Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival: The Greatest Food Blogger Event in the History of the World.

I'll say right up front that this is the only food blogger festival I've ever attended, but I can't imagine there has ever been anything to match this weekend's level of fantastic food, extraordinary drink, and amazingly diverse group of attendees.

When smart, creative, fun people plan an event, it should come as no surprise that the event ends up being smart, creative, and fun. That was certainly the case this weekend as I attended the First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival.

It was a smashing success on every level. Super delicious food, thought-provoking seminars and demos, and best of all, a chance to meet and mingle with the fine
st food bloggers in the country.

They were all there; from fast-growing newcomers to food blogger royalty like Jaden from Steamy Kitchen, Pim from Chez Pim, and Elise from Simple Recipes (it was Elise's blog that first gave me the notion that blogging professionally could be a reality).

It was a glorious weekend of eating food, while talking about food, while talking pictures of food – for a food blogger, that's the ultimate experience. That, and getting a link on one of the aforementioned blogs.

The following recap is woefully incomplete. I made a conscience effort to stay in the moment and enjoy the food and people without being consumed with trying to get every shot and record every bite. Besides, with hundreds of the greatest food bloggers attending, I knew I could just link to their recaps later!

What follows is a collection of highlights and pictures from a weekend I will never forget. Thank you Foodbuzz!

The festivities began on the 8th floor terrace of the Hotel Vitale. The views were incredible, as were the cocktails provided by Skyy Spirits. Bloggers from all over the country greeted each other, sharing similar tales of crazy commenters, blogroll slights, and annoyed spouses. Joie De Vivre chefs Nick Balla and Michelle Mah provided plenty of tasty tidbits, including a spicy bacon-laced mac and cheese that had the crowd buzzing.

Then we all walked across the Embarcadero to the beautiful Ferry Building for a S.F. Street Food Fare. We were greeted by plates of Chicharrónes (crispy puffed pork skin fries). This one was expertly passed around by Kiersten from Foodbuzz, and one of the festivals driving forces. I've never been to a party where Chicharrónes were passed around that didn't turn out to be a great time, and this was no exception! (photo from Joel at Six By 10 Tiny Kitchen)

Street food is huge in the City these days and some of our finest practitioners were there, including; Tacolicious, Spencer on the Go, 4505 Meats, and my favorite Roli Roti’s Porchetta. The porchetta sandwich you see here is simpy one of the most delicious things in the entire city. Succulent pork, crispy skin, caramelized onions, tiny peppercress – it is a masterpiece of culinary engineering. (Photo from Jo Boston at Taking Over the World One Bite at a Time)

The next set of photos is from the Saturday Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon's City View. Over 40 participating food producers, wineries, chefs, and bakers, shared their offerings to throngs of camera wielding food bloggers. It was a blast meeting and re-meeting bloggers here from all over – trading likes and dislikes, business cards, and many laughs.

This marinated squid and scallop dish from Fuego at the Maya was every bit as delicious as it was beautiful.

Bertolli was a major sponsor of the Foodbuzz Festival, and this simple crostini was one of my favorite bites. Caramelized onions, pinenuts, gorgonzola, and one of their prepared sauces made for a simple, but very satisfying snack. Using prepared sauces as a base for quick appetizers like this is a great trick for holiday entertaining.

Rouge Beer was sampling something called Morimoto Soba Ale. I didn't know the taciturn Iron Chef was so into beer, but it makes sense, to me there's nothing better with simple, clean Japaneses food than a tall, cold beer. I didn't get an exact translation, but I believe the characters on the bottle read, "It's always Beer-thirty somewhere."

Pranther Ranch Meats were serving these perfectly portioned hot dogs. With all the "fancy" food we had over the course of the weekend, it was great biting into a reminder of what my inner-most foodie always craves. And look at those mustard racing stripes! Perfect.

I didn't have one of these beautiful mini cupcakes, but the way the cloudless blue sky was reflecting off the white tray made me feel happy. Mini cupcakes are huge.

I also attended a fun wine tasting seminar by Alder Yarrow, celebrity wine blogger and proprietor of Vinography.Com. It was called "Underappreciated California Merlots." Alder started the class by saying, "We're here today because of a comment some asshole made in a movie called Sideways." We tasted four great Merlots, and the take-away was it's now safe to buy and serve Merlots again.

