Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2009 Report: Part 3 (Nov 7, Saturday Evening)

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My third post from Foodbuzz Blogger Festival is the recap from the Feast and Award Ceremony held at Greenleaf Produce Warehouse in the Hunter’s Point area of San Francisco.

As soon as we walked into the building, we were greeted with fabulous glass(es) of wine from Bonny Doon.

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Also awaiting us was a cornucopia of seasonable vegetables… This will be great!

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Foodbuzz has teamed up with the crew from “Outstanding in the Field” to bring us an extraordinary evening of dining in an urban, farm-to-table setting.  Look how long our community table is…  unbroken for 250+ people!  If you need to go to the bathroom, you have to go to either end, unless you are smart enough to sit on the bathroom side, right next to the stairs leading to it, like me. (It wasn’t on purpose.)

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The Leftover Queen, Jenn DiPiazza and Yours Truly, the Leftover Wizard, Mari Suzuki. (Could be the url for my next site?)

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My name tag was flipped backwards many times, and people chuckled about me being “well-prepared” with a packet of Alka Seltzer…  just in case! (In case you are wondering…  I didn’t need it, because the dinner was much lighter with more vegetables and seafood. )

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Taste of fall…  Variety of Japanese mushrooms in beautiful wooden bowls waiting for hot dashi for our first course.

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We mingled around the entrance area with a glass of Bonny Doon wine. This area is also the starting point of the long snaky community table.  Wonder how long it was…  Notice the boxes of produce on the top left side. 

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Chef Dennis Lee of Namu Restaurant near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco  has sourced local, organic produce as well as sustainable and pasture-raised meats to create a spectacular seasonal menu with traditional Korean influence.  Therefore, the first to appear on our table was picked vegetable platter, including familiar kimchi, as well as pickled broccoli and greens.

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A few words from our hosts tonight from Greenleaf Produce warehouse, Outstanding in the Field and Foodbuzz before dinner started.

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Our first course, Mushroom dashi, maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms.  It reminded me of osumashi (meaning clear) dashi broth I often have back home in fall… It was very soothing on a cold evening, especially after a huge meal the night before.  The chef used a very small amount of picked vegetables (the white triangular thing floating in the photo) that added a nice citrus-y flavor to the broth.

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Psshhhhhhhh!!  They even brought us their own sparkling water with a pressured bottle.  Fun!

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Just like at a Japanese homes, they only gave us chopsticks.  Alexa from Foodbuzz told me that they had brought in forks and knives just in case, yet I didn’t see anyone with them. (Thank God, it was Japanese style chopsticks which are made of wood, and rather short.  The kind they use at Korean restaurants are often metal and super heavy, and those at Chinese restaurants are super long and slippery, both too hard to use even for a native Japanese who grew up with them!)

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Our second course: Udon, grilled Monterey calamari in a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisee & yellow pear tomato with chojang & semame vinaigrette.  Cold and refreshing, this is perfect for summer, or for my lunch, anytime!  The calamari were sweet and perfectly cooked.  The vinaigrette seemed to be very similar to the juice from kimchi, so I’ll definitely make it when I buy a jar of kimchi! (I love leftovers! Even the brine of the picked things! Leftovers ROCK!  Right, Jenn?)

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Third course: (according to the menu):  Sea trout baked with dashi kombu, fried garlic and Japanese curry powder. 

Now, we found it was actually salmon.  And I don’t know if it was baked with dashi kombu.  Not only I didn’t see it, I didn’t taste it either.  Maybe because of the super generous size, it was almost raw inside, and under-seasoned for the size of the fish.  Given that I was born and raised in Japan, and my sushi in-take has significantly decreased due to the economy, I was gladly finishing up the quite a large amount of fish left on the plate, but many diners decided not to finish. Clearly, the disappointing dish of the evening.

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On the other hand, we loved Mushroom risotto with Koshihikari rice, crispy maitake mushrooms.

The risotto was creamy and the fried maitake was like umami bomb! The portion was a little too small for all 8 of us, especially since many didn’t eat much salmon, 2 people didn’t get any. Luckily, the wait stuff granted our wish for a little more.

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Fourth course:  Roasted brussels sprouts, ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, bonito flakes. 

This was clearly the huge winner!  Everyone couldn’t stop talking about it, even well after dinner.  For some reason, the table next to us didn’t finish, so we were treated with extra.  Sweet! 

These cream-colored shavings that looks like grated Parmigiano Reggiano is actually bonito flakes which we Japanese use often for everyday cooking (but not much so in Western dishes.)  My guess is not only garlic, but brussels sprouts also got some treatment with ponzu (which also a staple in a Japanese kitchen including mine).  Expect me to make a similar dish for Thanksgiving and beyond!

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The main – Soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails, baby carrots and fingering potato, OB Beer and denjang demi. 

This was quite good, especially the tender cheeks…   Again, the next table left quite a bit on the plate, so we took a liberty of finishing them all for them.  On a side note – I loved these people who shared our area!  I didn’t even have to be the one who initiates with “Hey, there a lot left on their plate and they seem to be done.  Shall we take it?”

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Ben Dehan, the founder and CEO of Foodbuzz.

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Staff from Foodbuzz, Greenleaf Produce and Outstanding in the Field who collaborated and worked hard to make this evening a huge success!

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And over dessert of Koshihikari rice pudding, cookie crumble and Frog Hollow Farm‘s Warren pear, the winners of the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Award was announced.

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Thank you, chefs for the delicious food!

It was such a special evening, it was very sad that it came to an end…   To me, this meant the end of this year’s festival, because I needed to attend another food related event at UC Berkeley (“The Gastronomic Influence of Japanese Hybrid Food”, obviously very important subject for me) on Sunday morning.

Thank you everyone at Foodbuzz, Outstanding in the Field, Greenleaf Produce Warehouse, Namu Restaurant, Bonny Doon Vineyard and Frog Hollow Farm, and Chef Ian from Hog Island, and everyone else who was helping to make this event a huge success!

And of course, all other sponsors, participants who provided amazing food, drinks, venues and services!  You all are amazing!

Last but not least, thank all the bloggers from around the world for the opportunity to share our passion of food! I really enjoyed meeting with you all, and can’t wait to see you again soon!

If any of you wants to experience this, it’s highly recommended.  Start writing a food blog regularly, and become a featured publisher of Foodbuzz. This certainly was the best decision I made this year!

Next week…  We go back home to the home cooking.  Something easy, healthy and tasty.  How about some Japanese dish you can make with familiar ingredients?

So stay tuned…

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