To my complete and utter sadness, I wasn’t able to make it to the festivities at SF Chefs this past weekend. Lucky for me, I had a little help from my friends. Actually a lot
of help! A special thank you to Hua for keeping all the moving pieces running at full speed (you amaze me every day with what you’re able to accomplish), the very talented Simon Biswas and Kai Yu, for dominating the photo coverage, and my LMS correspondents, Danielle Tsi, Krista Norsworthy, and Adam Carr. I can’t wait to see what you chomped your teeth into! Danielle, take it away…
After the resounding success of 2009’s SF Chefs. Food. Wine., Andrew Freeman and Company and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association are back at it, taking over San Francisco’s Union Square for another weekend of indulgent tastings, industry seminars and culinary demos.
Kicking off the weekend’s festivities was a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the city’s notable chefs including, Hubert Keller, Chris Cosentino, Emily Luchetti, Michael Mina, Mourad Lahlou and restaurateur Drew Nieporent, with a special guest appearance by New York Chef David Burke. After a welcome by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s Executive Director Kevin Westlye and remarks from Visa Signature, the event’s presenting sponsor, Iron Chef Dominique Crenn from Luce shared a poignant poem she penned in tribute to San Francisco when she first arrived in the city. Chris Cosentino wrapped things up by talking about his pride in being a San Franciscan and the celebration of the bounty, diversity and flavors of Northern California that SF Chefs represents.
Formalities aside, the evening began in earnest, with 30 chefs creating tasting portions of dishes that were a variation on the theme: PORK. 20 pigs were brought in from The Long Ranch earlier in the week and the results displayed last night were a true testament to the culinary diversity and talent that exists in the Bay Area.
There was the whole gamut of pork preparations in various states of doneness, from cured to braised. Chefs Robert Helstrom from Kuleto’s and Peter McNee from Poggio offered traditional cured pork preparations with a variety of prosciutto, salami, pig’s liver mousse and sausages…
…while Incanto‘s Chris Cosentino served up a head cheese with pickled mustard seeds…
…and the folks at Coco 500 gave us a Porchetta Arrosto.
Pork rillettes were in abundance. Midi’s Michelle Mah added a cranberry mustard and micro arugula leaves to her Pork Rillette Crostini, while Jared Doob over at Lake Chalet chose to top his with tomato jam.
Paul Piscopo, at XYZ restaurant, whittled down traditional, soft rilletes into a compact mouthful with his little cylindrical appetizers that were topped with fig jam and shards of crispy garlic.
Paul also introduced his interpretation of the BLT: tomato aioli with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes dusted with bacon on a slice of crispy bread. In another unique Pork as Appetizer creation, Melissa Perello from Frances served up White Corn Blinis with bacon, peach and an arugula balsamic salad.
There were, of course, the classic and hearty pork dishes slow-cooked to perfection. Award-winning BBQ Pork Sandwiches, soft and tender from 18 hours of cooking, from Big Jim’s BBQ, Five-Spice Pork Ribs from Joseph Villanueva (Le Colonial), and Pistachio and Sour Cherry-Stuffed Duroc Pig with Napa cabbage slaw from Mark Franz (Farallon).
Iluna Basque’s Mattin Noblia offered an Orange-Braised Pork Stew while Namu’s Dennis Lee used his Braised Pork in an updated Lettuce-Seaweed Wrap topped with kimchi tomatoes, miso chili sauce, green onions and a pickled radish to cleanse the palate.
At the modern end of the scale was Orlando Pagan from Ame, pairing Uni — sea urchin roe — with strips of Lardo — smoked pork fat — on a slim crust of bread, topped with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sea salt. To say that this was an adventurous interpretation would be an understatement. With the generous slab of uni on each slice, this was a mouthful of ocean, supported by notes of earthy pork fat. You’d either love it or hate it. We couldn’t get enough of it.
There were Pork desserts too, with Sweet Corn CrÃ¨me Brulée topped with heirloom tomato gelato and candied bacon, from Michael Munoz (The City Club). Lest you roll your eyes at yet another bacon dessert, the corn was the star of this show — the candied bacon bits gave a textural contrast, but mostly sat back and chilled out.
It was Pork Pork Pork everyhere you looked in different consistencies, textures, flavors and colors. This was San Francisco’s finest paying the ultimate homage to the pig by employing their culinary wizadry to every edible part of the animal. And this was only the Opening Party, with two full days of Grand Tastings and industry dinners ahead!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the party has just begun.
Photo Credit: Danielle Tsi