SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 – SEAFOOD DISHES

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 – SEAFOOD DISHES

Because there was so much amazing food at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009, I will make two exceptions by posting roundups of the best seafood and best vegetarian dishes. You gotta give those chefs the proper kudos. I thought a few of the seafood and vegetarian dishes were unreal; so incredibly good.

For richness, nobody topped the French bad boys of SF. Roland Passot’s corn soup and crabmeat came in a tiny package with a toy shovel and packed a wallop of corn flavor in a thick pudding. Amazing. One tiny bit of evidence why everyone who eats at La Folie froths with enthusiasm when they recommend it.

La Folie Corn Soup with Crabmeat

La Folie Corn Soup with Crabmeat

And Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys) also got to the deepest core of flavor with his lobster essence. Kapow. Knockout. I drifted over with my lobster essence and pulled a spoon of crabmeat from Mark Dommen (One Market) to dip it in. Kapow again.

Lobster essence from Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys)

Lobster essence from Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys)

Now you see the One Market crab....

Now you see the One Market crab….

...now Chef Mark Dommen is steadily replacing the crab.

…now Chef Mark Dommen is steadily replacing the crab.

And maybe all the people who think MoMo’s is a sports bar need to rethink what’s up to eat over there. MoMo’s Chef Damon Hall was slamming out the ahi tuna tartare by the monster trayload. Feeding frenzy ensued. Hard to screw that dish up, granted, but anytime it comes along, it’s a great treat. And he also made a smoked fish dish which was astounding, and handsome on the plate. Good stuff!

Damon Hall - MoMo's - ahi tuna tartare

Damon Hall – MoMo’s – ahi tuna tartare

Damon Hall - MoMo's - ahi tuna tartare

Damon Hall – MoMo’s – ahi tuna tartare

Damon Hall - MoMo's - awesome smoked fish

Damon Hall – MoMo’s – awesome smoked fish

Almost impossible to pick favorites in a stellar group like this, but if I had to, I’d say Justin Simoneaux of The Moss Room may have put out the best seafood bite. It was a tiny pastry cup filled with summer corn relish, tomato, chili, basil, and Monterey squid. Unbelievably good.

Monterey squid, corn relish, tomatoes - Justin Simoneaux of The Moss Room

Monterey squid, corn relish, tomatoes – Justin Simoneaux of The Moss Room

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SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Awesome Vegetarian Dishes

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009 – FAVORITE VEGETARIAN DISHES

OK, we’re wrapping up the small detour to blasphemy, giving kudos to a couple chefs who knocked out super vegetarian dishes at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009, the food festival that wins the prize for ignoring iambic pentameter and simplicity and being very difficult to say or remember. No matter; the food and wine and panel events were all great and worth the frightening investment of time and money for that all day pass.

Pole Bean Salad, Fish & Farm, SF CA

Pole Bean Salad, Fish & Farm, SF CA

1. FISH & FARM’S POLE BEAN SALAD (Chef Chad Newton)

Beans, beans…sometimes a magical fruit. Mostly not, and long waxy beans among them for many of us. Texturally challenging those skinny legumes, but Chef Chad Newton’s “pole bean salad” was another little veggie-lovers wonder. Roughly chopped yellow and green beans with diced sweet 100 tomatoes were tossed in a dill creme fraiche were enough to make the plate captivating, but the thinly julienned curlycues of crisp fried onions pulled the thing to brilliance. It’s Newton’s clever play on a white trash classic–Southern green bean casserole–but without the Velveeta and with an urban, haute cuisine twist. Smartly delicious; the dish was really bright and summery and refreshing. (But better as a tease for some of Newton’s amazing meat dishes at Fish & Farm…) And chopping the beans diminished the potentially unnerving waxiness…a good way to go.

The Grade: Awesome

FISH & FARM – 339 Taylor, SF CA (415) 474-3474

http://www.fishandfarmsf.com/

Chef Chad Newton, Fish & Farm SF

Chef Chad Newton, Fish & Farm SF

2. FARINA’S PESTO ON CROSTINI (Chef Danny Bowien)

Given the fantastically rich French food from Roland Passot of La Folie and Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, and some serious meat and seafood throw-downs from other chefs all over the tent, walking over to get “just pesto” from Farina seemed at first like “Gee, what a gyp.” Until the blazing Kentucky grass-green concoction was smeared across a perfect little crostini piqued your  interest. Or maybe angelically lit-pea green…you get it; it’s bright and captivating.

