Upcoming Event: The PopUp Dinner SF

7 09 2014

Have you heard of pop up restaurants? This is usually where a small gathering of people share a meal cooked by a well-known or amateur chef in a temporary location. They are often relatively impromptu, and generally focus on community and hospitality. The PopUp Dinner hosted by Handmade Events takes this concept to a whole new level by gathering thousands of people together to share in a picnic dinner for one evening of the year. The catch? The location is not disclosed until 3pm on the day of the event.

sfpop2

I was cordially invited to attend this year as a VIP guest and will be waiting patiently to hear where I’m supposed to go this Friday September 12, 2014. All tables and chairs are provided, but guests bring all the rest including food, drinks, and table decor. Everyone is required to wear all white attire to symbolize the simplicity of the event and a the blank slate of new opportunities. In addition to this massive picnic-party, there will also be a live performance by Ben Folds!!

The event is sold out this year, so unless you know someone with tickets (they’re transferable — ahem — Craigslist — ahem), you may have to wait until next year to attend. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but it certainly looks like a good time!

sfpopup3

sfdiner

Photos courtesy of Handmade Events





Scharffen Berger Chocolate Event

1 09 2014

Last week I was invited to a Scharffen Berger chocolate and wine pairing event at a local waterfront restaurant, Waterbar. As you might imagine, I accepted this invitation immediately. As is the norm, I wasn’t sure the actual format for this event (dinner? snacks? sit down or mingling? small gathering or large? bloggers only or others?), but it did not disappoint. And they told us about their new advertising campaign, which is actually really creative and engaging.

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To start — the event. They rented out a small-ish room on the second floor of the restaurant which has a balcony that overlooks the bay and the bridge. It was beautiful! They had chocolate samples, an open bar station with wine and cocktails, and a few cocktails for people to chat around. My friend, Kate, and I spent a bit of time talking with John Sharffenberger about chocolate and wine and Netflix shows as we enjoyed a delicious selection of roving appetizers (ex: tuna tartar, crab cakes, stuffed pasta bites).??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Kate and me with Scharffen Berger execs, including John Scharffenberger

Kate and me with Scharffen Berger execs, including John Scharffenberger

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Mr. Sharffenberger gave a bit of a speech, as did some of the other executives and marketing people, which told us a bit about the company, and then explained their new marketing campaign: wonderfully complicated. It’s a great idea — chocolate, along with red wine, is one of the most complex foods (like, scientifically), engaging a myriad of unique taste sensors in your mouth. Weaving in the uniqueness of each of their customers, they came up with the term “wonderfully complicated” to describe both their product, and the people who consume it.

John Scharffenberger gives a speech

John Scharffenberger gives a speech

Another speech with me in the foreground

Another speech with me in the foreground

The ingenious way they’ve incorporated this into a marketing strategy is via Instagram. Take a picture of yourself and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #wonderfullycomplicated. After you do so, Scharffen Berger will re-post your selfie overlain with three random descriptors that could be used to describe chocolate or, indeed, you. They display these on their Instagram and Facebook feeds. AND, as a bonus to SF folks only, if you geotag your location, your photo will appear on the bus stop ad nearest you:

I really liked how interactive and clever this idea is. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s a win-win for the company and the customers. Good job marketing people!

The event then moved to the wine and chocolate pairing, where we all gathered around the cocktail tables and were instructed how to try a variety of different wines, and how to “pair” them with certain chocolates. It was very interesting how the flavor of the wines changed as you munched on a certain type of chocolate. It was delicious and fun!

Wine and chocolate pairing

Wine and chocolate pairing

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After the tasting, a delicious buffet of food arrived, and we all enjoyed chips and guac, shrimp tacos, fish tacos, chicken skewers, lobster rolls, and more. It was quite a party! As we finally made our way to leave, the lovely hosts from the PR firm suggested we each take home a flower arrangement, complete with adhered chocolate decorations; a gift bag with a bottle of wine and TEN (yes, ten) chocolate bars of different varieties; and a poster (probably 18″x24″) that they had somehow made using a photo they took of us upon our arrival (I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time) and had printed into one of their ad campaign formats with three words overlaying our smiling faces. It was great!

The whole thing was really well done — great food, delicious chocolate, amazing location — and was just a whole lot of fun. And now I can’t wait to get one of my #wonderfullycomplicated selfies up on Instagram!

