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Friday, November 13, 2009

San Francisco Part IV: Foodbuzz Awards Dinner

Saturday night in San Francisco brought me and Eusebio to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival Outstanding in the Field Dinner and Awards Ceremony. By the time we arrived at Hotel Vitale, a mob of food bloggers had already formed in the lobby waiting for the buses to take us to the Greenleaf Produce warehouse. Still being thirsty and needing to drink our LSU sorrows away, we made the easy decision to go to the hotel lobby's bar rather than hang out in a crowded lobby.  Alison joined us for a round of beers, although I really don't remember what we drank (we tried two beers from some San Franciscan brewery, but the name escapes me).  Oh well, I guess I should have taken better notes!

The Grill on Wheels at the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse

We arrived at the Greenleaf Produce warehouse after a brief tour around San Francisco because our bus driver was momentarily lost.  The entrance to the warehouse proved the building to be exactly what it claims, a sustainably conscious, environmentally concerned produce distribution company.  One of the first things I noticed, after figuring out where the wine was located and snagging a glass, was the grill on wheels pictured above.  Since I enjoy outdoor cooking so much, I was excited to see a roller-grill such as this one on-site to prepare some of our food.  I stood around the grill for a little bit and spoke with the founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Ben Dehen, about the Monstrosity and the Bacon Explosion!  Good times.  I needed more wine.

Bonny Doon 2008 Ca’ del Solo Albarino

Thanks to Brittany at Eating Bird Food for this picture of the Bonny Doon 2008 Ca’ del Solo Albarino that we drank while mingling with all the other food bloggers in attendance.  The vino had to have been one of the better white wines in my tasting history, as I'm a red drinker all the way, because I sure drank the Hell out if it!  While we were walking around they served bite size portions of "ahi tonnato on pain de mie with gochukaru and parsley". It was basically a tuna spread with Korean red pepper on a crusty slice of bread. To me the tuna tasted more like it was out of a can than fresh out of the sea. No worries though, I drank more wine!  I think I got three or four, maybe five refills before we finally sat down for our dinner.

The Dinner Tables at the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse for the Foodbuzz Awards Dinner

Our dining tables stretched from end to end of the produce warehouse, splitting off and joining each other as they went around the curves and the stacks of boxed organic vegetables.  The place settings were fantastic, and I was ready to feast.  Thanks again to Eating Bird Food for the picture of the dining tables.  I took a seat with Eusebio, Alison, and several members of the Foodbuzz web design team at the far end of the facility.  Apparently we were too concerned with mingling and drinking to mark our territory so we ended up with some of the last seats in the house after we had to pull up some tables and chairs to make room!

Overall, I recall being slightly disappointed with the food, though I don't remember quite why.  It must have started with the tuna and then I don't think it ever really caught back up with expectations.  I think the dinner was probably exceptional in all reality, but being drunk and hungry and having extremely high expectations, I think I was a little let down for the first time all weekend.  That being said, I imagine that just a few courses disappointed me because I do remember several of the items standing out and being fantastic.

Mushroom Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock) with Maitake, Shimeji, and Enoki Mushrooms

I know I ate this soup.  I don't remember much about it.  I'm sure it was pretty good, but not good enough or bad enough for me to really remember it or write anything down.  I do love mushrooms though!

Grilled Monterey Calamari in a Browned Butter Ponzu Reduction, Cucumber, Kaiware, Frisee and Yellow Pear Tomato with Chojang and Sesame Vinaigrette Served Over Udon Noodles

As great as all of that might sound, I actually found this dish to be rather bland for my alcohol-saturated taste buds.  I'm a big calamari fan, but this dish didn't quite do it for me.  Don't get me wrong, it was not bad.  I'm really just saying that I've had better calamari in Baton Rouge.  I expected that with oysters, but not with squid!

Sea Trout Baked with Dashikombu, Fried Garlic, and Japanese Curry Powder

Now we're getting good!  While not Cajun spiced like I'm used to, the fish tasted de-lish!  Curry always spices things up a little bit and the fried garlic featured strong enough flavors for my inebriated palate to notice!

