Foodbuzz Festival 2011

This weekend I attended the 3rd annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, CA. It was a whirlwind adventure and I am so happy to have met many warm, creative and inspiring bloggers. I also enjoyed samples from some wonderful food brands and benefited from excellent programming through the breakout sessions.

I arrived on Friday at noon local time. After a delightful lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, I went to the festival registration and picked up my SWAG bag and credentials. I enlisted the help of a large cappuccino from Bread and Cocoa in order to unpack and organize my belongings and get settled in.

Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee

The blogger gift bag was a little heavy on the chocolate, but I’m not complaining.

After organizing my things, I freshened up and headed to the Welcome Dinner at Terra Gallery, where we mingled over Sabra hummus appetizers and Bonny Doon Vineyards wine. I especially enjoyed the light and refreshing albariƱo. At the main event, we helped ourselves to buffet style dining. There were several Foodbuzz blogger-inspired dishes. My favorite was the beet ravioli, and the lentil salad was a close second.

The desserts were all created by Yigit Pura, winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts season one. My favorite was the mulled wine macaron with spiced blackberry cream.

For the rest of the evening, I chatted with new friends and enjoyed a local brew.

By the way, this show is brought to you by the letter Alcohol.

Say hello to Sarah, Laura and Karen! These creative women have unique voices in the blogosphere and their sites are worth checking out. I had a lovely time getting to know them.

Saturday morning began with a delicious breakfast spread and the beginning of group sessions.

After the Taking Your Blog to the Next Level panel discussion, I was lucky enough to get one of Mama Pea’s dough balls. How sweet was it that she brought gifts for everyone and had dozens of dough balls on her at all times? I think she’s a genius.

I attended two sessions after the panel discussion: The DSLR-Free Zone: Taking Gawk-worthy Photos with Lo-tech Equipment, and Beyond the Written Word: Making the Most of Audio and Video. Warning: there might be another video on the way soon. But hey, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s my worst nightmare too! I just feel that I have to test what I’ve learned.

But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

After the sessions I took a long walk to the Ferry Building.

The Saturday farmers’ market was packed with people. I tasted some juicy, sweet Frog Hollow Farm pears and bought some jarred jams and chutneys from the farm table. I also found some beautiful persimmons!

After the Ferry Building Marketplace, I took another long walk to the taste pavilion, where I sampled a plethora of goodies from the festival sponsors.

Dry Creek Valley wine. I probably shouldn't start with this on an empty stomach... Or should I?


Mission Mini Cupcakes

Judy's Breadsticks

OXO Good Grips, of which I am SUCH a major fan.

21st Amendment Brewing, which I visited the very next day.

Special tasting of their brand new Allies Win the War

Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics

After working the room (of course), I rested my liver a bit by relaxing at the hotel for an hour or so, and then I got ready for the Gala Dinner, featuring a cooking demo by Tyler Florence.

My favorite comment of the night was T-Flo’s point that these days a blogger can post a recipe or an editorial and get the same amount of attention (in the form of page views, likes, etc.) that a major national publication can, which illustrates that blogging is democracy. I like that notion.

I loved how everywhere I went, people were taking photos of their food. I wasn’t the only one! For dinner I opted for the vegetarian entree, which was decent.

The dessert trio consisted of a sad little cold bread pudding, flanked by two delectable confections: a Scharffen Berger chocolate mousse and a Cowgirl Creamery cheesecake.

I bid my new blogger friends farewell and headed back to my hotel to curl up with a book and a hot tea before bed. I prepared myself for a crazy adventurous final day in San Francisco with one of my best friends. There were giant lattes, Chinatown shopping sprees, impromptu beer tastings, kimono fashion shows, and a whole lot of other things that I wouldn’t dare post (or even mention) on the internet.

And there were dozens of fluffy macarons. I promise I’ll tell you all about them next time.