After a 10-mile run and a brief nap (only one of those is true - guess which), it was off to the Foodbuzz Farm-to-Table Dinner & Blog Awards. We enjoyed an incredible dinner by Outstanding in the Field, which was served family style on one long table that snaked around and through the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse. The feast was prepared by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu and featured an amazing array of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.

There was a passed amuse bouche of Ahi tonnato on buttery toasts, garnished with gochukaru and parsley. Speaking of gochukaru, for the rest of this post you are going to see lots of strange sounding ingredients listed. Feel free to google them, I'm getting ready to head up to Sonoma for a press trip and just don't have time to research them. All I know is they were GREAT. It was a very memorable meal to say the least.

There were wooden plates of marinated vegetables on all the tables. Beans, greens, roots, shoots, and my new favorite thing, kim chi. Every meal should start out this way. The cold, tangy crunch of the quickly pickled vegetables revived our weary tastebuds like a charm. I was now ready for the magic to come.

Next was a super-light mushroom dashi. The clear soup a perfect vehicle for the earthy array of maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms.

Next came an Udon noodle (is that redundant?) topped with grilled Monterey calamari with a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisée, yellow pear tomatoes, chojang and sesame vinaigrette. It was spicy, but not so much as to cover the staggering layers of flavors these ingredients produced.

This was one of the weekend's highlights for me, and brought about a sadness that came from knowing I could never make this myself. The chef had told me earlier that the squid was grilled over imported Japanese white oak. Where the hell am I going to get Japanese white oak?

We enjoyed refreshing seltzer water from these cool blue bottles. Take that regular water!

My buddy Jesse from Beer and Nosh (who won Best Beer Blog!) smuggled in a few bottles of home brewed beer which he shared with the table. It was fantastically funky and a great treat. Next year he needs to sneak in some beer mugs, these wine glasses were just too dainty for the muscular brew.

People kept saying how awesome the salmon was, but it was actually sea trout. It was cooked very rare on dashikombu and topped with fried garlic and Japanese curry powder. It was phenomenal! I could have eaten a pound of this with very little effort.

The sea trout was served with a creamy risotto made with koshihikari rice and topped with crispy maitake mushrooms. Wow. In a perfect world, crispy maitake mushrooms would replace popcorn as the snack of choice for watching movies. Can someone work on that?

Wines for the dinner were provided by Randall Grahm of Boony Doon, a very legendary California winemaker. If you want to read a very intersting story, google "Le Cigare Volant" and read the history of how this wine got its name. These wines were a close encounter of the best kind! (that last line only makes sense if you know the story)

I have no shots of the last course, which was a soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails served with baby carrots (you can see the carrots below) and fingerling potatoes. It was incredible, but the roasted brussels sprouts with ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, and bonito fakes stole the show. They were perfect. By the way, as soon as my fellow blogger start uploading photos I'll snag one to place here, so you can see the whole course.

UPDATE: Thanks to Brooke at Foodwoolf, we now have photographic evidence of the aforementioned beef cheeks and oxtails course! Thanks Brooke!

The dessert was Koshihikari rice pudding with cookie crumble and warren pears. Unfortunately, I didn't have any as the nominees for the First-Annual Foodbuzz Blog Awards were asked to approach the stage for the moment of truth. The collection of food blogging talent was staggering, and I realized just how special it was to be among the nominees.

When Director of Community & Managing Editor Ryan Stern and co-Mistress of Ceremonies, Jenn Di Piazza of The Leftover Queen, announced I had won the Award for Best Video Blog, I made my way to the stage with one simple goal. Do not fall down. Mission accomplished!!

The weekend ended Sunday morning with a sunny brunch with Nature's Pride Bread at Restaurant LuLu. The gathering included a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and not surprisingly no usable photos were taken. It was sad saying goodbye to all my new friends, but it was time for everyone to get back to "real life." I hope I get to see them all again next year!

A million thanks to Foodbuzz and all the sponsors that made this magical weekend a reality. I met so many inspiring bloggers from all over the country, and have a renewed sense of purpose for my blog. Thanks to everyone who voted, and stay tuned as I add links to the bottom of this post to other recaps of this wonderful event. Enjoy!


Kate said...

I enjoyed meeting you at Sunday's brunch, John! Congratulations on your win!



Elise said...

