Pueng Vongs, Y! SF Editor
The strangely addictive food travel TV show, "Bizarre Foods," makes a long-awaited stop in San Francisco. Award-winning chef Andrew Zimmern is fresh off episodes where he samples eclectic cultures and cuisines: camel hump sausage in Aleppo, Syria; donkey salami in Venice; and fugu in Philly.
Andrew's stop in SF is no less fascinating. He uncovers an underground food scene in a city known for its world-class, white-table-cloth dining experiences.
Andrew literally digs deep to find San Francisco's food counter-culture. He accompanies the non-profit group Food Not Bombs to "rescue" food from grocery and restaurant dumpsters to feed the homeless. He also visits a couple who raises insects as an inexpensive, nutritious, and sustainable source of food. Andrew takes a bite out of cricket empanadas and moth larvae fritters. Later, he makes a trip to various city parks with the Forage SF folks to harvest food from the outdoors including wild fennel and snails.
Andrew told us that he considers San Francisco the "ultimate food lover's destination."
"It is on the forefront of many food revolutions," he says. "And what you eat can be a personal statement, a badge."
Edible definitely meets the political on his outing with Katie Chamberlain and Margie White from Food Not Bombs. Chamberlain and White call themselves "freegans," vegans who acquire free food that's either donated or rescued from store or restaurant dumpsters. Andrew seems a bit wary when they open up dumpster tops on the street, and he is shocked at what he finds.
"I went out expecting that the food tossed away was an apple here an apple there," he says. Instead, they discover huge amounts of packaged food: 50 pound crates of bananas, 10 pounds of strawberries, and boxes of lettuce.
"It was staggering to see how much food is wasted in this country," he says. "It was a big eye opener."
The ladies combine the dumpster finds with other donated items to make a scrumptious meal: gourmet spring mix salad, basil-infused vegetable soup, and home-style banana bread. They feed the masses every Thursday night at 16th and Mission.
Andrew is particularly moved by the night on the town with Food Not Bombs. In the episode he reveals that he was once homeless in New York City, and puts the evening in the Mission in the "transformative experience category."
"Watching how they treated people of all stripes with so much dignity and respect, I got rebooted," he says. "It reminds me of the priorities in life."
As a result of the episode, Travel Channel will donate 10 cents for every viewer who watches the March 1 San Francisco episode — up to $100,000 — to the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
The rest of the show is a lively ride into the alterative and experimental food culture of San Francisco. Andrew hangs out with his buddy and fellow chef Chris Cosentino of the immensely popular Incanto as he makes a intricate dish with pig's blood as its main ingredient. He swings through the Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlor for a foie gras ice cream sandwich. And he joins the ranks of food trucks, jumping right in to sell pig intestine tacos from a converted school bus.
The variety of food and foodies is why Andrew calls SF one of his favorite food cities.
"The city of San Francisco is a very patiently loving place that allows people to experiment and keep loyal customers," he says. "For example, if a chef tried to make chicken soup and serve it as a jelly bean there would be people willing to try it."
Upcoming episode dates on the Travel Channel
Mar. 1: For every viewer, 10 cents will be donated up to $100,000 to 100,000 Homes Campaign
Mar. 3, Mar 8-9, Mar. 15
Photo caption: Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern with Margie White and Kate Chamberlain from Food Not Bombs. They are "rescuing" food from a dumpster. (Travel Channel)