Then it hits the inside of your mouth like a shock of bliss and you think, “Oh yeah, I get it. This is among the best pestos I’ve ever had. Right up there will all the other amazing stuff I had today. And maybe even past a couple I thought were my favorites.”

When chefs keep topping each other and ones rise in your estimation quickly and unexpectedly, you could say it’s a pretty good food festival.

And after the festival I learned that Farina’s Executive Chef  taught his Chef Danny Bowien his mother’s Genovese pesto recipe, then Bowien goes out in April 2008 to Genoa and takes first prize at the Pesto World Championship there. Yep, just pesto on toast.  (No pic; sorry…think VERY GREEN)

The Grade: Awesome

FARINA – 3560 18th St, SF CA (415) 565-0360

http://farinafoods.com/ 

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Awesome Meat Dishes

ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY

SHREDDED PORK TACO – SCOTT YOUKILIS

RYAN FARR’S BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICH

 1. ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY WITH SUMMER MELON

Pulling out all the stops, Citizen Cake & Orson founder Chef Elizabeth Falkner and her crew served lovely pork belly chunks with cubed watermelon and a great, Dr. Seuss-green sauce. Rich and fantastic flavors, with the sweet melon calming the heart, the pork belly’s striation was like a painting in pork. Excellent.

Pork Belly with summer melon - Orson - Elizabeth Falkner

Pork Belly with summer melon – Orson – Elizabeth Falkner

2. SHREDDED PORK TACOS (CARNITAS) – SCOTT YOUKILIS – MAVERICK

Down the aisle, Chef Scott Youkilis of Maverick was cranking out amazing little carnitas tacos on fresh-fried tortilla chips. This was a great bite, enhanced if you so desired, with a piquant dollop of his house-made hot sauce. Youkilis steals away for 4 days once a year to produce the limited run of mouth-burn, and his balance of heat and afterbite and flavor makes the sauce a great addition to the tacos (and lots of other things I can think of). Another excellent dish.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

3. BEEF BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICHES – RYAN FARR – 4505 MEATS

Ryan’s a food star in the making, and you would be wise to attend any event that he’s cooking at because you will certainly be well fed. Ryan had amazing little brisket and tongue sandwiches on a great roll stuffed with cilantro. A guy asked about the sandwich and when Ryan got to “…and tongue,” the guy pulled his hand back. I chuckled and told him how great tongue is and what a soft, delicious meat it is. Ryan also gave him a soft sell. No dice. Ho hum. More for the foodios who know. Another excellent offering from Ryan.

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) - excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) – excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Dude, it's tongue! It's good for you!

Dude, it’s tongue! It’s good for you!

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – CIRCA

CIRCA – CHEF ERIK HOPFINGER @ SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

At the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. weekend, Chef Erik Hopfinger of CIRCA participated in both Thursday’s opening night party and Friday’s Grand Tasting Tent, which was a magnificent array of food and wines spanning a 3.5 hour lunch. Hopfinger created a great dish for each SF Chefs. Food. Wine event.

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (for both dishes)

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

MOROCCAN CRUSTED LAMB CHOP W/MINT CHIMICHURRI

For opening night’s “RISING STAR CHEFS” party, Hopfinger offered beautifully grilled lamb chops. Herb-crusted, Moroccan-style lamb chops with pomegranate reduction and a wollop of mint chimuchurri on top, this was an excellent dish and one of the best of the opening party. I could have eaten a dozen of them.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

TACO CHIP w/GUACAMOLE & SALSA
Chef Erik Hopfinger’s second solid offering at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was a tiny taco chip laden with a fantastic guacamole and salsa. The tomato and red onion salsa was chopped much more finely than salsa fresca, sitting delicately on the chip among a creamy nibs of guacamole. The bite was light, creamy, wonderfully fresh and vibrant. It basically felt like a beautiful late afternoon in Mexico on a plate, something of a transformative taste that rolled memories of sun, salty skin, and summer into your mouth with complete contentment. Another great little dish that demanded a second helping.

