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Coffee in San Francisco – my current favorites

10 June, 2009 (02:34) | food | By: Shannon Clark

San Francisco Coffee is among the best in the world.

I am a serious coffee drinker, I started drinking coffee seriously in high school, spent many hours in college in cafes throughout Hyde Park. However in College my focus was cheap, free refills, and a good working environment, I was less concerned that the coffee was really high quality.

But I was always passionate about local, independent cafes and while I lived in Chicago I grew to know and love many great small local cafes, spending most of my time in the ones that had great atmospheres and great coffee. Including among these was the amazingly high quality Inteligentsia Coffee which I was a customer of from their first cafe which opened up in Boystown and then later their locations downtown in the Loop. In the years since they have expanded to a cafe in LA and are among the growing Third Wave of cafes and local coffee roasters which have spread the serious coffee movement throughout the US and indeed around the globe.

I have now lived in the Bay Area for 3 1/2 years, in this time I have seen an explosion of great coffee roasters and cafes, led by a group of local coffee roasters and a growing and large coffee culture here in San Francisco. In this post I will write up some of my current favorite cafes in San Francisco, from time to time I will update this post as new places open or old places close.

As a frequent cafe customer I look for a few things in cafes I frequent on a regular basis.

  1. Great coffee. This should perhaps go without saying, but it makes a huge difference. There are some cafes whose space & location I love, but which I rarely frequent because the coffee does not match the space.
  2. Big tables. I have a theory of cafes. Small tables (think the tiny bistro tables of the traditional French cafe) make it hard to share a table with a stranger and make working on laptops awkward. My favorite cafes have always been the ones with large, oversized tables that promote sharing tables with strangers and allow for easy working with laptops.
  3. Free Wifi & Power. Though here I am will to make exceptions. Serious coffee trumps wifi – I just use my time in those cafes in different ways – for conversations, for time to catch up on my reading, for time to write offline. Later this year I expect I will have a portable data card (or tether my iPhone 3GS) so wifi will be less of an issue. Power too is easy to work around and it isn’t the worst thing to get up and move after 4+ hours in front of my laptop.
  4. Happy employees. The best cafes have happy, passionate employees. Employess who are treated well, who do their work with attention to detail and passion for quality.

There are many other factors I look for in great cafes. Good food is always welcome especially if locally sourced. And being open late fits my lifestyle well. Thankfully in San Francisco I have many options.

My not so short list of great cafes in San Francisco:

