Walking amongst the Foodies – tales from the SF Professional Food Society

By Jackie Flaten

Aaah, sampling delectable food… My first encounters with the delights of sampling was when the folks took us to cavernous Sam’s Club when we were kids. Even if it was not clearly identifiable or even tasty, if attached to a toothpick, it was free and had to be eaten. My tastes have matured and I’ve still not willingly turned down a free sample of any new or interesting food.

So imagine the thrill of attending the San Francisco Professional Food Society’s annual BBQ last week. The SFPFS is one of the country’s oldest organizations for professionals working in the food industry with nearly 400 members drawn from all sectors of the professional food world. Food journalists, chefs, artists, farmers, vintners and sommeliers, event planners, caterers, retailers, suppliers, food scientists, etc… They know their stuff — what fun to be in an setting where your passionate food professionals and artisans are all trying to impress one another!

SavorCalifornia.com, an organization that showcases the best of the Golden State’s amazing gourmet food and beverage industry, provided the food for the BBQ. Owl A and I wandered among the booths sampling with abandon. We were hard-pressed to find anything we DIDN’T like, everything was high quality and delicious.

Some highlights:

Terra Sonoma VerJus
Terra Sonoma’s Verjus is made from the vineyard’s first harvest. The artisanal Verjus,  produced in limited quantities, starts with the green thinning semi-ripe wine grapes. The delicious Verjus is an acidulant for cooking to use in place of Lemon Juice, Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar, “used in place of vinegars in your favorite vinaigrette recipe, splashed over fresh cut seasonal fruit, used in place of water for steaming vegetables or light white fish, and used for deglazing pans to name just a few culinary uses...”
Fentimans “Botanically Brewed Beverages”
Not a big pop drinker (yes, I said “pop” — I’m from the Midwest and on this subject refuse to fold to West Coast pressures), Fentiman’s sodas blew us away with their sophisticated and unusual flavors. They prefer to be called “Botanically Brewed Beverages” but are classified as sodas or soft drinks and are made with natural ingredients in the old-fashioned manner and lightly fermented. (Their packaging is appealing, too.)

We had the pleasure of speaking with the friendly and well-informed President of the US Division, Greg Warwick, who poured us generous samples, told us the story of Fentiman’s, and even gave us a surprisingly tasteful lesson in the sadly obscure Victorian art of “furtling”.
Fentiman’s beverages are still made in the time-honored tradition by brewing and fermenting herbs and milled roots over seven days. (This compares to just hours’ production time for typical soft drinks.) Since its founding in 1905 with a Ginger Beer recipe, Fentiman’s has been brewing sodas in an array of unique flavors, including: Dandelion & Burdock, Curiousity Cola, Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger. They opened a production plant in the US in 2007, have gotten some great press and accolades, and are working to expand their distribution sites. We’d love to see their product in stores across the country, they’re delicious and different.

Silver Moon Desserts
Silver Moon brilliantly paired its refreshingly light, lime and rum infused Mojito Ice with its exotic Mediterranean Pomegranate Martini, drizzled with a decadent rum-mint sauce. This dessert was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
Many more we’d love to talk about and will perhaps in a future posting. We got a big kick out of the caffeinated ebullience of “Travelin’ Joe” of Travelin’ Joe Espresso Catering, loved Sweet Earth’s Grilled Vegetarian Seitan, the first Seitan I can say with enthusiasm was delicious, and were happy to see others we had met at the Winter Fancy Food Show still out there and growing.

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