Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Toast to Winter

This week was "Cocktail Week" in San Francisco, and I really don't know what prompted this special attention to cocktails because in this city it seems like cocktail week is every week. But I guess since we just had Beer Week and there's a wine event almost every month, someone thought the cocktail needed its own week. Who am I to argue?

So one of the event that I checked out was the Winter Farmers Market Cocktail Night put on by CUESA (the Center for Urban and Education about Sustainable Agriculture) and the San Francisco Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. It took place this past Wednesday night at the San Francisco Ferry Building. What I liked about this event was the price. It was only $25 for admission and that entitled you to two regular-sized drinks and the chance to try little taste-size drinks created by 12 local bartenders, plus a few munchies from some of the city's best restaurants. (A lot of food events usually cost around $80-$100, so this was definitely more easy on my pocketbook.) Here's a look at how it went:

The first table I saw was from Michael Mina, who was serving up these Smoked Sturgeon Mousse with pickled red onion on a fingerling potato coin all topped off with California caviar. How decadent was this? It was incredible, with the smokey mousse that wasn't fishy at all, and a nice twang from the pickled onion. The only thing was it was hard to pick it up because the potato was a bit slimy for some reason. I guess I wasn't the only one having a problem picking it up because later on I saw they put out little tongs to help people pick up these little gems.

Next bite came from Beretta, which I reviewed recently. They served up a bruschetta with Caponata and Burrata cheese. The toast had a nice crunch, but it lacked any amazing flavor. Kind of my whole feeling about Beretta.

The theme of the event was cocktails using seasonal ingredients, so in wintertime that means a lot of citrus-based drinks. There were a lot of bartenders using blood oranges and tangerines.

Case in point: This drink was called "Blood in the Streets" created by Brian MacGregor, bartender at Jardiniere.

Here's a station using kumquats to make a drink. It was very refreshing. A lot of bartenders mixed their drinks with some fizz like champagne or sparkling wine.

Back to the food, this is another bruschetta served up by Globe Restaurant. It's topped with tuna tartare with olive tapenade. It was really odd to see the tuna in that green shade, but the taste was overshadowed by the prominent olive tapenade (a spread) underneath.

This is Kobe Beef Brisket from Zuppa.

Here's a server putting the brisket into a bun to serve up to people. I wasn't a fan of the bun, and the brisket didn't have much flavor. But you know what? When people drink, they devour basically any kind of meat dish so this was a popular station.

Actually, the food went out within an hour and the event had one more hour to go. So I was glad I got there early. Still, there were a lot of drinking to do so I think people were still happy about that.

The two full-sized drinks offered up tonight included this one called Old Sydneytown Winter Punch. The other full-sized drink was the Original John Collins, which I preferred because it was more subtle the way it was mixed instead of the punch, which was a bit too tart.

OK, who was in charge of checking I.D.s!? LOL.

Some of the bartenders mixing drinks were like rock stars, drawing the crowds and putting on a show. This is Greg Lindgren of Rye, Rosewood and 15 Romolo. He created a drink called "Grey Lady."

This is Evan Roth who bartends at various places around town. He created a drink called "Kiwi Kruze." It's made with Campari, Luxardo and kiwi liquere topped off with ginger beer. Refreshing.

OK, one of the few food stations still serving food was also the one with the biggest crowds. It's the Conduit table and they were serving up Truffled Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Ribeye Carpaccio. The chef was making it up as it went, and everytime he placed out a platter, people would grab them all within seconds.

Here's a close up of the grilled cheese sandwiches. It was amazing! The carpaccio on top was so tender and had a sweet-sour dressing on it that really made the bite unique. No wonder it was so popular.

I liked the dish from Conduit so much I have to give kudos to the team. Pictured above is General Manager Brian Gavin, left, and Chef Justin Deering. Thanks for the great taste guys!

This was a refreshing sangria using a variety of fresh seasonal fruits. Yum.

I had so much to drink, despite the small cup size every cocktail held a lot of punch. I think my favorite of the night was a drink by independent bartender David Nepore who made a drink called "Lady Madonna." What was unusual about it was a liquere ingredient he used called Chartreuse made by French monks. The Chartreuse had an unsual anise like flavor that was really distinctive and made the drink perfect.

I had a lot of fun at this events, and CUESA says they may do it once a quarter for every season. I hope so because what better way to celebrate the season than a nice cocktail from some of the best bartenders in town!


Anonymous said...

excellent blog. i work just around the corner from the ferry bldg. wished i knew, would have liked to check this out.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see you announce special events u learn about a few days before & tell the readers you'll be attending so we can go & possibly meet u!

Single Guy Ben said...

OK guys, good point. I'll try to post about events I plan to attend. Just as long as you all don't crush me while I'm taking photos! ;-)

I generally don't promote events because there are a lot of blogs out there that already do a good job promoting upcoming events. (Check out 7X7 Bits and Bites blog) But I will make a point of giving you the heads up of more interesting events. Well, interesting to me.

Kim said...

I was thinking the exact same thing! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

wow chef ben, that looks like a great event and such a deal. I'm on the CUESA mailing list but since I am a lightweight and can't drink spirits I didn't pay attention to that one. The food looks fantastic, and the people watching looked pretty good too!

Anonymous said...

That is definitely NOT Justin Deering in the photo of the 2 guys from Conduit.

Single Guy Ben said...

Oh, I went by the signs at the table, which listed his name. I guess maybe that's a sous chef helping out? He was the only one cooking.

Anonymous said...

What a deal, wish I went! Was it very crowded? Hope to hear about before hand next time. Have you thought about putting up a little upcoming events calender in your right sidebar?

It's now raining and I'm catchup up on old episodes of Top Chef. Season 5 was my first season and enjoyed it immensely as well as your humorous reviews. I am now downloading all the older seasons. Just finished Season 1. Whatever happend to poor stressed out Dave?

Dave B.