Mushroom Risotto with Koshihikari Rice and Crispy Maitake Mushrooms

The risotto was certainly memorable enough for me to write something about it.  I enjoyed the rice dish as mushrooms made another appearance in our meal.  It was quite good and something that is hard to find in the south, although Marcello's wild mushroom risotto is pretty good too!  I'm pretty sure I ate Eusebio's share because he was passed out at this point in the dinner.  You see, what had happened was, we had been drinking.

2005 Le Cigare Volant from Bonny Doon Vineyard

Before our final two dishes came out, master wine maker Randall Grahm from the Bonny Doon Vineyard came around and introduced us to one of his most critically acclaimed wines, the 2005 Le Cigare Volant.  This red wine had earthy tones and captivating character.  From the first sniff of the nose to the last drop down the throat, this wine left me thirsty for more.  Unfortunately they don't ship to Louisiana, but maybe I could send some to my mom's house in Texas!  Once again, thanks to Eating Bird Food for the beautiful picture that I was clearly too smashed like a grape to remember to take!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ponzu Fried Garlic, Guanciale, and Bonito Flakes

These were unquestionably the best brussels sprouts I've ever had in my life.  Their flavor became magnified by the roasting process to create a truly unique and unquestionably dynamic dish.  The brussels sprouts presented the kind of flavor I had been looking for... something I've never had before!

Soy Braised Beef Cheeks and Oxtails with Baby Carrots and Fingerling Potatoes and a OB Beer and Denjang Demi

The final course of the sit-down dinner impressed me the most.  We had soy braised beef cheeks that were absolutely sensational.  The meat melted in my mouth as the flavor burst from every morsel of bovine heaven.  The carrots and potatoes soaked up the flavor of the beef and the sauce and at this point in the night I couldn't be happier... except that they were trying to escort Eusebio out of the warehouse because he was still "taking a nap" on the dinner table.  Don't worry though, he is resilient man. 

After dinner Foodbuzz presented their Outstanding in the Field awards for the best food blogs in existence.  To see a list of all the winners click here.  They served a dessert wine which tasted too sweet for me at this point in the night as well as a koshihikari rice pudding with cookie crumble and warren pear for dessert.  I didn't like it at all.  I took two bites just to make sure, and then put the rest down and labeled it unfit for consumption.  I don't know what was wrong with it, but I really was not a fan.  The pears were good on their own, so I guess it must have been the rice pudding that I don't have a taste for!

The bus ride back to the hotel featured entertainment for everyone else as Eusebio and I were pretty lit up and in the mood for some kind of trouble.  Well, not really too much trouble.  We were very civil, and after arriving back at Hotel Vitale we decided our best plan would be to get on a trolley and head back to Union Square and our hotel where we were expecting to hear the drum beats of the ongoing strike outside the lobby entrance.  Instead, we walked up Stockton Street to a flood of water pouring down the hill.  Taking a look up the street, we noticed a giant fountain of water erupting from the sidewalk.  A fire hydrant had gotten busted right outside our hotel and there was a crowd of people gathered around to watch the geyser.  Eusebio didn't feel like watching though.  Instead, being influenced by the plethora of picture taking tourists, he decided the timing was right for a shower!  The photographs speak for themselves.

Eusebio and the Broken Fire Hydrant Outside Our Hotel

The entire day went by in such a hurry but we undoubtedly enjoyed a great time throughout.  While every single course may not have impressed me at the dinner, the wine, sea trout, risotto, more wine, brussels sprouts, and beef cheeks sure did!  Sadly, the day had come to an end and all that was left to do was fight a hangover and be ready for the Sunday Farewell Brunch, some ice cream at the Bi-Rite Creamery, and our flight "home".  You can read about all of that in San Francisco Post V.  Until then, happy eating, and drink like you mean it!

Beer on FoodistaMaitake Mushrooms on FoodistaVeal Cheeks on Foodista

Brussels Sprouts on FoodistaSea Trout on FoodistaWine on Foodista