The Dallas Chocolate Festival was everything I thought it would be and more. This year marks the 7th year of the festival. They kicked off the festival on Friday night with a first-ever movie night. They screened the documentary Bean to Bar: A Film About Artisan Chocolate and it was an excellent way to segue into the festival. I considered myself having a better-than-average knowledge of chocolate, but this film proved I was a novice. Let’s just say I was schooled. The film takes you on a journey from the pollination of the cocoa flower to the completion of the final chocolate product. Artisan chocolate has a vernacular of its own. I was introduced to new terms such as conching and winnowing but discovered new associations for other terms. One example being fermentation. Did you know that cocoa beans go through a fermentation process? It is truly an amazing process. Chocolate artisans are passionate about what they do. They are chocolate pioneers in a sense forging into a new era of chocolate changing it for the better. They accomplish their goal through better quality chocolate and better quality relationships with the farmers. It was a treat to listen to the Q&A session with the film’s producer, Bob Ridgely, Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate) and Rob Anderson (Fresco Chocolate). Oh yes, I almost forgot. Did I mention all the sweet and savory treats we got to sample before and after the film? What a great night!Bright and early on Saturday morning I headed over to the DCF. I was handed a box for all my goodies, and I opened the door and entered heaven. The room was bustling with over 40 chocolate makers, chocolatiers, candy makers, bakers, and chefs. I took a chocolate tour of the world. I tried it all! I was provided with a chocolate sample checklist. While I meandered about sampling, each vendor would check their name off my list. Very orderly! I love checking off a list…especially if it involves food! Tickets are sold with a scheduled entrance time. This was an ingenious idea. It allowed for staggered entry rather than a mad rush. I never felt rushed nor did I have to wait too long in any one place. I was able to visit with the different artisans and learn more about their particular specialties. While browsing, sampling and chinwagging the mistress of ceremonies, Madame Cocoa, was conducting interviews with the various vendors which were broadcast on a big screen. Nice touch.
Wackym’s Kitchen was there with all of their wonderful flavors.
In addition to all the artisans, DCF held workshops on Saturday. I was able to attend two of them. The first was Unlocking Chocolate’s Many Flavors with Roasting and Conching by Rob Anderson of Fresco Chocolate. Rob explained the differences in roasting and conching and how they affect the depth and flavor of chocolate. We were able to taste and compare chocolates with the same percentage of cacao but roasted or conched for different lengths of time.
The second workshop was Chocolate Coming Attractions with Tessa Halstead (Chocolaterie Tessa), Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate), Ben Rasmussen (Potomac Chocolate), Carla Barboto (Pacari Chocolate) and Pam Eudaric-Amiri (Chocolate Secrets). I learned about the evolution of chocolate and how this craft has evolved and the why they are so passionate about buying from a particular grower with high standards to produce the best chocolate possible.
I left with a box of yummy goodness. This is what made it home…the rest was eaten.
What I learned:
Chocolate melts at a temperature of around 93 degrees. The universe designed it to melt in your mouth.
Chocolate is an appetite suppressant.
Dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.
Chocolate prevents tooth decay.
Chocolate was originally consumed in liquid form, not solid.
White chocolate is not white, and it is not chocolate. It is sweetened cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is what gives chocolate its creaminess. Most non-artisanal chocolate makers use wax.
I love people who love food.
I will NOT miss next year’s festival. Head over to Dallas Chocolate and sign up for the chocolate updates, so you don’t either!
I had the opportunity to attend the kick-off for one of the best food and wine festivals that South has to offer, the Music City Food and Wine Festival. The fourth annual event will be held September 17 and 18 at Bicentennial Park.
Trust me when I say that there is something for everyone. If you are interested in culinary demonstrations, check out the demo tent where Tim Love can give you tips on how to cook the perfect steak or Andrew Zimmern can share his latest food adventures.
If that’s not your scene and you are in the mood to eat and drink, you’re in luck. Not only can you wander around the Grand Tasting area and sample bites from some of Nashville’s best, but there are various tasting sessions throughout the day that include Patron Tequila, Belle Meade Bourbon and the latest craft beers from Blackberry Farm. Take it from someone who’s been to this event over the past few years, wear comfortable clothing, conducive to copious amounts of consuming and imbibing. If you find something that makes your taste buds scream with happiness, tag @girlsonfoodblog and @blonde_voyage_nashville on Instagram so we can make sure we check it out and possibly feature your photo!
One of my favorite events is Harvest Night. Only in Nashville, can you eat fantastic food from some of the best chefs around the country while listening to a live music curated by Kings of Leon. I’ll let you in on a little secret; there are so many “special guests” that get pulled up on stage to perform that you won’t leave disappointed. There’s a reason Nashville is called Music City.
In addition to this year’s incredible Sunday lineup, They have added Pappy Hour to the schedule. This event will feature an exclusive tasting with Preston Van Winkle from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Bourbon lovers, this is one event that you won’t want to miss!
If you are unsure whether your waistline cannot commit to that much eating, you can always opt for a day pass for $150.00, while the serious eaters can get an all-in pass for $500.00. Get your tickets today as this is one event you don’t want to miss!
Here are a few teasers from the kick-off at Bastion. Thanks for hosting us!
When Bajo Sexto and Chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling announced the Del Mercado menu, I was anxiously awaiting my visit. Del Mercado (meaning “from the market”) is an ingredient-driven series of special menus and dishes available during the late summer produce. This menu happened to highlight corn, chilies, and pork – all staples of Mexican cuisine. From what I had heard about Chef Kaelin, I knew this menu would not disappoint.