  • Blue Bottle – The coffee of choice for most of the top chefs in the Bay Area Blue Bottle is one the best coffee roasters I’ve ever tasted and their cafes are among the finest I know of anywhere in the world. It all started with their Kiosk in Hayes Valley at 315 Linden St and at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Markets. Now they have an amazing new space at 66 Mint St, a full cafe inside of the Ferry Building and a new location in the rooftop garden of the SF MOMA. At their full cafe on Mint in addition to great coffee prepared with serious attention to detail and more methods of preparation than any other cafe I’ve seen, they also have a small but great selection of food options which change during the course of the day. No wifi, but one of my favorite spots for business meetings, especially around conferences at the nearby Moscone Center.
  • Ritual Coffee Roasters – Ritual is rapidly overflowing their storefront location at 1026 Valencia St in the Mission where they removed couches and many tables to make room for their roaster and coffee storage in the back. They don’t have any power outlets, but still manage to almost always have full tables and a line for their fantastic coffee. With only a small selection of food (albiet tasty baked goods) Ritual is a destination for coffee drinking and a spot where many people sit and work. I’m the Foursquare mayor of Ritual on Valencia as a result of my many times a week visits. Ritual also has a smaller cafe inside of Flora Grub Gardens in Bayview at 1634 Jerrold Ave and a new cafe inside of the Oxbow Public Market at 610 First St in Napa. Ritual coffees are served by many great restaurants and cafes as well.
  • Four Barrel Coffee – Before they opened their well designed space at 375 Valencia St which features a large onsite coffee roaster and furniture built from reclaimed lumber, Four Barrel served coffee from the rear of their space via a kiosk open to the small alleyway. Founded by serious coffee people, Four Barrel is an example of a cafe that is all about the coffee, they have only a few baked goods and do not have wifi, yet are usually full until closing. They have a few wholesale customers here in SF and are a fantastic addition to the local coffee scene.
  • Epicenter Cafe – another new addition to San Francisco, Epicenter Cafe is located at 764 Harrison. They are not a coffee roaster but take coffee and food very seriously. Their beans are from Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara (who also provide coffee to Google – a company that takes food and drink fairly seriously). The coffee here is fantastic, what I love about the cafe is the space, high quality food, lots of tables, power outlets and free wifi. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots in SOMA to work and have meetings.
  • Coffee Bar – Probably my favorite overall cafe in San Francisco. Coffee Bar is located at the corner of Mariposa & Florida in Potrero Hill. The coffee here is from Mr Espresso in Oakland (one of the owners is part of the family that runs Mr Espresso) and is prepared with great attention to detail both as espresso shots or on their reasonably priced Clover machines. But it is the space and food which is why I so love Coffee Bar. They have a great menu of food and drinks including wine and beer and a multileveled space which has been designed with great attention to detail. They have a long bar with underbar power outlets perfect for working alone as well as many oversized tables perfect for groups or for sharing with others. On Thursdays and Fridays they turn the kitchen over to Radio Africa Kitchen which offers some of the best food in San Francisco at extremely reasonable prices. I find the location, food, and ambiance combine to make Coffee Bar one of my favorite cafes and a highly productive space either for working on my laptop or for having great business meetings.
  • Philz - Philz coffee is a family run establishment here in San Francisco which has been expanding rapidly in the last few years, going from just a few locations when I first moved here to a growing number of locations throughout the Bay Area. Philz does not make espresso, instead they make coffee one cup at a time from their 20+ custom blends. Blends whose exact mixes they keep secret, but which are each unique and quite tasty. This is a $3+ single cup of coffee which is worth every penny. They have free wifi and a small selection of baked goods, but the main attraction is the amazing and very unique coffee. Coffee which is quite unlike any cup I’ve had anywhere else. Philz is a unique and welcome addition to the coffee culture in San Francisco and now the greater Bay Area.
  • Haus Coffee - a very new addition to San Francisco, opening just weeks ago, Haus Coffee is located at 3082 24th St. A beautiful, if minimalist space which soon will have a fantastic back patio, Haus serves coffee from Ritual Roasters. They have free wifi, large tables and very bright and airy space, with a fireplace for cool San Francisco evenings. One of my new favorite spots. note – I can’t find a URL for them, if you know it please leave a comment and I’ll update this post
  • Velo Rouge – Velo Rouge Cafe is a small cafe just blocks from Golden Gate Park at 798 Arguello Boulevard. They serve coffee from Ritual Roasters expertly prepared along with a great menu featuring local foods. Tasty food, great drinks and a fun space with a small be welcome set of tables outdoors. One of my favorite cafes in the Richmond district of San Francisco and a frequent stop on long weekend walks.
  • Hollow - by far the smallest cafe on my list, Hollow is a tiny space in the Inner Sunset at 1435 Irving St. In a space smaller than my first studio apartment, around 400 sq ft nestled between other retail shops,  coffee from Ritual Roasters compliments the small but carefully selected products for sale. They have two tables inside with seating for only a few people, but the coffee is fantastic, the shopping excellent and owners friendly. A small gem of a cafe & design shop. Later this summer they will add a table outside. I spent a wonderful afternoon on a recent weekend drinking coffee and chatting with the owner.
  • Mojo Bicycle Cafe – A cafe in the front, a bike shop in the back, Mojo Bicycle Cafe at 639A Divisadero St is a cafe and bar, serving a small selection of food and coffee from De La Paz & Ritual Roasters. Great coffee, good drink selection and you can buy a bike or get your bike repaired while you hang out. A small but fun space with a devoted customer base.
  • The Cafe at Cafe Du Nord – Another fairly new addition to San Francisco, the Cafe at Cafe Du Nord is a small cafe which opened up earlier this year next door to Cafe Du Nord nightclub & the Swedish American hall event space. Located at 2168 Market St the cafe features coffee from Ritual Roasters and very tasty food. The sandwiches are particularly good and go well with the great coffee. The free wifi is nice, though the space is a bit small and tables slightly crowded together, I have worked here but it isn’t ideal for long working sessions.
  • Cafe Du Soleil – A French cafe at 200 Filmore, just a block off of Haight St, has good but not fantastic coffee which is more than made up for having great food and a very French atmosphere. This is an adult cafe where you can enjoy great food, wine and coffee along with the free wifi and large communal table. The baked goods are exceptional and the ambiance makes this one of my favorite places to work in San Francisco. The coffee is good, but not as serious as at most of the other places on this list.
  • Samovar Tea Lounge – And to end this list a place that does not serve coffee at all. Samovar Tea Lounge has three locations in San Francisco (297 Page Street at Laguna, Yerba Buena Gardens at 730 Howard St above the Moscone Center, and 498 Sanchez St in the Castro). Samovar is a place for serious tea and great food. I love coffee but I also am a serious fan of Tea, Samovar has the best tea I have found in San Francisco, served with patience and food that compliments the teas exceptionally well. The Yerba Buena Gardens location is another of my favorite spots for downtown business meetings but also for first dates. It transitions well from a relaxed environment for long conversations and relaxation to a great place for a first date.

There are many other great cafes in San Francisco, cafes with loyal fans, friendly staff, tasty food and beverages but these are the places I return to again and again, the spots I take out of town guests to, the places I plan my day around visiting.

