Let’s talk for a moment. Now, every post I’ve put up so far has been a story about my life, followed by a recipe of a food item (usually a dessert or baked good) that was an integral part of the story. And I hemmed and hawed about breaking this pattern, but friends of mine have been asking me (nay hounding me) to post about an event I went to about a month ago – the Meals on Wheel’s Star Chef’s and Vintner’s Gala. And I’ve been on the fence as to whether I should post or not (clearly I decided to).
So excuse me if this post isn’t what you are expecting. But I’m caving in and posting about it. And to make matters worse, I’m going to use a dreaded term that I absolutely have come to hate – “Food Porn” (gah! I hate that term!). But I have to use, it because really this post is all about it, and the words that I use, to string together a narrative of an evening of wonderful, amazing, fantastic, out-of-this-world food, is really irrelevant. Because my friends just want to see the pictures of gorgeous food…or “food porn” – case in point:
So realize that this post is going to be LONG. Like MAJORLY long (way longer than my usual insanely long posts). If I were writing for a newspaper, or journal or magazine, I would definitely edit it down. I would shorten and tighten up the wording and the descriptions. I’d use less adjectives, or use more specific adjectives like “unctuous” and “nectarous” and all those S.A.T. words that you swore you would never have to use again (mostly because you didn’t know what they meant in the first place). I would make more creative metaphors (this dish is like walking through a light spring shower in Paris under the Eiffel Tower with my boyfriend, hand in hand!) and I would just be more succinct.
In other words, I would not ramble on and on. Nor would I feel obligated to describe EVERY single thing I ate during the event. Just the highlights (and maybe the lowlights).
BUT this is a blog. MY blog. So I’m keeping it the way it is. If you don’t wanna read everything, just scroll down and look at all the food pictures. Because really, no matter how much I describe the delicious morsels of food that I ate at this event, you just gotta experience it yourself. And if you can’t, just look at the photos. It’s nearly as good. Maybe.
And remember to go buy a ticket for next year. You won’t regret it.
Also. There is no recipe in this blog post. I was going to try to make one based on one of the items I ate here, but in the end I just decided that wasn’t going to happen. It was difficult enough to just write this post. Don’t worry many more posts are upcoming, with recipes and random stories. LOADS more posts. I’m totally behind, but I had been putting off this post forever, and I just needed to stop everything else and finish it. And as you scroll below, you’ll see why it took me so long.
Let’s back up. Meals on Wheels in San Francisco throw an annual black tie event every year called Star Chefs and Vintners Gala. Years ago (maybe 8 or 9 years ago) I was asked to do design work for the signage of the event. It was a great gig, and I was proud to help out a non-profit and worthy cause. Meals on Wheels San Francisco is pretty amazing as a non-profit, distributing 16,000 meals a week with 82 cents of every income dollar going directly to the meal delivery and services for clients. That means 18¢ of the dollar goes to overhead expenses. That’s amazing. Most non-profits are lucky to be working with a 40-50% overhead expense (I’ve worked at many non-profits, trust me, salaries, rent and general expenses can really add up).
I have watched the Gala grow from a large formal affair to an extravagant formal affair, all the while looking forward to helping out each year (and occasionally blogging about the event as well). After attending the event for seven years or so, you would think that I would have become jaded by all the amazing food, but each year, I blown away by the talent, food, and generosity of each chef who comes out and donates their time, energy and food. I make it a point to actually frequent the restaurants featured at the Gala, and each year not only do I look forward to seeing what will be served there, but I look forward to discovering new restaurants to go to.
This year was no exception. Gala Chef Chair Chef Nancy Oakes (of Boulevard and
the new Prospect restaurant) assembled a number of amazing chefs and restaurants and fantastic wineries to pour endless glasses of great wine. Though San Francisco is known for it’s over-the-top food events, this one is THE food event of the year.
The event is broken into three parts. The first part is the appetizer and hors d’oeuvre period, which featured 33 chefs and restaurants and 41 wineries, five bartenders doing signature mixed cocktails and one beer company. Oh yeah, and Weaver’s Coffee along with FIJI Water.