Chef Kaelin started developing his culinary talent at quite a young age. As soon as he finished high school, he started attending some of his mother’s cooking classes. Foodies, I am sure you have heard of her – Susana Trilling, creator and owner of Seasons of my Heart , located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tradition is something incredibly important to Chef Kaelin and it shines through in this food. It was as if I was in a restaurant in Oaxaca, learning the heritage of the Trilling family.
First, we started with a few quintessential snacks: esquites ahumando (corn dip), pan de maiz (bajo skillet corn bread) and tamales. Usually I can pick a favorite, but all three of these left me craving more. The esquites ahumando consisted of corn that had been brought in from Mexico and smoked for hours, and then cut off the cob and topped with guajillo chili and totopos. What dip would be complete without freshly made tortilla chips? The epitome of juxtaposition. The tanginess and smokiness of the corn combined with the sweetness of the cream and cheese made for quite a perfect bite.
I pride myself on being a true Tennessee girl through and through and I have to say, this was the BEST cornbread I have EVER eaten (please, don’t tell my mom). Most of the time, cornbread has a very dry and mealy consistency – this version could not be more opposite. The pan de maiz consisted of roasted poblano peppers, crispy Tennessee ham, chipotle, and honey butter. Chef Kaelin came over to check on our progress and it was all I could do not to beg him to put this on the regular menu. PERFECTION. The bread was presented in the most darling cast iron skillet dripping with honey butter and topped with the crispiest piece of Tennessee ham. As the honey butter continued to melt, it permeated throughout the entire dish, making each bite swoon-worthy.
The tamales were just as mouthwatering. As I mentioned earlier, the corn is brought in from Mexico and pressed on a daily basis to ensure the freshest tamales. Filled with braised pork and wrapped in traditional corn husks, these did not disappoint. Chef added a side of serrano salsa which provided the perfect “kick” to the overall dish.
Next up: tacos. Who am I kidding – secretly, I wanted more cornbread, but these did not disappoint. Del Mercado offered two tacos: lechon (suckling pig- left) and barbacoa de Puerco (bbq pork shoulder-right). Honestly gang, it would be like choosing between children. They were both delicious. They cooked a 35-pound suckling pig, cut it into pieces and slowly simmered it in lard, Mexican beer, orange and citrus. Come on… could you ask for a better concoction? Chef Kaelin served this goodness on top of a corn tortilla with avocado corn salsa topped with traditional chicarron cracklings. The chicarron added the perfect crunchy texture to this melt in your mouth taco. And my personal favorite, the barbaco de puerco. Again, this meat was melt in your mouth juicy and tender, and was topped with a smoked corn crema and escabeche – the perfect accoutrements for the dish.
Even though my waist line was like, “hold up” I couldn’t stop eating this Mexican deliciousness. Thank goodness I had a Cyclebar class planned bright and early the next morning.
For our final courses, Chef Kaelin presented us with crepas de huitlacoche, lomo de Puerco and Mexican street corn. For anyone who knows me, they know that I am a die-hard truffle fan. When I found out that each of these dishes had huitlacoche, I was thrilled. Huitlacoche is known as the Mexican truffle as it exhibits similar flavor profiles of black truffles. While it was a large portion, the crepas de huitlacoche did not leave you overly full. This was a great vegetarian option filled with beans, corn and topped with the freshest tomato salsa. Truly a delight.
Next up, the lomo de Puerco. I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and this dish was right up there with some of the courses I have had at Tickets or Next. Beautifully placed atop huitlacoche and corn, the pork was covered with braised cherry tomatoes, mint and a smoky tomato salsa. Grabbing a bit of each of these ingredients made for the perfect bite.
To top it off, elotes rubbed with chile, lime and mayo. Chef did an excellent job recreating the corn that you would have when hosting a BBQ at your house, although his tastes MUCH better than mine ever would. He cooks it with the husk on to ensure that the corn stays bright and moist and then peels the husks back adding on the various chile and lime flavors. Again, yet another dish I begged for him to keep on the regular menu – and apparently, I wasn’t the only one. 🙂
Chef Kaelin was an absolute delight. In between courses, I had the chance to pick his brain and see where his personal hot spots were:
Chef Kaelin prepares amazing Mexican food giving us a little taste of his Oaxacan traditions while leaving us wanting more. Nashville, take advantage of this little treasure right off Charlotte Avenue. Del Mercado runs from August 17- September 11 and once it’s gone, it’s gone…. trust me, you don’t want to miss this. I am STILL dreaming about that cornbread!!
I have always been a proud LA Eastsider and a foodie. That’s why I am so excited to be able to attend an event that allows me to celebrate both!
The 3rd Annual EastSide Food Festival will be taking place on Sunday, October 2nd in Silver Lake at Mack Sennett Studios (1215 Bates Ave, LA, CA) from 5 PM – 8 PM (with a happy hour starting at 4 PM). The list of vendors – which is still growing – has some of my local favorites and some who are new to the scene that I’ve been eager to try.
I can personally vouch for Eastside haunts like Sticky Rice, Ohana Poke Co., and Button Mash as purveyors of some delicious culinary treats that take traditional foods and add something special and innovative. And Jeni’s Ice Cream, a recent addition to the Eastside scene by way of Ohio, has flavor combinations that make their ice cream something unique to behold!
The Buttonmash Eggrolls are amazing! I have them in the past and look forward to seeing them again.
Ohana Poke Co. adds those wasabi peas to give an extra punch of flavor!
And although I’m excited to visit some favorites, what I’m especially looking forward to is trying some of the spots I haven’t been able to visit yet. The Starry Kitchen has been on my list for a while, Knuckle and Claw is a vendor I will be checking out, and Homestate, with their Tex-Mex – a hard find in Los Angeles, better watch out, because I’ll be there ready to eat it all!
Please check out their site for pricing and ticket options. I’ll see you there!
