Flights from Florida to San Francisco made it tricky to make it into the city in time, especially as we had a meeting with Bertolli before the event as a kickoff, so Christey and I actually flew in late Thursday evening. Bertolli was kind enough to sponsor my hotel and airfare as part of their Bertolli Sauces Menu Contest, so once we got in town and tried to sleep off the jetlag, Christey and I were wide awake Friday morning and we hit the town like tourists (as seen in Christey’s previous post.)
Several hours and four sore feet later, we stumbled rain-soaked back to the hotel and hit the bar early to see if any Foodbuzzers were having some pre-cocktail cocktails. Of course there were!
We ran into several, including (L-R) Kai, from Ogilvy Public Relations (part of the PR team for Bertolli Sauces), Amir and Chrystal from The Duo Dishes and one of the Bertolli Sauces Top-3 team, and Candice from (simultaneously) Pork Chops & Chicken and BeerAdvocate.com.
Christey and I headed out to register, then bring our impressive bag of goodies up to the room, where another bag was waiting for us, from Bertolli Sauces!
After changing into our dinner clothes, we headed down for the Bertolli Sauces kickoff, where the Bertolli winners met each other along with the Bertolli team. We toasted with some champagne, and it was great mingling with everyone.
On to the rooftop of the Hotel Vitale!
The rain had ended at last, and it was a great, crisp evening to mingle with a couple hundred food bloggers with the Bay Bridge and the skyline as a backdrop
The Hotel Vitale is a Joie de Vivre property, and I chatted for a while with a chef from our hotel, and Executive Chef Philippe Breneman, from the Aquarius down the coast. Both would be cooking dishes for the tasting event the next day.
After drinks on the roof, we headed across the street to the Ferry Building, which has been renovated and completely transformed from a 19th century ferry terminal to a high-end gourmet hall of food stores and restaurants. Foodbuzz put together a side-hall for a “street food” celebration. Chefs from around the Bay Area brought whatever equipment and food they needed to serve up meals delivering a high-end street vendor vibe.
Pork Rinds (Chichharones) from 4505 Meats. So, yeah, pork rinds. Except they were so light, so fluffy, with an amazing red pepper zing. They were amazing.
This was the common scene of the weekend. Food came out, cameras came out, and suddenly there are many photos of bloggers taking photos of incredible food! This is Roberto, husband and photographer of/for Jenn, of both The Leftover Queen and The Foodie Blogroll (just to the left). They’re some of our favorite people and bloggers, and if you’re not already a member of The Foodie Blogroll, then check it out!
Cupcakes from Mission Minis
Straus Family Creamery: Organic Ice Cream. It’s organic, so there. You have an excuse to indulge.
Noshing….Jenn, me, a fellow Foodbuzz blogger, and Roberto. Lest I seem foggy with names, it’s hard to remember everyone’s name and face when there were a couple hundred people all staring at the food that came out. Apologies in advance (and in process) for anyone who I neglect to name personally!
Tacolicious: Locally sourced and humanely raised taco fixins! This was easily in my top-3.
Crowded, but very friendly!
Here’s what everyone (informally) voted the most droolworthy meal. Roli Roti made a sustainably-farmed, organic pork porchetta mini sandwich. But, it wasn’t just pork, it was pork belly, with pork skin, rolled into pork loin. Add some herbs on a local bread, and that’s a sandwich.
He knows what you want.
Alive! made a vegan cheesecake that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but just look at this:
And if cheesecake wasn’t decadent enough, try Alive!’s flatbreads with cream (from cashews), tomato and basil. They brought their own pizza oven!
To wash it all down, how about a basil martini from Skyy? Citrus and basil and vodka, sounds a bit overpowering, but it was refreshing to the point of danger — this martini could be sipped as easily as lemonade but packed a punch.
There was also the Blood and Sand, made with single malt scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth, and cherry liquor. I’m a fan of Manhattans, and this take on the classic bourbon/vermouth/cherry/bitters was pretty amazing stuff.
And, now on to my favorite of the evening, Hog Island Oysters, with organically grown mini-Oysters from Tomales Bay.
I personally directed a ton of people to Chef Ian and the oysters. I confess to being a little pushy about it. But, these were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had in my life. Organic, yeah yeah — I don’t know of many oyster farms that use hormones or pesticides, and oyster farms may actually be restorative (rather than detrimental) to the surrounding seawater. Locally raised, yeah yeah — We flew 3000 miles to be here, and would fly 3000 miles back. I ate probably a couple dozen of them and foisted a half-dozen more on those who weren’t quite sure they wanted to try one, but at least made polite noises after slurping one down. My only regret is that for a first oyster, some people are going to have a hard time finding other oysters to match this experience.
Kai, from Ogilvy PR/Bertolli Sauces was one of my recruits to the oysters, and we discussed our mouthfuls (note the dangerous basil martini in my hand). Kai was a reformed vegan and live oysters are not exactly a normal step on the recovery plan, but Kai was game enough to try. He had a couple more later, so I’m guessing these oysters were good enough to seduce a former grain eater!
After the food, we collapsed in a jetlag fog back in our hotel room. It was one of the best kickoffs to a food festival that we could imagine. I wonder what these chefs were thinking… so you have a convention of self-described foodies. These folks don’t just eat and think about it, we write about it online. With pictures. It would be tempting to serve classics, or something safe, tried and true. But no… we get served pork rinds and vegan pizza and basil martinis and cheesecake with no dairy. Were these chefs insane? No, they were inspired, and so were those of us who were lucky enough to experience their creativity.