I tried to cram 5 days of work into 4 and ended up running around Thursday night like a crazy woman. I made sure that I got in a Thursday evening and Friday morning workout – a necessity before heading into a weekend full of delicious food.
I am lucky that San Francisco is just a few short hours away. I headed out around 1:00 in the afternoon to beat traffic and only ran into a small back up in Berkeley.
My iPhone took me right to the festival hotel – The Grand Hyatt – San Francisco. This hotel has a special place in my heart. 12 years ago… to the day of my arrival – I got engaged to my late husband Ace at the Grandviews Restaurant on the 36th floor. It was a total surprise and my ring came on a platter with dessert while a violinist played in the background. It was a very special night and rather than be upset that the festival was in the same hotel on the anniversary of that – I chose to believe that it was fate – and a reason for me to go back and revisit the memories. The hotel has changed a lot in 12 years – the decor very different. I’m glad I took the elevator up to the 36th floor, wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it… but I did, and it made me tear up, but I ended up smiling.
I made my way to the 8th floor and checked out my room. Nice big bed, contemporary vibe… decent street view…
The windows had mesh drapes – kind of funky… and a switch on the wall to control black out blinds. That part I liked. Mental note: black out blinds would make for very unproductive weekends.
The Sutter/Stockton Street garage is to the left – my friend Paul and I used to refer to it as the Skittles garage – each floor is a bright color and interconnected by circles – you just keep spiraling up or down from floor to floor. We parked there every year for Christmas shopping in Union Square.
This bathroom confirmed that I will never want a raised bathroom sink – water splashed everywhere. Enough of the room tour, I dumped my stuff and made my way to the festival registration to pick up my badge and swag bag.
The bag was full of stuff from Oxo, Godiva, Lollihop, Cascade, Jalrsberg, Duncan Hines, New England Naturals, California Walnuts and the best thing – the DIY Cocktails book by Marcia Simmons and Jonas Halpren – editors of Drinkoftheweek.com – A simple guide to creating your own signature drinks – Yes please! I also used my Godiva Coffee travel mug this morning.
I chilled in the room for a bit and then hit Union Square for a little shopping before the welcome reception. A mega story Willams-Sonoma was right around the corner from the hotel. I am a gadget freak and I had to refrain from bringing the entire store home with me. I made my way back to the hotel with enough time to change before the shuttles arrived.
We loaded on to big red buses and headed towards Terra Gallery for the welcome reception sponsored by Sabra. I linked to their photos page because it was really dark for the reception and my pictures do not do the building justice. We started off in Mer, the lower level – and were greeted with a Sabra hummus and appetizer welcome station.
The welcome station menu included:
- Sabra Hummus Pastries in Classic, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato Basil and Wasabi Pea
- Sabra Hummus – Classic, Roasted Red Pepper, Roasted Pine Nut, Basil Pesto and Holiday Flavor served with Toasted Pita and Orange Scented Pickled Onions
- Dungeness Crab Louie Lettuce Cups
- Toasted Chickpeas with Course Salt
- Vegetable Crudités
Cameras started to click and the servers weren’t sure what to think. One of them stopped and asked me if people were going to eat the food or just take photos of it, ha! ha! and so true…
On the bus ride over, I met Julie who blogs over at A Case of the Runs – not the most appealing name for a food blog, LOL… but perfect for her passion of running. She even joked about the name. That’s Julie in the above photo taking a photo of the hummus.
Dungeness Crab Louie Lettuce Cups
The Toasted Chickpeas with Course Salt was one of my favorites of the evening.
The evening’s passed hors d’oeuvres included:
- Jalapeño Hummus Mini Pizzas – Corn Tomato and Lime Cream
- Sabra Rosemary Chicken Salad Puffs
- Sabra Bruschetta – Crostini Topped with Sabra Basil Pesto Hummus and Fresh Diced Tomato
- Belgian Endive – Groganzola Dolce, Fuyu Persimmon and Pomegranate Seeds
I tasted bits of everything and had two glasses of wine. Julie and I mingled a bit, met some more new bloggers and then we headed to another floor for the awards dinner sponsored by Electrolux.
The dinner was buffet style. There was a small plates action station, buffet station, comfort food station and dessert buffet. Julie and split up and I sat down at a table where Heather from Heather’s Dish was sitting. I adore her blog and was excited to get to meet her. Then another blogger sat next to me. Kara from Kara in the Kitchen – I’m SO GLAD she just happened to sit next to me. Kara is from Santa Cruz, CA and she’s awesome… we instantly hit it off and I was so excited to make a true friend at the festival. We stuck together for the other events throughout the weekend.
As for the food – I really didn’t sample too many things and it was too dark for photos, so I just enjoyed the table conversation. I did try the baked four cheese macaroni, a ceviche shooter, housemade beet ravioli and some lentil salad. I wasn’t really feeling that hungry… but wanted to save room to try some of the desserts. The beet ravioli was my favorite thing on my tasting plate.
The Foodbuzz Awards started as dinner came to a close. Deanna Brown, CEO of Federated Media spoke and introduced Jennifer Che from Tiny Urban Kitchen, winner of last year’s Project Food Blog competition. Jennifer spoke about the charity she supported with her winnings from that competition – The Boston Rescue Mission.
Top Chef Dessert Winner Yigit Pura’s Selected Desserts inlcuded:
- Heirloom Pumpkin Tart – Gingersnap Tart Shell, Candied Pumpkin Seed Nougatine and Milk Chocolate Crunch Center
- Creamy Italian Nougat and Valrhona Chocolate Ganache Bites – with Marcona Almond
- Double-Gem Pate de Fruits – “Magroni” Blood Orange Campari and Asian Pear-Gin | Orange Cardamom and Strawberry
- Colorful Christmas Macaroons – Gingersnap, Red Licorice, Mulled Wine and Blackberry, Olive Oil Ganache
- Chocolate Coffee Cream Star Cookie Sandwiches
- Silky Pomegranate, Candied Kumquat and Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
- Mascarpone Cheesecake – Calvados Wuince and Gingersnap Crumble
- Dark Chocolate Pomponetes – Flourless Chocolate Cake, Candied Chestnut and Dark Chocolate Cream
My favorites were the Gingersnap Macaroon, the Double-Gem Pate de Fruits and the Heirloom Pumpkin Tart.
I really enjoyed my table and the evening was a great kick-off to get us excited about the next day – The morning blogger sessions at Foodbuzz (Federated Media), the taste pavilion, cooking demo with Tyler Florence and gala dinner. I’ll write about those in my Day 2 post coming soon.