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Tacos and All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Are a Match Made in Heaven

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a colorful presentation of Thai-inspired open-faced tacos are plated on a yellow table
Chef Kitiya Diparte will be serving her Thai-inspired braised pork belly tacos at Tacolado. (Courtesy of Kitaya Diparte)

Every September, when the Bay Area’s notorious autumn temperatures begin to heat up, ice cream — and all of the creative ways it can be enjoyed — becomes an imperative need. This Sunday, the cold dessert will reach an even higher level of transcendence — by pairing it with tacos. At least that’s the idea behind Tacolado, a unique mashup of an outdoor food festival organized by San Francisco’s La Cocina kitchen incubator.

The ice cream-slash-taco-party fundraiser will feature sixteen chefs serving up an imaginative array of tacos, helados and cocktails in a unique pairing of comfort foods that are beloved in Mexico and beyond.

“Tacos are magic, and ice cream is just pure joy,” says Emiliana Puyana, La Cocina’s incubator program director. “Every good summer day had ice cream. It puts a smile on my face, always.”

The frozen sweets will be supplied by Häagen-Dazs, the event sponsor, as well as De La Creamery, a trending local pop-up. Owner Stephanie De La Cruz will be scooping vegan ice cream nachos, which feature homemade cinnamon tortilla chips, a scoop of vegan horchata ice cream and fresh berry puree. Premium ticket holders will also have a chance to try an ice cream taco — a first for De La Creamery — consisting of a cinnamonized hard-shell tortilla from Bolita Masa, vegan horchata ice cream and house-made fruit caviar.

a platter of colorful, Mexican-style ice creams
De La Creamery will be supplying their small-batch Mexican helados. (Andrea Arevalo)

Meanwhile, for fans of all-you-can-eat food experiences, Häagen-Dazs will offer its new butter cookie cones — a line of pre-packaged, ice cream–filled cones — for unlimited consumption to all event-goers. (Insert “big eyes” and “open mouth” emojis here.)

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The festival will be just as much of a flavor destination for taco enthusiasts, too. A Cubano taco with pork, tropical slaw and crispy cheese from Clandestina Cocina? A Japanese karaage one from Tokachi Musubi? How about a taco árabe with lamb from Delicioso — a take on the Poblano classic, which swaps out corn tortillas for folded pita bread?

For vendors like Kitiya Diparte of the Thai pop-up Kitiya, it’s a chance to test out new ideas — like their braised pork belly taco with pickled green papaya, cilantro and spicy sauce.

“During the pandemic, I diversified my business with my jarred sauces and curry pastes, so I’m looking forward to showcasing this sauce on my taco,” Diparte says.

For others like Aaron Stewart of MexiQ, a Mexican-inspired barbecue fusion pop-up rooted in East Oakland, it’s simply a chance to flex bold cuisine in a fresh, tortilla-wrapped context.

“As a classically French trained chef, I absolutely love the versatility of a taco,” says Stewart, who will be debuting his smoked lamb rib tacos rubbed in chipotle adobo and wrapped in banana leaves. “It’s going to be fun to take an ingredient like lamb ribs, which is usually reserved for fine dining, and put it in a street food–style taco.”

Tacolado will be La Cocina’s first big outdoor event since the pandemic. Despite the unexpected closure of its Tenderloin food hall earlier this fall, the new festival is a sign that the decades-strong community org doesn’t plan to slow down. The nonprofit has helped launch many of the Bay Area’s most exciting food businesses. Now, it’s merely ensuring that it continues to nourish the community — one scoop of ice cream and one taco bite at a time.

Tacolado is happening on Sun., Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m at Spark Social (601 Mission Bay Blvd. North, San Francisco). It’s a ticketed event with various packages ranging from $7 to $220.

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