1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA (Saturday Afternoon and Evening, Part 3)

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Saturday afternoon, after the Farmers Market we enjoyed the afternoon’s main event – The Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon. We enjoyed talking to Jerry from Cooking By The Seat of My Pants on the way over to the Metreon. Growing up in California, he told us a lot about different California grown foods, like rice, wine and cheese. In fact we talked quite a bit about cheese (and which is better, CA or VT – of course you can guess that I am all about the VT cheeses). Oh…and cowboy hats. I have known Jerry for a long time through blogging and he is just as much of a character in person as his blog would have you believe!

At the Tasting Pavilion, we tasted food and drink by many local CA producers as well as Artisan food producers from all over the country. It was an amazing experience and so inspiring to see so many people passionate about food! It was a great opportunity to network with food producers, and hopefully we will work together with many of them in upcoming Foodie Blogroll Giveaways! :)

Some of our favorite tastes were all the delicious dishes inspired by Bertolli sauces that Food Bloggers at the festival created. It was really fun to watch them prepare their winning dishes in the Bertolli Sauce Kitchen! I got to catch most of Chrystal and Amir’s aka The Duo Dishes , presentation (that is them in the collage above) and they did an awesome job! The best part was getting to taste all the food coming out of the sauce kitchen! Well done everyone! I wish I could have seen all the presentations…but there was just too much to see!

We also enjoyed talking about beer with the guys from Magnolia GastroPub located in San Francisco and Rogue Ales . If we had stayed a few days extra I would definitely have stopped by Magnolia. They brew their own historic and traditional beers, and create gourmet gastropub food sourcing local ingredients!

One of our favorite eats of the afternoon was a seafood ceviche from Fuego At The Maya. Executive Chef Jesse Perez made an awesome version of the Latin dish, including Mexican shrimp and tender juicy scallops, broiled calamari and sweet potato. Check out Jerry’s post – he has a lot of great photos about the things I discussed!

Roberto and I also attended a Merlot wine seminar hosted by Alder from the popular wine blog, Vinography.  This was an extremely interesting seminar about the stories behind the wines – about the producers, and the history of where the grapes are grown. It was a new and intimate way to learn about wines, something that Alder is amazing at doing. There was also much talk about wines in general, which was very informative. Our favorite was the Paloma 2006 Merlot, from Spring Mountain in Napa. All of the Merlots we tasted were from California and were between $25-65 a bottle. Definitely your upper end, and very different from what most people think of, when they think Merlot.

After the afternoon’s events, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Saturday Night Dinner. This was a big night for me, because I had the extreme honor of being asked by Foodbuzz to co-host the Food Blogger Awards with Managing Editor of Foodbuzz, Ryan Stern. Coming into the weekend I was a bit nervous, but after meeting nearly everyone who was going to be in the audience I felt much better about it. Plus Ryan is a great person, so I knew I would feel comfortable up there with her!

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(Roberto and I on the bus to dinner, Me and Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard, Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul and Joan from FOODalogue, the gang at dinner).

The dinner and awards ceremony was held at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse which was the perfect place for a dinner brought to us by Outstanding in the Field . It was a bit too chilly to hold an outdoor dinner, so this really was the next best thing!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos)

Very rustic and the perfect environment to enjoy a menu of farm fresh products. Our menu was created by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu. All of the food was local, organic and sustainable and the meats were all pasture-raised. It was really nice to enjoy a guilt free meal of the highest quality!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos)

Winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon , selected wines to accompany each part of the meal. It was fun learning more about Outstanding in the Field, and chatting with Greg from Sippity Sup about being nominated for several awards, and about fashion!

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(Photos courtesy of Peter Georgakopoulos): Me and Catherine of Munchie Musings, Christey of FotoCuisine, Joan of FOODalogue, and Val of More Than Burnt Toast

We had a truly wonderful and memorable dinner, in really great company. We had the honor of sitting with longtime blogger friends: Peter of Souvlaki For The Soul, who came all the way from Australia to be at the festival, Peter and Christey of FotoCuisine , Val and Giz of BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine , and Joan of FOODalogue . I also got to meet Angela of Spinach Tiger , another of my favorite blogs. In fact, Angela was the first blogger I saw in San Francisco – we checked into the hotel at the same time! The best thing, is everyone we met in person is even better in person! It was a fun night talking about blogging, food and everything else. I really enjoyed spending time with these people, and know I have life-long friends! I can’t wait for them all to come and visit! Thanks to Peter G for many of the great photos in this post. Your photos are truly magazine quality, Peter! You should totally be famous!

