The San Francisco food scene is a remarkably fluid thing—it seems that every week a few notable chefs have begun residency somewhere new, and it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the popups around town. If you want a Vietnamese-Cajun crab feast, you can get it in San Francisco, but only for one night. Go to a bar, and any number of chefs might be there, experimenting with new dishes and feeding those in the know.
Chef Iso Rabins, the mastermind behind Wild Kitchen and ForageSF, is something of a fixture in this scene. Trained in documentary filmmaking, Rabins was interviewing urban farmers when he realized he'd rather be creating something more tangible than a film. He became interested in foraging—and in helping foragers get better prices—and access—for their wares. Soon he sold foraged goods to top restaurants in the Bay Area, and started a community supported forage box as a way to share foraged foods with those in the city (and share profits with the foragers.)
Over the years, Rabins did more and more of his own foraging around the Bay Area and beyond. It's tricky to sell foraged goods at a farmers' market due to market rules, so Rabins decided to create his own market, an underground market which ran once a month for about a year, until word got out (there was a feature in the New York Times) and the unpermitted market was shut down. He re-opened the market with proper permitting for awhile, but the last market was in late December of last year. Next up? Rabins is working on opening Forage Kitchen, a shared-use kitchen, classroom, and co-working space for food businesses (and occasional users).
In 2009, he started the Wild Kitchen, a roving supper club, as a way to share his excitement about foraged foods. (These underground dinners have become slightly less 'underground' over the years—proper licenses are in place, and he's working with Katy Oursler, who helped pioneer Outstanding in the Field, to manage the events.)
Rabins invited us to check out an evening with Wild Kitchen held at San Francisco's Bluxome Street winery last week. (The winery was one of 120 urban wineries that existed in SOMA before the 1906 earthquake and Prohibition wiped out the city's wine industry.)