When debating whether or not to fly out to San Francisco for the festival, the tasting pavilion might have been the event that won me over. A three-hour long sampling extravaganza of more than 40 artisan food producers. Yes.
On my way to the Metreon on Saturday afternoon, I met up with Elspeth, my roommate when we lived in Italy, who now lives in Oakland. Elspeth is a huge foodie as well and when Foodbuzz opened up the Tasting Pavilion to friends and family, I alerted her immediately. Once inside, we slowly made our way down the event hall, sampling everything and returning more than once to the items we liked. Below is a selection of some of my favorite products from the event.
One of the first tables was hosted by Jarlsberg cheese, with platters of cheese as well as crackers, nuts and fruit. Though it’s nothing new, I am a huge fan of Jarlsberg.
Fresh Express made a salad of mixed greens, toasted quinoa, and pecans with a cranberry vinaigrette. I had never had toasted quinoa before. It has a full-bodied, nutty flavor. I don’t often get inspired to replicate a salad recipe at home, but this one I might have to try.
I was not a big fan of the Tyler Florence roasted butternut squash & apple soup with parmesan herb savory shortbread, but the presentation was attractive.
Foodzie, on online marketplace for foods made by small, artisan producers, was there with ten of their businesses.
Ledgenear Farm maple syrup. Funny I flew all the way across the country to try maple syrup from Vermont.
I loved the name INNA jam. Her polka raspberry fruit preserves were thick and luscious.
Macadamia nut blossom honey from Royal Hawaiian Honey.
The various flavors of butter crunch from Pop Candy may have been my favorite item at the pavilion. I have developed quite a liking for toffee and butter crunch in the past year, and Pop’s is some of the best I have tried.
Not only do they have a wide array of unusual and delicious flavor combinations, but they make it with just a few high-quality ingredients: butter, sugar, and organic brown rice syrup. To that mixture they add various items like nuts, dried fruit and herbs. I had never seen butter crunch made with herbs. Flavors like rosemary almond, below, and thyme walnut and cherries were reminiscent of Thanksgiving dishes and would be a fantastic item to have out when entertaining for the holidays.
My absolute favorite was the chai tea granola pecan crunch. I am a granola fiend, and I much prefer a rich, hearty granola that is meant as a snack than a lame, dry granola that one can easily justify eating for breakfast. Add in butter crunch to the mixture and you have one amazing gustatory delight. I loved that none of the Pop butter crunch was tough or got caught in your teeth, as is often characteristic of toffee. It was pleasantly light and crunchy.
Cocoa loco and toffee milk chocolate chip cookies from Annie the Baker. Unlike many people I know, I like my cookies fully baked and do not have any affinity for cookie dough. So Annie’s cookies, with the tagline, “for those who love cookie dough more than the cookie,” were not for me, but were the cat’s pajamas for many cookie dough lovers who sampled them.
The Carmody cheese from Bellwether Farms was just slightly softer in texture than a cheddar, and had an extremely smooth, mild, and slightly sweet taste. Not being a fan of pungent cheeses, this one was right up my alley.
Another local creamery, Three Twins, was sampling their strawberry ice cream and mint confetti. Many of their flavors are certified organic.
Artisan sea salts from Mendocino Seasoning.
Madecasse bean to bar chocolate.