Hello, dear readers!
I’m happy to say that the last week has been full of excitement. Between going to an opera starring one of my favorite singers, taking a picturesque hike (cute goats included), getting my asana handed to me in my weekly Yoga For Athletes class (Charina is the best yoga teacher ever!), singing for and giving masterclasses to dozens of high school choir students, and the usual teaching, singing, and other odd jobs I get up to . . . it’s been pleasantly busy around here.
And then, this past weekend, I had the fun job of putting on my food blogger hat and attending the FoodBuzz Festival, a conference put on by my blog’s online publishing company, Federated Media. This is my third year attending, and it’s been an awesome experience every time.
This year, the festival included a new event — the “Dine About Town” evening, wherein we each received a stipend to have dinner anywhere in San Francisco. After the check-in and cocktail hour at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, a group of six of us headed to Jardiniere, a swanky restaurant in Hayes Valley. I’ve walked by the place a million times since it’s located right next to the opera house, but I’ve never gone inside — the menu changes regularly and always looks amazing, but is definitely out of my normal price range! It was such a treat to not only go out for such a nice dinner, but also to try nearly everything on the menu — us bloggers were eager to share dishes.
We started out with amuse bouches, my favorite of which was a spot prawn crudo. The prawns were so fresh that they had a bit of a crunch to them, and something in the dish (perhaps the creme fraiche spooned artfully around the plate) was tinged with a smoky flavor, making each bite taste a bit like smoked salmon.
Next, we tried all of the pasta selections on the menu including garganelli with squid, farro pappardelle with chanterelles, and the most unusual offering, a huitlacoche risotto. Dark gray in color and made from luxuriously starchy carnaroli rice, it was topped with melty swaths of Mt. Tam, the aroma of which perfectly complemented the funky huitlacoche.
For our main courses, we chose sea bass, duck, and rabbit. Frankly, all of us preferred the pasta dishes over the main courses — the duck confit was dry and uninteresting (though the breast was well-cooked and tasty), the sea bass was a bit overdone and underflavored (though the shelling beans underneath were delicious), and the trio of rabbit preparations were overly salty. Too much salt was also a problem with the sides of brussels sprouts and duck fat fried potatoes, but not the potato mousseline, a.k.a. fancy mashed potatoes, which perhaps could have used a bit more seasoning.
All of us were pretty full by the time we were handed dessert menus, but Caitlin and Kara gamely pressed on, ordering the “Bon Bouche,” an assortment of cakes, cookies, gelées, and crème brûlée. They wisely asked for spoons for everyone at the table — with such a beautiful selection of sweets in front of us, nobody could resist trying a bite or two. The crème brûlée was a standout, with its mild coffee flavor and generous dollop of not-too-sweet whipped cream.
The ambience and service at Jardiniere were just lovely. Not only was the staff extremely gracious about our rampant food photography, they made sure we were well taken care of all evening, replacing our sharing plates and flatware with every course and refilling our water glasses assiduously. Our main server Aaron was friendly and knowledgeable, offering information on the provenance of each ingredient when asked. A highlight of the evening occurred when at one point, one of his fellow waiters came over to us and exclaimed “You ladies have such wonderful energy! I would just LOVE to take some pictures for you!” and proceeded to snap a few group photos. Flattery, to be sure, but he was so darn sincere about it that we couldn’t help but beam.
I finally got home from the first day of the conference around midnight, and crashed out pretty much immediately, hoping to gather some strength for another day of serious schmoozing and eating! Later this week, I’ll post my favorites from the Tasting Pavillion, Saturday’s taste-a-palooza of foods and beverages at the Sony Metreon.