What’s cooler than an ice cream cone on a summer’s day? A ton of sweets, treats AND ice cream! Welcome to the Sweetery Toronto, Toronto’s one and only solely confectionary festival. This festival is their second time around and with the help from the City of Toronto, they hosted a FREE festival out on David Pecaut Square located right next to the Roy Thomson Hall.
With over 25 vendors and food trucks, there was more than enough sweets and treats for the day. The event is held over a two-day period, August 20-21, right in the downtown core.
This year they collaborated with the George Brown College’s Chef School. The sweets and treats created by the Post Graduate Pastry program students were part of their final grade and the profits obtained are used to help elevate their costs for their semester learning in France.
We got to sample multiple different treats from coffee based creations to artisan marshmallows, to matcha everything! Cool Beans has a refreshing new take on the cold brew.
Want fancy and unique marshmallows? Well, I LOVE PUFFY LOVE have you covered with these crazy creations; I loved the pina colada paradise!
One of this summer’s craze in Toronto is Matcha everything. Matcha Tea & Desserts provide matcha soft serve that tastes very matcha like and their cake is just so light and match filled!
As a wonderful bonus, we got an opportunity to try some goodies created by Masterchef Canada Season 2 Top 5, Christopher Siu, Masterchef Canada Season 3 Finalist, Ernie Chow, and Masterchef Canada Season 3 Top 4, Veronica Cham. Christopher Siu also sells custom cakes and treats through his company, Daan Go.
Oh, and of course, we cannot forget the simple treats in life, cookies, and pies. The pistachio cookie from Golden Crumb Bakery (along with others) was super soft and delicious!
While the fresh cookie and gelato from Carla’s Cookie Box were perfect during that hot weekend
Now, we cannot forget the tarts and pies from Andrea’s Bakery. The pies had the perfect balance of sweet and flaky.
Once you’ve had your share of sweet treats, guests are welcome to compete in their various activity tents. Guests play to win prizes with their payment for the activity donated to Second Harvest, “the largest food rescue program in Canada.” Not only do guests benefit from the prizes and fun but they are also giving back to the community.
There were a lot more other vendors that I was not able to capture, but this is just the beginning for Sweetery Toronto. Be sure to follow them to stay up to date for their next event in 2017!
I think at this point we have well established my love affair with tacos, but just in case it was unclear, I hit up The San Diego Reader’s Tacotopia at the Del Mar Racetrack this weekend and helped cast my vote for the best taco in San Diego.
This event was executed extremely well, with 40 of San Diego and South Orange County’s best restaurants and food trucks pedaling out their best work to try to win the hearts and the votes of some hungry San Diegans.
I was impressed by the organization this event was handled, it didn’t appear that any of the vendors ever ran out of their goods, the lines stayed relatively short, and there were fun little extras like a taco themed photo booth, chips and salsas provided by Salud!, and lemonade stands for a bit of refreshment on this hot day.
Our first taco came from Bluewater Seafood, it was the day’s overall winner and it was definitely deserving of the title. I had one taco at Bluewater before, and I was impressed then, but this taco was even better and was seriously the perfect start to the day. Bluewater was serving up a spicy shrimp taco with a white sauce, homemade tomatillo, and a homemade mango slaw. This taco was a little too spicy for my guest, but had tons of the delicious white sauce and queso fresco to help balance it out.
Keeping with our fishy theme, we hit up Encinitas Fish Shop who was serving up some innovative smoked salmon tacos. Now, smoked salmon is not really my thing, but this taco was seriously delicious and really impressed me. It was a touch topping/tortilla heavy for the current taco marathon I was running, but the salmon was so flavorful and I enjoyed it.
One of my absolute favorite tacos of the day was this Abeulita’s Chicken Mole Taco from Common Theory Public House. I am mole obsessed and also have a weird love for pickled onions so in my eyes this taco was actual perfection, and it was devoured in about two and a half seconds.
My other favorite, which also snagged my vote for best traditional taco, was the baja fish taco from The Classic Taco. Unfortunately, this truck is based up in Orange County, but luckily I’m a frequent visitor up there! This fish taco was seriously about as good as they get, with a huge serving of perfectly crunchy fish and you could choose from so many salsas. They even hopped out of the truck to help me pick my perfect salsa, the pequin!
Next up for me was Lolita’s, where I got the pollo asado and while this was a pretty standard take on a taco, it was really tasty with a big scoop of guacamole on top, which you will never hear complain.
At this point I’m five tacos deep and only an hour in, and realizing that maybe I should have paced myself just a little bit, but I am not a quitter. Next up I hit up Ah-Jijo for their fish taco. I opted for the spicy chipotle sauce on top as opposed to the tomatillo. This taco was perfectly spicy, and had probably the crunchiest little piece of fish I’ve ever tasted, which was the perfect vessel for lots of toppings.
While my partner attempted to attack his ambitious plate of 3 tacos he’d collected, I decided to take a “break” and go find some chips and salsa, but on my way I was too tempted by Puesto to resist. Puesto is actually located right across from my work, I smell it all day long, and its torture. I’ve been once before and this taco was every bit as good as I remember. Puesto has figured out this genius idea of wrapping their delicious meats inside of a piece of fried cheese. Yes, you heard that right, and yes, it is basically the only way a taco should happen. Even though I knew this taco might come back to bite me later (all that cheese!) it was still more than worth it.
Finally on my way back from my Puesto pit stop, I was able to swing by the Salud! table for their chips and salsa. I was a little bummed they didn’t have a taco at the event, as I’ve heard some amazing things, but these chips were awesome and the salsa was nice and mild.
A while later, I caught my second wind and managed to scoop up one of these fish tacos from Henry’s Pub. Another giant serving of flaky, crispy fish, and more guac!
