Wednesday, August 8, 2012
SF Chefs Recap - Event #1 - 49 Square Miles Kickoff Party
The last weekend was absolutely amazing! I have been to SF Chefs every year except 2010 because of the wedding, but each time I have gone, I have learned something new and met awesome people.
This year was extra special because some of my friends joined me at some of the events and it was just great to share the experience with them. If you haven't gone to SF Chefs yet and if you are really into the San Francisco food scene, you should make plans for next August!
I kicked off my SF Chefs weekend Thursday, August 2nd. Keaton and I attended the "49 Square Miles" party held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel which is located right across from Union Square, the central location where the grand tasting tent was being built.
Let me just say that Andrew Freeman & Co. has done another fantastic job setting up these events. The party was situated on the 32nd floor of the hotel and coincidentally Keaton's special events company did the decor. While it was a bit gloomy out (very San Francisco), the festivities inside were a bit more lively.
For those who aren't familiar with the term "49 square miles," it refers to San Francisco's land area - 7 by 7 miles. San Francisco is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the San Francisco Bay to the north and east, and a totally different county/city to the south of it (Daly City - wha wha). The area is not spread out as much in comparison to other cities like Boston (90 sq miles), NYC (468 sq miles), Seattle (143 sq miles), Los Angeles (503 sq miles), and Portland (145 sq miles). This is nice for people like me because I love to explore. With such a small space, so much is condensed in one area. To me, that's just more to see in one place. While our area is relatively "small," there is an abundance of food and libations there for us to enjoy. Each neighborhood has their special quality and the party wanted to highlight them.
...and with that said, what better way is there to show the special characteristics of SF than on a cake? That's what five creative bakers did. The crowd was given the opportunity to vote for their favorite and at the end of the contest, we would get to taste them!
Left - Baker & Banker in Pacific Heights - I already knew I would like their cake. They are known for their decadent chocolate cake at the restaurant. I loved their approach of featuring the great produce our area has.
Right - Foreign Cinema in The Mission - Chef cake made me smile big. I only showed the top 3 tiers, but the remaining tiers each representing SF's different hoods like Chinatown and The Mission. I adored the little cannoli!
Upper Left - Perbacco in Financial District - Gorgeous cake! The rainbow sugar work was my favorite part of the cake. A spectator next to me said it was "gay fog." Whatever it was, it was beautiful.
Upper Right - Ristobar in the Marina - the most avant garde of all the cakes and the winner of the competition. It was nice to see a piece like this. It was like watching a Food Network Showpiece challenge.
Bottom - Fifth Floor in Union Square - gotta love that lechon that Pastry Chef Francis Ang created with gum paste to represent Daly City! The color of the pig skin made me want to take a bite out of it. Japantown's sakura, The Mission's dia de los muertos mask, and Chinatown's dragon were gorgeous as well..
While we were awaiting the results of the cake competition, we went table to table sampling some of SF's best bites. Ristobar's Cavatelli With Burrata was probably my favorite offering at the party. The pillowy cavatelli (which look like little hot dog buns)were surrounded with a zesty tomato sauce and topped with creamy burrata (which I am totally addicted to). Arizmendi, which has locations in the East Bay, the Mission, and the Inner Sunset offered their delightful cookies - Keat bumrushed the table for their oatmeal raisin while Auntie Mabel's Kookie Brittle made be so very happy. Their ginger chai tea was perfect for the less than summery we were having. Sutro's at The Cliff House by Ocean Beach is where we celebrated Jayla's 3rd birthday, so I have a soft spot for it. They presented a grilled bass topped with apple kimchi.
Pier 23's Cafe at the Embarcadero was one of my top 3 with their scallop ceviche. The medley that included avocado and corn was perfect for me. I went in for seconds. Presidio Social Club's smoked clam shot made me nervous. Think bloody Mary with a briny smokey bite. I LOVED IT! Who woulda thunk? Keat was brave enough if they had any foie on hand. The chef toyed with my emotions as "reached" for some under the table. Come one! Don't mess with my feelings here! Wishful thinking! King of Falafel out of Lower Pac Heights presented their falafel, hummus, and pita. Can't go wrong! CUESA's cold soup made Keat's grow wide. It was a sweet soup made with corn and garnished with a pickled cherry tomato. Talk about summer in a little cup! BEER! Keat had a handful that night and let's just say he was very happy by the end of the night. The Double Daddy was his favorite of the night.
One familiar bite which I have had many times was from Gialina in Glen Park. While I wished they brought their pizza - I suppose transporting a pizza oven would be difficult - their meatballs is something we enjoy at the restaurant as well. The meatball is nice and tender and the tomato sauce is fresh as can be. Confidently I can say Gialina is one of my favorite restaurants. Ever. COCO500 out of the South of Market teased us with their duck liver pate crostini. We imagined for a moment that it was indeed foie gras. Fat, liver, and all. A girl can fantasize. One dish that totally knocked my socks off was Alioto's Original Seafood Sausage. I was a bitt iffy about it when I first saw it, but when I bit into it and tasted the lemon butter caper sauce I totally did an about face. The scallops and prawns inside were so flavorful. Loved it. Bar Crudo's butterfish crudo was absolutely gorgeous. The nice meaty fish went well with the serrano ham and, of all things, crumbled egg. I adore raw fish and having one that is of Spanish influence rather than Asian was nice.
After the announcement of the cake contest winner, we were able to try them out. Let me just say that trying to get a piece of cake felt like Simba running through the wildebeest stampede. So many people + so little space + not much cake = annoyed party goers. I did get my hands on 4 of the 5. I unfortunately did not get to try Perbacco's cake. Sad face, but I did get Baker & Bankers chocolate piece of heaven. I am in lust. Chef Ang told me his had a little ube in it, so I knew it was going to be awesome! Foreign Cinema and Ristobar's cakes were amazing as well. From what I remember, FC also did a chocolate layer cake which was beautifully moist with a caramel buttercream. Correct me if I am wrong, someone! RB's light as air cake was flavored with raspberry and cream. Sweet and chic indeed.
I ended my drinking with a glass of Golden Gate 75 made by Camper English from Alcademics. What a cutie he is btw. I was front row when he mixed, shook, poured, garnished, tasted, and served. The color perfectly matches our beloved Golden Gate Bridge and it had the perfect amount of sweetness and bitterness. Perfect way to end the night.
I couldn't believe that it was just our first event. There was much more SF Chefs to see and taste! Until the next recap, friends!