Each restaurant/chef and each winery/beer/water company had their own station, where they featured finger food for the masses. Overwhelming you say? Why yes it was! But AJ and I were old pros at this event. In fact, AJ is quite NOTORIOUS at this event. But more about that later…. (ahem).
I had prepared for the evening by eating a single muffin (my kiwi-lime marmalade filled one) and a cup of coffee. AJ had prepared by going on a 40-mile bike ride earlier that day (he’s training for the upcoming AIDS Lifecycle). We arrive promptly at 5pm, knowing that we needed the full two hours to make it through all the food (dinner is at 7pm). We thought we were there early but the place was already hopping with patrons and party-goers in their San Francisco finest!
Walking in, the first thing we came across, other than the champagne that was being served to people at the check out tables, was Epic Roasthouse’s Crispy Fried Frog Legs with sweet corn and toasted cumin vinaigrette and baby tomato salsa. The lovely woman from behind the table asked me if I had ever had frog legs before, and it took all my restraint to not reply back “Well of course! They taste like chicken!”
The truth is, frog legs taste a little bit like chicken, but more like fish. What I can definitely say though, was that the frog legs prepared by Epic Roasthouse tasted like a little bit of heaven in my mouth, and it was the first thing I had eaten that night! Of course, if you deep-fry anything I’m pretty much all over it, so it’s a low bar. But these were spicy, peppery, flaky, crunchy and plump (they were the largest, most generous-size frog legs I’ve ever had). Mmmm….
Next to the Epic Roasthouse was Nombe Izakaya who actually had chicken – chicken wings to be exact, battered dipped in homemade rice flour with an Asian fish sauce, serrano chili and local honey (really local – the restaurant is located in the Mission and the honey comes from a Mission beekeeper who keeps the hives on their rooftop a couple of blocks away). The restaurant also happens to be 6 or 7 blocks away from our apartment in the Mission. I’m so going to check it out because those chicken wings rocked. Sweet, spicy and just a little bit of crunchy, I wanted more but I refrained because the evening was just getting started.
About that time we ran into our fabulous friend Chip and Maria. Chip was the one who got me the Meals on Wheels gig in the first place years back, and was the one who invited AJ and I to this year’s event on their guest list. Sadly, Meals on Wheels couldn’t afford to use me to do their design work – which made me really sad, but I totally understood (note to Meals on Wheels. Next year, call me up, I’ll do the work pro-bono for tickets! You just need to ask me!). We hung out and chit-chatted for a little bit before scurrying off to consume as much as possible before the dinner portion of the evening (Chip and Maria had invited their sushi chef friend Ryo as well and we were all going to be seated together so we looked forward to that).
The Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay had Smoke Lamb Loin on white asparagus panna cotta and tomato ginger chutney and micro basil. I’m a sucker for micro anything when it come to food. It’s just so darn cute. The lamb was good (not great) but the panna cotta didn’t have much flavor. The Ritz Carlton, by the way, seems to be obsessed with doing something asparagus each year. Last year it was green asparagus flan with caviar.
Hog Island Oyster Co was serving oysters on the half shell and as much as I was tempted, I’m one of those unusual people who neither love nor hate raw oysters (I feel like raw oysters are one of those polarizing things, like cilantro, most people love or hate it, and few people are indifferent to it. I happened to be one of those few people who can give or take it). So I skipped them and moved on E & O Trading Company’s Beef Short Rib sliders which AJ adored, and I thought were…well tasty, but not stunning (okay, I know I sound jaded, and had I actually had them at a restaurant, I might have found them wonderful, but they weren’t anything new or novel or different. Instead they were just…well executed. Not a bad thing, but nothing mouthwatering).
The braised pork cheeks with ramps and kumquats served over heirloom quinoa that Nancy Oakes’ (Boulevard) new restaurant Prospect served was amazing however. Sweet succulent meat! Garlicy oniony ramps with a hint of sour sweet kumquats! Where have you been all my life? Apparently hanging out over at Prospect…I can’t wait for it to open!
Right after the pork cheeks we ran into our friend Marina and Pat, who we had met a couple of years ago at this same event. They had brought son, the up and coming chef, Levi who looked Mad Hatter dashing in his red jacket. Marina was wearing a gorgeous Kay Unger silver dress (that she got for a steal!) and looked radiant. AJ and I are so pleased that we have made black tie event friends! We’re so fancy!