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(Val, Roberto, Me, Joan and Mary (aka Giz)

After dinner many headed over to the Americano at Hotel Vitale for a nightcap. There I got to spend some time chatting with the Foodbuzz staff and my blogging and Twitter buddy, Esi from Dishing Up Delights ! It was great finally getting to meet you! And of course we were trying to get in as much time with everyone as possible. We knew we probably weren’t going to make it to the Brunch the next day, so this was our last hurrah so to speak. It was wonderful getting to see everyone and making that personal connection. I didn’t want to leave…or more realistically, I wanted to pack everyone up in my bag and take them home with me.

If you have never been to a blogging event, I highly recommend it. If there aren’t any in your area, start one! There is nothing like meeting bloggers in person! Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for putting on this wonderful weekend, and I am very much looking forward to next year’s festivities!!!

1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA ( Saturday Morning – Part 2)

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DISCLAIMER: Our camera battery died on Friday night and so the photos in this post are snapshots pulled off our video camera – which is essentially why they suck! ;) But I wanted to be sure to give some viuals.

The next morning, everyone met up at the Ferry Building, to enjoy the morning at San Francisco’s incredible Farmer’s Market. We started off up stairs drinking coffee, eating pastries and meeting up with bloggers. We had a fun and lively conversation with Nichelle, from Cupcakes Take the Cake and got to meet another one of my foodie friends, who had evaded me the night before, Joan of FOODalogue . After chatting, we wanted something savory for breakfast. So on several recommendations from Foodbuzz staff, Roberto and I (as well as many other bloggers) enjoyed breakfast sandwiches from the Golden Gate Meat Co. We decided to enjoy the sandwiches al fresco so we could enjoy a view of the San Francisco Bay. Once back inside, we couldn’t pass up a “meat cone” from Boccalone which was a mix of several of their different cured pork products. The mortadella with pistachios was my surprising favorite (usually my favorite is salami). I wish we had gotten video of this, but we were hanging out chatting with Kristi of Austin Farm to Table. But I know she talked about it on her blog, so go check it out!

We spent the rest of the morning perusing the market. I was especially impressed by one of the indoor shops that was exclusively mushrooms. I saw the most beautiful and delicious looking mushrooms – colorful chantarelles, lobster mushrooms and the biggest FRESH porcini. My heart sank a little because I knew I could not take any home. Outside, we spent time marveling at the fresh produce booths. We tasted Asian pears, yogurt, persimmons, honey and much more. I also bought 4 lbs of beans and grains from Rancho Gordo on a recommendation from Kat and Matt of A Good Appetite .

At 11:00 we joined Peter and Christey from FotoCuisine , Joan of FOODalogue and Catherine from Munchie Musings at the Farm to Table Discussion led by Executive Chef of the Americano – the restaurant at the Hotel Vitale, Paul Arenstam and the general manager of the Hearst Ranch (sorry, no picture of these guys…). Hearst Ranch  supplies their grassfed beef to the Americano for their burgers and so the discussion centered on the differences between grassfed and conventional beef (something I talk a lot about ), how farms and restaurants can work together to get quality and local meats to consumers, how food producers can work with food bloggers to get unbiased and genuine word out about their products, and how to build a farm to table model that works, and can be copied by local farms and the restaurants around them.

Some facts about grassfed vs. conventional beef:

Conventional beef depends on fossil fuels and government subsidized feed (like corn and soybeans) to feed their cattle. Conventional cattle are weaned at 6 months and spend the rest of their life, eating subsidized grain, living in close quarters (with other cows, and their own excrement) and in 13 months become 1300 lbs of meat.

Grassfed beef remains free ranging and pasture fed their entire life. They depend on sunlight and photosynthesis to eat. They experience low stress, and little handling from humans, making their meat tender and lean. In an 18 month period they will become 1100 pounds of meat. Grassfed cattle, through well managed grazing, are part of a natural cycle which actually aids in the conservation of grasslands.

During the question and answer period, Catherine, from Munchie Musings asked about what kind of a discount food bloggers could get on Heart’s new program where consumers can buy a share of a grassfed cow directly from Hearst. He was quick on the draw and responded that food bloggers can get a 30% discount and free shipping, if they use the coupon “foodbuzz”. Now that is a great deal! If I lived in CA I would totally go for it – but I am looking forward to supporting my local meat producers. If that fails – I am going for Hearst – they are a company that I can support without reservation.

