Exploring San Francisco’s culinary scene

If California cuisine is defined by the use of freshly prepared local ingredients, then San Francisco cuisine gives it the international flair.

SF Chefs 2010 Grand Tasting

SF Chefs 2010 Grand Tasting

What characterizes San Francisco cuisine?

If California cuisine is defined by the use of freshly prepared local ingredients to create edible delights that fuse contrasting cooking styles and ingredients, then San Francisco cuisine gives it the international flair.

Home to about 3,500 restaurants, it is no wonder that the area’s culture of cuisine is the #2 attraction for the 15.4 million visitors to the area a year. Even the #1 attraction, the ambiguous category of “Atmosphere & Ambiance”, I would fathom, is influenced by the heavenly smells from fine dining establishments dotting the sidewalks, the lively energy emanating from bistros and the latest buzz swarming a food truck.

One of the best ways to sample a broad cross-section of San Francisco cuisine is at the annual SF Chefs Grand Tasting event. Local chefs from over 25 acclaimed restaurants gathered to share their expression of San Francisco cuisine this year in Union Square. Unlike the themed lamb and pork events, the Grand Tasting event gives chefs broad latitude in the dish they want to present to the sophisticated food-adoring San Francisco consumer.

Here were some of creations from the SF Chefs 2010 Saturday Grand Tasting. I also highlight my two favorite dishes of the afternoon. One showcases the freshness of ingredients in California, the other is a San Francisco twist on classic Italian.

SF Chefs Grand Tasting
The Village Pub Smip Ranch, Gardinere of Summer Vegetables. This dish was refreshing and bursting with freshness. I loved the textures, colors of this arrangement. The dressing did not distract.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Dungeness Crab Cake with saffron aioli, One Market Restaurant, created by Chef Mark Dommen. This tasting highlights the popularity and abundance of seafood in San Francisco cuisine. No wonder with Fisherman's Wharf so close.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Chef Mark Dommen, One Market Restaurant
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Minced Lamb Lettuce Cups with water chestnut, chiitake hoisin and shiracha, E&O Trading: Some asian fusion and a variation of a classic with use of lamb. This type of dish is simultaneously refreshing and hearty, fabulous for a laid back evening. The lamb was flavorful and tender.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Melon, prociutto and Burrata cheese by Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. One of my favorite dishes. I loved the balance of perfectly sweet melon with the saltiness of the prociutto and the soft texture of the Burrata. This is a dish that relies heavily on having the best ingredients. Some chefs and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area have their own gardens or partner with select growers to ensure stellar ingredients.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
What is better than perfectly prepared local vegetables? Perfectly prepared local vegetables with raw hamachi. This sushi lover did a double take.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Heirloom tomatoes. My love affair continues. This year's season was a little late due to the cool weather, but it was well worth the wait.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Attracted to the bright red colors of this drink.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Dessert sliders from Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar, Chef Hubert Keller. I enjoyed the visual playfulness of this dish, but I was disappointed with the taste. It was overly sweet and didn't appeal to any of my dessert cravings. There was a bit of strawberry, but it was overpowered by the chocolate. The chocolate was so rich, it could have stood on its own. Combined with the glazed mini donut, the sweetness was overbearing. I felt like I was biting into a fudge marshmellow. All sugar, little complexity in flavors.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
White Gazpacho Rock Shrimp Pimenton. On a hot day, cold soup. It was refreshing and I enjoyed it. However, in general, I prefer my soups hot. There have been rare occasions where I find a cold soup I adore. Unfortunately, this was not one of them.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
I am a sucker for anything that resembles a Mille-feuille. This was delicious.
SF Chefs Grand Tasting
Another one of my favorite dishes. Ravioli with the most tender, flavorful piece of pork (or duck?) on top. I can't recall who made this dish, but I could have had a large plate of these, sat in the corner of the restaurant and quietly indulge. Love, love, loved it!
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Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker, and yet is also passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's the host of our Stark Insider video features. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. Loni's story...