San Francisco Part 2
I guess that's the problem with heading to San Francisco right before the holiday season. There's no time to update with family and holidays and all the food!
Hopefully, things will go back to a regular updating schedule soon. We're going to catch up with the Saturday events at the Foodbuzz First Annual Blogger Festival.
Saturday morning began with a morning Pastry and Coffee meetup on the top floor of the Ferry Building. For us jetlagged east coasters, the coffee was very welcome.
Outside the Ferry Building, however, was the weekend Farmer's Market, which proved irresistible to cook and photographer alike.
Upstairs, we sipped coffee and ate pastries and looked at the browsers below
Afterward, we had to browse the market and poke through the shops and stalls. Christey and I were in Boston the year before, and had been through Quincy Hall, which I had always assumed was a high-end foodie mecca. Quincy wasn't bad, but it was little more than a glorified mall food court. The Ferry Building really delivered. The prices matched, alas, but it was a really interesting experience, seeing everything from organic oysters to hand made cheeses.
Later in the morning, we had a chance to sit in on the "Farm to Table" discussion. If you've ever read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen, this talk was an interesting application into the theories of "grass farming" and cattle raising in a (hopefully) post-feedlot philosophy.
The Hearst Ranch is owned by the Hearst family of publication fame -- the historical family reaching from the Spanish American War-mongering yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst to the heiress daughter implicated in the SLA bank robbery of the '70s. The Hearst family still owns many newspapers, but it also still owns thousands of cattle acres in California.
The Hearst ranch has broken with the standard industrial feedlot model of cattle raising and has decided to try selling beef raised on grass alone, free range to an extreme.
Many modern grass-fed cattle ranchers would try to sell the best cuts at a premium -- tenderloin, short ribs, prime rib, porterhouse -- but ranch manager Brian Kenny (a self-described spreadsheet cowboy) hit upon the idea of cattle sharing, much like the model of CSA farming.
Instead of buying a particular cut of beef high in demand, like the tenderloin, and turning the rest into hamburger, Kenny is testing a market for selling shares of an entire cow. A half a share is roughly 200 pounds of beef: chuck, rib, tenderloin, shank, and all. Instead of the retail $20+/lb for grass-fed tenderloin, the half cow averages something close to $6/lb, give or take shipping, etc.
Some restaurant chefs might scoff at the model -- yeah, it's $6/lb, but once the 6 pounds of tenderloin are sold, what are they going to do with the 194 pounds of the rest of the beef? Other chefs like Paul Arenstam, Head Chef at Hotel Vitale (the hotel at which we stayed) take this as a challenge. High end sausages, meatballs, meatloaf... gourmet and refined at every level, and yet environmentally responsible, and better tasting to boot.
Chef Arenstam and Rancher Kenny spoke about this philosophy and answered questions at this roundtable. The conversations were very cool -- everything from Pollen to sustainability to the quality of grasses to business models and profitability to the role of blogging in this modern world were discussed.
Rancher Kenny was kind enough to offer a 30% discount and free shipping to anyone who uses "foodbuzz" as a coupon code -- he really wants to see how viral blogging can get to facilitate sales. Their website is: HearstRanch.com.
Chef Arenstam and Rancher Kenny:
There was a break after the seminars to head down to City View at the Metreon, which was several blocks away. Over 50 food producers had stations on the top floor to demonstrate the latest in food concepts and trends.
One of the exhibitors was Bertolli, who was kind enough to fly me out to San Francisco for the event due to our entry in their Menu contest.
The top-3 of the Bertolli winners demonstrated their recipes in front of the Foodbuzz crowd. Alas, we didn't place in the top, but then again, it allowed us to watch and browse the event. I don't know...it looked like the presenters were having a lot of fun!
After watching the Bertolli show, Christey and I participated in a California sparkling wine seminar hosted by Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com.
Now, I have to give some background here. I enjoy beer, and I enjoy spirits and cocktails. For the nouvelle foodie that I am, however, I've never really been into wine. Which is really weird given my background. My dad imported wine from France when I was in High School, and I studied and wrote pamphlets for him about choosing French wines. I can rattle off the histories of Bordeaux Graves and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I can relate the political and wine histories of the Alsace region. I dabble in histories of Italian, Chilean, Argentinian, and Californian wines. But...I don't particularly enjoy wines other than an intellectual exercise (other than cooking with it).
