Wednesday, November 11, 2009

San Francisco Part III: Olive Oil, Sparkling Wine, and Everything In Between

Day two of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival proved to be just as memorable as the first.  If you missed the first two posts about the trip to San Francisco click on these for Post I and Post II.  Saturday began with a very unique way to break the fast... a sampling of delightful olive oils from around the world!  Chef Michael Tuohy from Grange at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento, CA presented Eusebio and me, along with a room full of other festival participants, with six fine olive oils to passionately taste. 

Our Olive Oil Tasting Selection

Before telling us which oil on our sheet belonged to each of the bottles at the front of the room, Chef Tuohy asked us to follow him as he led us through a tasting session that was unique, comical, and very enjoyable.  Much like wine, the tasting of each oil began with a few swirls to open the oil up and release the fumes.  Then the taster sniffed the oil to notice and smells and fragrances that came from the lubricating liquid.  Some participants gently swirled the oil and delicately smelled it like they would a rose.  I, on the other hand, preferred to give my oil a couple hardy shakes and then inhale the aroma of the oil until it filled my nostrils with the peppery, herbaceous, buttery, and sometimes woody perfumes of all the different varietals of olive grease.  Delightful!

Six Olive Oils Ready to be Tasted

The one major difference about tasting olive oils instead of wines came when it was time to actually put the oil to our lips.  Instead of taking a nice sip of oil, Chef Tuohy suggested that we slurp it, bringing in air at the same time as the liquid.  This action "emulsifies the oil with oxygen and spreads it throughout your mouth".  Finally, after letting the oil swish around your mouth for a brief moment in time, the final step is to swallow the oil.  The after taste of each type of olive oil is one of the major ways to distinguish between the oils and it makes the swallowing action crucial in the tasting process.  Many of the oils that I liked the best are the ones that left a peppery and almost stinging aftertaste in the back of my throat.  In fact, one way to judge the oil is by how many coughs it takes to clear your throat after each swallow!

The Famous Ferry Building and Farmer's Market in San Francisco with the Bay Bridge in the Background

Eusebio and I had a little time to spend away from Festival activities after our olive oil tasting so we journeyed over to the Ferry Building and the San Francisco Farmer's Market to scope out the scene there.  The entire place was a madhouse of street vendors, organic farmers, cheese makers, and more.  It was an impressive sight to see for sure.  All of the samples that we got were amazing and we only wished that we had a house with a refrigerator and a couple days to hang out in town to cook all of the fantastic food items that we saw.

The View of San Francisco and the Bay from Our Hotel

After leaving the Farmer's Market we hopped on a trolley and took it up to the Fisherman's Wharf so we could get a view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.  We also came across an entire pier full of sea lions that were playing and bathing in the sun.  The sights were nice but wharf was overly touristy for my tastes so we got out of there, took a quick peek at the section of Lombard Street this is claimed to be "the crookedest street in the world" and then jumped on bus that brought us through China Town and back to our hotel.  The diversity and close proximity of everything in the heart of downtown San Francisco is amazing!

The Metreon, San Francisco, CA, Home to Our Tasting Pavilion

A brisk walk across Market Street took us to our next stop, The Metreon, where Foodbuzz had a tasting pavilion set up for us with all sorts divine treats, delectable goodies, and devilish beverages.  There were samples of too much food for me to even attempt to keep track of, so I focused primarily on the booze instead.  One note though, the food was amazing!


21st Amendment Brewery's Brew Free of Die IPA and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat

The 21st Amendment Brewery showed up with a couple of their beers, the Brew Free of Die IPA and the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Bear.  Both were pretty good, but neither was exceptional.  The watermelon beer was rather, well, watery, and not all that flavorful.  I preferred it over an extremely sweet or way too fruity version, but this beer really had nothing on the perfect combination of fruit and beer that is Abita Strawberry Harvest.  The IPA was a decent brew, but I didn't like it as much Friday's selection from Speakeasy

Shrimp and Bay Scallop Seviche with Lime and Orange Citrus Flavors (Picture Courtesy of Alison)

The one food item that I did want to include was this beautiful seviche provided by Fuego.  Each individual cup was artistically created with shrimp, bay scallops, fresh herbs, and the juice of limes and oranges.  It was a tremendously flavorful couple bites of food!

Four Different California Sparkling Wines

During the afternoon session, Eusebio and I attended a California Sparkling Wine tasting that was hosted by Alder Yarrow, fellow blogger and author of the wine blog Vinography.  All four of the wines were delightful but I didn't have time to take notes about which I liked more than the others.  I feverously drank the bubbly beverage because it was time to get a move on so that we could go to Harrington's Bar and Grill to join the Bay Area Tigers for the LSU vs. Alabama football game.  We all know how that turned out.  Stupid refs.  It was nice to see William Winters at Harrington's though.  Plus, the several pitchers of beer that Eusebio and I drank with the help of Willie and Alison helped us forget about the game rather quickly.   

Three Beers on Tap from the Magnolia Brew Pub

On the way out of the tasting pavilion I happened upon another brewery that was giving out samples.  Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery had a little section set aside to let people try some of their small batch brews.  My first thought was what is a San Francisco brewery doing calling itself "Magnolia".  It turns out that the brewery has some New Orleans ties in its ownership and brewing lineage and the name, as well as their food, is a tribute to that!  I tried the Prescription Pale and the Gris-Gris.  Both were fantastic brews that I would love to go back and drink more of. 

That ended our tasting sessions at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival.  The food and drink was plentiful and fabulous.  There was so much food at every turn and different vendors pouring wine, making cocktails, and serving brews in all directions.  I certainly drank my fair share!  The tasting pavilion lived up to its name as I tasted some of the best of what the Bay Area has to offer! 

San Francisco Post IV will feature Saturday night's Foodbuzz Blogger Awards Dinner at the Greenleaf Produce warehouse.  You don't want to miss that... or what I remember of it.  Apparently we had been drinking even more!

Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery on Urbanspoon
Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Urbanspoon21st Amendment on Urbanspoon
Harrington's Bar & Grill on UrbanspoonGrange Restauarant on Urbanspoon