 





Eat Drink SF: An Epic Foodie Festival (+ Ticket Giveaway)

28 07 2014

Yes, it seems that every other weekend there is some amazing food or beverage festival in this grand city of ours, and next weekend is no exception. The Eat Drink SF festival (formerly SF Chefs) will be taking place at Fort Mason August 1-3, 2014, with a huge variety of events from classes to dinners to parties spanning the three-day event.

eat drink sf

 

As B&C loves to give away tickets to SF food events, there is one pair of tickets ($100 value) up for grabs to the event Up Close and Personal with Fabio Viviani on Saturday August 2 at 2pm! Leave a comment below or email me for deets. (Update: The tickets have been given away, thanks for all the emails!)

eat drink sf viviani

 

As they describe it, “Eat Drink SF is a food and wine event celebrating the unique flavor, diversity and bounty of Northern California. The Grand Tasting is at Fort Mason Center where chefs, winemakers, brewers and distillers will offer an exploration of taste. Classes, seminars, demos, dinners and parties will offer interactive opportunities for the public to participate with local farmers, ranchers, chefs, winemakers, distillers, media, authors, brewers, mixologists and culinary experts in an entertaining and delicious forum.”

eat drink sf food1

 

eat drink sf chefs

And, a variety of local restaurant favorites will feature sips and tastes, such as A16, Central Kitchen, CHAYA Brasserie, Commonwealth, Delfina, Frances, Flour + Water, Fog City, La Urbana, Park Tavern, and Tacolicious, not to mention the plethora of chefs including Dominique Crenn, Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence, Charles Phan, Martin Yan, and Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani.

If I weren’t out of town this weekend, you know where I’d be. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the City this weekend, leave a comment or send me an email (brocandchoc@gmail.com) to snag some free tickets to be entertained by a Top Chef star as he teaches you how to make fresh Orecchiette Pasta with Pesto Sauce. And, check out the rest of the events to see what else tickles your fancy!

 

 

 

eat drink sf collage

(All photos courtesy of the Eat Drink SF Facebook page.)





Coffee-Con 2014 is Coming to SF July 26, with Ticket Giveaway!

17 07 2014

Do you love coffee? So many of us do nowadays. SF has been one of many special places for coffee culture incubation over the last many years, and is now hosting its third annual Coffee-Con on July 26, 2014 at Terra Gallery (511 Harrison, at First). Come one, come all — coffee-lovers unite for Coffee-Con 2014!

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Experience hands-on training classes (because you thought you knew the best practices of coffee creation…), learn about international varieties of coffee and methods of brewing, and, of course, get your caffeine fix with loads of free samples. There will be speakers, live music, and even giveaways for a variety of coffee-related prizes.

And speaking of giveaways… broccoli and chocolate has been graciously given two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky readers! Please either leave a comment below or email me directly (brocandchoc@gmail.com) for a pair of free tickets ($20 value) to this fun event!

coffeecon_logo_noyear_150





Event Recap: SF Chocolate Salon 2014

30 03 2014

I was kindly invited to this year’s Chocolate Salon held at Fort Mason. It consisted of dozens of vendors, each with their own table displaying their goods and with samples for patrons to try. Since I was invited as a judge, I was requested to vote on my favorite vendors after the event. All the winners are listed on their website — click the blue circular award in the right margin (why no link, guys?).

chocolate

chocolate display

florentines

I generally had a good time. I was in good company (my chocolate-loving friend Mala accompanied me), the event was free for us, and it was a beautiful day. I did have a few qualms with the arrangement and execution of the event itself, which I will turn into suggestions for the event organizers below. But first, let’s talk about the best chocolate (in my opinion, at least).

As I did not review the myriad of award categories before the event (one of my qualms, see below), I was more thinking general 1st, 2nd, 3rd place overall as I was judging the entries. So, in my mind, I came up with these favorites:

1st Place and very very very best: Smitten Artisan Truffles. They had four dishes filled with truffle filling, and the owner herself would scoop a tiny spoonful of the truffle for you to try. She was sweet and bubbly and generous with her samples. The flavors were amazing, though I believe they were a bit different than they sell on their website (which you should totally check out because the online ordering is rad).

smitten artisan truffles

smitten artisan truffles at sf chocolate salon 2014

The cacao caramel vanilla bean was amazing, and the one infused with raspberry vodka was also so good (and I’m not often a fruit and chocolate person). Mala loved the one infused with bourbon… and I even bought an adorable package of four for my man friend to enjoy later. Just really really really good. Love.

2nd Place: Cowboy Toffee Company. Great packaging, great flavor options, and very very yummy. They had a s’mores flavor — need I say more?

cowboy toffee company

cowboy toffee company at sf chocolate salon 2014

cowboy toffee company

cowboy toffee company at sf chocolate salon 2014

3rd Place: Toffee Talk. Now, I’m not traditionally a huge fan of toffee. It’s always rock hard and makes me feel like my teeth are going to break off. So I generally stick with caramels. But, both Toffee Talk and the Cowboy (above) were a softer toffee. Still crunchy, but not jaw-jarringly so. And the flavor was amazing. Toffee: you’re back on my list.

toffee talk

toffee talk at sf chocolate salon 2014

Runner Up: Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Ever since my man friend surprised me with a bar of their semi-sweet chocolate, I’ve been digging it. They’re not doing anything extreme, there’s no crazy flavors or textures — it’s just good chocolate. Me likey.

scharffen berger

scharffen berger at sf chocolate salon 2014

So, those were my favs. I basically scattered those four names (and a few others) all over the scoring survey they sent me. And most of them won some prize, so good job, chocolate makers.

