Father Leo Comes to Town

When I was at the International Food Bloggers Conference I was a little surprised to see a priest in the crowd - a priest I recognized! It was Father Leo Patalinghug, a Filipino Catholic priest that I had seen on TV. I had seen him on CBS Sunday Morning where he talked about his program called Grace Before Meals. Basically he preaches the benefits of families eating their meals together and sharing while cooking. I introduced myself, we had a brief conversation, and I gave him my card.
Father Leo was born in the Philippines but was raised in Maryland. After he was ordained he had a parish in Maryland and was often invited to people’s homes for dinners. He would pull a switcheroo and started cooking for them. He realized that sharing in the cooking and eating together at the table brought together families and communities and it was a good message to share.

Research shows that having frequent family dinners can reduce the susceptibility of teens to risks like teen pregnancy, smoking, drug use and depression. And these benefits don’t just apply to traditional families or people with kids. Stronger families foster stronger communities, and that’s the goal we’re striving for–one meal at a time. 

He has a book, Grace Before Meals: Recipes & Inspiration for Family Meals & Family Life, and often is invited to talk around the country to cook and share his message. He’s also been on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Shortly after the conference I got an email from him. Father Leo was coming to San Francisco and would I meet up with him for some foodie fun? I agreed to take him to Off the Grid to experience the food truck scene. He brought along a couple, Joseph and Dottie Narvaez. I picked them up at his hotel and we were off. Since he was off the church clock, Fr. Leo was not wearing his collar and was in civilian clothes.

It was too early to hit OtG, so I took them first to the Mission District for dessert first – ice cream. I had been wanting to try Humphry Slocombe for some time and took this opportunity.  They are known for making crazy flavored ice creams. On this day there was Pumpkin 5 Spice, Maple Walnut, Prosciutto, Jesus Juice (Coke and red wine), balsamic caramel, olive oil, and more.  Their most famous flavor is Secret Breakfast, which is bourbon and cereal.

I was happy because I had seen the prosciutto flavor on an episode on the Food Network and wanted to taste that. You could taste the porkiness of it and it didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t all that great. It could have been better. For one, it could have had some bacon bits. And it didn't have any saltiness to it like we expected. We asked the gals at the counter and they explained that Boccolone brings the prosciutto bone by after they had carved off all of the prosciutto. They then soaked the bone in the cream to leech out the flavor.

The lack of mixins was something that we noticed in all the ice creams except the Secret Breakfast, which Father Leo proclaimed had Captain Crunch as the cereal. (Apparently he’s a CC fan.) Why not put chopped walnuts in the maple walnut? Or a caramel ribbon in the balsamic caramel? I guess they are trying to stick with the purity of the ice cream itself. I will admit the quality of the ice cream was good, I just wasn’t impressed with the flavors they had that day. I had had olive oil ice cream in Seattle and this version was too “floraly”, as Fr. Leo said. In the end I steered away from the weird flavors and just got a scoop of dulche de leche. A small scoop was $2.75, so it’s not cheap.

Fr. Leo enjoys some of our haul.

We then headed to Fort Mason for Off the Grid.  Fr. Leo was in heaven - foodie heaven. He says he blessed the trucks silently and he happily went around taking pictures before it kicked off at 5 p.m. He treated us by giving us money to head off and collect the grub. We shared everything and I couldn't believe all the food we gathered. He wanted to taste everything. He agreed with me that the best item was the sisig plate from Hapa SF.  We all loved the Chinese buns that we got from Chairman Bao. El Porteno’s empanadas were a favorite and I brought two home with me like I always do. Other items were OK and a few were disappointing. The paella vendor was there for the first time for me, and we were all disappointed in it. But overall, everyone was thrilled with the variety and atmosphere.

Father Leo had an early flight and I had a drive home. So I dropped them off at the hotel and said, “goodnight”.  He’ll be back again when he has more appearances in California and I look forward to more foodie fun with him.