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As 2011 begins some great meals in NYC

26 January, 2011 (16:33) | food | By: Shannon Clark

I spent the past weekend in NYC, flew there on Thursday and enjoyed the long Martin Luther King weekend as a chance to visit friends and family and to have a mini-vacation with my girlfriend. We both worked on Friday while in NYC but still manage to have a large number of great meals while we were in NYC.

If you are my friend on Foursquare you may have seen my checkins from this past weekend, unfortunately it doesn’t look like I can easily share my checkins history publicly but this post is an attempt to summarize some of the best places we found over our long weekend. NYC is always changing but all of these spots are great options, some are old favorites others are new (at least to me) discoveries from this past weekend.

Thursday – fine, vegan dining at Kajitsu

After we flew in and checked into our hotel, we went to Kajitsu in the East Village where we had made a dinner reservation at the Chef’s counter (only available by making an over the phone reservation but they take OpenTable for regular reservations). Kajitsu has two Michelin stars and serves Japanese zen temple food. Everything on their menu is vegan and they offer two tasting menus (a $50 4 course and $70 8 course option) along with a few ala carte dishes and sake pairings. The space is space and minimalist but the food is amazing in the details and complexity. Living in San Francisco we were familiar with Japanese temple cuisine from local standouts such as Cha-Ya and the now closed Medicine Eatstation though Kajitsu offers a far more refined and fine dining version of the cuisine. A fantastic meal whether you are a vegetarian or not and one of the cheaper 2 Michelin star dining options available anywhere in the world, though both my girlfriend and I far preferred our meal at the only 1 Michelin starred Ubuntu in Napa.

Friday

Sweet Revenge – amazing cupcakes in the West Village

Friday morning before going off to work my girlfriend and I walked up to the West Village from our SOHO hotel. We were looking for coffee and a quick breakfast, didn’t have any particular spot in mind or very high expectations but we stumbled into a fantastic place which we returned to later on Friday. Sweet Revenge is a small bakery in the West Village. In the mornings they offer coffee, cupcakes, savory breakfast cakes and a few other options (yogurt etc). We both enjoyed our savory breakfast cakes which were light and very flavorful with fantastic sauces on the side. In the evening after work we returned to Sweet Revenge to pick up a hostess gift of one of each of the six cupcake flavors they had made that day to bring to a friend’s house where we were having dinner. Each of the cupcakes were unique with fantastic cakes, fillings and frostings. Not too sweet but just right well balanced and light with a lot of flavor. Some of the best cupcakes we’ve had and in a city (and nation) where the cupcake craze has no sign of stopping Sweet Revenge is a great place. If we had dined in, they offer wine and beer pairings with their cupcakes and they serve until midnight or later most nights.

Saturdays Surf Shop – fantastic coffee in a great shop in SOHO

I, along with many others, read about Saturdays in Monocle (see http://www.monocle.com/sections/edits/Web-Articles/Style-directory-Shopkeepers/) where in their Oct 2010 issue they featured Saturdays Surf Shop in an article. This is a small great store selling their own label of clothing, surfboards and related books and other objects along with offering fantastic serious coffee and in nicer weather a beautiful hidden back patio seating area. On Friday I bought a great cappuccino and after a brief time spent browsing the offerings walked to my next stop and meeting.

Saturday

Torrisi Italian Specialities – amazing sandwiches and a great prix fix dinner in SOHO

My sister suggested Torrisi as an option for picking up lunch nearby before we visited. We ordered nearly one of everything on the lunch menu – bringing a spread of sandwiches and vegetable sides along with fresh mozzarella made earlier that morning. Everything was amazing, flavorful, local ingredients and fantastic flavors. This is Italian food done by serious chefs with the best local ingredients and great attention to detail. Every evening they offer one of the best deals in NYC with a $50 prix fix dinner which I hope to return and experience.

