Hi there friends! Can I offer you an apology? I seem to have been completely absent from my blog for almost one and a half weeks now, ack! So sorry to have left you all alone, but not to fear, I am alive and well, I have not been gobbled up by a woman-eating monster, and I have a few reasons for being away. First, I was completely caught up making my video for Project Food Blog (yesssss! I did advance to the next round and will share my next VIDEO entry with you this week!) and I am SO excited about it. I can't wait for you to see it! Immediately after finishing my video, I jetted up to San Francisco for a weekend of eating, socializing, and general debauchery at Foodbuzz's Second Annual Food Blogger Festival.
The weekend was filled with events (and of course my tummy was filled with food) and I got to experience it all with both new and old friends. I have loads that I want to tell you about, but I thought I would break it down into The Food and The People. And really, for The Food, I just want to tell you about the Taste Pavilion from Saturday afternoon (I may have been too preoccupied with those aformentioned People on Friday night to take any real notice of what I was eating) and share some details about several amazing new food vendors and local food craftsmen that I discovered.
The Taste Pavilion was located at City View at the Metreon, and the venue couldn't have been more perfect. The space indoors was large enough to so that all 350 of us bloggers could comfortably weave around and eat to our hearts content, and then outside there was ample space to breathe in some fresh air, bask in the sunshine, and take in the scenery.
Foodbuzz did a fabulous job of organizing a variety of excellent vendors and local food craftsmen for the Taste Pavilion, and I think there were only a few that I might have missed out on. Almost all the food and wine I got to sample exceeded my expectations (and I am a tough critic!), but I had a few favorites that I just had to tell you about.
Frog Hollow Farms: "We strongly believe in sustainable agriculture as a way of protecting the soil and food supply for our present and future generations."
Frog Hollow Farms encompasses 130 acres of organic orchards in Brentwood, California, where owners Al, Becky, and Sarah grow amazingly sweet and tender peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums, pluots, and pears. I got to try their Warren Pears, which had a lovely warm brown and pale green skin, as well as a soft texture that signaled thier perfect ripeness. And as for the taste, well, I could see immediately why they call their fruit 'legendary.' Hands down, it was the best pear I had ever eaten, and is also Farmer Al's favorite. Frog Hollow Farms is actually only one of two commercial growers of the Warren Pear which makes them really unique. I also appreciate their values of sustainability and organic farming practices; if you are interested in this kind of fruit as well, especially to use for an amazing fall dish, I can share my Foodbuzz coupon code (BUZZ10) which you can use to get a 10% discount on anything off their website!
Saag's: handcrafted, artisan deli meats and german sausages
Saag's is a small San Francisco area manufacturer of handcrafted sausages and artisan deli meats. They boast that their sausages in particular have a lower fat content yet better flavor than others in the market; in fact, they have natural poultry sausages that have the same amount of fat as a skinless chicken breast. (Yes, this means you can eat a sausage and feel good about it.) I thought most of their sausages and salami were good, but I really felt compelled to tell you that their Asiago Fennel Chicken Sausage rocked my world. I had seconds.
Prather Ranch Meat Company: raises and distributes humanely-raised, organic meat including beef, pork, lamb, buffalo, chicken, and vitellone.
At the risk of looking like I am obsessed with sausages, I also had to tell you about the Prather Ranch Meat Company. I was drawn in when I saw them cooking lots of varieties of sausages, I was further enticed when I spotted German bockwurst, and I stayed to chat for awhile when I saw they were wearing shirts that said, "Praise the Lard." While I waited patiently (or not so patiently) for my bockwurst with pickles and mustard, I learned that Prather Ranch operates an 11,000 acre farm where they produce meat that is humanely-raised (meaning free-range: shelter, clean water, ample pasture) and humanely-fed (meaning organic: no antibiotics, non-GMO, natural feed). Knowing this made my bockwurst taste even better.
Pick-A-Peck Pickles: A family-owned pickle company with a variety of pickled vegetables and an ample dash of humor.
