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SF Chefs Weekend

August 19, 2010

Last weekend was the second annual SF Chefs weekend organized by The Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Conceived as a marketing venue for the city’s restaurants it offers consumers a great opportunity to try many chefs’ creations.

The ribbon at the opening ribbon cutting ceremony was a thing of beauty. Not merely a piece of cloth, it was a garland made of herbs and vegetables. It was cut by Chris Cosentino and Dominique Crenn with about a dozen other chefs holding up the ribbon and waving kitchen tools.

Even with the fog you couldn’t complain about the weather. It’s easier to eat and drink if it isn’t 85 degrees. It’s certainly more pleasant when you are on the worker side of an event. Of course it didn’t hurt the events were inside a tent at Union Square. If you were there all weekend and tasted every dish you would have sampled food from a good majority of the restaurants in the city.

On one level chefs participate because it helps us keep our names out there in a competitive business. People who try and like our tastings will come (we hope) to our restaurants and eat.

On another level, and just as important to us chefs, the weekend is a way for chefs to see each other. In our kitchens we are caught up in the day to day stuff- managing employees, writing menus and cooking, or in my case, baking.  It is necessary and even gratifying but not that enlightening. Rolling out dough and mixing batters satisfies the introvert in me but I also need to get out and see what others are doing. It’s fun to be part of an event that includes so many of the Bay Area’s culinary talent.

I participated in the Sugar party (i.e. ice cream social) at The Westin Saint Francis Hotel. Pastry chefs teamed up with artisan ice cream makers to create desserts using ice cream. Here’s a line-up of the pastry chefs, the artisan ice cream companies they worked with, and what they made. You can see they are doing some cool stuff.

William Werner (Tell Tale Preserves) and Jake Godby (Humphrey Solcumb Ice Cream): charentais melon sorbet-prosciutto ice cream bon bon; raspberry-sweet corn ice cream sandwich; imperial stout float, roasted white chocolate; praline marshmallow, pluot pate de fruit, blackberry-nib financiers

Dominique Crenn (Luce): Corn textures and foie gras

Luis Villavelazquez (Absinthe) and Robyn Goldman (Smitten Ice Cream): Cantalope, Lavender and Lemon
Christine Law (Anchor & Hope): Blue Bottle Coffee Milkshake with Maple Whoopee Pie
Jean-Francois Houdre (Westin St. Francis): Peach Assemblage-slow roasted peach puree poached peach in anis syrup, thyme financier, thyme meringue sticks

Elizabeth Falkner (Orson), Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio (Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous): grilled sour dough ice cream sundaes with concord grape syrup, salted brazil nuts and spanish peanuts and chantilly
Ethan Howard (Cavallo Point): “Flufferberry”- Marshmallow ice cream sandwiched between two peanut macaroons with peanut butter buttercream and strawberry preserves
Catherine Schimenti (Michael Mina): Smoked Vanilla Bean Parfait, with cashew butter, fudge and marshmallow

Emily Luchetti (Farallon and Waterbar), Anne Walker and Sam Mogannam (Birite Ice Cream); Peach Split- crème fraiche ice cream, butterscotch sauce, raspberries and toasted almonds

 We all had the common theme of ice cream but it was interesting to see how each chef did something unique.

I got to meet several pastry chefs I had not previously met and others who I had not seen in some time. Pastry chefs (it must be all the sugar) are a friendly gregarious group. I felt energized by all the talent in one room. We could have stayed there for some time laughing and chatting. We each have our own distinct style but we all have the common goal to make great food. We each want to be good but we know there is a place for all of us to succeed. I feel extremely fortunate to be part of the San Francisco dessert world. I don’t think any other city in the country has the caliber and camaraderie around desserts as San Francisco.

Judging from the feedback, the ice cream social will be back at next year’s SF Chefs Weekend. Elizabeth Falkner and I are routing for a brass band like they have at old fashioned ice cream socials. I know it’s a year away but mark your calendars.

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