Before we picked up lunch we stopped by my favorite bookstore in NYC, McNally Jackson. This amazing independent bookstore, with attached cafe, offers one of the best book shopping experiences in NYC and indeed anywhere in the US. Fantastic selections with a friendly knowledgable staff and a store that innovates. Later in the weekend we returned to test out their new print-on-demand service using a printer from Unbound Books which offers you the ability to get any public domain book and many other books with publisher permission, or your own book, printed in a few minutes while you shop or enjoy a coffee in their cafe.

After lunch we walked over to the across from NYU location of Think Coffee which is a local to NYC small coffee chain with four locations. Each with very serious fair trade sourced coffee, fantastic barristas and great food and drink. I really enjoyed my coffee from a small roaster in Ethiopian while my girlfriend enjoyed her cappuccino. The space across from NYU is huge with plenty of tables and wifi and a space even on a holiday weekend filled of students and others working.

Refreshed we walked up to Chelsea where we enjoyed a cool winter walk along the High Line. We then descended and explored Chelsea Market. Inside of Chelsea Market are many fantastic NYC restaurants and food purveyors, we only sampled a few and need to return many more times to try everything. Perhaps the highlight of this visit to Chelsea Market was our dinner at The Green Table in Chelsea Market. We were a group of six and managed to snag a reservation when another large party canceled. We shared some fantastic mac and cheese and a Brussels sprouts hash as started and then each ordered dinner. My burger was among the best I’ve had anywhere. Highly recommended for seasonal, local cuisine with a menu that changes with the seasons and fair prices.

For dessert my girlfriend and I joined a friend of ours who was also visiting NYC from SF in going to one of her favorite places in NYC, Veniero’s Pasticceria  & Cafe. A historic cafe and bakery in the East Village with a line that seemingly never ends on a weekend evening, the desserts were well worth the wait and as we looked at the rows upon rows of cookies, pastries and cakes it made us wish for a moment that we lived in NYC and could cater a party with desserts from Veniero’s.

Sunday

Sunday we had amazing Mexican food for breakfast and award winning BBQ for dinner. Yes, we were still in NYC.

For breakfast we again walked up to the West Village to return to a Mexican restaurant my girlfriend remembered from a past visit to NYC, La Palapa. There we found some of the best Mexican food I have had in a restaurant – not just the best I’ve had in NYC by far but among the best I’ve had in any city anywhere. Fresh, authentic and very flavorful. They have two locations one in the East Village and one in the West Village and the owner has a recently published cookbook.

After our very filling late breakfast we spend the afternoon shopping in SOHO. Then I took my girlfriend to one of my favorite places in the Lower East Side, Teany. Teany is a vegan tea shop owned by Moby. I am a meat eater but this is one of my must visit places whenever I’m in the Lower East Side. We shared some fantastic vegan coconut cake and enjoyed very tasty beverages. I had a great pot of tea and my girlfriend had a cappuccino made with tea which she greatly enjoyed. A friendly, small place always worth a visit.

We then walked from the Lower East Side up to the amazing new Eataly which is 50,000 sq ft of Italian food and drink across from Madison Square Park. While new to the US this is a chain with multiple locations in Italy and Japan. If we lived in NYC we would shop (and eat) at Eataly regularly. In fact the produce and fruit prices were reasonable and the selection quite great – I bought some kumquats as a snack for less than I pay at farmers markets here in SF.

For dinner we walked two blocks down 24th st to R.U.B (Righteous Urban Barbeque) which is a competition worthy barbecue restaurant in NYC. They were out of their famous burnt ends so I ordered a half slab of ribs while my girlfriend (who is vegetarian) ordered one of their drinks and their vegetarian pulled portobella sandwich. We started with their fried green tomatoes. An excellent meal and amusingly my vegetarian girlfriend’s half of the meal was more expensive (though to be fair that was because I didn’t order a drink).

Overall a fantastic day of eating where we managed to do to things that in the past weren’t supposed to be possible in NYC – have great Mexican and have great BBQ.

Monday

Our flight was in the mid-afternoon so we wanted to have a hearty brunch before we checked out and left for the airport. We were going to meet my cousin for breakfast but her work schedule prevented that so instead we decided to walk around SOHO near our hotel and find someplace to eat.

