Sunday, November 8, 2009

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, Day 2 & Farewell Brunch

Saturday morning, with the sun shining brightly over The City, our army of food bloggers descended on the Hotel Vitale and Ferry Building Farmers Market, Foodbuzz name badges securely hung from our necks. To start the morning, a small group of us sat down for a discussion on sustainable farming with chef Paul Arenstam of the Americano and Brian Kenney of Hearst Ranch, the farming/ranching arm of the Hearst media corporation. Hearst Ranch humanely raises grass fed livestock in the central coast of California and distributes their high-quality meats around the country.
According to Kenney, the difficulty of raising grass fed, sustainably farmed livestock is finding consumers willing to pay the higher price for the higher quality product. Luckily, chefs like Arenstam and others are looking for humanely raised alternatives to feed lot livestock that take into account respect for the animal, the environment, and the quality of the meat.

While others gathered for olive oil or cheese tastings, the rest of us were left to explore the Ferry Building and grab a quick bite to eat before the taste pavillions at the Metreon. With a little time to kill, it was a beautiful day to lounge on a bench in Yerba Buena Gardens and enjoy some people watching.Before I knew it, it was high time to get upstairs to the Metreon City View level for the taste pavilions, a hall full of food, beer and wine artisans eager to share their creations, and their stories, with all of us. There was a huge array of things to sip and nibble on, so I'll share some of my highlights, guided mostly by what I was able to get a good picture of.

Here we have the Kerrigold table, with some of the richest butter and most flavorful cheeses you will ever have the chance to enjoy. I am not ashamed to say I visited this table more than once.
The crowd raved about this demure little ceviche cup, served by Fuego Restaurant from Long Beach. These little guys were amazing; two perfect bites of bright, salty freshness in a stylish shot glass.These tasty little bites came from the kitchen of Aquarius out of Santa Cruz. Little pastry cups filled with deliciousness (although I am having difficulty remembering exactly what.)

One of the major participants of the Taste Pavilions was Foodzie, a great website for producers of artisan foods, from snacks, sauces, preserves, and amazing chocolates. These beautiful little chocolates with smoked sea salt are from Neococoa, a new San Francisco chocolatier.

After nibbling on a plethora of tasty bites, sipping beer from Rogue, Magnolia, and 21st Amendment Brewery, I was stuffed and a little fuzzy from all of the beer. The kids at Foodbuzz, working their tails off all afternoon, were rockstars and could not have put on a better event. Alas, after a long day of stuffing my face with some of the tastiest delights the food world has to offer, it was time to head home for a quick nap in preparation for the evening's Outstanding In The Field dinner.

The culmination of the entire 1st Annual Blogger Festival was the dinner Saturday night, held at the peculiar location of the Greenleaf Produce warehouse deep in the Bayview district of San Francisco. The location proved to be the perfect spot for this gathering, making it feel like an illicit and secretive gourmet meal for about 250 people. On the way to the venue, our bus filled with hungry bloggers got lost in the heart of Hunter's Point, the driver carefully negotiating the narrow streets and consulting iphone directions that eventually got us to the right spot.

The menu for the Outstanding In The Field dinner was created by celebrated San Francisco restaurant Namu, and prepared by Chef Dennis Lee's staff in this impromptu kitchen stretched over banquet tables and mobile grills. Below you can see the prep and staging area for the mushroom soup we would be enjoying as our first course.

The concept behind Outstanding In The Field dinners is to bring people together, usually to a farm, to celebrate the bounty of sustainable, local food together along a single, artfully designed table. Our table, draped in simple white cloth, snaked through the racks and rooms of Greenleaf to stunning effect.
Keep in mind, we were dining in a working produce warehouse, stacked high with pallets and crates of fruits and vegetables ready to be loaded on a truck and shipped out the moment we had cleaned our plates. Playing the gracious hosts, Greenleaf even gave us a magnificent centerpiece piled high with fresh fruits and veggies for us bloggers to use as camera fodder.

This steaming bowl of soup with maitake, shimeji, and enoki mushrooms started the dinner, a warm and earthy first dish.  Beyond this single dish, everything was served family style, and we were encouraged to help serve each other, and we certainly did not hesitate.  After the required photo ops, of course.

Next up was Udon with grilled calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee and yellow pear tomato with chojang and sesame vinaigrette.  Quite the mouthful to say, but even better to eat.

Next on the menu was a sea trout baked with fried garlic and Japanese curry powder, served with mushroom risotto with crispy maitake mushrooms.  These dishes were some of what I love best about food; fresh, quality ingredients served simply enough to be able to tell their own story.  The risotto was fantastic, and the trout was cooked just enough to be tender; slightly salty and fresh.

The dish everyone couldn't stop talking about was the roasted brussels sprouts with ponzu fried garlic, guanciale and bonito flakes.  The boring, bland, stinky brussels sprouts of your childhood have found a new way to live.  Served next to soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails, baby carrots and fingerling potatoes, these two dishes hit it out of the park.

The dinner was incredible; perfectly executed by everyone involved. As we sat along the sweeping table, drinking Bonny Doon wines, laughing together and talking about everything we had experience at the festival, we had become one big family. Everyone seemed perfectly at home with each other, like we had known one another for years.

We capped off the evening with the 1st annual Foodbuzz Blogger Awards, served with a sweet desert wine from Bonny Doon. Alas, the Tiny Kitchen wasn't nominated this year. Maybe next year I'll have to step up my game and get this modest little blog in shape. For now, I am still enjoying the warm glow (and piles of swag) from this amazing weekend of foodie bonding at it's finest.
Braving another sunny day in San Francisco after a long night of revelry, we gathered one final time Sunday morning for the farewell brunch at Lulu restaurant.  Complete with a bloody mary bar, the brunch was hosted by Nature's Pride bread and featured Kerrygold cheeses and butter and pears from Frog Hollow Farm.  From frittata with aged cheddar to crouque monsieurs with smoked ham and truffle mustard to just good old plain bacon, this meal was a delicious way to wrap up the weekend.  Still, it had been a long weekend of perpetual indulgence, and eventually it was time to head back home for a quiet Sunday at home.

The 1st Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival was truly the start of something great; Foodbuzz didn't over look a single detail when planning the whole weekend.  As many times as I have said it before, thanks Foodbuzz for a perfect foodie weekend.  And thanks to all of my new foodie friends, it was great getting to know you and I can't wait to see what is in store for next year.


Anonymous said...


Laura said...

oh Man thanks for the great recap of the farm to table discussion! I was having trouble trying to put it into words and you nailed it. It was so nice to meet you and what a fantastic weekend too.

Joel said...

Thanks, Laura. It was great getting to meet you, as well. I'm glad you enjoyed San Francisco!