This was an amazing an excellent seminar, however. Full of history and tasting and real world examples. We tasted sparkling wines served at the White House to the finest restaurants. Sparkling wines which had histories stretching from France to Nixon. It was a fun time, full of fun facts.
My favorite, which Yarrow readily admitted was probably apocryphal, was the curious reversal of sparkling wines when it came to the term "dry". With many sparkling wines, "dry" is sweet, and "brut" is not. The legend goes that England imported champagne from France a couple centuries ago, but didn't like sweet wines. They kept asking for wines that had less sugar. French chateaus got more and more upset until they said: "Fine, if England wants such a BRUTal wine, we will give them a BRUTal wine", which is where the term "brut" originated.
After the seminar, we hit the rest of the Taste Pavillion and grazed for the rest of the time.
The amazing Mazzetta martini bar. Mazzetta imports Italian ingredients like roasted red peppers and olive oil. The Mazzetta table made an amazing roasted red pepper and basil martini, with a hot cherry pepper garnish. It tasted like soup, it was beautiful.
More Bertolli appetizers: Pesto Pizza appetizers
Hearst Ranch beef meatballs!
Fleur de Sel chocolate!
Irish Cheese from Kerrygold:
This was a foodie dream, of course. And we still had a huge dinner planned for the evening. So, we walked back to the hotel, took a couple shots of the San Francisco architecture, then we dressed for dinner.
The dinner and awards ceremony was held at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse and hosted by Outstanding in the Field.
Normally, Outstanding in the Field hosts dinners at local farms -- meat or vegetable producing establishments in the countryside with outdoor dining. San Francisco in November wasn't quite up to the challenge -- it rained a cold drizzle every day we were there. I'm reminded of Mark Twain's famous quote: "The coldest winter I've ever spent was summer in San Francisco".
An interesting compromise was Greenleaf -- one of the most outstanding organic and local farm produce companies in the Bay area. The warehouse was huge, and the communal dining table snaked throughout among stacks of crates and the occasional forklift.
Chef Dennis Lee of Namu restaurant sourced a meal from local organic produce for us, and it was quite an event.
At the hotel, waiting for the bus:
We arrive, and the cooks are cooking!
Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon wines, offering amazing pairings for the food.
Wonderful dashi and wild mushroom soup being prepped:
Spicy shrimp puffs munchies:
Part of the table:
Appetizer: Ahi tuna with gochukaru (red pepper) and parsley on pain de mie:
Normally, Outstanding in the Field requests that diners bring their own plates. With the trans-world guests for the Foodbuzz festival, this wasn't practicable, so Outstanding supplied a cool assortment of random plates for the event.
A Korean inspired set of beginning munchies. Offering an assortment of small, simple vegetable based appetizers is a Korean tradition:
I loved the soup! Mushroom dashi with and several asian mushrooms: maitake, shimeji, and enoki:
Your humble bloggers:
Seltzer water in vintage bottles!
First course: Udon noodles, grilled local calamari, and a brown butter reduction:
The fish course was supposed to be sea trout, but was substituted for salmon at the last minute due to an unavailability. The salmon was served with a mushroom risotto, and the line was busy preparing both parts of the meal:
There were no questions about taking pictures of the food, or the guests. From cellphones to professional-grade cameras, everyone was click-click-click:
The main was braised beef cheeks and oxtails (absolutely tender and sublime) with root veggies. The side (on a separate platter) was fire roasted brussels sprouts with ponzu fried garlic and bonito flakes:
Dessert was a rice pudding with pear that was both light and flavorful:
After dinner, the Foodbuzz blogger awards were awarded...on the double. It seems that the dinner at Greenleaf was a great idea in concept...but after lingering over dinner we were informed that they actually had to, like, really work. They had produce to ship to restaurants and were going to kick us out so the forklifts could start moving, so the awards ceremony was fun, and brief!
After dinner, we took a couple more pics of the waterfront by our hotel and called it a night.