We caught up on what was going in each other lives, until AJ and I got distracted by the hamachi sashimi with housemade kimchi that Waterbar was serving. Completely drool worthy. And then it was tender and meaty Red Hill farm’s lamb meatballs with artichokes and Calabrian Chile. Swoon!
Foreign Cinema’s wild caught local cured sardines with avocado chutney couscous wasn’t nearly as salty as the sardines I have had in the past, but then I’ve never had local fresh cured sardines. Much more delicate in flavor.
Scala’s Bistro (a place that I’ve had hit or miss experiences at when dining there) was serving duck liver mousse with Swanton Farm strawberries, Sicilian pistachios and Villa Mandori Balsamic. I don’t eat duck liver that often, and the rich whipped mousse and the sweet strawberry and acidic balsamic created an excellent balance in my mouth (yeah, I know I totally sound pretentious when I say things like that, but it’s totally true. I even turned to AJ when I ate it, and said, “whoa. That’s a great mixture of textures and flavors” and he nodded, though I don’t know if he nodded in agreement, or just to get me to stop talking as he wanted to move on to the whatever he saw at the next table).
And then, thankfully, we came across Greens! Oh Greens! The little mini vegetarian oasis in a sea of meat and more meat (not that there is anything wrong with that)! Previous years, Millenium was there along with Greens and one or two other restaurants serving vegetarian friendly appetizers (NOPA was a standout, with their fresh deep fried asparagus spears a couple of years ago). This year, Greens was one of few vegetarian friendly appetizers, and they provided a much needed respite with their delightful heirloom beets, fresh peas, Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette on a little gem lettuce. I raved about them to AJ but he found no need to take a break from the meat and immediately moved on to Bottega’s braised octopus asparagus risotto with preserved Meyer lemons (also, I think he’s not a huge fan of beets). Slightly briny and tender octopus were a great counterpoint to the creamy risotto. I love risotto!
Meyer lemons, by the way, are awesome. I realized that I am WAY late in the game, but I only recently have been using them in my baking. AJ had never heard of them before, so I didn’t feel totally ignorant (I know, I know, they’ve totally been super popular forever, but I’m just slow sometimes). When I described them to AJ a couple of months ago as a cross between a lemon and an orange, he started referring to them as l’oranges. Now whenever he sees them in the store he asks if we have any need for l’oranges. I love that.
Bix & Picco had fresh (super fresh, as in made two hours ago fresh!) mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto with artichoke, cardoon, radish and olive. Soft, salty and tender and rich all in one tiny little bite. Rose Pistola as serving a trio of halibut, with shaved radish and calabrian pepper that had a nice kick in the end (clearly the result of the spicy calabrian pepper). While La Mar was serving a trio of cebiches – ahi tuna, mahi mahi, and California Halibut. I scarfed them down, and then instructed AJ to eat them in the reverse order (starting with the halibut and ending on the tuna). I don’t even know how to describe each of them, other than to say that they tasted like the sea. Light, breezy, refreshing with a touch of acidity, but not too much that you’d notice.
At this point I was pretty much ready to take a break from eating, which is ridiculous as I had pretty much only eaten half the appetizers. I know I should have been pacing myself, but it’s so hard at this event. Luckily I came across the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco who was serving seared scallops on a bed of sea urchin rice and carrot reduction. There was a line, and I wasn’t going to miss this one. I waited patiently (hey, didn’t I say I needed the break?) while other patrons waited impatiently (AJ had already snagged the last one while I was busy taking photos and the chef was busy searing the scallops while not trying to crowd the pan too much for the masses). Oh man, the wait was worth it. Carmelized just right, on the top and bottom, the sweet buttery scallop meat balanced the more rich sea urchin rice and bright carrot reduction.
Étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon had hiramasa sashimi with fiddlehead fern, radish, and white soy vinaigrette. AJ isn’t a fan of the fiddleheard fern, but I like their crunch and rootsy flavor, and the white soy really played well with both the hiramasa and the fern. Plus the curly fiddlehead fern is just so awesome looking! AJ, however, LOVED the tasso spiced duck served over a foie gras dirty rice croquette and Steen’s cane syrup mustard that Pican Restaurant was serving. Tasso, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t), is a southern spice that they use on pork and ham. It’s not sweet, but it has a slight spicy peppery kick to it, and played well with the sweet mustard and sweet/rich duck meat. I wanted a second, but knew better.
Sent Sovi was the other restaurant that was serving frog legs and it couldn’t me any more different than Epic Roasthouse’s frog legs. A maitake mushroom and frog leg salad with wild vegetables, verjus and maldon salt, it wasn’t my favorite, being a little more slippery (bordering on slimy) then I would have liked. Baker and Banker was serving house smoked trout on potato latke with pickled beets, fennel and horseradish crème fraiche. It was a fresh contemporary twist on the old potato latkes and lox dish. And Terzo was serving another vegetarian appetizer (along with Greens) with a fava bean puree on flatbread with marinated feta. The flavor was as bright as the color!
After the flatbread, we ended up at the Terra and Ame restaurant station, which they had set up a Nagashi Somen booth, where you take a cup of broth, mix in a number of condiments (daikon, ahi tuna, seaweed, etc) and then “catch a basket of noodles”. It was there last year, and was a definite crowd pleaser. I love any sort of food that I can interact with! Salty goodness caught fresh!
Are you exhausted yet? How do you think I felt? And we’re just getting started! I forged on, knowing that I had to get every single bite available to me. And, of course, knowing that I will miss out on a few as well. Like the Spring vegetable composition that Chad S. Newton was serving…I didn’t find out about them until I saw them on tablehopper’s flickr page. How could I miss them?!?! Or the sadness I felt when I came across the table that had already packed up – because they had run out of appetizers, the lone sad sign saying “duck confit croquettes with rhubarb caramel” RHUBARB CARAMEL! And I missed it!
After seeing the empty station, I quickly picked up the pace and headed to César who was serving Chilean Sopapillas – fresh squash biscuits with salsa pebre and guacamole. I could have eaten three of them, the salty spicy fresh and creamy dish calling for me to eat more. More. MORE! But I resisted.
And thankfully I did, because I wouldn’t have had room for Luella who was serving these adorable mini fish tacos. But these were not average fish tacos. But not your average baha fish tacos of deep fried mahi. No, these were ahi tuna tartare with mango salsa. I don’t have to describe the vibrant juicy pop that they make when you put them in your mouth. Think Hawaiian beach, not Mexican beach. You know what I mean. I have been meaning to check out Luella, and now I have even more drive to go…
Barbacco was serving ‘njuda which is a spicy smoked Calabrian salame with marinated artichokes. It’s basically a spreadably salame and came in two different types, regular and one that had pig’s blood mixed in. I, of course, had to try the pig blood one, but quickly decided it was WAY too salty for my taste. AJ agreed. We probably should have tried the other one, but I’m a sucker for trying new things. Tablehopper, however, said it was her favorite.
Finally, next to Barbacco was Paragon, who had some awesome housemade bratwurst with beer mustard sauerkraut. He also was serving it on these adorable hibachi grills which I loved. We had made the rounds, but we decided we needed to end on something lighter, so we headed back to the Hana table, which was serving sashimi and making handrolls for everyone. We had already been there once, but AJ’s philosophy is there’s always room for more sushi – a philosophy he tested out a few years ago, when Yoshi had a booth at the gala – and he got mired there, filling his plate and going back for thirds and fourths, before I could drag him away to try the other appetizers. AJ ended the appetizer section of the event with a spicy ebi handroll (they were out of ahi).
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE!
Yes. More. The Gala isn’t nearly over. There was a silent auction (which we avoided, partly because we were too busy eating, and party because we’ve made the mistake before of bidding on things while slightly buzzed and that’s just not a good combination). There was all the amazing wine that AJ drank (which I didn’t pay that much attention to as I was running around trying to eat as many appetizers as possible). There were the hot bartenders that were making mixed drinks (um. Hello. There’s something just plain sexy about a guy behind the bar making a mixed drink).