We lucked out and found The Cupping Room Cafe which has been in SOHO for over 30 years in an amazing space which was a former coffee wholesaler. While when we entered it appeared to be a smallish place, we quickly realized that the restaurant is L shaped with a lot of seating, a large bar off the other entrance and a beautiful main space with fireplace and lots of character. The food was tasty and fresh and the service was friendly. Definitely a great space which we may return to on future visits. In the evenings they frequently have live music and local seasonal menu. All for very reasonable prices. Definitely a great find.

Great food and drink near the Moscone Center San Francisco

29 April, 2010 (03:08) | food | By: Shannon Clark

Before Web 2.0 Expo starts next week here in San Francisco I am posting this updated list of my favorite places near the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

This is not intended to be comprehensive there are literally 100’s of restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels within a half mile of the Moscone Center in San Franciso. Rather this guide is a list of a small, selective set of restaurants, cafes, and a few bars which are notable and worth trying. These are places that as a local to San Francisco I return to frequently, these are the restaurants where I personally entertain – whether it be for an afternoon meeting over coffee, a light dinner with friends, a professional working dinner or a business entertaining event.

My focus is mostly on great spots for coffee or daytime meetings and on dinner. I’ve included a few options for lunch but in the interest of networking I would usually suggest you eat the conference lunch if one is provided.

Breakfast meetings

My personal favorite breakfast meeting option in SOMA is Blue Bottle Cafe (66 Mint St – corner of Mint & Jessie, between Mission & Market just after 5th St, Mon-Fri 7-7, Sat  8-6, Sun 8-4) which offers a small but seasonal and very good selection of breakfast food along with their world renowned coffee. Their coffee is among the best in the entire country. Before you doctor any beverage, make sure you taste it, most do not need anything.

Two options which are worthy alternatives are Epicenter Cafe (746 Harrison St – between 4th & 3rd, Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10pm) and Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft (868 Mission St – at 5th st, Mon-Fri 8-6, Sat-Sun 10-6).

Epicenter has amazing coffee from Barefoot Coffee Roasters, excellent food, fantastic wine and beer in the evenings. As a large space with ample wifi and power Epicenter is a great place for a working business breakfast or meeting. However one note, many local tech bloggers and journalists also enjoy working at Epicenter so it is not the best place to discuss your still in stealth company.

‘wichcraft is the San Francisco location of a small NYC chain. I mostly get lunch at ‘wichcraft but they have a great selection of breakfast options as well and their space is convenient to the Moscone with large tables on two levels offering plenty of room for a productive and tasty breakfast meeting.

Meetings during the daytime

As I noted above, Blue Bottle Cafe or Epicenter Cafe are my two favorites for great coffee and a productive space for a business meeting.

For non-coffee drinkers, or just for a change of pace, I recommend Samovar Tea Room inside of Yerba Beuna Gardens (730 Howard St. Literally above the Moscone North, stairs are just to the left of the conference entrance. Sun – Wed 10-8, Thurs-Sat 10-9). Samovar serves amazing teas accompanied by a selection of light food. This is a calm, peaceful oasis above the Yerba Beuna Waterfall and sitting above the Moscone North entrance. This is not where to go for a fast, quick, hurried meal. But it is a great spot to take a break from a conference and to have a highly civilized and usually productive business conversation. My personal preference is to meet at Somovar in the afternoon, after lunchtime. For small groups Samovar is also a good option for post-conference dinner. Not a heavy meal but a tasty one and not a place to drink (other than great teas).

Lunch

As I noted, if you need to get lunch while at a conference there are many great options near the Moscone. These are a few which I go to regularly, for more see the pearltree below.

First, ‘Wichcraft as I noted above is a great option for a quick and very tasty lunch.

Second, Out the Door (basement level of the Westfield Center). Ignore the minimalist website, Out the Door is the more casual spinoff of the world renowned Slanted Door restaurant, one of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in the country (and also at times one of the hardest to get a reservation at). Out the Door offers quick and very tasty Vietnamese food, prepared artfully and skillfully and served in their large and spacious dining room. A great option for a group of nearly any size for lunch and just blocks from the Moscone. They are also open for early dinner, though I prefer them for lunch. The food court in the basement level of the Westfield Center is a very good one (much better I think than the food court in the Metreon) with options for any palate.

