Sunday, November 7, 2010

Foodbuzz Festival Day 2

9:00 am and time for the break out sessions. Mini classes on writing, photography, and a cooking demo with Mary Sue Milliken of the Two Hot Tamales fame.

My first class was the writing. After sitting down at my table I discovered that next to me was another blogger from Sacramento. She was Allie Schembra and her blog is Fat Kid who Loves Food.
The class was conducted by 3 of Foodbuzz's top bloggers. We were given words that were "no no's" in food blogging such as delicious, awesome,yummy and so forth to describe foods. They were "no no" words because they have become so over used.
In front of us was a plate of food items from which we had to pick one item and in five minutes describe it, not using any of the forbidden words. Fellow bloggers were then asked to share what they wrote...most were pretty poetic in their descriptions. I'm sorry, but I don't write that way and it seemed to me that not many others do either. Most do not describe a strawberry in flowery lilting poetic language,which I can't even give you an example of because my mind doesn't think in those terms...who are you trying to impress? After that exercise we were given 2 min. to do the same exercise but in a 40 word Twitter format. Again, same flowery poetic writing and most over 40 words. Me..I did the olive oil. My 40 word Tweet:" cheap, no nose, bland, must be from a can". It's how I write. It irritated me that these bloggers wouldn't just write as they normally do. I would have liked a more in depth lesson on writing, structuring my blog, creative terminology. Really other than not using the forbidden over used words (which was a good lesson) I didn't learn much else other than the bloggers were trying too hard to impress.

2nd class was photography. This was a pretty good class. The top photo bloggers showed how they set up lighting to get different effects from the food they photograph. One blogger was actually a professional food photographer so she had her whole professional set up. The other blogger used natural light and a lamp with a daylight bulb and a rice paper shade (from Ikea)and showed how to position the lamp for better effects. Now this class I really learned from. Put the lamp in back of the food for back lighting and a more dramatic effect, on either side of the food for different shadow effects (most used) but never put the light in front of the food as it creates a loss of depth and texture. That's fine for at home photography but what about at a restaurant? You can't run your food over to the nearest window and start taking pictures. Both bloggers said taking pictures in the dim light of a restaurant was a big challenge. If you have a sophisticated camera that you can set the ISO (amount of light coming in) or shutter speed then you won't have much of a problem. Since many of us just have point and shoots we have more of a challenge to take good shots. One suggestion was to position the food near (in front of ) the candle or lamp on the table if possible or do use the flash but diffuse it by covering it with something opaque like a paper napkin or tissue. It cuts the harsh glare of the flash. Also use the wine glass or water glass as a tri-pod. Now this class was fun and I did learn a lot.
3rd class was a cooking demonstration by Mary Sue Milliken of the Hot Tamale duo. She was working with Alaskan Seafood and demonstrated the making of Fish Tacos. It was nice but nothing new. She was personable and thought it just hilarious to see the bloggers running around taking pictures of the huge salmon on display and of course pictures of her.
We didn't even get a sample of the Salmon Taco..we had to wait until the Tasting Pavilion.
It was a simple Fish Taco.. I could have done the demo. I know Alaskan Seafood was one of the sponsors but I would rather have had a demo on how to do a Sous vide or Molecular gastronomy or something not quite so mundane as a fish taco. And yes time was a big constraint. All these sessions were no more than about an hour and a half.
At 1:00pm we were to all meet at the Metreon for the Tasting Pavilion. I met up with fellow blogger Sara, Undercover Caterer and Tony another blogger I had met the night before and we walked on over to the tasting. This was a tasting of products from all the sponsors of the Foodbuzz Festival. We got there about half an hour early so they wouldn't let us in.. we came to find out the organizers were very anal about time. If it wasn't 1:00 on the dot, no one got in. Thankfully it was a gorgeous day so we went out onto the terrace to wait and Sara got to try out her new camera that her husband had bought for her that morning. By the time 1:00pm rolled around there were hundreds of us bloggers standing around waiting to get in. Finally they opened the doors and as you can imagine everyone was dying to get in. They announced to please enter slowly, don't rush the doors, take a wine glass as you enter and a gift bag. That did slow things down a little but everyone was tired of waiting.
There was Saag's meats which had the hot dogs! Both Sara and I love hot dogs so we thought they had the best item. There were also wines, beers, ice creams, smoothies,chocolates, mini cupcakes, the fish tacos from Alaskan Seafood (we stood in line forever to try these. They were good but not worth the wait)and much more. We got a lot of samples and goodies and that was about the highlight of that event. As I Facebooked I was underwhelmed by the whole event. We walked back to our respective hotels, both Sara and I feeling full and needing a nap or exercise.. I opted for a nap
6:30pm. Tonight was the Gala Dinner in the grand hall at the Ferry Building.
Why didn't they provide transportation? I had quite a few people ask me how we were supposed to get to the Ferry Building. It's quite a walk from Union Square to the Ferry Building, especially if your dressed up and in heels. I think a lot of the people from out of town felt a little lost since they weren't familiar with the City. I just took a cab. I got there about 30 minutes early and walked around inside the Ferry Building for a while but most of the shops were closing so I went out to find where this thing was to be held. I could see from inside the building that it was upstairs but I had no idea how to get up there. All through the festival there were huge Foodbuzz signs directing us where to go, but I didn't see anything tonight. I finally found a security guard who directed me in the right direction. I found the stairway leading up to the Grand Hall but was told by the security guard up there that the dinner didn't start until 7:00pm so I wasn't allowed in but he directed me outside where a bar area was set up with wine and soda. Since I was about 15 minutes early I went up and asked for a glass of wine. The bar tender asked if I'd like Muscat or Muscat..really one type of wine? So making a good choice I chose the Muscat. I walked over to one of the tables and was enjoying my wine and the beautiful evening when one of the Foodbuzz staff quite pointedly told me that the dinner was at 7:00 and I shouldn't have been served but of course they wouldn't kick me generous of them. They then went over and told the bar tender that until 7:00pm no one was to be served. I actually apologized to the bar tender, how was I to know this and I thought that it was pretty rude of the organizers. It's a "Gala Dinner" people get there a little earlier than the specified time, shouldn't they be allowed a cocktail while they wait? And one choice of wine? So far not looking good. About 5 minutes later most of the bloggers had begun to arrive and there was quite a crowd around the bar, I mentioned to one blogger that they weren't allowed to serve until 7 and got an eye roll..exactly. I guess the crowd was growing restless because a few minutes later they started pouring drinks. As I talked to one blogger from LA who was a caterer and event coordinator; she was telling me how unorganized she thought the whole event was. They were so anal about starting things exactly on time, wouldn't let you into a venue until exactly the specified time and yet once in they didn't have things ready to get going. We stood around talking and drinking and appetizers were passed. They didn't have nearly enough servers passing the appetizers. As soon as the servers came out their tray was demolished. As far as the appetizers went, they were OK.
I think it was about 8:00pm when we were finally allowed into the Grand Hall to be seated.
The hall was beautifully set up except for the giant TV that kept running promo's for the Food Channel. That was such a distraction and totally unnecessary.
After a few introductions and other blah blah blah we were finally served our first course.