I really enjoyed the morning – it was nice to see lots of farm fresh products at the market and then learn more about how local businesses and farmers can work together to get local foods out to the consumers. It was inspiring in so many ways. If you live in California, and have not been to the Americano, you should try it out. Their menu sounds delicious, and I got to sample Chef Paul’s Hearst Meatballs at the Tasting Pavilion later that afternoon (more about that in a follow up post) and they were really fantastic. I would also encourage you to check out Hearst Ranch and their Cattle Share program.

1st Annual Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival – San Francisco, CA ( Friday – Part 1)

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Roberto and I were fortunate enough to spend the last weekend with 250 other food bloggers at the Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival in San Francisco, CA. This was our first trip to California, so we were very excited to visit San Francisco and for all the events of the weekend! Needless to say we had a great time, in great company. I have been blogging since 2006, and in that time have had a few opportunities to spend time with other bloggers. Putting faces to the names we see and hear so much through blogging and getting to meet in person people we have “known” for years in the blogosphere is a really awesome experience. These last few weeks, I have had a chance to meet many bloggers, both through the conference, and also through our travels in New England. I will try to do my best to re-live those experiences through words.

This weekend was a real meeting of the minds of food bloggers. I will attest again, for the record, that food bloggers really are the nicest people in the world.

Hanging out with food bloggers has a certain comfort level to it, because you already know up front that you have a common ground (and a high level of obsession)! So having the privilege to get to know the people behind the blogs you love, and learn more about them and their lives, beyond the food blogging aspects, is an enriching and wonderful experience. I am very thankful to everyone at Foodbuzz for the great job they did putting this together for us. Giving us the opportunity to meet other bloggers, and feeding us amazing food along the way!

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(Me with a delicious Autumn Apple Martini, with Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard, with Vanessa from Italy in SF and with Kat from A Good Appetite).

The weekend was kicked off on the rooftop of the Hotel Vitale with a meet and greet happy hour. We enjoyed cocktails from Skyy Spirits, sparkling wines, beers and sparkling juices, including a special and delicious Autumn Apple Martini which was inspired by Melissa York of Cheese Wine and Cheddar. This gave us all the opportunity to meet and greet everyone.

After happy hour we headed over to the Ferry Building and were treated to an amazing Street Food extravaganza featuring the best of the best of San Francisco ‘s street food fare. I did my best to try at least a bite of everything.

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I think the unanimous favorite of the evening was the Porchetta Sandwich with greens and caramelized onions from Roli Roti . Porchetta is a Roman specialty, and my resident Roman claims it is the best he ever had. So you can imagine how good it was.

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I also really enjoyed the Potato and Chorizo tacos from Tacolicious. Their sauces are to die for – if you can take the heat! If not, their Green Goddess herbal sauce, will cool things off. The tacos were so good, I had to go back for seconds!

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I also admit to going back for seconds at Straus Family Creamery, the booth right next to Mission Mini’s Cupcakes (this one is the Pumpkin with Dulce de Leche icing!) They served us organic coffee and vanilla bean ice cream. It was creamy and delicious! Just the way ice cream should be.

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Another delicious treat was the vegan, raw cheesecake from Alive! . Honestly the best cheesecake I have ever had – see my face! The expression says it all!

But this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the offerings. We also really enjoyed fresh shucked oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co. To wash it all down, beer from Thirsty Bear and cocktails from Skyy Vodka- my favorite was called the Blood & Sand – equal parts of The Glenrothes Select Reserve (Speyside single malt Scotch), fresh orange juice, Cinzano sweet vermouth and cherry liquer. The drink was garnished with delicious cherries from Italy. There were also fresh chichharones (spicy pork rinds) that were perfect with the wheat beer from Thirsty Bear.

Also in the offerings were – wood fired pizzas, meat pies, roasted beet salads and more. It was a fantastic way to experience some classic San Francisco treats and meet all the wonderful vendors who create this delicious food and feed the people of San Francisco!

That night we really enjoyed hanging out and getting to know the folks from Foodbuzz, meeting my buddy Kat from A Good Appetite, Val and Giz of BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine , Vanessa from Italy in SF , Mari from Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard , Jen from FoodBat and Donna from Cooking with Donna (anyone have her blog URL?).

It was also great spending time with our Florida friends, Peter and Christey from FotoCuisine.

Please stay tuned for more pictures and stories from the weekend!