Third, Straits (4th floor of the Westfield Center). Straits offers upscale Singaporan food, though it is a small scale chain (here in California, Atlanta and Houston) I highly recommend them for great and unusual food. In particular I like Straits for working business lunches. The food is fantastic, though not cheap, and the space lends itself to a small group serious business lunch.

Dinner

San Francisco is a food and restaurant town, there are 100?s of restaurants, dozens of great ones throughout San Francisco. Here are a few of my absolute favorites in SOMA within close walking distance of the Moscone Center, this is by no means a complete list.

Town Hall (343 Howard on the corner of Fremont, Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). Townhall offers amazing, contemporary food in a venue that is also exceptionally well designed. Great food at a price which is a great value for the quality and service. They also have a private dining room which can handle up to 40 people seated or 80 people for a standing reception ($1000 min for lunch, $2000 min for dinner, offers full audio-visual capabilities and Internet access). One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco and a place I suggest to locals and visators alike.

Salt House (Mission between 1st & 2nd; open Mon-Thur 11:30-11, Fri 11:30-12, Sat 5:30-12, Sun 5-9:30). Salthouse offers contemporary American food, locally and seasonally sourced, with a fantastic selection and level of quality. It can be a bit loud so is best for relatively small groups, no more than about 6, but offers some of the absolute best food in San Francisco. I have business contacts who insist on a visit to Salt House everytime they are in San Francisco and I’m more than happy to comply.

or Anchor & Hope (83 Minna St, just off of 2nd, Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). The third restaurant from the trio who founded Town Hall and Salt House, this is their take on a contempory American seafood shack.

For a large group dinner, especially on a budget, my goto suggestion in SOMA is Canton Seafood and Dim Sum (655 Folsom St on the corner of Hawthorne betwee 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Sun 10:30-9:30). For lunch and on the weekends they offer cart service Dim Sum at very reasonable prices and of exceptional quality. But what I really love going to Canton for is to bring a large group for a banquet. They can almost literally accomodate any sized group (upstairs they have a dining room that seats up to 450+ people, downstairs they seat up to 300, though a reservation is advised). I generally modify one of the banquet menus ending up with a 7+ course feast, including Dim Sum (which I request as a substitute for other appetizers and fried rice) for a price of about $25/person. Typically this feast includes a whole fish, Peking Duck, Salt & Pepper Crabs and more. Amazing, tasty food, very reasonably priced with inexpensive drinks and friendly service.

I’ve had dozens of group events at Canton Seafood over the past few years and have never once been disappointed – and they have done great whether I’m dining with a few friends or have brought 100+ people.

Professional networking quality drinks

San Francisco has many great bars and has become well known for some of the most serious wine bars and serious mixed drink bars in the country. If that interests you, I encourage you to do further research (or leave suggestions here as a comment) but here are a few great to know about venues nearby to the Moscone Center.

House of Shields (39 New Mongomery between Market and Mission, New Montgomery is between 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Fri 2pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am, closed Sun). A 100+ year old San Francisco institution. Not the fanciest of drinking estabilishments by far, but a goto establishment for afterwork, post-conference networking over cheap drinks. Not fancy, but also likely a spot where many speakers at tech conferences may end up (and certainly a spot favored by locals).

The Press Club SF (20 Yerba Beuna Lane, just off of Market across from Yerba Beuna Gardens between 3rd and New Montgomery, tasting room hours Mon-Thur 4-9, Fri 4-10, Sat 2-10, closed Sun). An urban wine tasting room, this large space features 8 bars serving wines from 8 different wineries, with representatives from each winery pouring the wine. They also have a selection of light foods to pair with the wines and upstairs a retail store featuring wines from all 8 wineries. For business purposes besides being a very upscale place for after conference drinks and conversations, they also have a private dining room/boardroom with full a/v which can be rented for private events.

I will keep the pearltree below updated with additional suggestions. This is not intended to a comprehensive list, rather it is a list which reflects where I eat myself, the places I take friends and where I have my own business meetings.