Lindsey, Courtney, and I trying to pull ourselves together after an all out taco binge.
A while later, after taking a break to place our bets and check out the races, we returned to cast our votes, grabs some sweets, and hit up the Tacotopia photo booth! You can tell how excited I am about this giant rainbow sprinkle cookie (from Sammy’s Mexican Bakery), which was the perfect ending to a perfect day!
This event was so fun for so many reasons, starting with the plethora of delicious taco options and ending with the 311/Matisyahu concert that took place after the races. I will definitely be at the next Tacotopia, shoving more delicious tacos into my mouth, on my never ending hunt for the best in San Diego.
I am a huge Harry Potter fan. My family members are big Harry Potter fans. My cousin, who is getting married this year, is a big Harry Potter fan – so much so that she got her fiancé into Harry Potter as well. Christmas is always so easy – harry potter gifts ideas – done. So naturally, when it came time to throw her a bridal shower, we had to make it Harry Potter themed! However, there’s a fine line between making it kiddish and/or Halloween-ish, so we needed to age and class up Harry Potter. That was an interesting task. After weeks of internet research, e-mail chains, and WhatsApp chats, we somehow got it all together! If you are a fan of Harry Potter but don’t have a bridal party to plan, then you might be interested in checking out something like this Harry Potter Airbnb. This could be a nice way to spend your weekend if you want to get away for a bit. However, if you do have a bridal party to plan for then keep on reading.
The bride mentioned that she wanted long tables – like those rustic, communal long tables where everyone sits and has a meal. She also wanted it outside. While their backyard would’ve made an amazing Forbidden Forest, we out here in 100+ degree Fresno heat, so no one was about to do to that (heh). Instead, we brought the tables inside to recreate a smaller Great Hall and had four total – one for each house! Most of the things we purchased – either on sale at Michael’s or at the dollar store – but the tables, chairs, napkins, and water goblets were rented.
The chocolate frogs resting on top of each table setting were completely homemade! These were part of our favors for our guests. My sister and I (she did a lot of the work to be honest) configured a template for our Cricut, which cut them all out, but then we had to sit there and fold every single box (as did the rest of the planning squad). So many little tabs to glue and tape in! I found a template for a chocolate frog card that matched the ones you can buy at the park, and inserted the bride onto it. I also wrote a fun little bio on the back, which combined attributes of her favorite characters! For the actual frog, I simply purchased a frog mold from Amazon, bought Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Milk Chocolate, melted them down into the mold and cooled them. It’s so simple to make – and they tasted incredible.
Onto everyone’s favorite part: the food. We divided the Great Hall into two separate sections. You saw the first part, with the Great Hall tables. This is the actual Great Hall feast, which greeted our guests right when they entered! The dining room had a ton of space for our plentiful spread and a great chandelier, too. The “Muggle to Mrs.” burlap banner was purchased on Etsy.
Since it was lunch time, we wanted to keep our food light and easy for our guests. Most of our food was homemade, with the exception of the salads (though that awesome kale salad was a mix we had to put together!). We had deviled “dragon” eggs, and two types of tea sandwiches (cucumber/mint and chicken salad). Each of our menu items had a fun Harry Potter related name too – such as Severus Snape’s Shepherd’s Pie!
What’s British food without shepherd’s pie? We had to class it up, of course. One of our friends made a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with the biscuit, the filling, and sauce one on top of the other. Oh, and rosemary for garnish, because we’re just fancy like that.
The hand pies – better known as Cornish Pasties in the U.K. – were my specialty. After we all had them at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, we knew we had to serve them at the bridal shower. We made a mushroom-spinach-feta one for our vegetarian guests and a jerk chicken flavor. Pasties are incredibly easy – all you need it pie dough, cut them into circles, fill them with your ingredients of choice, and bake them! The possibility are endless – both sweet and savory. Our drinks (besides Gillywater, a.k.a. regular, refreshing H2O) were Amortentia (pink lemonade) and – you guessed it – Butterbeer! I have made other recipes in the past, but the foam still was not to my liking after having multiple drinks at the parks. I think our mix of heavy cream and marshmallow cream on top of good quality cream soda was the best imitation yet! Our guests could choose whichever they liked and sip on them in mason jars with little house flags.
I know, you were wondering where the dessert was. Don’t worry, I gotchu. We all enjoy sweets (probably the bride’s fiancé the most – but he was, unfortunately, not in attendance), and our bride liked the idea of a dessert bar instead of a cake. And so, we fulfilled that request. We set up our Honeydukes in the breakfast nook of the kitchen, conveniently located next to the Great Hall tables. There was something for everyone – from cupcakes to cookies to butterscotch pudding!
These gorgeous cookies deserved a picture on their own! Fresno bake, Gracie Bakes, did a brilliant job of executing our requests. After perusing through everyone’s party planner, Pinterest, we simply had too many ideas for cookies! The top were Weasley sweaters, with the bride and groom’s first initials, respectively. They’re both Ravenclaws, so they should’ve been blue, but I guess the purple and gold works alright since they’re from Southern California, heh. We also wanted the sorting hat and broomsticks, which were so cute! The bottom left cookies said “She’s Found a Catch” and “He’s Found a Keeper,” which are Quidditch related! And then there are Amortentia love potions next to it. They were honestly too cute to eat. Even if I did take one of each, later on. >:)
You didn’t think I forgot about the cupcakes, did you? They deserved a giant picture on their own, too. Fresno baker Bell Kitchen did an AMAZING job on these! We requested house scarves, house crests,and Platform 9 ¾ signs. She totally delivered. And to my surprise, there were several different flavors! There was vanilla funfetti, red velvet, chocolate, and lemon raspberry. Each of them had a delicious filling as well. Again, these were so pretty that it was almost difficult to eat. Almost. They were amazingly delicious.