And then there’s the three-course meal and the desserts afterwards.
We made our way to our table and met up with our friend Chip and Maria and their friend Ryo, who’s the sushi chef at a small Japanese restaurant called Domo Sushi. AJ and I can’t wait to check it out (it’s over in Hayes Valley, here in SF). Also at the table was the rep for the Verterra – the people who provided the wooden plates that the appetizers were served on. I so loved those plates – not only are the cool looking, they are totally compostable and microwavable (and even kinda oven proof!) I wanted to steal a huge bag of them for my next dessert parties…if I can afford them. I’m going to have to figure out where to get some in bulk on the cheap. Also at the table was the wife of Ravi Kapur (Nancy Oakes’ partner in her new restaurant Prospect), Ravi Kapur’s sister, and Olga Katsnelson, a restaurant PR rep for Prospect, Incanto and a number of other restaurants. What a great table to be at!
Before the dinner started AJ and I decided to sneak into the back of the giant tent under the pretense of “going to the bathroom”. There we were able to see the inner workings of the chefs making the food for the guests and it was AMAZING. The dedication and the insane about amount of talent involved in making all those plates were just astounding. It was like an ocean of gorgeous plates. And apologies in advance for using the term, but the room was basically it’s like a foodie’s paradise back there (side note: I hate the term “foodie” – maybe more than the term “food porn”!).
After swooning and taking tons of photos, we decided to get out of the way of the servers and let them do their thing. We went back to the table and our first course was from Fifth Floor. It was Vegetables – Raw, Cooked, and Compressed. I really liked it, but AJ was less than impressed by the compressed vegetables. It’s a gimmick, sure, but compressing the vegetables is suppose to concentrate the flavor of the vegetable by squeezing the water out of the vegetables. AJ just didn’t really care for the flavor to begin with! I really liked how vivid the flavors were and the way the vegetables were treated seemed to give them almost a vibrant spicey undertone. I think AJ just wanted to get to the meat.
The second course from Slanted Door was braised sustainably farmed abalone with maitake mushrooms. Now I’m biased in that I LOVE abalone, and rarely get it (I don’t know why, but I don’t really see it on menus very often anymore) and so I was very much looking forward to the dish. It didn’t disappoint. The abalone was tender, not chewy or rubbery, and mushrooms added a grounded earthiness to the briny sea flavor. I savored every bite.
During dinner the auctioneer came out and did the live auction. I always love this portion of the evening, as the auctioneer is a consummate professional that entertains and energizes the crowd that normally would be in a food coma. The table cheered on, as the first auction lot, which featured a private dinner party for four at Prospect – hosted by Ravi Kapur (who’s sister and who’s wife was sitting at our table). It value was priced at $1500, but went for over $4000! Never underestimate the generosity of tipsy rich San Franciscans!
Finally our third course was from Murray Circle Restaurant at Cavallo Point. Spiced grass fed beef with avocado mousseline, smoked grape gastrique and hazelnuts. AJ, by far, swooned over this course, and I have to admit it’s was pretty hard to not love the perfectly cooked beef medallion. The smooth avocado moussline and the sweet smoked grape was a great counterbalance to the meaty tender and spicy meat.
And then, more excitement! Our tablemate won the big raffle of the evening! She said she wasn’t even going to enter, but she did at the last minute, and she won a completely paid three year lease for a BMW convertible! It was so exciting! I’ve never sat with someone who has won something that big! We were all super excited and she just sat stunned. Then she immediately whipped out her iPhone and started to text and call everyone she knew! Ha!
From all the excitement and all the food, I could pass out. I wanted to pass out. But I knew that after dinner we had to forge on, force ourselves to confront dessert head on!
And so I ran out for a quick sampler of dessert, and to see what amazing booths were being set up. Funny aside. I took AJ’s Canon 5D Mark II camera, and man the chefs thought I was a professional with that camera! At one point, Taste Catering was setting up their stunning table (it was an Alice in Wonderland themed table) and I started taking a few pictures of them setting up, and one of the guys (he must have been in charge) totally started to yell at all his minions “OUT OF THE WAY! PRESS! PUBLICITY! LET HIM TAKE PHOTOS!”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was just a lowly blogger.