Roasted Golden Beet Tart
crimson beet, feta, and currant, wild arugula and basil puree
This was paired with 2009 Bonny Doon Ca'del Solo Albarino
The tart was good, but nothing special

Seared Scallops with Bonny Doon Vineyard Verjus Beurre Blanc
served with braised fennel and garnished with fried fennel fonds
Paired with 2007 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc
Again good but nothing special

Rosemary and Garlic infused Rack of Lamb with local wild mushrooms, pinot noir sauce and butternut squash puree
Paired with 2006 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant
The only thing I can say was the lamb was tender and it was flavorful but it could have been so much better. It was too over cooked, more medium well than rare. The mushrooms were excellent. The butternut squash puree was good, but there was just too much of it all over the plate.
Tarta de Almendras with Oranges
buttery almond cake with oranges and spanish sherry sabayon
Paired with 2008 Bonny Doon Vinerno/Vin de Paille desert wine

This was good, probably the best thing tonight.

So, you know what I thought of dinner. Come on, this is a bunch of FOODIES!!! Shouldn't we have gotten something more adventurous, more cutting edge, more Foodie worthy? This to me was just plain old banquet food. It was good but disappointing.
I know it's hard, there are vegans, vegetarians, gluten free, etc. that the organizers had to contend with but I think they could have been more imaginative. This town if filled with celebrity chefs..Tyler Florence, Hubert Keller, Hoss Zare, Elizabeth Falkner to mention just a few plus a few Top Chef contestants. Ok, yes expense..but I would have gladly paid extra to have a dinner prepared by any of the City's leading chefs. It would certainly have been more Foodbuzz worthy. Maybe next year they can do a tasting by some of the fine San Francisco Chefs instead of a boring sit down dinner.

After dinner the plan was for us to catch a cab back to the hotel. Cabs..where are you?? We couldn't find a single cab. I guess we could have called one but everyone took off walking. We ended up walking back to our hotel..that's a damn far walk in dress shoes in the dark. Mind you, this was at least 10:00-10:30pm. It was a little unnerving walking past the homeless sleeping in the doorways, or slumped against the building. I wouldn't have wanted to make that walk by my self. Thank goodness there were 5 of us. Now, like I said why couldn't the organizers have provided transportation to this event. It wasn't like it was a one or two block walk..we are talking blocks and blocks! That had to be my and most people's biggest complaint, the lack of transportation.
Sore feet, blisters not a good ending to the day.

Catherine and I decided we didn't need to stay Sunday for the brunch. It was supposed to storm so we decided that we just needed to get home.

The good.. it was free. The food trucks were a lot of fun. Now that was something that is current and the the biggest trend right now.

The bad... I didn't learn much about blogging. Transportation to and from events were lacking.
Nothing other than the food trucks were trendy or foodie worthy. The Gala dinner could have been so much more.
Will I go again? Probably. I will go knowing it's pretty much a schmooze fest, the food will be mundane and I better take better walking shoes and I won't learn anything new... unless they change things. I hope they send us a questionnaire about the festival so we can give some suggestions for next year.
Maybe I made it sound like the event was not good, it was. I did have fun, I met a lot of bloggers from around the country and it was a new experience for me. It was just not what I was expecting.


Nanny Goats In Panties said...

It's so refreshing to read an honest review! I'm definitely not a foodie, so any time I write a restaurant review I can't use all those fancy schmancy flowery poetic words. I just more or less grunt whether or not I liked what I had.

Gisele aka LA2LAChef said...

Hi Eileen,

Just wanted to drop a line to say it was good to meet you at Foodbuzz Fest.


Gisele AKA LA2LAChef

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