One of our games was for guests to try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and guess the flavor. Well, I purchased the beans, so I got a little mean and made almost all of them the ugly flavors! There was earwax, dirt, Tobasco, and rotten egg, among the flavors. When I was explaining to the employees at the Bertie Bott’s store in Gilroy what our plan was, they got a kick out of it. It was priceless watching everyone’s disgusted reactions and the answers afterwards!
Is it even a party without a photobooth? We had a simple background with glasses, snitches, and thunderbolts. We purchased a set of photobooth props from Etsy that were bridal shower and Harry potter themed. But, I also had a bunch of Harry Potter stuff lying around my house, so we had real wands, scarves, and glasses that our guests could wear. I also brought Ron’s Weasley sweater that was incorporated into our decor.
Overall, our guests had a brilliant time at the shower! From the decor to the food to our party games, everyone was in awe of the attention of detail. Most of all, our bride to be was in love with the bridal shower! She couldn’t get enough of all of the decor and our favors. 🙂 I think we can call this a success! Mischief managed, indeed.
I am way too excited to be attending the 7th Annual GLIDE Legacy Gala at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom this Saturday, August 13. Each year, GLIDE brings together Bay Area young professionals and philanthropists to celebrate the year’s most accomplished entrepreneurs.
GLIDE, a non-profit org located in SF’s Tenderloin, works to serve the homeless, low-income, and disenfranchised by providing helpful programs such as free meals, HIV/Hep C testing and counseling, assisted living, domestic violence counseling and abatement, substance abuse recovery, and even childcare and youth educational programs.
This year, GLIDE recognizes three unique individuals who’ve contributed to breaking social marginalization barriers throughout our Bay Area community.
Van Jones is the President and Co-Founder of Dream Corps, which promotes initiatives that “close prison doors and open doors of opportunity.” Current initiatives include #cut50, decreasing the current prison population; #YesWeCode, assisting under-privileged men and women in finding work in the tech industry; and #GreenForAll, which works to take money from the big market polluters and put it into the hands of those who need it most.
Sarah Shourd is an author and prison rights advocate. After being held in solitary confinement for 410 days in 2009 – 2010 under the Iranian government, she now writes, speaks, and advocates against the use of prolonged solitary confinement in the U.S. You can read her story in The Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran.
Felicia Horowitz, the 2016 Janice Mirikitani Legacy Award recipient, is a human rights advocate dedicated to LGBTQ rights, food justice, harm reduction, and violence prevention. She’s worked with marginalized communities all over the world and seeks to unite people through tech, community, and culture.
But ‘Why So Serious…?’
Yes, these philanthropists may be working to cure very serious social justice issues, but remember this is a celebration of their achievements thus far and encouragement for future movements. The event will also feature live music, DJs, and dancing.
And luckily for foodies like me, there’s a whole host of local vendors to provide tasty treats and winning drinks:
Want to hang out with some of the Bay Area’s most innovative minds and hearts? There are still tickets available for both general admission and VIP access until August 13.
Can’t make it to the event, but want to contribute to a good cause? The GLIDE Legacy Committee will host an online fundraiser. Visit ebay.com/glidesf to bid on music, food, travel, sports, and lifestyle experiences.
Toronto is in full festival swing! As you probably know, Canada spends majority of the year in the Winter season. So when Summer comes around the food festivals come out shining! Majority of these festivals are savoury based but here comes a sweet take on things! The 2nd Annual Sweetery Toronto Food Festival, 8/20-8/21 is taking place at the David Pecaut Square and it a FREE EVENT!
Sweetery Toronto is the first of its kind in the city, offering guests a chance to explore the confectionery world that Toronto has to offer. Not only will there be various food vendors and there will be activities where guests are given the opportunity to test their skills. The small donations that guests give for the activities will benefit Second Harvest, “the largest food rescue program in Canada.” Sweetery Toronto also benefits George Brown College Post Graduate Pastry program by allowing its students this opportunity to showcase their own French pastry creation for their final evaluation.
There is a list of vendors that I am excited to check out and there will lots more of surprises! This is a FREE EVENT so definitely take some time out of your weekend to enjoy the downtown core, sunshine and lots and lots of sweet treats! See you there!
Follow Sweetery Food Festival to stay up to date with the latest news!
I know everyone always claims their hometown food is the best — but when you live where fresh bay water meets sea salt and sand, it’s hard to deny that San Francisco is where it’s at when it comes to fresh produce. Now add the fact that some of our country’s most innovative chefs set up shop all along the peninsula, and us San Fran kids really have something to be proud of. So this year, I’m joining the crowd to celebrate the best of the Bay’s homegrown food, world-class chefs, restaurants, somms, mixologists — and all things to eat and drink in SF — at Eat Drink SF 2016.
About the Eat Drink SF
Each year, Eat Drink SF invites foodies, wine-nerds, culinary enthusiasts, and just plain hungry and thirsty people to meet and greet with top local chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers. The three-day event, running from Thursday, August 26 – 28, will include over 160 restaurants participants who will provide tasty treats, cooking demonstrations, and more.
Those looking for a little more to munch on will certainly be able to find it. Participating restaurants include:
1300 on Fillmore, Alembic, Brasserie S&P, Cafe Claude, Cathead’s BBQ, Chiaroscuro, Cross Hatch Eatery, Delfina Pizzeria, Dragon Beaux, E&O Kitchen and Bar, Gaspar Brasserie, Gitane, Hog & Rocks, Humphry Slocombe, Huxley, Konjoe, Lemonade, Luce, Michael Mina, Precita Park Cafe, Roka Akor, Souvla, Spaghetti Bros., SPIN San Francisco, Terzo, The Keystone, The Market, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Tratto, Zero Zero
If you’re interested in learning a few kitchen tips and tricks, you’re certainly going to want to check out the Main Stage where lectures, demonstrations, and Q&A with industry experts will be featured all day. Check out the Events Page for details.
