” the Castro’s Barbra Streisand museum a few years ago. Now, in a tasty act of reclaimed retro stereotyping, and with a big poof of pixie dust, arrives the E-Z Bake Fairy, whose camp baked goods are over the rainbow. With Barbra blaring from the 8-track and his exquisite collection of vintage ballroom-gowned Barbies watching from their original packaging, the boa-bedecked E-Z Bake Fairy fires up his perfectly preserved and delightful Easy-Bake Oven for all comers. Ding! Honey, your buttermilk biscuits are done.
Gross? Or intriguing?
The cupcake thing: can we admit it’s careened out of control? The cute quotient, the frill factor, the adorable ubiquity — it’s all ballooned into unacceptability. An enormous dancing cupcake has replaced the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man in our collective nightmares. Plus, “cupcakery.” Really? What about the real deals, the homely, lumpy, tepid, deflated, sticky-papered, half-frosted or over-frosted hockey pucks your mom used to squish into your lunch bag beneath the waxy apple? Return to the nostalgic days of elementary school and frazzled housewifery with Meh, cupcakes like Mom used to make. Bonus: crumbled, over-salted snickerdoodle stand nearby for schoolyard-like trades.
Soviet nostalgia is all the rage! Shepard Fairey’s propaganda poster appropriations are big-ticket items, shapeless woolen clothes have taken over the runways, and a Red Dawn remake comes out this fall. Get back to the USSR at this authentic rusted iron box full of grim, humorless, badly bleached drones high on primo Afghan heroin. Convenient signs tell you everything not to do, which is everything. Complete your campy celebration of fascist economies by waiting in line for 14 hours only to be told they’re out of everything but Siberian snowcones (gravel and mayonnaise flavors only.) But someone has a cousin whose friend can get you Levis 501s.
It’s no secret that the current food cart scene would be adrift without Twitter. How the heck else would you be able to follow the Adobo Hobo to on-the-fly Filipino bliss? Now it’s time to repay the favor by bringing the social networking service into the real world. Fail Whale sliders and starling casserole: $1.40.