Once a month in SoMa, a low-key mash-up between the W San Francisco and a food truck happens. For about 30 diners at a long communal table set just off of the chic hotel's lounge, it churns out delectables like glazed salmon with pickled cucumbers, sweet potato and rock shrimp fritters, brown-rice crusted chicken katsu, rhubarb-strawberry pop tarts and chocolate covered bacon with DIY toppings.
The Local Motion dinner series, which features food trucks like Bacon Bacon and Onigilly, is the brainchild of Paul Piscopo, the W hotel's executive chef. He was musing about "fun things we could do" and thought of William Pilz, a friend and fellow chef. The two had worked together at Charles Nob Hill a decade ago, and Pilz had launched Hapa SF in 2010, serving modern Filipino food out of a rehabbed taco truck.
So on an evening in September 2012, Pilz joined Piscopo in the W's kitchen, and they produced an array of appetizers plus four courses (including the aforementioned shrimp fritters), all paired with cocktails. That night evolved into a program of monthly, one-night-only collaborations between the culinary teams of the swish, white-linen W and San Francisco's scrappy, hustling food trucks.
In the food-obsessed Bay Area, chefs of fancy establishments frequently partner up to stage dinners (e.g., during the annual SF Chefs festival). What's different about the Local Motion experience is "the fun factor," Piscopo says. Food truck cuisine often tosses together separate ingredients to create a bold flavor on a plate, whereas in the W's dishes, typically "we let the ingredients speak for themselves," Piscopo says. And while the W usually pairs its food with wine, "cocktails are much more fun," he adds.
Piscopo has taken one invention from the Hapa SF dinner and served it at W banquets: marinated and lightly grilled hamachi with picked cucumbers and Green Goddess dressing.
The December 2012 dinner with Bacon Bacon was naturally bacon- and pork-themed: Broccoli rabe, pork belly and golden raisins; brussel sprouts with bacon vinaigrette; Triple-B Tacos (pork butt, belly and bacon); braised pork belly with grilled chicory; and bacon risotto with scallops, clams and salsa verde were served. Dessert was bacon donut holes (which were dynamite, because one of the W's cooks formerly worked at Dynamo Donuts) and Mexican hot chocolate.
The piece de resistance: Chocolate-covered bacon with a toppings bar that included marshmallows, Butterfingers and Heath bars.
Bacon Bacon founder Jim Angelus, who goes through at least 350 pounds of bacon a week, has carted his bacon to the California Academy of Sciences, to Outside Lands and to corporate functions. He's been excited to bring it inside one of San Francisco's top hotels. Usually his food is handed to diners on compostable plates and in paper wrappers. Gussied up on restaurant china and silver, it tasted even better.
At the W San Francisco, TRACE restaurant, 181 Third St., San Francisco 94103.
Tickets $40; cocktail pairings $25. Info: (415) 817-7836.