And let’s not forget about us drink enthusiasts! This year, Eat Drink SF will feature over 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries who will provide the events drinks as well as host tastings and seminars. Featured beverages will include:
Bass Note Sangria, Beaujolais Wines, Bodega Norton, Buena Vista Cafe, Ca’ Momi Winery, Carpano Antica Formula, Chateau Gassier, Concannon Vineyard, Fernet Branca, FloWater, Joel Gott Winery, Kikori Whiskey, Korbel California Champagne, Junipero Gin, Mr. Espresso, Provenance Vineyards, Pure Leaf Iced Tea: Tea House Collection, Purity Organics, Robert Mondavi Winery, SIMI Winery, Singani 63, Sipsmith Independent Spirits, San Francisco Brewers Guild, S. PELLEGRINO® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Spirit Works Distillery, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre,Templeton Rye, Teeling Whiskey, The Glenlivet, The Hess Collection, Torres Brandy, Trinchero Napa Valley, Trumer Pils, Tullamore D.E.W, Wente Vineyards, Woodford Reserve, Zaya Rum, and Zodiac Vodka.
And just like the culinary kids, pros in the beverage industry will be hosting several educational seminars throughout the day as well in the San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom. I’m personally excited for Saturday’s Chardonnay: Burgundy, Butter & Beyond with Chris Gaither, AS.
Oh, but I do hope the SF Wine School brings more cute tattoos…
Hungry for more? Tickets are still available on the Eat Drink SF website. And whether you’re there for just one day or the whole weekend, I guarantee you won’t go thirsty or hungry.
Love learning about food and wine pairings? Then you may want to become the newest member of the Tasters Guild International — a nationwide society of foodies/wine lovers who gather together with their local chapters to geek out on all things culinary.
While wine tasting at this year’s SF Pinot Days, I was lucky enough to meet John Engstrom and Jim Lipman of California’s only living Tasters Guild chapter, the Diablo Tasters Guild located in the San Francisco East Bay Area. They were kind enough to invite me to one of their monthly get-togethers where they sync a local restaurant’s venue and cuisine with a California winery. This month the Guild featured food with an Italian flare from Buon Appetito in Fremont alongside some Spanish-inspired wine from Bodegas Paso Robles.
For those who have never attended a food and wine pairing event, it can be a bit overwhelming. Especially when the hosting winery provides not one, but two glasses per course. It can be a lot to take in — both physically and mentally — luckily we had the expert guidance of Heather Gray, General Manager of Bodegas Paso Robles.
About Bodegas Paso Robles
Bodegas Paso Robles is the only California winery that focuses on winemaking utilizing grapes native to Spain and Portugal specifically. The grapes are acquired from several vineyards along the Paso Robles AVA in San Luis Obispo County and include exotic varietals such as Malvasia, Monastrell, and Trousseau as well as more familiar names such as Tempranillo, Albariño, and Garnacha (or Grenache).
Before each course, Heather would stand and talk a little bit about each wine and how and why she felt they would pair well with the accompanying meal. Of course, the fun part is taste-testing ourselves and discussing our experiences and preferences.
Course 1: Carpaccio di Salmone Affumicato (Thinly sliced smoked salmon, topped with fresh Arugula, red onions, and capers)
This was a beautifully cured salmon that came alive with the addition of the fresh vegetables and a creamy mustard-based aioli on top.
However, the dominant flavor in this dish was salt since, as you can see from the photo, the salmon was the star of that plate. One could argue that the dish was too salty, but that’s only the case if eaten alone. Pair this course with either of the two white wines from Bodegas Paso Robles, and you’ll experience an entirely different — more balanced — flavor profile.
The 2015 Galicia is made from 100% Albariño grapes. It’s quite a pale yellow in the glass and emits an intense floral aroma. On the palate, it’s quite dry and a bit spicy — there’s a hint of effervescence that tingles the tongue from start to finish. It’s this quality in the wine that helped cut through the saltiness of the meal as a whole and brought out the meatiness — the umami — of the salmon.
The 2014 Doña Blanca is a 50-50 blend of Garnacha Blanca (more commonly, Grenache Blanc) and Malvasia Blanca (often likened to a Muscat). In the glass, this white wine had a much bolder yellow color, releasing even stronger floral aromas alongside fruits such as apples or pears. To smell it, you’d think the wine would be a sweet one, but it’s not at all. There’s just enough acidity to cut through those perfumey aromas, yet the texture is quite smooth — almost oily — on the palate. That calm and creamy texture, again, helped to bring out the savory flavors along with the natural oils in the salmon, while the floral aromas brought forth the herbaceous qualities from the fresh vegetables. Personally, this wine allowed for the most variety and balance of flavor on my palate, and the one I would recommend to pair with this or any similar dish.
Course 2: Penne al Pomodoro Naturale (Tube pasta with light marinara sauce, fresh chopped tomatoes, basil & garlic).
In all honesty, this dish is very much like something I make at home all the time. It’s penne pasta cooked just over al dente with your basic marinara sauce. No muss no fuss and certainly not fancy. But that’s perfect for an event like this — since the wines are so unique, it’s a great idea to pair them with familiar foods, giving us a chance to explore these Spanish varietals even further (as well as get ideas for pairing wine at home).
