The San Francisco Diet

Off the Grid’s Matt Cohen Eats a Lot of Truck Food, Also Tuna Poke Bowls

Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen Photo: Courtesy of Matt Cohen

In his role as Off the Grid founder and organizer, Matt Cohen gets to taste a lot of food. Like a lot. He tests out every new food-truck vendor that joins one of the organization’s dozen or so weekly events, and he breezes through a good many of these events day to day. Also, as he puts it, he spends “a ton of time ping-ponging around the city for meetings, food, and drink.” Cohen submits for us this week his San Francisco Diet, detailing the many delicious potables and edibles that crossed his path in seven days. And note that he does take it easy some days at lunch with just a nice salad or a poke bowl from Pacific Catch.

Sunday, June 17
I live over in Pac Heights, which means that I spend a ton of time ping-ponging around the city for meetings, food, and drink. This was my first day off in a month, so I started my morning the way I start most mornings, by skipping over a ‘hood to the Blue Bottle on Linden Alley in Hayes Valley. John made me a soy macchiato which they do really well, and I had some of their house-made granola. If I could, I would start every morning this way.

From there, I got in the car for a little impromptu drive to Sonoma for a solo wine tasting adventure. A while back I met Jason and Candie Rose while he was at La Cocina. They recommended that I check out Scribe Winery and I joined the wine club without ever trying the wine. Today was my day to remedy that sad situation. I don’t say this a lot, but their 2011 Pinot Noir is seriously off the hook.

After Scribe I hit Tin Barn, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, and Rams Gate (what a view!)
On the way back into the city I stopped in Sausalito for a few beers at the Cruising Club. The Cruising Club is a members-only bar on a refurbished WWII ammunition barge docked at Dunphy Park. Depending on the time of day and the tide there may be a substantial slant to the floor - but the back deck is always a choice spot to have a few drinks especially since the weather in Marin is, well… better than San Francisco.

Afterwards I met Katie Acherman [official Off the Grid Mover and Shaker] for totopos de chile, carnitas and margaritas at Nopalito in Nopa.

Monday, June 18
Start the day nursing a Blue Bottle coffee from Hayes Valley again, and head over to West Portal for a meeting about a market that we’re considering.

Then back to central market to ATO [A Temporary Offering] which is a popup block concept that I’m working on as a side project with KOR Hotels. After the meeting, I headed back to our offices [at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco’s Marina District], where I stopped at Pacific Catch for their poke bowl. For someone that eats out 90% of the time, this poke bowl is like heaven: both healthy and delicious.

Dinner was decidedly less wholesome — I met some friends at 9 p.m. over at on Divisadero for a little Brass Monkey pizza from Little Star and some PBRs. Yeah, I used a code word to order a sausage with a Little Star pizza, but please don’t hold it against me.

Tuesday, June 19
A meeting with a produce purveyor brought me over to the Precita Park to talk about how mobile vendors can use better locally sourced produce. I’d like to say I cruised over to Wise Son’s two blocks away for a lox and bagel sandwich, but I settled for some coffee at Charlie’s Café and an Almond KIND Bar. From there it was over to FoodLab (our Kitchen at ATO) at the Renoir, and then Absinthe for a lunch hosted by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the Mayor’s Chef of Innovation Officer. I had a salad with salmon and an ice tea, and sat across from Ed Reiskin, the head of the MTA (who surprisingly was not helpful at all resolving several outstanding parking ticket issues).

A few hours later the Off the Grid office did a tasting of Gyros on Wheels and I tried their signature gyro sandwich. One of the perks at our office is that we taste test every vendor we work with. I always feel so sorry for the tourists at Fort Mason Center who wander over, and inevitably get disappointed that the trucks aren’t there to sell. I should start learning how to say I’m sorry in different languages…

Tuesday afternoons are when we do Off the Grid team meetings — so I was tied up from 2 p.m. until 5. Afterwards, I headed back to my neighborhood for dinner at Dosa on Fillmore. They make a killer gimlet called the Bengali gimlet that is spicy, refreshing and awesome. I also had a masala dosa. But, did I mention the gimlet?

Wednesday, June 20
Started early with an 8am meeting with Hapa SF at La Victoria Pandaria in the Mission. Had some De la Paz coffee and a quick bite of La Victoria’s pan dolce. Hit the road right after to head to San Ramon for a meeting with Bishop Ranch about a food pod that we program there twice a week.

Once back at the office, I walked across the parking lot to Greens, grabbed a tofu sandwich and some minestrone soup, and met with someone about an Off the Grid iPhone App.

By 3 p.m. I was over in the Presidio for a meeting about an artisanal food picnic concept that is still in development (let’s keep it between us) but is going to be amazing and totally different from anything we’ve ever done before. Later that night I grabbed a late dinner at Chez Maman on Potrero Hill. Their moules frites are amazing.

Thursday, June 21
Pit stop at Blue Bottle - Macchiato and granola, we are all creatures of habit - and then over to Greens for a meeting with our PR team where I sipped some green tea.

Around 11:30 I had a conference call with some nice folks who are opening a Grilled Cheese truck in the area. Fear not, I suggested tomato soup.

From there it was over to Magnolia Brewery for lunch and a meeting with Dave McLean. Magnolia is a cornerstone of our beverage program at our Fort Mason Center market and their beers are amazing. Over time (hanging out with Dave), I have come to believe that beers should play a vital in most business meetings. Lunch was a couple of Kolsh beers, a trout sandwich and a shared pickle plate.

