Sunday, August 07, 2011
SF Chefs 2011 in the City
My good friend Dinah finally convinced me to go to this year's SF Chefs. SF Chefs is the city's premier food festival where locals, foodies and culinary stars mingle three days every year. The tasting event's venue is a huge tent that almost occupied that entire Union Square plaza. There were other foodie sessions happening around the city the entire weekend. As expected, the Saturday afternoon tasting event was well attended to the point of being sold out. There were four grand tasting events - one on Friday evening, one on Saturday afternoon, another one on Saturday evening, and one on Sunday afternoon. The grand tastings last for four hours.
There were plenty of culinary stars that day. Unfortunately, I only know a few names like Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence and Chris Cosentino. But for Dinah and the rest of the foodies present that day? They know them all, and I am sure they know their signature dishes as well. I can't help but smile or sometimes roll my eyes everytime I hear side comments coming from all around me. I have to admit that most of the chefs are quite good looking. San Francisco may be a town where chefs are glorified like rock stars but for me, I'll just enjoy eating their food.
The plan was to sample as small amount of food as possible and no repeats so we won't get full right away. If the sample is generous, Mijo and I will split it. For the wine, we decided we will only do tastings and we will only sample the reds. This means no more than two sips of red wine for each tasting. In the end, we couldn't resist the call of food. We were too weak to stick with our rules and I am guilty of going for more ahi tuna, sardines, pork belly, cured meats, and cheeses. We couldn't sample everything inside the tent that day because we were stuffed just after two hours!
There were a lot of good food and good wine that day so it was really hard to narrow down my choices which three I should blog. Plus they were all different so it was a challenge to qualify which one is better. For example, a tuna dish from one featured restaurant will taste different from another tuna dish by a different featured restaurant because of the sauces, garnishing and presentation. I wish these chefs would seat down and plan among each other next year so there won't be repeats of ahi tunas? Anyway, what I did here is put together a short list of memorable dishes I sampled that day and the most delicious wine I tasted.
Here they are...
Dish: Chilled avocado and tomato gazpacho with cilantro and topped with crab meat
Restaurant: Fleur De Lys
Chef: Hubert Keller
Taste: I've had good gazpachos before and this one is equally good but with an added bonus of the creaminess of the avocado.
Dish: Five spice and tamarind glazed pork belly
Chef: Jeff Hall
Taste: I call this a dressed-up lechon. It is thin and crunchy with sauce that is sort of a lighter version of a Filipino gravy called Sarsa ni Mang Tomas and with hints of tamarind.
Dish: Marinated sardine, cucumber, heirloom tomato, mint oil
Chef: Peter McNee
Taste: Most of the sardines I had at restaurants were grilled and came with capers and glazed fruit to mask the fishy taste. This one did not come with those. Great combination of garnishing and the marinated sardines.
Wine: 2008 Pinot Noir
Winery: Landmark Vineyards
Appellation: Sonoma County
Notes: good balance, less fruity, less dry, light, can be drank solo or with food pairing
A great addition was the cooking demos by celebrity chefs. Toward the end of the tasting event, a Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani was on stage where he demonstrated how to make gnocchi.
All in all I thought the food festival was great and featured great dishes that show San Francisco Bay Area's fresh and innovative food culture. We also sampled food from restaurants that we haven't dined in and this gave us a glimpse of their menu. We also discovered boutique Sonoma wineries whose select wines are not available in supermarkets.
It was fun playing foodie for a short time. We'll try it again next year.