Thursday, August 26, 2010

SF Chefs 2010 aka Food & Wine Orgy 2010

Last week I was lucky enough to get away to attend SF Chefs 2010 in San Francisco.  It's a food and wine extravaganza held over several days under a huge tent in Union Square.  The city's top restaurants and chefs offer tastings of their fabulous food, wine flows freely, cocktails are freshly made, and live music fills the air.  Food and wine classes are also offered along with chef demos.  I attended last year's inaugural event (see post 8/12/09) and had so much fun I wanted to go this year to see if the organizers could repeat their initial success.  Well, they did!

Now admittedly SF Chefs is not inexpensive but it's such a treat and you get to sample so much food and wine that going out to eat is completely unnecessary.  It's also structured so that you can pick and choose which events you'd like to attend and keep it within your budget.  Since it falls right around our wedding anniversary my husband and I go all out and consider it a lovely gift to ourselves.

We started our anniversary celebration on Friday morning by attending our first class - Nature's Blueprint:  Pairing Food & Wine with Your Eyes.  Presented by Gilian Handelman, Director of Wine Education at Kendall Jackson Wines, the class explored how to pair foods with wine by color.  One of my favorite pairings was fresh corn with chardonnay ... oh my!  They're both golden in color with soft, round flavors and are just magic together.  It was a really interesting class and I'd like to visit their Wine Center where they maintain both red and white wine sensory gardens devoted to this concept.

The Guest of Honor
Aren't they beautiful?
Later in the evening we headed over to the tent for the SF Chefs Opening Night Celebration:  Hog in the Fog.  There were pork dishes as far as the eye could see, including rilletes, terrines, porchetta and pork belly, but thankfully none of the sliders that were so prevalent last year.  I don't know about you, but it wouldn't break my heart if sliders fell out of favor ... I'm so tired of seeing them everywhere!  Gary Rulli of Ristobar was one of the few chefs offering non-porky dishes, and his chocolate-dipped cape gooseberries were exquisite.  The live band was fantastic and really worked the crowd, even getting some party-goers up on stage with them ...

Can you dig it?

A chaser of aspirin & I was good as new!
The next morning we attended our second class, The Evolution and Revolution of Gin, presented by Simon Ford, International Ambassador for Plymouth Gin.  Now I love Plymouth in my Long Island Iced Teas, but sampling six gins and three gin cocktails at 10 AM is not something I've ever done before.  I paid the price with a headache, but it was fun!

Grilled Sourdough Ice Cream
We spent the afternoon at the tent getting food in us to absorb the alcohol, then followed that with dessert at the Sugar Party at the Westin St. Francis hotel.  It was an ice cream social put on by some of the best pastry chefs in the city, including Emily Luchetti (Farrallon) and Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake).  Elizabeth did a Grilled Sourdough Ice Cream with Concord Grape Syrup and Salted Brazil Nuts and Spanish Peanuts that was amazing!  It really tasted like sourdough bread and it was my favorite dessert at the party.  We ended up back at the tent for the Fork It Over Foodraiser, where the evening's highlight was the show put on by the very entertaining and talented ladies from Harry Denton's Starlight Room.  I have got to go there the next time I'm in the city.  What a blast!

It was a bit painful to get up on time the next morning, but we made it to the Chef's Challenge pitting Tyler Florence (Wayfare Tavern) and Elizabeth Falkner against Chris Cosentino (Incanto) and Jen Biesty (Top Chef).  The secret ingredient was lamb, and Chris and Jen won by a narrow margin, but I admired Elizabeth's chutzpah in making lamb crepes with a chocolate sauce.  Oh, I wish I could have tasted it!  We followed that with another afternoon at the tent, where the most beautiful dish was a gorgeous black-eyed pea salad presented by Eddie Blyden of Henry's.

Yes, those ARE cupcakes on their heads!
The grand finale was Project Open Hand's 10th Annual Dessert First fundraiser at the InterContinental San Francisco.  The party was preceded by a reception where five bartenders competed to see who could make the tastiest cocktail from a table of secret ingredients plus their own ingredient of choice that they brought with them.  The winning cocktail from One Market was a delicious blend of blackberries, jalapeno peppers and chocolate bitters (their secret ingredient).  You could actually taste the chocolate bitters in the drink, and since we make our own at Grange I'm now on a mission to incorporate it in a dessert.

Spectacular sweets were presented by the pastry chefs from Boulevard, Michael Mina, Baker & Banker and others.  My fave?  I loved Lori Baker's Fig Newton with Malted Milk Ice Cream and Blackberry Caramel.  It was perfectly balanced, simple and scrumptious.  I noticed that several chefs offered variations on macarons which seem to be trendy this year, much like sliders were for the savory chefs last year.  In fact, Elizabeth Falkner did only macarons at this party, with flavors ranging from chocolate to citrus to curry, and yes, they were all quite tasty!

So I wonder what next year will bring?  You know what?  I'll let you know, because we'll be there ... again ... celebrating our wedding anniversary with San Francisco's best chefs, pastry chefs and mixologists.  Lucky us!