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger's magic little tacos and salsa

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger’s magic little tacos and salsa

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009: Gitane – Eyherabide – Bacon-Wrapped Prunes

BACON-WRAPPED, GOAT CHEESE-STUFFED PRUNES

“Bacon BonBons”

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009 OPENING NIGHT PARTY 

At the opening night of SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009, Chef Lisa Eyherabide had fantastic prunes that were wrapped in bacon and stuffed with goat cheese. Many people, including me, went back for seconds and thirds. Simple, well-balanced, and delicious, evidence of why she and Gitane restaurant are getting lots of attention.

I discovered these are available on the regular Gitane menu. They’re called “bacon bonbons,” and the prunes are sauteed and finished with anise and cinnamon port sauce. Excellent appetizer and doorway to Gitane’s Basque-inspired innovations.Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Charcuterie Plates

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE.  2009  –  CHARCUTERIE & SALUME

There were a few charcuterie items at SF Chefs. Food. Wine.  All were just great.

FRA’ MANI HANDCRAFTED SALUME – PAUL BERTOLLI
Fra’ Mani offered a lovely plate of various olives and their very rich salume made with red wine. It was dense and delicious, and a wildly colorful little plate. Paul Bertolli and his team had a little assembly line in play, and a tempting array of salume decorating their space.

Fra'Mani Salume and olives

Fra’Mani Salume and olives

CORSO’S CHARCUTERIE PLATE – MORTADELLA & SALUME
Corso restaurant in Berkeley also featured charcuterie at the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. opening night. Chef Rodrigo da Silva and his team had a tasty little charcuterie plate with two types of salume (less intensely flavored than Fra’Mani), and a really fantastic, pistachio-mottled mortadella. Both salume were great, and I could have eaten a pound of the mortadella alone. Trattoria Corso also had a baby burrata stuffed with figs and drizzled with honey. It was thankfully not too sweet in its amazing mouthful of chewy, creamy, and nutty flavors. The little bundle reminded me of a silent film bank robbery stash. Their Italian cheese delight was a big hit for everyone who tried it. I think Chef Rodrigo da Silva and Trattoria Corso needs more attention paid to it, given two stellar little dishes like this.

Trattoria Corso's plates at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Trattoria Corso’s plates at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

N’DUJA – BOCCALONE / INCANTO – CHRIS COSENTINO
Chris Cosentino and his pals from Boccalone & Incanto restaurant served up schmears of Boccalone’s Southern Italian n’duja (or nduja). Chris & Mark currently offer the only commercially available n’duja in the States. This spicy Calabrian pig sausage is spreadable…yep, a spreadable salume. N’duja is smooth but chewy, with a slightly stringy, grassy texture that makes it a unique (and fun) oral event. Its spreadability, pepperiness, and wild, raver-orange coloration make Boccalone n’duja a great party platter feature. The n’duja is noticeably piquant, with a wonderful, lingering flavor and medium heat that cools down after awakening your palate. Served simply on a crostini with a bit of olive oil; small but powerful flavor. Love the stuff, and you can get it at Boccalone in the Ferry Building or order it online.

Boccalone's Nduja @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Boccalone’s Nduja @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

SF Chefs Food Wine – Wild Boar Hot Dogs

WILD BOAR CORN DOGS – CHEF RICHARD CORBO

PIZZERIA ZANNA BIANCA at SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

Wild Boar Corn Dogs - Richard Corbo at Zanna

Wild Boar Corn Dogs – Richard Corbo at Zanna

One of the best meat dishes at the opening night party for the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was Richard Corbo’s wild boar corn dogs. Fried in small batches, Richard and his sous chef were putting down dogs and they were snatched up immediately by hungry hands.  The meat was delicately soft, quite surprising for wild boar, and the corn dog texture and flavor around the chewy, lush pork was just great. A small dollop of sauce sat on the dog, like a bellybutton bindi.

Formerly of Ducca, Richard will be opening up his own restaurant in 2010 in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It will be called Pizzeria Zanna Bianca, and we look forward to it. (Zanna Bianca is Italian for “White Fang,” a famous Jack London novel.)

The Grade: Excellent (4 out of 5)
The Spot: SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Opening Night Party, Union Square, SF

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

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