The 2010 Garnacha, made from 100% Garanache grapes was a beautiful ruby red in the glass. On the nose, the wine emits intense aromas of green, grassy herbs (I’m thinking dillweed here) and the taste was just as herbalicious. Bodegas Paso Robles uses a combination of Hungarian, American, and new French oak when barrel aging their wines. This particular wine spent 18 months barrel aging, and all I can say is that was just the right amount of time. The wine is oaked enough to create that smooth, round mouthfeel without the overbearing flavor profile of oak — the herbs and bright fruits get to sing.
And what did this do for that run-of-the-mill everyday pasta? Well, it certainly brought out the herbs in the marinara sauce, elevating what could be a mid-week meal into something a bit more special.
The 2010 Vaca Roja, a combination of Garanacha and Monastrell (commonly known as Mourvedre) was significantly darker in the glass than the 100% Garanache. The addition of that Monastrell gave the wine not only a darker hue but a darker aroma and taste as well. On the nose, the 2010 Vaca Roja smelled predominantly of black cherries, deep red grapes, and ripe plums. On the palate, the flavors are even more complex bringing in hints of licorice, spice, and a little smoke along with those fruit flavors.
This wine was pure yum, but did it pair with the dish? Yes and no. What it did was give the pasta a bit of body that it didn’t have before. That lead me to believe that this wine would pair even better had the pasta had a bit of meat in it (such as pasta bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs, or Pasta Pomodoro with a healthy helping of hearty mushrooms).
Course 3: Risotto con Agnello e Funghi (Italian Arborio rice with roasted lamb, mushrooms, grilled fennel, red wine and Parmesan cheese)
I loved that the risotto was the perfectly cooked, completely immersed in parmesan cheese and the beautifully meaty mushrooms mixed in with every mouthful. For those elements alone I would say try this dish, specifically with the next wine pairing.
The Viva Tu Tempranillo, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes and aged in 70% new French oak is my top wine pick from the whole event. Visually, the Viva Tu is a gorgeous dark purple-red in the glass. Initial aromas included black cherries and sweet plums along with some savory scents of black olives and deep forest greenery. On the palate, the wine is so smooth, and those initial fruit and vegetable flavors give way to an almost nutty or caramel-like note. The finish is a long lingering one with just enough tannins to give the wine body and depth.
The calming smoothness of the wine paired beautifully with those mushrooms and the creamy texture of the risotto, while the aromas of the deep forest wildlife pulled out the herbs and fennel that had been hiding deep within the dish.
This is a wine I would happily drink again and again, recommend to a friend, and experiment with different food pairings.
The 2009 Solea is a traditional Rioja blend consisting of 86% Tempranillo and 14% Graciano (a native Spanish grape, high in acid, used predominantly for blending purposes). This blend gave off quite a dark aroma — think raisins, prunes, dried cherries — and there was a definite kick of acidity even on the nose. On the palate, the 2009 Solea is quite dry with flavors including anise, fennel, with a bit of a damp, earthy funk. But just as the tasting concludes, there’s that kick of acid that adds a bit of spice, tickling the tongue well into the aftertaste.
Was this the perfect pairing for the lamb risotto? In theory yes. This wine would best be paired with a meaty stew-like dish. But make sure that your protein — whether lamb, goat, or beef — is packed full of flavor and its natural juices.
Not too much of an explanation needed here. We simply had three different cheese to taste alongside two of the most complex wines of the evening.
Forget the looks; the 2010 Pimentiero is all about its aroma — it smells like you’re walking through someone’s vegetable garden. The strong scents of capsicum and jalepeño peppers are overwhelming — it’s no wonder this wine’s name translates to “pepper pot.” But despite those spicy aromas, the 2010 Pimentiero is surprisingly refreshing. Soft fruits such as cherries and plums are pleasant on the palate, while the acid and tannins are both artistically restrained, allowing for a long, thirst-quenching finish.
It’s interesting how the different cheese brought out different components in the wine. While the soft Manchego cheese brought out the fruit flavors of the Pimentiero, the dry Ricotta revealed a smokiness in the wine, and the hard Parmesan showcased brightness and acidity.
The 2011 Trousseau, made from 100% Trousseau (one of the rarest grapes in the country) has the best aroma of the wines from the event. It was like sniffing one of the finest cigars — fruit meet flowers, flowers meet peppers, peppers meet leather — and they all mingle in this truly unique wine.
Paired with the Manchego, the Trousseau brought out a little extra “stank” we all love a good cheese. The farm-like funk was even more prominent when tasting the Ricotta along with the Trousseau, while the wine brought out the softer, nuttier notes of the hard Parmesan.
Course 5: Souffle al Cioccolato (Chocolate soufflé with crème)
This is the money shot right here.
I’m not going to lie folks — as much of a chocoholic that I claim to be, I’ve never had a chocolate soufflé before, so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I broke into my dessert, and an incredible avalanche of fudge came pouring forth.
The cake, in contrast, was light and fluffy, with a crisp, almost cookie-like outer crust. Amazing. I want to try to make this at home…
I must also admit, as much as I love a good chocolate, I’m not a huge dessert person because I’m highly sensitive to sweets — as in things that are simply sweet are often too sweet for me. This goes double for dessert wines — I’m not a fan of sweet wines almost at all. But I do believe I found my exception to my rule. I think one of my problems was that I’d never had the perfect dessert pairing. Well, it lives — in this dish and this wine.
The 2013 Dulce Dama, made from Tempranillo and fortified brandy (in true Port-style) honestly surprised me. Yes, the initial taste is classic dessert — cocoa, figs, chocolate syrup. But if you let it sit in your mouth for a second, suddenly that flavor melts away, and these beautiful deep fruits come forward — cherries, blueberries, blackberries. Let that settle on the tongue and then the acidity kicks in, ultimately balancing sweet with savory and a bit of sour.