Hi John,
It was so great to finally meet you in person! Thanks for sharing such a terrific write-up. Love the photos of the pork sandwich from Friday night and the brussels sprouts from Saturday night - my two favorite dishes of the entire weekend.
Congrats on your best video blog too, so well deserved.

SippitySup said...

Yes you captured this event so well! It was great meeting you. And be sure to let me know if you are in LA! GREG

Chef John said...

Great meeting you both as well! Greg, I will... You, me and Betty could so some damage. Cheers! (and, u was robbed) ;-)

Chef John said...

Elise, Thanks!! it's so cool we had some time to chat. If you're ever down here and want to grab a bite let me know!

JadedOne said...

The food looks amazing. I wish I could've gone. *sigh*

Congrats on your win at the festival!

I've tried Morimoto soba beer and I really like it. It has such a light flavor it almost doesn't even taste like beer. Therefore, my hubby hated it so I drank it for him. :)

Ravenous Couple said...

it was great meeting you...very nice recap!

Luatica said...

I just made pork crackling, very nice, but the one in the picture looks nom noms

Scott - Boston said...

Well Chef, looks like you're on the proverbial "roll".

I guess the only thing to ask you now is:
Are you ready for your close up?

Scott - Boston

T.R. said...

Congratulations John, I found you through your youtube channel and love you channel and blog. I'm not a food blogger but I am a person who loves food, cooking and watching others do the same.

It looks like a good time was had by all and all were had by a good time. :O) Maybe next year some of us food groupies can come and watch. :O) Yeah I'm a food voyeur and dang proud of it. LOL

Kyle Young said...


When are you gonna recreate those roasted brussels sprouts? I'll be waiting patiently.


momgateway said...

Congratulations on your win, Chef John!

Anonymous said...

While I followed as closely as Twitter allowed, and kept my fingers tightly crossed, hoping that you would win, it wasn't until I read your recap this evening that the significance, the importance of the festival finally lighted up like a cartoonish bulb above my head.

The sponsor and the planners must be commended, for sure! This event celebrates their appreciation of all that you internet foodies do with your blogs. Never before have so many, including those with very limited cooking skills, been so turned on to the beauty, the pageantry, and ultimate rewards resulting from using good ingredients in inspirational ways. The magic you took part in this past weekend happened when the food, fellowship, and stewardship embraced. It's a win- win-win for the growers, the sponsors, the merchants, the bloggers, and everyone watching from the sidelines and on monitors. Tomorrows' meals will improve thanks to everyone involved! Celebrate & Enjoy!

SteamyKitchen said...

Hey!! So good to meet you FINALLY....loved hanging out w/you the little time we had together.

Congrats...you are a rockin' video star.

Chef John said...

Thanks Jaden! I wish I could have had more time to chat also, but we'll have to make up for it next time. :) Keep on rocking yourself!

Snack-Girl said...

Greatest food event in the world? okay, it was pretty great. :)

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well said...

It was great meeting you this weekend! And what great photos! I'm hungry all over again...

rosemary said...

I have been checking out all the nominees' blogs and my conclusion is that you are the best in everything- presentation, humor, user friendly, deep knowledge etc, etc...... endless list. Only one thing left: Please also put the complete written recipe with the ingredients?

tut said...

Looks like you had a great time Chef :) um get a pallet from japan from a factory or something the three hardwood members the slates are nailed to are probably white oak um they probably imported but at least they were in japan lol on a side note I really don't think japan does much logging in their own country that japanese white oak probably came from here lol

tut said...

lol I just googled it you safes Chef use local white oak :) by law no white oak can be harvested in japan it all comes from here lol that was cooked on well traveled white oak :)go swipe a piece off the back of an old flatbed trailer sure to have seen some miles!

Grams Pam said...

You wrote: "Where the hell am I going to get Japanese white oak?" And I agree with Tut, that the Japanese lumbering industry relies mostly on imports. (not sure about his suggestion re: the pallets .. lol, but it is a creative suggestion)

Depending on how badly you want to make this dish .. I know a couple of musicians who use drumsticks made from Japanse White Oak ... want me to hook you up? lol

Angie said...

I'm glad you mentioned Gochukaru & Kimchi! They're awesome. Hope you'll introduce how to use them on your blog some time in the future!

Angie said...

Oops, forgot to say Big Congrats to you, Chef John!