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chowhounds defeated by pupusas

Windy | Nov 2, 200207:29 PM

With visions of a pupusa crawl, seven of us set off for a lovely fall day in the greater Mission. We met at Cafe Commons and then began, as any weekend food event should, at the farmers market, in this case the Alemany Market.

Four hounds had never been there before, and we slowly made our way past the breads, sugar cane, olives, dates, muscat grapes, and pomegranites, tasting along the way.

Arlene picked up blackberry honey and avocado honey; Derek got a sweet potato tart; David Boyk got dried popcorn on the cob. I settled on a Russian black sesame roll. We resisted the scotch bonnet peppers, but there were great deals on rainbow chard (75 cents a bunch), apples, and persimmons.

Next stop: Balompie for Salvadorean food. Our table was set with wonderful pickled peppers, carrots, and onions, plus chips and salsa.

I ordered two servings of mondongo (listed as tripe soup), which they kindly split seven ways for us. Mondongo isn't menudo; the tripe turned out to be mostly gelatinous tendon--I thought it was wonderful. Shocker got a piece of honeycomb in his. The rich stock is filled out with carrots, zucchini, and yucca, and plates of chopped onions, parsley, and lemons are provided, along with fresh thick tortillas.

We also got one of each kind of pupusa, planning on slicing them up and sharing. We got loroco, zucchini, chicken and cheese, chicharron and cheese. Mostly we noticed the cheese. The pupusas are hot off the griddle, great texture and aroma. The accompanying slaw was crunchy and cut the grease.

We had planned to go next to Lol Tun for their pupusas to compare. We sipped pina (pineapple) and melon (cantelope) drinks. And then realized we were slowly lapsing into a food coma. We hadn't even finished the pupusas--less than one a piece--but somehow they were expanding in our stomachs. I know I tasted a few plums and apple-pears at the market, but this seemed disproportionate to what we had eaten.

Around this time, the platanos con crema showed up. Perfectly fried and caramelized plaintains, juicy, crispy, and sweet. We barely touched them, as painful as that was.

Service was just super. They cleaned the table and gave us new plates and utensils for each course, refilling water and somewhat bemused by our ordering. Cost: around $7.50 each with $2 drinks and a lavish tip. The bar and restaurant were filled with families eating enormous plates of fried steak with chickens, shrimp with mojo de ajo, and pasteles.

We quickly adjusted our plan, knocking off the second pupuseria and went to Dolores Park to enjoy the sunshine. Arlene and David went to Tartine where they ran into Shocker, who we had just left. After an hour of food-related conversation with a great view of downtown, we made our way to Mitchell's to enjoy the fall ice cream flavors: eggnog, ginger, pumpkin. Ben abstained. Finally, on the way back to BART, we made an emergency stop at Lucca Ravioli where we scored some of their rare fresh cheese ravioli. Then it was time to go home and head out for dinner....

Balompie is on the corner of 18th & Capp. Thanks to Stanley Stephen for recommending it some months ago.

Alemany market is directly across from the Alemany exit off 280 south. Saturday mornings. Some of the same vendors go to Civic Center Wednesdays, but the atmosphere on a Saturday at Alemany is what this city is all about.

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