Sneaking back from the dessert area, I had taken a plate of desserts to the table for AJ and I to share. It’s probably a good thing the plates were so small. Had they been bigger, I would have just taken more. Nora’s Patisserie had a dazzling array of delights, which I could only fit a few on my plate (mini carrot cakes, chocolate mousse square and their own mini red velvet cakes, and a mini apple streusel) all of which we kept on declaring “no this one is better!” “No you have to try this!” But then we tried the salted caramel donut from Dynamo Donut + Coffee and a winner was nearly declared. Until AJ tasted the strawberry jam cupcakes and double chocolate cupcakes from Baker and Banker, in which AJ proclaimed the double chocolate cupcake his absolute favorite. I, however reserved judgement for more desserts and fell in love with the cookies and cream cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes from moonbabycakes.
We decided to bid our tablemates goodbye and go and see if we could find more desserts. Because clearly we had not eaten enough food.
Going back to Nora’s Patisseries, we found almond financiers, cocoa nibs meringues, coconut macaroons, marble swirl cookies, éclairs, fruit tartlets, cocoa nib crunch and raspberry cheesecakes all waiting to be eaten. We could barely make our way through them all (I’m sure I’m missing a few of them) and then had a lovely talk with Nora herself (who was super sweet and approachable). I told her about the May’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. I was going to be making in a couple of weeks, and she told me a horror story that I related in the May’s Daring Baker’s Challenge post of making the exact same thing for a client of her’s when she just started out. I was suitably warned as to what to expect when making it! Yay!
Taste Catering had the most over the top table display for their desserts, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. All the signs describing what the sweets were had the label “Eat Me” on them, which I loved! I couldn’t decide what to eat, until one of the people behind the booth, pulled something out of the cooler, and rolled it around in something brightly colored. It was a frozen raspberry pop studded with pop rocks. Total nostalgia with a twist!
Navio at the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay had a bing cherry compote with cherry sabayon which was cool and refreshing, while Jessica Sullivan at Boulevard was serving summer berry brioche pudding as well as chocolate waffles, fresh from the press. Plum, the new Daniel Patterson (Coi) concept was serving lime curd with shiso meringue. Fancy! I have only recently discovered shiso.
Michael Recchiuti had a booth giving out some of his chocolates (though Michael himself wasn’t there). AJ and I had previously run into him at the event years ago, back when he was just starting out. He’s a great guy. We told him that his chocolates inspired us to make our own truffles, and he asked how inquired how we found it. We told him it was harder than it looked and he just smiled. The booth had cherries done two ways, a chocolate covered hazelnut and a butterscotch salted caramel that AJ loved. He ended going back and snagging a few more for the road.
We chatted a little bit with Priscilla over at moonbabycakes (who’s cookies and cream and red velvet I had taken to the dinner table). She was quickly running out of her desserts! She seemed pleased that everyone wanted them, though she said the Meals on Wheels organizers had told her that she just needed to bring enough for 250 people (She brought 400 cupcakes!). It was evident that the crowd couldn’t get enough!
We stalked (ok, I stalked) Elizabeth Falkner from Citizen Cake and Orson, and finally interrupted her long enough to get my photo taken with her. She was serving mochi three ways, sesame citrus, chocolate ginger and coconut chocolate. The mochi was a nice change of pace from the sweet cakes that everyone else was serving, but I probably would have been even more impressed if I recently learned how easy it is to make mochi. Not that her mochi seemed all that easy – it certainly was more sophisticated than my attempt at it!
We wandered by Dynamo Donut + Coffee to check out their other donuts, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to take another donut, even though the vanilla bean one was calling out my name. I walked away, with the echoing voice of the other donuts (apricot cardamom, chocolate spice, passion fruit milk chocolate) all asking me why I wasn’t given them a chance. It was all too much to eat!
Cowgirl Creamery was there serving up their Fromage Blanc and AJ talked to the people behind the booth about how much he loved stopping at their Point Reyes store. We also mentioned that we were loyal customers of their cheese, buying it at Bi-Rite. She was pleased and gave AJ a big smear of cheese. Because, you know, we hadn’t had enough to eat.