This paired perfectly with the chocolate soufflé. It’s almost like the sweetness of the dessert, and the sweetness of the wine canceled each other out allowing for the bright fruit flavors and the acidity to cut through all of that richness. I would certainly recommend this specific pairing — this wine needs this dessert as much as this dessert needs this wine. This course was by far the best pair of the evening.
Hungry for More?
Of course, this was a study of one dinner and one winery. There’s so much more to learn in the world of food and wine pairing — that must be why the Diablo Tasters taste every month. And with the intimate setting and knowledgeable hosts, guests are guaranteed to learn something at every sitting.
For more information about Diablos Tasters Guild, including how to get on the guest list or how to start your local chapter, contact either Jim or John on the Diablo Tasters Guild website.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Stacy on Wine without a silly Stacy selfie.
There’s this little corner of San Francisco, off of the 101, that’s a bunch of warehouses. I’ve been here to scout for used sports gear, to stop by the flea market, and of course to visit the fishmonger. I didn’t realize there were wineries here…
There are quite a few. In fact, when I came to this part of town to visit Tim and Melissa of Betwixt Wine — who I met during the 2016 Pinot Days — I was surprised to learn they share their little space with several other small, independent wineries (such as August West) as well.
And at this stage of their operation, having only officially been in the winemaking business since 2012, this suits them just fine. It’s an intimate space where they network and swap ideas and inspiration with others in the industry.
About Betwixt Winemaking
Tim Telli, owner and winemaker of Betwixt Wine, gets his grapes from various small lot vineyards along the Northern California coast. He says he lets the grape-growers do what they do best (grow the grapes) because his passion is in the winemaking process — all of which takes place in his downtown SF winery.
Tim’s focus is on, what he calls, “minimalist winemaking,” meaning he takes a hands-off approach when it comes to production. He first puts the grapes through “cold soaking” or “cold maceration” pre-fermentation, which is a natural way to extract color and flavor from grape skins without excess tannins.
The wine then goes through a gentle pressing process and left in the barrels to ferment until ready to bottle.
The barrel-aging process is an aspect of winemaking that may not be given a lot of thought by the daily consumer. Sure, we may know what it will mean for our palate if a bottle says the wine’s spent time in an oak barrel — we expect a particular scent, flavor, and mouthfeel. But those aromas, tastes, and textures — at least in the case of Tim and Betwixt Wines — is carefully crafted by the winemaker.
While visiting Tim and his wife Melissa, I had the opportunity to try their 2015 Pinot Noir — in its separate components. We first had the wine from an aged oak barrel which, because of its age, emits very little “oaky-ness.” This Pinot Noir was quite clear, fruit forward (both on the nose and on the palate), and had a sharp acidic bite to it.
We then tasted the Pinot from the new oak
barrel. Visually, the wine is a much firmer red color; Aromatically, the wine emits a strong scent of fresh cedar or pine wood. The taste was the biggest difference: the mouthfeel was overall softer, rounder, the fruit flavors substantially more mellow, and there was a distinct lack of acidity in comparison to the old barrel batch.
Lastly, we drank from the batch of pressed Pinot Noir. This means, after all, the free-flowing juice from the grapes has been separated, and only the stems and skins are left, Tim gently presses on those remains to squeeze out any residual liquid. As you can imagine, this is where the tannins will come into the final product. I’ve never tasted just the pressed juices of wine before. Although it makes sense logically, I was surprised by how light and cloudy the glass was, and how strong the aroma of “bush” and “weeds” was. On the palate, of course, this was quite dry and tasted very little of fruit.
In its separate parts, we could all taste the potential the 2015 Pinot Noir has. And that’s part of the joy for Tim and Melissa — taste testing and experimenting until a perfect balance is achieved. Once they’ve figured out the right ratio of old oak to new oak to tannin, they can bottle wine they’re happy to drink themselves and, of course, share with others.
Let the blending trials begin!
The Wine: Current Releases
So what about the wine that’s bottled and ready to drink now? Yes, there’s plenty of those. For me, the most notable is their 2014 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. It truly exemplifies what Betwixt Wine is all about — a hands-off, natural approach to the growth and fermentation process and their artistic endeavor for the ideal balance of flavor. You can taste the grape from the ground up — the earth the vine was grafted in, the juice of the perfectly plump fruit, and just a hint of the salt sea air from that Santa Cruz coastline. You can taste the love in the wine — the time it took to ferment the grapes just the right amount; the decision to add a certain percentage of new oak barrel aged wine; the attention to detail regarding the right amount of tannins to balance the overall taste and texture. Like a chef plating a well-rounded and balanced dish so is this Pinot Noir.
On the heels of a successful 2013 Grenache from Boer Vineyard, Chalone, Monterey (just recently picked up by the prestigious Frances restaurant in San Francisco), is Betwixt’s 2014 vintage from the same vineyard. This is another great example of Tim’s ability to utilize the best of small lot vineyards and create something truly unique. While many Grenache’s can be heavy and overbearing, Tim’s take on this varietal is quite light and lively, showcasing the ripeness of the fruit alongside the natural minerality of the vineyard’s terrior. This Grenache is quite young but is packed full of flavor — easily enjoyable now yet has the potential to age beautifully for the next several years. I couldn’t help but take a bottle home to share with my family, and write up this glowing review.
Here’s hoping Tim takes Melissa and mine’s advice and enters this wine for an official review.
Betwixt Wines current line-up includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache, as well as a limited release White Wine Blend. Current releases are available for purchase through their site.
To learn more about Tim, Melissa, and Betwixt Wines, please visit their website. If you’d like to taste their wines in person, they’ll be pouring at SF’s Fig & Thistle on July 26, 2016, from 6:30 until 8 pm (See their events page for details).