by Anneli Rufus
An annual taste-in at which top local chefs, vintners, brewers, distillers, and drinkologists show off their latest creations, SFChefs 2010 gets its official welcome this evening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Union Square, to be followed by a full weekend of drinking and dining seminars and tastings in nearby venues (ten of them are free!) focusing on everything from agave to Zinfandel.
High points include a Saturday-morning gin history lesson, a Sunday-morning bloody Mary teach-in (featuring an extensive bar with a wide hot-sauce selection), and Project Open Hand's Sunday-night dessert lollapalooza at the InterContinental Hotel. The many East Bay chefs involved include Eric Berg of Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Food Network TV host Joey Altman, and Eddie Blyden of Henry's Restaurant in Berkeley's Hotel Durant.
We got a look-see into the festival at last night's Spice Party at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. Walter Moore of Campo De Encanto Pisco poured amazing cocktails containing garlic, paprika, and that intriguing grape-derived Peruvian liquor. Also on offer were brews from Berkeley's own Trumer Brauerei and chilly margaritas containing Don Roberto Tequila. Chefs from San Francisco restaurants Aziza, Dosa, Piperade, and others proffered very Bay Area treats, from caviar-topped creamed corn to soft-boiled eggs (served in their shells) with the lemony Algerian sauce known as charmoula. Sponsoring the evening was the Frontier Natural Products Co-op, an Iowa-based producer of all-organic spices (sold in the East Bay, in bulk, at Whole Foods stores). Many home cooks don't consider the organic status of the spices they use, because only a little bit goes into any given dish, but the folks from Frontier told us that conventional herbs and spices can be very pesticidey indeed. Plus Frontier's products are Fair Trade certified, and the company practices water and energy and paper conservation and 100 percent carbon-neutral shipping, using 100 percent post-consumer-waste-recycled fiber boxes for their allspice, cinnamon, caraway, and other products. Tabriz-born slow-food enthusiast Hoss Zaré of Zaré at Fly Trap handed out cups of his super-cool Persian yogurt soup, thick with walnuts and plump sultanas.
We also heard an East Bay love story last night. Sarah Dey, daughter of Rajnan Dey, chef/owner of San Francisco's New Delhi restaurant, met her fiancé in an art class at Diablo Valley College. At the party, the Contra Costa County native offered yummy bite-sized potato samosas such as those served at her dad's award-winning restaurant, home of the original Madras Madness and Oh! Calcutta cocktails; past and present fans include Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Julia Child, and Jerry Brown. Sarah's fiancé divides his time between helping with restaurant-related matters and studying to become a biomedical engineer.