Slow Food Nation 2008

31 August, 2008 (06:13) | food | By: Shannon Clark

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(image cc-licensed by aaron_anderer on Flickr)

This weekend the many events of Slow Food Nation have been occurring around San Francisco. On Friday I made it to the Marketplace and Victory Garden in front of the San Francisco City Hall however I arrived late so many of the vendors were closed and sold out, I still managed to pick up some amazing artisinal jams directly from the makers of the jam, some phenonmenal local heritage varities of fruits, and a very tasty late lunch.

This evening I went to Fort Mason in the what I thought might be vain hope of finding a way to get a ticket to the completely sold out Slow Food Taste Pavilion for the 5pm evening tasting. I arrived at a bit after 4:30, waited around the lines and just as I was getting ready to leave, the line having all entered and only a handful of late arrivals still wandering in, I was talking with the volunteers at the gate when a very nice woman who had just arrived spoke up and said “hey, I have an extra ticket, here have it…”

Turns out that she works in the industry (restaurant manager for Boulette’s Larder at the Ferry Building here in San Francisco, a shop I frequent and love) and had both been given two free passes and had been unable to find a friend to take her extra free pass, so in the interest of good karma she passed it along to me for free.

So I was in and stayed until the very end. Before I get into my feedback and suggestions for next year’s Slow Food Nation (especially for the next year’s Taste Pavilions) a few basics.

  1. Everyone had a great time, the drinks (at least alcoholic) were flowing, the foods were great and all of the producers who were there and serving up their creations were thrilled to be there and seemed to be enjoying sharing them with everyone.
  2. Other locals and I were reminded just how truly lucky we are to live here in the Bay Area, quite a few of the great producers were local, most were shops and products I buy on a regular basis, stuff I can at times almost take for granted (forgetting just how amazing the quality can be).
  3. There were some surprising finds even in the very last minutes. Dishes I would have gladly purchased to take home. Happily one from a restaurant a relative of my grandfather’s third wife manages (okay the complexities of modern life, multiple marriages and long life).

But.

And there are a few buts, I have a lot of feedback and suggestions, things which did not work well or which I hope they improve on for the future. And broadly speaking many of these reflect the mixed branding which Slow Food as a movement has, especially here in the US. You might have thought I had forgotten this a blog about branding (well branding and the occasional long post about food such as this one).

What do I mean by “mixed branding”? Well the main objection to Slow Food is that as a movement it is, especially here in the US, very much about and for the elites (as the article in that link notes as the common perception) – a movement for people who can really afford to spend anything they want to spend on food so the only people (so the critics claim) who can support the goals (as sometimes misunderstood) of Slow Food. As a movement Slow Food has both in Europe and in the US had problems explaining itself to others (and heck to members) – is it a political movement? A reaction to “fast food”? A movement focused on local production? On the support of “heritage” brands? A movement to support producers or about how people cook at home or how and where they dine out or all of the above?

  1. The pavilions reflect a mostly Western, European food culture.At this year’s Taste Pavilions there were: Beer, Bread, Charcuterie, Cheese, Chocolate, Coffee, Fish, Honey & Preserves, Ice Cream, Native Foods, Olive Oil, Pickles & Chutney, Spirits, Tea and Wine. The Bread pavilion had pizza on one side and Indian naan on the other but that is about the only non-Western food which was served. The tea pavilion had a wide range of tea’s from across the world. But that’s about it for food that wasn’t based on a European cuisine. Certainly little that celebrates the strong Chinese, Japanese or Hispanic cultures of the Bay Area.
  2. The “slow dough” cards caused nothing but confusion.

    When you presented your ticket this year you received a “Slow Dough” card with 20 boxes on it, each tasting or beverage you took had, in theory, a cost of 1 to 3 boxes. If you ran out you could purchase more Slow Dough at a rate of 5 SD for $10. Beverages were a great “deal” with Wines being just one box for a 1 oz pour (not sure what a beer was but I think just a few). But just what each food would cost you was difficult to understand, there was not a single chart which showed the costs at each pavilion, rather each pavilion (again in theory) had signage showing what the costs were – though in practice most did not or if they did I couldn’t find the signs. In fact the Coffee Pavilion rejected the entire idea and refused to punch anyone’s cards, the Pickles and Chutneys pavilion flat out told me that instead of charge one box per tasting plate as in theory they were supposed to they would mark one box then let me take a tasting from each provider.