Ok, if you have been here awhile now, you know I love my pickles; clearly, there was no way that I could stop myself from trying out Pick-a-Peck Pickles. I especially loved their pickled beets and pickled beans, but what I actually loved the most was the story behind the pickles: Turns out these pickles are a family business, and the friendly looking pooch on the labels is actually the family pet, Moose (which is why the asparagus spears are called 'Moose Pickles'). They also have a blog which brings together the local community of picklers and canners to interact and share tips. Plus, they have product names like 'Just Beet It' and 'Bean Me Up Scotty,' and we all know I love plays on words (have you seen my blog name?).
INNA jam: single-varietal jams made from fruits harvested from within 100 miles of Berkley, and all gathering and transporting of jams is done by bicycle. How cool is that?
INNA jam was just the cutest little jam gal I ever have seen. She had her raspberry jam displayed on tiny little silver spoons, and her jalapeno jelly was spread on toasts with cream cheese. The fruit jams were delicious, but really I was most completely thrilled with the jalapeno jelly; it was the exact right combination of sweet subtlety and spicy heat that I would have never thought would be fabulous on cream cheese. And you know what makes INNA even better? She harvests all her fruits from within 100 miles of her home kitchen in Berkley, and she does so BY BIKE. And not just any bike, a bike with baskets that is almost as adorable as she is.
Mendicino Salt and Seasoning Company: Husband and Wife produce artisan sea salts and seasoning blends, from seawater harvested right off of the Mendicino coast.
Lora and Bob La Mar ran a successful sportfishing business before government costal regulations forced them to shut down. Improvising, Bob started collecting fresh seawater from 5 miles off the Mendicino coast to distill down and produce perfect sea salt crystals. Lora had already been making her own seasoning blends for cooking and gifts for family and friends, and so it was only natural that they combine them together. A new business was born! But in all reality, it was not nearly so easy, and speaking with Bob, I was impressed by his dedication and the hard work he puts in everyday (all day!) to craft his sea salts. Hands-down my favorite was the Sea Smoke Salt, and over fresh, ruby-red tomatoes, it was to-die-for.
Ticings: Thin sheets of edible icing (gluten-free!) and artisan sprinkles; super easy to apply, and desserts look beautiful.
What can I say? I love desserts! I was attracted to the Ticings table right away by the bright colors and elegant set-up (and of course my magnetic attraction to cupcakes), but I stayed because I wanted to try out their edible 'icing' and artisan sprinkles. I was intrigued by the way their icing was so much like a sticker - just peel and press - and it seemed to adhere perfectly to the top of a mini cupcake with buttercream frosting. They could have been printed with any designs, but of course the Foodbuzz logo is known to warm our hearts. :) I tasted one and it was slightly sweet but mostly just bland, which makes it perfect for use with any type of frosting. The second thing I tried out were their natural chocolate sprinkes/chips; tinier than a pinhead, these chocolate sprinkles were the real deal, nothing artificial here. A small taste was like a chocolate chip melting on my tongue, instead of a dollop of fake sugar.
Americano: San Francisco restaurant/bar that serves California cuisine with Italian influences. They have knock-your-socks-off chanterelle soup.
And I had to save the best for last: You will probably find this strange, but my absolute favorite thing I ate all day Saturday was the Chanterelle Soup from the San Francisco restaurant/bar Americano. You think mushroom soup is boring? Well you have never tried this stuff. The soup base was creamy and luscious, and the flavor was deep and earthy; just the thing you would want to eat on a chilly fall afternoon. But what really took it over the top (literally) was the light, foamy Candy Cap Mushroom Sabayon that just barely floated on the surface of the soup. It was airy and surprisingly sweet, a perfect counterbalance to the savory chanterelle. Shh... don't tell anyone, but I might have gone back for seconds. And thirds. (And fourths.) Thats how good it was. I am still dreaming about it...
I hope my recap of the Foodbuzz Taste Pavilion has left you drooling (I know I am hungry!) and check back in the next few days so I can introduce you to my foodie friends, and also to see my Project Food Blog VIDEO!