Last Saturday afternoon, my friend Danielle and I headed to the annual FoodBuzz Festival Tasting Pavilion. This marks the third year I’ve attended the festival, and the Tasting Pavilion is always a favorite event. For an entire afternoon, dozens of food and beverage vendors take over the entire top floor of the Metreon building in San Francisco, slinging their delicious offerings to us lucky food bloggers and our guests.
This year, D and I could only manage a couple hours of straight eating and drinking before we found ourselves completley full — we had to turn down many offers of food and drink as we were leaving! A few enthusiastic vendors even plied us with more treats to take home — by the end of the afternoon, I had a purse stuffed full of chocolate, fennel pollen, honeyed iced tea, and lots of other goodies.
This year’s selection was the best I’ve seen at FoodBuzz thus far. There were a huge variety of sweet and savory offerings to choose from, and vendors ranged from local caterers and artisanal producers to national brands. I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorites — I hope these vendors continue to do well, as their products were standouts in a room full of great contenders!
The most unique catered offering was by far the Moi Moi, a Nigerian specialty served up by Chiefo Chukwudebe of Chiefo’s Kitchen. Based in the Mission District, Chiefo’s Kitchen is one of many success stories of La Cocina, a local organization that helps women to start their own food businesses in San Francisco. Moi Moi was unlike anything I’ve ever tried — a dense and chewy cake made of pureed and steamed black eyed peas, it was served with hardboiled eggs and a spicy tomato sauce, and topped with bracing slices of raw onion. While this might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it was certainly the most memorable thing I tried all afternoon. I’d love to learn more about Nigerian cuisine, and perhaps make some of my own at home.
My favorite condiment at the pavilion was Tomato Smash, a topping that defies traditional nomenclature. It’s closest cousin would probably be a bruschetta topping, though it could easily stand in for ketchup as well. Containing no added sugar, it is amazingly sweet thanks to the use of Sonoma-grown, organic tomatoes — the recipe has been in their family for over a hundred years. It’s only available in a few local stores so far, but you can order it online, and I’m willing to bet they’ll be expanding their distribution once word gets out about how great this stuff is. At the Festival, it was on top of grilled cheese sandwich bites, which would make for a great party appetizer.
One of my favorite food categories is cheese, and my favorite cheese at FoodBuzz was Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery’s Bucheret. A fairly mild goat cheese, it was served semi-ripe, with a firm paste in the middle and a creamier outer layer. It is aged in cute, five-ounce rounds, the perfect size to include on a platter with fruit and honey.
For a slightly lighter diversion, my favorite healthy treat was provided by California Endive Farms. They offered a platter of red quinoa salad served with endive leaves. I loved the idea of using endives as both a food and utensil — besides being the perfect foil for the quinoa salad, they’d be a great stand-in for chips with guacamole, or instead of toast or bagels with typical appetizer toppings (smoked salmon and cream cheese comes to mind, as that’s always been one of my favorites).
The best sweet offering this year was provided by Kika’s Treats, a San Francisco-based confectioner. Of the three treats being sampled, the Sea Salt Palm Sugar Caramels were my favorite. Unlike every other salted caramel I’ve tried, these had a crunchy component, containing puffed brown rice. With a slightly coconutty taste from palm sugar, a covering of flavorful bittersweet chocolate, and a generous pinch of sea salt flakes on top, these made for a perfectly sweet end to our afternoon.
… And there you go. A wrap-up of my favorites at this year’s Tasting Pavillion brings this year’s FoodBuzz Festival coverage to a close. Thanks for tuning in!