Iso Rabins has always done a delicate tango around environmental and food regulations. Rabins pioneered the Bay Area's burgeoning wild-foods movement when he founded ForageSF in 2009, but city health inspectors, noting the potential hazards of eating products gathered in the wild -- the best-known of which come in the form of poisonous mushrooms -- were never thrilled with his organization or its various commercial offshoots.
Earlier this year, one of Rabins' signature ventures -- the Underground Market, a wildly successful event at which various sub-professional food producers peddled their wares -- was shut down by the Department of Public Health, which had previously given the market its tacit blessing. Rabins has since been working to bring the Underground Market into compliance with city law.
But this fall, during that process, he suddenly faced persecution on another front. In October, city officials sent a letter informing him that another series of foraging get-togethers, his so-called Wild Kitchen dinners, could subject him to thousands of dollars in fines. The dinners typically served dozens of patrons, each paying $40 or more for a prix fixe menu of hunted and foraged local foods such as squid, mushrooms, and nettle soup.
(Disclosure: SF Weekly profiled Rabins for a cover story in 2009. I attended two Wild Kitchen dinners in the course of reporting for that article, and have since attended one more. They were tasty, and I never got sick.)