Beyond the headline events at SF Chefs were two smaller tastings held at the Westin St Francis for the hotel’s VIP guests, KGO contest winners and event sponsors. Featuring seven to eight chefs, the parties offered a chance to sample the creations focused around a theme. Thursday evening’s event was all about Spices, showcasing a range of similar spices across varied, culturally-driven dishes.
The highlights of the evening were Dosa‘s Lamb and Potato Croquettes with Avocado and Tamarind salsa. Employing traditional South Indian spices, these croquettes were crunchy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside and packed a heat that only intensified with each bite – characteristic of Anjan Mitra‘s approach to his food, and one that I definitely appreciate.
Aziza was another favorite, as Mourad Lahlou gave us a Corn, Vadouvan, Roe and Tomato combination that was effectively creamed corn and roe on a plate. Sweet, salty and tangy with every bite, the inventiveness of this dish really swept us off our feet. As did his other creation, a soft-boiled Egg with Charmoula, Potato foam and Harissa with flavors reminiscent of a chili con carne. I’m a fan of any soft-boiled egg, so perhaps I’m biased in my review, but these modern applications of traditional Moroccan spices were a joy to savor and I made a mental note to book my seat at Aziza, pronto.
On Saturday evening, we moved from the Spice route to a paradise of desserts with the Sugar Party as the city’s dessert emeriti gathered at the same venue for a tasting of their creations. Hands down, we couldn’t get enough of the different ice-creams, whoope pies, macarons and chocolate available. Nick Flores at RN74 served up a Blackberry Coconut-Verrine that was a self-sufficient dessert plate of blackberry crÃ¨me, kaffir lime panna cotta, coconut sorbet with lime meringue, blackberry macarons and dark chocolate.
Another classic dessert was Christine Law‘s (Anchor and Hope) Blue Bottle coffee milkshake with a side of Maple Whoopee Pies. Coming straight after Ethan Howard’s Flufferberry, this tasting brought the meaning of decadence and indulgence to a whole new level.
On the opposite end of classic desserts was Dominique Crenn (Luce) who led her love of foie gras inspire her to create Corn Textures and Foie Gras: a small disk of foie gras topped with a spoonful of silky corn custard, some popcorn and a sprinkling of truffle powder. In a tribute to Chef Crenn’s imagination, this dessert really polarized us. I loved the synergy of flavors in this creation but I didn’t find many others who agreed with me.
These themed tastings were a lovely complement to the array of food we sampled at the Grand Tastings, allowing us to explore and discover flavor and ingredient pairings that pushed the boundaries of our expectations. When evaluated with their other creations over the weekend, these intimate sessions revealed the chefs’ versatility and creativity with their ingredients, which was, ultimately, what we were there to celebrate.
Photo Credit: David Hua and Danielle Tsi