After Friday’s Pork Fest, SF Chefs‘s first of two Grand Tastings was a leisurely four-hour affair of light salads, gazpachos and crudos. Alice Waters’ legacy of local, seasonal, and sustainable eating had a strong presence in the abundance of tasty nibbles created out of sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and melons at the peak of their deliciousness.
Despite the cool August day, cold soups were in favor, from Masa’s classic Tomato Gazpacho with Maine Crab, to the Ahwahnee Hotel’s White Gazpacho with Shrimp and Pimenton pepper. Hubert Keller decided to stir things up (literally) by adding a few drops of vanilla oil to his White Gazpacho with Cucumber and Green Grapes: a delicate and versatile finishing oil easily created from steeping vanilla seeds and their pods in grapeseed oil for three to four days.
Chef Nick Balla at Nombe offered a taste of Asia with his Sumenomo – a light soup of concentrated dashi stock with a slice of tuna sashimi, black mushroom and edamame pods, while Chad Newton at FK Restaurants and Hospitality (former chef of Fish & Farm) created a Watermelon agua fresca with Black Tapioca Pearls and Chilli strands.
Complementing the cups of liquid summer was a big variety of the freshest seafood. Jennie Lorenzo’s (Fifth Floor) Salmon Sashimi with Citrus Vinaigrette was creamy luxury on a spoon, while Etoile’s Perry Hoffman brought Japan and Italy on a plate with his Tuna Sashimi and Panzanella creation.
In another Japanese-inspired dish, RN74’s Joseph Berthold made a crudo out of Japanese Hamachi with crushed coriander seeds, served with little heirloom tomatoes and yuzu puree.
Shellfish were not forgotten either. Michael Mina (and sons) were on hand to present Geoduck Clams with Yogurt Panna Cotta and Cucumber Gelee, while Mark Dommen (One Market Restaurant) and Alan Fairhurst (Scoma’s) featured sweet and juicy Dungeness Crab meat with their Crab Cake creations.
Dmitry Elperin from The Village Pub balanced out our diet with a nutritious Jardiniere of Vegetables, as did Perbacco’s Staffan Terje, who quite possibly converted any beet-haters in the crowd with his utterly delicious concoction of Roasted Formanova Beets, Horseradish Stracciatella and Iberico Ham.
We couldn’t get enough of the Pickled Cherry Tomato Bruschetta with Goat Cheese and Broccoli Rabe pesto from Ryan Scott 2 Go, the Eggplant Caponata from Palio d’Asti’s Dan Scherotter and David Bazirgan’s (Chez Papa) Black Mission Figs with Bleu d’Auvergne Foam, Prosciutto and Hazelnut Vinaigrette. Whoever said vegetables are boring has obviously not dined in San Francisco.
Lest you think that this afternoon was all about minding the waistline, Justin Wangler from Kendall Jackson Winery produced a dish that would make David Chang proud: Sweat Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Sliders with Pickled Cucumber and Kendall Jackson Syrah BBQ Sauce. Yes my friends, along with Alice Waters, the porcine element was still very much alive on Saturday in the shape of thick, juicy slabs of pork belly slightly caramelized and sandwiched between slices of lightly toasted pain de mie. Can someone say heaven?
Saturday afternoon’s relatively light and nutritious fare (pork bellies notwithstanding) whetted our appetites for that evening’s Fork It Over party which was all about lamb. Stay tuned for pictures and commentary about that next!
Photo Credit: David Hua, Danielle Tsi, and Kai Yu