Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Foodbuzz Festival!

At the beginning of November, we attended the First Annual Food Blogger Festival in San Francisco, hosted by Foodbuzz.

Foodbuzz planned a great weekend for us and 248 of our fellow bloggers, starting with a cocktail party overlooking the city on Friday night. We were happy to sip cocktails and meet up with fellow Philly bloggers E from Foodaphilia and Jess from Fries With That Shake. Everyone headed over to the Ferry Building (which now houses an array of specialty food purveyors – think the Reading Terminal, on a slightly smaller scale) for a street food fair, featuring delicious, tiny Hog Island oysters, mini cupcakes from Mission Minis, and, best of all, fantastic, heavenly roast pork sandwiches from Roli Roti.

(Dissenting note on the pork sandwich from P: while the rotisserie pork was nicely cooked, and the crispy skin was excellent, the porky flavor was overwhelmed by the sweet onion marmalade and fussy micro-herb salad on the sandwich. It certainly didn't have that juicy, down and dirty feel of a South Philly-type roast pork sandwich, which I would take any day of the week.)

On Saturday mornings, the Ferry Building is surrounded by a huge and colorful farmers' market. Besides the fruits and veggies, there were all sorts of specialty vendors around, so L picked up some rose-flavored sugar while we waited for the morning session to begin.

Up on the second floor of the Ferry Building, overlooking the bustling stalls, Foodbuzz held a talk and tasting from Sue, one of the founders of Cowgirl Creamery. We learned a lot about the history of the cheesemakers as Sue walked us through a tasting of four cheeses, from a fresh and raw fromage blanc to an aged Asiago-like hard cheese that's under development. The "Inverness", a cylindrical soft cheese covered in a white rind, was our tasting favorite. We were told that the "Mount Tam" we tasted was meant to be in the style of a Saint Andre, but given the Tam's odd bouncy texture, for my money I'd opt for the creamy Saint Andre. Still, it was an interesting talk, and big props to the Cowgirls for helping to advance the cause of cheesemaking in the USA.

After the cheese talk, a short walk over to the Metreon took us to the Tasting Pavilion, which was set up more or less like a trade show. Purveyors of everything from wine to chocolate to popcorn to something called "Oregon Dukkah" were at their tables, handing out samples and bestowing us blog-smiths with piles of swag. The array of products represented was remarkable, even if a good number of them were the kinds of things you'd receive as a gift and stow away in your cupboard indefinitely.

Unfortunately, other plans got in the way, and that was the last event of the weekend we were able to attend. But thanks to Foodbuzz and everyone who participated for having us all out. It was a great chance to meet some new people, eat some new foods, and get lightly hammered on beer samples without paying a dime.

But you know, there is something overblown about all the local, sustainable, artisan, small-batch bombast of Bay Area food culture, where adjectives outnumber nouns on menus and store signs, and the last vestiges of the pioneering gold-rush spirit that founded the place have been lightly toasted and folded into a quinoa salad. Eating while respecting nature is doubtless a noble goal, but when purveyors beat you over the head with it, it comes off as little more than marketing hype, or worse yet, overcompensation for less-than-skillfully prepared products. I guess it's all a consequence of rediscovering traditional means of production through a twenty-first century lens. With the benefit of time, hopefully those that survive will attain the same state of effortless grace as those who have been doing it all along.

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