    My suggestion for next year do away entirely with the Slow Dough concept for all of the food, teas, coffees, and non-alcoholic beverages (which this year was only water but I’d strongly encourage the addition of serious slow providers of non-alcoholic drinks). Replace it with some form of counting and charging for extras for only the alcoholic drinks (Beers, Wines, Spirits) perhaps also for the speciality non-alcoholic drinks such as Root Beers and Ginger Beers that might be served at the same Beer pavilion. Give everyone enough for a few beers or a couple of wine flights or a cocktail, then charge the drinkers for more.

    Mostly the Slow Dough caused friction between the attendees and the producers of these amazing foods. Lines are understandable (see my next points about queues) and should be able to restrain people from taking more than their fair share, but the cards turned what I had hoped would be an evening of pure celebration of craft into a calculation game – if I get X will I also be able to still try Y…

  3. Bring in some real experts on queues and design a more consistent experience across the pavilions. The longest line, by far, was for the Cheese Pavilion. The shortest line was the Beer Pavilion. And yes, people noted that this was probably the only event they had ever been too where that was the case. But every pavilion used a different flow of the queues, some such as the Cheese had a single, continuous queue wrapped around the pavilion (and indeed outside of the building) in a spiral. Others had two lines entering the pavilion in different directions (and serving different foods in the case of the Charcuterie, the same food but from two stands in the case of the Fish pavilion). In short every Pavilion flowed considerably differently and there was nearly no signage about any of the queues, so as I was trying to wait in one of the two bread queues (I gave up, I think it was the line for the pizzas) someone came up and asked if this was the line to get into the building. Again not having anywhere a single document (or any posted maps and signs) which showed what foods were available for what cost and in how many different lines at each pavilion meant you got into a line not quite knowing what was going to happen next.

    The wine pavilion had a process where you were supposed to get a glass as you entered, then pick up a many page booklet listing the nearly 400+ bottles available, each with a number, you then found a section by number and waited your turn at the bar (in queues that were amorphous at best) and once there tried to decide on the basis of minimal information what you wanted to drink, or you could try one of the flights which were in four other areas but which I couldn’t quite figure out how to try.

    The confusions started at the very beginning of the event, the line stretched from the venue to nearly the entrance of Fort Mason but there was nearly zero signage about Slow Food Nation anywhere near the Fort Mason entrance, and what looked like a gate/checkpoint was not actually where your tickets were checked which was, in fact, further into the venue.

    And there was an entire section I never did find where sparkling water and Salsa Dancing was, I think, taking place. Not to mention I couldn’t easily see where the bathrooms were. Many, but not all, of the Pavilions had exhibits but due to the layouts of where the food tasting tables were, here I’m in particular thinking of the Fish Pavilion, I’m probably not alone in missing the exhibits nearly entirely. In the case of the Chocolate Pavilion I nearly missed the entire Pavilion because walking past I almost thought it was just a set of walls, didn’t see that inside there were some presentations, which when I entered I then also realized there was a large line entering from another entrance so I couldn’t, in fact, try the tasting as I entered the wrong way. All too confusing.

  4. Non-drinkers were seriously underserved.

    If you are a drinker and love craft beers, wines and spirits the Taste Pavilions were an amazing opportunity and serious bargain. There were 400+ different wines, dozens of different beers, and a lot of different mixed drinks (don’t know much about the later as I don’t drink spirits).

    But if like me you are either a light drinker or if you are a non-drinker your options were water, tastings of teas or coffee (which were serious tastings not beverages you could easily take with you and sip) or I think some sparkling water but as I noted I couldn’t actually find that section. There were no juices, no producers of craft sodas, ginger beers, organic bottle grape juices, iced teas or the like. I drank a lot of water, but I really found myself thirsty and wanting something to complement the foods, both savory and sweet I was eating but not being a heavy drinker I had no options.

