Nov 2009

Outstanding in the Field – San Francisco


Over two hundred food bloggers descended upon San Francisco this past weekend for the first ever Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. For two days straight, The Astronomer and I ate, drank, and socialized our little hearts out along with featured publishers from across the globe. Aside from the wonderful bloggers that we met and the crazy amounts of swag that we were gifted, one of the highlights of the festival was a unique farm-to-table dinner orchestrated by Outstanding in the Field.


Outstanding in the Field is a roving dinner program that sources ingredients locally and celebrates farmers and food artisans. Their feasts are usually held on a picturesque farm during the summer months and feature long tables where well-dressed diners are seated side-by-side.

Since the closest farms to San Francisco are well over fifty miles away, our dinner was held at the next best place, the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse. Chef Dennis Lee of Namu spearheaded the multi-course affair, while winemaker Randall Grahm of Boony Doon provided the libations.


The entire meal was prepared in a makeshift kitchen near the front entrance of the warehouse. This smiley cook was grilling up squid upon our arrival.


Dozens of tables draped in white linens zigzagged in between the warehouse’s produce-lined shelves, transforming the industrial space into a more elegant one. Inspiring quotes by culinary greats lined the walls.


In the center of the room was a colorful display of the season’s bounty, including carrots, Brussels sprouts, Buddha’s hand, persimmons, and pears. Many of these items would later appear in our meal.


Before sitting down to dinner, we mixed, mingled, and munched on ahi tonnato on pain de mie with gochugaru (hot pepper flakes) and parsley. The small amuses were paired with a 2008 Ca’ del Solo Albarino.


Shrimp chips dusted in a spicy, MSG-laced seasoning replaced traditional bread service. My table mate Sandy, also known as The Foodhoe, couldn’t keep her paws away from this basket of addicting crunch.


We were also served a selection of puckery pickled vegetables to start. The broccoli, kimchee, and yellow beans were three of my favorites.


One of simplest and most satisfying dishes of the evening was the mushroom dashi soup with maitake, shimeji, and enoki mushrooms. I loved how the ratio of broth to fungi was seriously skewed, causing the chunky mushrooms to poke above the broth.


With the exception of the mushroom dashi soup, every course was served family style. A vibrantly colored platter of udon noodles topped with grilled Monterey calamari arrived after the soup. The locally-sourced squid wasn’t especially tender (I’ve been spoiled by the squid in Phu Quoc), but its smoky and fresh flavor was definitely to my liking. In fact, after everyone was served, I asked for the platter to be passed back to me in order to fish up the uneaten rings of squid.

The noodles had excellent texture, as did the accouterments—cucumber, kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), frisee, and yellow pear tomato. The only element of the dish that could’ve used a bit more pizazz was the browned butter ponzu reduction, which bordered on watery. This course was paired with a 2007 Le Cigare Blanc.


It took a lot of self control to serve myself only a small portion of the mushroom risotto made with koshihikari rice and topped with crispy maitake mushrooms. Our table could have easily finished another platter of this creamy carbohydrate.


One of The Astronomer’s favorite dishes was the sea trout baked with dashi kombu (kelp), fried garlic, and Japanese curry powder. The texture of the lightly cooked fillet was buttery and supple, and the curry powder provided a subtle, delicious heat.


The roasted Brussels sprouts with ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, and bonito flakes were the next to arrive. The tender Brussels sprouts soaked up the diverse collection of flavors beautifully.


The final savory course was soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails with baby carrots and fingerling potatoes. As anticipated, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender (ha!) and deeply infused with OB Beer and doenjang (fermented soybean paste). The carrots and potatoes were too undercooked for me, but The Astronomer thought they were just right. The final two courses were paired with a 2005 Le Cigare Volant.


Dinner wrapped up on an unmemorable note with a Koshihikari rice pudding with cookie crumbles and Warren pear. It was paired with a 2008 Vinferno. Considering that each course was prepared from a temporary kitchen inside a frigid warehouse, this meal was a resounding success.

Thank you to Foodbuzz for making this awesome weekend possible. And thank you to all of the terrific bloggers who made the Foodbuzz Blogger Conference one to remember: Foodhoe, Javaholic, Foodaphilia, Let Me Eat Cake, Fries with that Shake, Food Addicts, Hot Pink Manolos, L.A. and O.C. Foodventures, Local Lemons, Teenage Glutster, FoodGPS, Mattatouille, Pepsi Monster, Gourmet Pigs, Active Foodie, Kung Food Panda, Ravenous Couple, Fooding 411, Dishing Up Delights, and The Duo Dishes.

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23 thoughts on “Outstanding in the Field – San Francisco

  1. Things I will take more of any time: shrimp chips, crispy mushrooms, and oooohhhh, those brussels sprouts! I had a fabulous time with you this weekend. More, please.

  2. How is everyone already writing about this weekend?! I’ve barely gotten through looking at all my pictures!! 🙂

    Great post though!!! Your pictures are beautiful!

  3. wow we never have events like this in Houston, or am I just not in the right circle?Hmmm, maybe I’ll be able to join the elites. Never the less, I love the shrimp chip basket as a replacement for bread, kind of unorthodox but awesome at the same time. Theres just so many cool things going on over there. Long sighhhhh

  4. All that umami — oh man, I want the dashi soup & mushroom risotto. Love the maitakes!

    It was pure torture to read all the Foodbuzz tweets from SF! Seeing the pictures just twists the knife! 😛

    @David — Uh yeah, I’m from Houston originally. Nothing like it in H-Town!

  5. This looks amazing. And you must be happy that people noticed the awesome quality photos you’ve taken with your fancy camera! =) I’ll be back in December so we must have a dinner date.

  6. It was so great to meet you this weekend! Love your recap. I’m still thinking about that beef cheeks and oxtails dish. It was my favorite.

  7. Hey all,
    Matter of fact, Outstanding in the Field has done dinners in the Houston area over the last couple years as part of our national tour. Last year we did dinners at Animal Farm in Cat Spring (with guest chef Randy Evans of Haven) and Jolie Vue Farm in Brenham (with a bunch of guest chefs in the al fresco kitchen headed up by Monica Pope). Austin, too.
    Come snag a seat next year! Sign up on the website to get a look at the 2010 schedule as soon as it comes out in early March. Founder Jim Denevan plans to do events in Europe next year, too 🙂
    Thanks for the fabulous post, Cathy!
    Cheers ~ Lisa

  8. I need some pillow soft chocolate chip cookies to cry into.

    I’d have fought you tooth and nail for those extra calamari rings. mmm squid.

  9. Great coverage! Your post absolutely justified my decision not to lug around the camera. And just how tender was that beef? Brilliant post and great fun sharing the dinner with you.

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