Summer Kitchen Bake Shop looked absolute adorable in their 50’s Doris Day party dresses, serving up punch and chocolate chip cookies (the cookies were snatched up so fast, we didn’t even have a chance to taste them).
Humpry Slocombe Ice Cream was serving their fab avant garde flavors as ice cream sandwiches and I had to do a Sophie’s Choice and pick just one (I couldn’t. JUST COULDN’T eat more than one) and ended up going with the Oolong Tea on Ginger Snap (sadly leaving the Peanut Butter Curry behind). I also ended up succumbing to their mini duck fat pecan pie. Totally sophisticated.
Beth’s Babies Cookies was also serving pecan pie, but it wasn’t the fancy “contemporary twist” Humpry Slocombe style pie. Instead it was the old fashioned, chewy, caramel filled pecan pie, so sweet your teeth ached, packed to the gills with pecans, served straight up with a dollop of fresh whipped cream to cut the caramelize goodness. Eating a slice was like sitting on a wrap-around porch in Savannah, with the humid summer breeze cooling your sweat stained cut-off jeans, as you swatted the mosquitos away from you and the fireflies buzzed around the lawn. That is, if I had ever lived in Savannah or actually worn cut-off jeans.
AJ, by the way, says maybe, just maybe, that would be the ONLY acceptable circumstance to wear cut-off jeans. I’d probably agree with him.
Also, full disclosure, AJ mentioned to Beth in passing that I had a food blog, and she later had one of her helpers run after me and give me a pecan pie. A. WHOLE. PIE. I had no idea that food bloggers had such power!
We finished up at the Valrohna/Polite Persuasion table, which were serving a variety of sophisticated desserts, all of which looked fantastic and all of which we really didn’t have room for. We chatted with Derek and Jennifer from Valrhona and I told her that I loved their chocolate and try to bake with when I can afford to. She laughed and thanked me, and then had us try their warm salted butter caramel and caramelized baguette. It was after one sip that AJ exclaimed “If I had a candy factory, THIS is what the river would be made of!” It was like a hot chocolate, but with caramel instead.
I later contacted William Werner at Polite Persuasion to get the recipe, but he said he couldn’t release it yet, as it was developed for an upcoming project of his here in SF. I can’t wait to find out what it is!
With that, we stumbled out of the event. I tried to tasted everything, because I knew that I would be writing about it in this blog, and I just KNOW that my loyal readers (like yourself) would want me to report on every single bite. The sacrifices I make for you guys.
And as we walked, nay rolled, ourselves out of the event, we saw that Kara’s Cupcakes had their van handing out cupcakes to go on the parking lot outside. We took a deep breath, handed our ticket to the valet, and walked over to get a salted chocolate cupcake and a vanilla bean cupcake to go. Because that’s the hard life we live. Cupcakes, black tie events, and valet parking. Another year, another fantastic Meals on Wheels Gala.
Until next year….
Appendix 1. Do you remember at the very beginning of this epic post, where I mentioned that AJ is NOTORIOUS at this event? A couple of years ago, AJ was approached by woman, as he was exiting the restroom and she asked him “Are you AJ?” Turns out that when you google “Meals on Wheels Gala” AJ’s picture is the first one that shows up (though it’s now been bumped down to second)! I had posted about the 2007 event in my former blog and somehow, due to the amazing google algorithms, he is now listed first second in the images! It actually happened at the end of the evening as well, while we were waiting for our car! Someone else recognized him and asked if he was AJ! He’s FAMOUS! All because of my blog! Whoo hoo!
Apparently people were googling images of the event to see what to wear (that’s what the second woman said when she explained how she knew who he was). I LOVE that AJ and the Meals on Wheels Gala is associated with each other! LOVE! IT!
Appendix 2. If you want to see even MORE Meals on Wheels photos, visit AJ’s flickr album on the event here. Just don’t visit it while you are hungry. It’ll only make your stomach growl more.
Appendix 3. The event was a success for Meals on Wheels. They raised a record $1.2 Million dollars! For more information about the San Francisco Meals on Wheels organization, visit their website at http://www.mowsf.org.