  5. Vegetarians and non-pork eaters had very few options

    The bread pavilion which I never did manage to sample did have some vegetarian options as did, I think, the Native Foods pavilion (at least one dish I think) but the selection was fairly light elsewhere. The Charcuterie was not entirely surprisingly almost entirely pork products (a handful of beef jerkies as well – but which were as far as I could tell only available as part of a flight so if you didn’t eat pork you were out of luck). Anyone with other food allergies or other issues would have been faced with a lot complications in trying to decide pavilions to try because of the lack of signage and information – in part because what was being served did vary over the course of the evening – so a simple bread at one time might be replaced by a nut bread minutes later.

    Yes I know the theory of the Taste Pavilions was to highlight producers but I was frankly shocked that there was not a Fruit or a Vegetable pavilion. All evening I was craving a perfectly ripe peach and I, for one, would classify many of the local farmers squarely as slow food producers (Frog Hollow Farms which is phenomenal orchard which is carefully set up to have different varieties of stone fruits ripen every couple of weeks for the entire growing season from spring into the fall).

    There are also plenty of amazing vegetarian slow food producers who could have been highlighted. Here in the Bay Area there are some amazing local Tofu producers, local Yogurt companies, Udon noodle shops which use techniques passed down for 7+ generations and much more.

  6. Locals were not given the option to only try non-local producers

    I love the many amazing places I can buy food here in San Francisco and I was thrilled to see familiar companies and in many cases familiar faces at the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilions, I said hello to the barista who pulled my machiato and whom I knew from when Drew worked at Ritual Roasters.

    But I attended Slow Food Nation in part to celebrate a nation of producers so I wanted to “spend” my calories and time sampling items I don’t get on a weekly basis here in San Francisco, I wanted to try things which were new to me, not just taste things I already love and buy for my dinner parties. Yet the way the Pavilions were set up I was unable to avoid getting many items I’m quite familiar with in my trying to sample new things. In particular in the Cheese Pavilion they were only serving three types of cheeses at a time as part of the flight, when got there this included a cheese I had, in fact, just bought for a recent dinner party and which is served on restaurant menus throughout the Bay Area. It is a great cheese, but I really wish I could have sampled something else new instead (and no getting two tastes of another cheese isn’t the same as getting a chance to savor a third new one)

    Sure, as I noted, I was happy to reminded just how luck I am to be living in San Francisco, but I would have really liked to see more representation from outside of San Francisco, to have seen a more truly national character to what was served. I would have also liked to have seen more emphasis on American slow foods – not just American businesses making craft examples of European foods (salumi, olive oils, etc). Where were the regional (US) foods? The maple syrups, the smoked Northwestern Salmon, etc.

I will be back for Slow Food Nation 2009 and I hope I can help in any way I can with the future events. I applaud them as well for trying a lot of different things – beyond the Marketplace and Taste Pavilions there are also many series of talks, workshops, a pretty serious Rock two day festival, conferences, films, dinners, walks and field trips being held all week. But for me, at least, the overall impression from the website, marketing efforts, and ticketing process is one of too many ideas, too much without an overall cohesion. Ticketing in particular was confusing and unclear – “discounted tickets at local Whole Foods” for example without ever noting what, in fact, that discount would have been!

Since I was given my ticket to the Taste Pavilion on my way out I spent some of what I had planned on spending for the evening on buying a year’s membership in Slow Food.

But then I went and spent the rest on some takeout from one of my favorite Thai restaurants in San Francisco which happens to be just a few blocks away from Fort Mason. I was hungry. And Sunday I will probably go to a Thai Food and Culture Festival which is also being held this weekend here in San Francisco, at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. For an admision price of $5 I’ll get a chance to see some demonstrations of Thai Culture and if the reports on Chowhounds are any evidence eat some serious Thai food prepared on the spot by skilled artisans. Food that I would claim is definitely “Slow Food” but which was not, alas, represented well at the Taste Pavilions this year.