What are your favorites? What are places I should also try?

The difference local, simple foods make

10 November, 2008 (01:30) | food | By: Shannon Clark

I made myself some eggs and bacon for breakfast recently, nothing too fancy, a few slices of bacon, a couple of fried eggs, but as I ate I realized that what I consider “simple” is not – and that it is also a bit of a case study in the difference that a few simple things can make. What I put on my plate is a far, far cry from what you get as a few fried eggs and bacon from most breakfast places, even here in San Francisco, and for that matter is probably quite a different experience from what most people make for breakfast.

You might ask what this has to do with branding – but bear with me – I’ll get there – but first let me describe what I did to make my breakfast and as I do so, the things which though simple helped make it taste quite good. 

A great meal, like any great product, starts with the ingrediants you use. Instead of using foods from industrial farms, sold in a huge big box supermarket, my breakfast was purchased locally in my neighborhood from a merchant who, in turn, purchased from local farmers. The bacon I used was a local to the Bay Area brand, Niman Ranch, which is a relatively large firm that purchases from a large number of family farmers and offers very high quality meats. The eggs I used were also purchased from my local butcher’s shop and were free-range, cage free, farm fresh eggs from a local farmer. 

The prices I paid, however, were if anything less than the cost of industrial eggs and bacon available at my local supermarker, Safeway. At the butcher’s I paid ~$7.00 for 6 slices of thick cut bacon and a dozen eggs, the bacon was ~$7/lb and the eggs were $3.00/dozen. For comparison while prices varied a bit national brand bacon at Safeway was between $6-8/lb and eggs where also in the $2.50-4/dozen range (with some even more). 

A three egg, three slices of bacon breakfast at a typical diner in San Francisco would run around $7 before taxes with coffee, taxes and tip probably at least $10, often closer to $12-15.  

The second part of a great meal like making a great product, is in what you do with great ingrediants. I start with the bacon which I generally slice in half (to make it easier to manage as it cooks). I heat up my skillet so it is warm when I add the bacon, taking care to use medium heat not high heat so the bacon doesn’t cook too quickly. 

I then add the bacon slices to the pre-heated skillet. As a final touch I sprinkle a small dusting of maple sugar – a great and versitle product I buy at a local grocery co-op, if you don’t have granulated maple sugar a small drizzle of pure maple syrup would also do but the granulated sugar is inexpensive and easy to work with. This little dusting adds a hint of sweetness and cuts the smokeness of this particular brand of bacon. 

After the bacon has started to clarify a bit, to get a bit glossy, I turn it and let it slowly cook. As it does, i take out my eggs and let them sit for a bit as I prepare the rest of my meal – slice bread for toast, start water for coffee or tea. I try to avoid turning the bacon too many times, generally I flip it only two or three times letting it reach a nice golden color on both sides but avoiding getting too dark or dried out. 

When the bacon is done I remove it to my plate and then start the eggs. I cook them also on medium heat in the same griddle as I prepared the bacon. Cooking on a medium heat is a few minutes slower than using high heat, but results in a very nice flavor and texture to the eggs. I like my yolks mostly hard so I flip the eggs after a few minutes to let the yolks firm up, after about a minute I then transfer the eggs to my plate.

I finished my eggs with a pinch of pink salt from the Himalyas which added another layer of flavors but equally a pinch of any good salt and some fresh ground pepper would have been tasty. I prefer natural salts to finish my eggs for the extra flavor the minerals in those salts add. 

As you can see from the photos above, the color of farm fresh eggs cooked correctly will be quite vibrant. And it all tastes amazing as well. 

So what does all of this have to do with branding? 

All too often people are willing to accept low quality products in part because they have never had really good quality items. Take bacon it is such a staple item, often prepared in a manner than renders it dry and though still tasty fairly simple as a flavor. But there is a vast difference available when you get truly high quality bacon – the flavors are more complex, look and texture anything but dry or boring. 

Likewise with eggs, they are one of the most common items in any kitchen, but most eggs are as well fairly bland, basic items. But once you have had fresh eggs from a local farm which raises the chickens with care you will see just how much flavor you have been missing all this time. 

And remember though my breakfast may have taken a few minutes longer than a fast food version – I did not use a microwave and my eggs were not “minute” eggs, it cost the same, perhaps less, than the identical meal from a large supermarket, and much less than a breakfast from a local diner. 

What can you do with your products to shift from mass, good enough, incrediants to much higher quality components? Can you take a little bit more care, perhaps a bit more time, and end up with a significantly better product? Have you even considered what is possible, just how good your products could be?

And when you do, don’t then be afraid of charging for that quality. If I were selling my bacon & eggs in a restaurant, I’m fairly sure many people would be happy to have paid $10 (or more) for my breakfast.

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.