Happy Hour: Fall Beer Tasting

This week I was lucky enough to whittle my work hours back to 40. I told myself I would use the extra time to do laundry, balance my checkbook, and clean my kitchen floors. You know, do all the things I barely had time to do when I was working 55 hours a week. On my second day of work-hour-normalcy, I sprinted out of the office at 5:15 PM and headed straight to. . . a beer and cheese pairing.

I did not see the laundry room, my bills remained in a pile next to my disheveled wallet and checkbook, and my pudgy cat served as the primary method of crumb retrieval in my kitchen. But I tasted some great beer!

I will achieve work-life balance in my own time.

I attended A Fall Palate at Ellwood Thompson last Tuesday. The class featured fall beers paired with cheeses, which was very interesting because I had never tried pairing cheese with beer before. I tasted some old favorites (Dogfish Head Punkin Ale), new favorites (Ommegang Cup O Kyndes, which Kyle and I had tried ourselves just one week before this class), and some pleasant surprises that I never would have picked up on my own (Crispin Honeycrisp Hard Cider).

Some of the pairings were spot-on while others were less than perfect. My favorite pairings were the last two we tasted:

Rembrandt Aged Gouda with Crispin Honeycrisp Hard Cider

This 18-month aged Gouda was nutty and dry with some crystallization throughout. It was very tasty by itself. When paired with the hard cider, both the beer and the cheese came alive. Alone, this cider was sweet and flat-tasting, but to me and my tasting partner’s surprise, it stood up well to the aged Gouda. We felt like Danish warriors enjoying the spoils of a victorious battle, while chomping on aged cheese and sipping from barrels of mead. Historically accurate or not, we agreed that this scenario closely resembled the pairing experience we found ourselves in at that moment.

Smoked Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar with Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes

This hearty block of cheddar had been aged 12-15 months and then smoked by oak, resulting in a sharp and smoky flavor with delicate crystallization throughout. Kyle and I had tried a bottle of the Cup O Kyndnes the week before the pairing and it was a major hit, so I was happy to see this beer as the finale to the pairing class. Cup O Kyndes pulls together elements of two of my favorite styles of beer: Belgian ales and Scotch ales. This treasure is a Belgian-style Scotch ale, brewed with caramel and smoke malts and flavored with heather tips. It is a spicy, smoky, and smooth dark beer. The combination of the oak smoked cheese and the chimney smoke flavored beer was perfect for a chilly Autumn night. I am in love.

Besides the pairings I already mentioned, I also enjoyed some cheeses (without their boozy complements) and some beers (without their dairy companions). My favorite solo acts were:

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest – one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers. Simply delicious amber lager that is perfect alone or with a wide range of foods.

Cricket Hill Fall Festivus – nice caramelly, slightly hoppy, self-defined ESB that is probably better described as an amber ale. I was struck by this beer’s versatility; I could serve it at a party and probably please most of my beer-drinking guests. It’s a seasonal that I would like to share.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale – spicy, refreshing ale that is actually made with pumpkin (unlike most pumpkin beers). I love this brewery, and their version of a pumpkin ale is one of my favorites.

Parrano – a classic Gouda made with Parmesan starter and aged 5 months, which tastes nutty and sweet with a hint of salt from the Parmesan. Interesting cheese, except it overpowered the beer it was paired with (Schneider Edel-Weisse) which was just kind of eh for me. I would like to try the beer alone, and try the cheese in a different pairing. Left me wanting to experiment a little more.

Goats R Us Fresh Chevre – fresh and tangy goat cheese that tasted like sour cream. I had never tasted chevre like this before, and I want to know more! I’m looking forward to getting some of this in my kitchen and playing with it more.

I hope I will get the chance to attend some more classes at Ellwood Thompson in the future. I learned a lot and had a great time. I think that while I get back into the groove of things, a little more social time and a little less laundry is not necessarily a bad thing. After four months of working my butt off, I’m making up for lost time during my favorite season for gathering with friends and family. Cheers to that!