We are thinking about putting together an Off the Grid cookbook, so after lunch I headed to a meeting with a potential collaborator at Flywheel Coffee Shop in the Upper Haight. It’s a cool new little 3rd wave coffee shop next to Whole Foods. From there I swung by our Upper Haight Market at Stanyan and Waller to chat with a film crew who was working on a segment to publicize our event with the SF Giants called Off the Cove. For those not in the know, our Haight location is one of my favorites: just as many trucks as Fort Mason Center and very few lines. Its great seeing all the families out on a Thursday night.

For dinner I stopped at Mission Chinese food for the kung pow pastrami. Serious heat. So delicious.

Friday, June 22
Early morning 7 a.m. Food Lab Meeting, afterwards right into a meeting with The Kor Hotel Group, who we’re working with on A Temporary Offering. While I was leaving I grabbed a chicken leg with hot sauce from Sol Food who is doing lunch at FoodLab for the month. It smelled so good I couldn’t leave without some.

At 11:30 I piled into a minivan with Grant Marek and Joe Starkey of Thrillist, freelancer and SF Weekly contributor Lou Bustamante, and my publicist Marla McLaughlin. We had set up an Off the Grid style dine-around where we would hit all four Friday markets. It was a day of eating fit only for professionals.

We started at the Civic Center Market then over to the 5th & Minna Market. At both sites we set up a space for the group to chill while we hit the trucks bringing over bites from each one. By 3 p.m. everyone was seriously full, so I posted people up on the end of the Herbst Pier (Pier 2) at Fort Mason Center for a few PBRs, some sunshine and the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge anywhere. By 5:30 we were over in Hayes Valley for a visit to our PROXY Market, some kolsh at Biergarten and some crazy buttermilk pie from Rib Whip. We rounded the crazy eating day by boomeranging back to Fort Mason Center so they could see our biggest market in full swing. A few consensus winners from the marathon of bites were the garlic noodles from Little Green Cyclo, the California burrito from Senor Sisig, and fish and shrimp tacos from the Taco Guys. The group piled into the minivan around 7, but I stuck around Fort Mason Center until close to help break down.

At 12:30 a.m. the Off the Grid crew called it a night and headed over to the Red Jack Saloon for some Guinness and Fernet.

Saturday, June 23
In Alameda for the second week of our Alameda South Shore Market. It was much sunnier than expected and I got a pretty wicked sunburn. Guess I have to get used to all this East Bay sunshine. I got a chance to try two new trucks (3-3-3 Truck and OmiNinja) that I had never tried before. The concept behind the 3-3-3 Truck is that every item they offer can be prepared with three different flavor profiles: Indian, Korean or Mexican. I had the Barbeque Pork Taco with a Korean slant. At the Omi Ninja Truck the fries with ninja sauce were a definite standout.
It was seriously hot in Alameda, so I stopped in at nearby Jamba Juice in South Shore Center for some all fruit smoothie action for my team at the market. After I left the market, I stopped in Temescal on the way back to the city for a proper late lunch at Barlata, a great tapas place. I know I know, I should have gone to Bakesale Betty… Well it was closed ok. No Strawberry Shortcake for me. Boo.

Crossing back into the city it was supper foggy starting from the Bay Bridge, and I had definitely acquired a sunburn from the day’s activities, so I decided to stay in and ordered dinner from Ton Kiang. Saturday night dim sum delivery is a thing of beauty.

Earlier SF Diets:
Bi-Rite’s Sam Mogannam Drinks a Lot of Sightglass Coffee, Loves Tofu Banh Mi
Bar Star Kevin Diedrich Eats Mad Thanksgiving Leftovers, and Goes to the Gym a Lot
SFist’s Brock Keeling Inhales the Mongolian Beef Cheesesteak at HRD, Loves a Good Tastykake
Juhu Beach Club Chef and Top Chef Alum Preeti Mistry Loves Sightglass, Can’t Get Enough of Una Pizza
Boz Scaggs Loves Bar Tartine, and Eats Many a Loaf of Acme Bread
Top Chef Alum Jen Biesty Breaks Her Carb Fast, Falls Hard for a Pistachio Truffle
Jonathan Kauffman: ‘It’s a Wonder I Don’t Have Gout.’
How the Tablehopper (a.k.a. Marcia Gagliardi) Works Through Turkey Leftovers, and Everything Else She Ate Last Week
Tasting Table Editor Jessica Battilana Likes Her Wines Gutsy, and Her Cookies at Night
S.F. Drag Star Juanita MORE! Loves Herself Some Four Barrel, and Slanted Door
How Sommelier and Budding Winemaker Rajat Parr Eats and Drinks His Way Through Harvest
Publicist Andrew Freeman Eats Fries With His Steak Tartare, and Popcorn With His Peanut Butter
Bar Star Brian MacGregor Likes a Good Slider, and Occasionally a Cocktail With Lunch
The Cooking Channel’s Aida Mollenkamp Is a Girl Who Can Really Eat
Timothy Hollingsworth Ate Some *Really* Spicy Sh*t in Sydney
Chris Kronner Loves Sebo Almost as Much as Ryan Farr’s Burgers
Where Didn’t Michael Bauer Eat This Week?

Off the Grid’s Matt Cohen Eats a Lot of Truck Food, Also Tuna Poke Bowls