SF Chefs 2011 Inspired by Pork
Since the National Pork Board dropped the slogan “the Other White Meat” in favor of “Pork. Be Inspired,” it’s a free-for-all in the fattening field. So if you agree with me that everything tastes better with bacon, go ahead, indulge in lard and marbling, forget lean, and be merry. Little-known medical research suggests that people with low cholesterol are prone to sadness as opposed to us cheerful carnivores.
Pork seemed to be the toast of the town this year at the beloved San Francisco culinary festival SF Chefs – both at the Grand Tasting Tent on Union Square and at the various satellite events.
At the traditional Sugar and Spice party at the Westin St. Francis, David Lawrence of 1300on Fillmore presented braised short ribs with allspice and brown sugar, but we all know that without the porker, no spice or sugar would have made the cut.
In the non-pork categories, I was thoroughly impressed by sumac calamari (Joseph Humphrey, Dixie). Orange chocolate mousse and passion fruit gel (Jean-Francois Houdre, The Westin St. Francis) were some of the many splendid things with sugar. I liked lavender macarons and cheesecake (Alan Carter, Mission Beach Café) and ice cream with peaches and blueberries spiced with Ras el Hanout (Lincoln Carson, Michael Mina). Michael Mina’s mixologist Carlo Splendorini nicely complemented the sweets with his Gold Rush lemony cocktail.
At the Talking and Tasting Pork seminar, Stephen Gerike of the National Pork Board and Herb Eckhouse of La Quercia, producer of artisan crafted meats from Iowa, introduced heritage breeds and the right way of “breeding, feeding, killing, and chilling” to assure pigs’ good acorn-fed life and gloriously delicious after-life.
There were four unique Tent events with scrumptious little tastes from a different group of chefs, bartenders and winemakers for each event. No human would be able to attend all of them without bursting at the seams, so please accept my partial report.
At the Saturday Night Grand Tasting Tent: Decadence After Dark. Palomino’s Adam Jones came up with a decadent treat of chilled truffled sweet-pea bisque with cured Meyer lemon crème fraiche.
Scott Howard’s (Brick & Bottle) spicy ahi tuna parfait with avocado and wasabi cream lived up to its name – it was perfect. But so were eggplant caponatina with burrata by Ruggero Gadaldi (Beretta & Delarosa), crab cakes by Mark Dommen (One Market), Thomas McNaughton’s (Flour + Water) summer-squash salad with speck and sardine, and avocado and smoked paprika gazpacho sorbet by Adam Timney (Starbelly). There were also amazing chocolate treats by Angela Gong (Moss Room) among many other delicacies.
Lest we forget to be inspired by pork, David Bazirgan (Fifth Floor) created an inspired (and unforgettable) dish of suckling pig and foie gras cappellacci in Douglas fir consommé; Robbie Lewis (Bon Appetit Management Company) came up with pork and corn scrapple topped with a spiced strawberry; there was also excellent pork sausage by Dmitry Elperin (The Village Pub); pork rillette with green-tomato marmalade and smoked paprika by Gregory Short (Masa’s); pork and corn custard with bacon-rolled cherry by Tommy Halvorson (The Phoenix Supper Club); and shoyu ramen noodles with pork, cabbage, and bamboo shoots by Alex Morgan (Ozumo).
At the Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting: Culinary Innovators, seafood preparations took up the central stage. Nancy Oaks and Dana Younkin (Boulevard) presented a delicate crab salad; Jennifer Biesty (Scala’s Bistro) made petrale sole with heirloom tomato, saffron, and artichoke; innovative squid with watermelon, cucumbers, cumin, and dill blossoms came from Christopher and Veronica Laramie (Eve); crab and heirloom-tomato gazpacho from Xavier Salomon (The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay), and halibut crudo from David Seawell (Sutro’s at the Cliff House).
Lasting gustatory memories were created by a unique preparation of agastache marshmallow foie gras by Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara (Sons & Daughters); Provencal eggplant soup by Justin Deering (Des Amis Café); Braised Berkshire pork cheeks by Ravi Kapur (Prospect), and buttermilk panna cotta with market-fresh peaches by Sarah Grobman (Munch).
One beautifully simple dish attracted my attention by being equally delicious and easy to recreate in a home kitchen. Please enjoy an innovative version of tomato bread salad by Mark Gordon (Terzo & Roses Café):
Heirloom tomatoes cut to medium dice
Cucumbers cut to medium dice
Thinly sliced red onion soaked in ice water then drained and dried
Toasted country white bread tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper
Red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper for the vinaigrette
Combine all of the above with lots of basil
Other notable happenings included “Life Goes Better with Bordeaux!” with Steven Rojas (Chez Papa Resto) and beverage director George Aknin; POM Wonderful lounge with pomegranate juice, treats, and cocktails; more cocktails with Plymouth and Beefeater gin; Royal Combier Market Smash with lemon juice and mint; Yamazaki whiskey; many many kinds of salami from Columbus Foods; a full spectrum of California vintners and brewers presenting their stellar libations; and a makeshift draught bar by Stella Artois. More information at SF Chefs and Golden Gate Restaurant Association.