sf chocolate salon 2014

sf chocolate salon 2014

Now, on to my suggestions on how to improve this event:

  1.  Better vendor-to-space ratio. This event was held in a huge open warehouse and the number of vendor tables was highly disproportionate to the size of the space. I’ve been to other events here that filled out the space much better and it makes the event seem a lot more legit.
  2. Savory vendors*. I love chocolate. I can eat it for a long time. But you know what I want after a while of eating nothing but chocolate? Some bread. Or pretzels. Or french fries. Or pretty much anything else. They had a couple other types of vendors (beef jerky and kettle corn come to mind), but I think they could have stood to add more to change things up for my weary palate.
  3. WATER. Good lord. It was like a desert island of chocolate in there. Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink, and all that. They had these nice hand wash stations scattered around the space, but no water (not even for sale)! I was parched, and it was unnecessary.
  4. Check in procedure. Check in consisted of me giving my name to a woman at a table, and her putting a bracelet on my wrist. No map of the event, no list of vendors, no printout of the intense survey I would take afterwards to complete my judge duties. Any or all of these would have been extremely helpful. They should take some lessons from La Cocina event planners.

 

claire's squares

Otherwise, the presentation of each individual vendor table was generally excellent (great packaging, cool logos, nice marketing materials), and the quality of the samples was very high. I think with minimal changes by the event planners, the Chocolate Salon could be easily raised to the next level.

*The vendors themselves need not be savory, nor would I know how to evaluate that distinction, but they should offer savory foods.





Upcoming Event: SF Chocolate Salon

5 03 2014

Chocolate. Just say the word in your head. Chocolate. Aren’t you just a little bit happier now?

I love chocolate. Chances are, so do you. Which is why you might want to make room in your busy schedule for the upcoming 8th annual SF Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason on Saturday March 15, 2014.

SFSalon14image-posterWeb

Per their website, activities include: chocolate tasting, demonstrations, new product launches and flavor combinations, fair trade & organic offerings, celebrity chef & author talks, wine pairings, Chocolate Art Gallery, games, ongoing interviews by TasteTV’s Chocolate Television program, and book signings. Not to shabbs, if you ask me. And yes, I bolded the words “chocolate tasting”. I felt they needed to be bold.

You can get tickets on their site for $20 (adults, advance purchase) and $10 for kids up to 12. (Children under 6 are free.) The price goes up to $25 for adults who get there early, and $30 if you just wanna rock up whenever you want that day.

And the best part (for me) is that I’ve been invited to be a judge! My name is on their website and everything (under “award judges”). The invite said this of the task: “As a Judge, you simply attend when you want, taste what you want, then afterwards vote on your top picks using our confidential online voting form. You will also be listed on the Salon’s website.” Um, yes please. I like all those things, including the laissez faire judging style and free chocolate.

Yeay chocolate! See you there!





SF Street Food Festival 2013 — Preview Dinner

31 07 2013

It’s that time of year again. Time for the San Francisco Street Food Festival sponsored by La Cocina. This year’s main event is on Saturday August 17, 2013, in the Mission district of SF. And like years past, it will be filled with great local vendors. I was invited to the media preview dinner again (year three — w00t!). My personal highlights are listed below.

st street food festival 2013 flier

Let’s just start with the winner. The best thing at the preview dinner, IMHO, by a long shot. It sounded gross, but it was incredible. Most interesting, delicious food ever. The winner is: Hella Vegan Eats with their Mini Vegan Doughnut Burger. A beet patty, pickled onions, pickles, kale, tomato, and secret sauce, all between two sugar doughnuts. Amazing. Believe it.

Hella Vegan Eats - Mini Vegan Doughnut Burger

Hella Vegan Eats – Mini Vegan Doughnut Burger

Next on my list of favs was Bini’s Kitchen’s Momos. They are Nepalese dumplings (meat or veggie) with spicy tomato cilantro sauce. They were so good! The skin of the dumpling was thicker than I was expecting, and the whole thing was just really delicious. Good sauce, too.

Bini's Kitchen - Momos

Bini’s Kitchen – Momos (Nepalese dumplings)

My plus one’s favorite was a roasted plantain bread pudding by a vendor that we can neither remember nor track down online. What, the internet does not know an answer to a question I pose? How is that possible?! Anyway, perhaps the responsible parties will come to light. In the meantime, all we have is this glass slipper — uh — photo of the dessert. Cue Mala’s mouth watering:

Roasted Plantain Bread Pudding -- who made these??

Roasted Plantain Bread Pudding — who made these??

Sugarfoot Grits also gave us some yummy grits to nosh on, Onigilly was there in typical good form, and there were also some Russian Vodka-chasing snacks from Anda Piroshki that were pretty fun.

Sugarfoot Grits -- grits!

Sugarfoot Grits — grits!

Anda Piroshki - vodka chasing snacks

Anda Piroshki – vodka chasing snacks

The festival itself has a good lineup this year, including participation by the ever-coveted State Bird Provisions, offering their hand-pulled garlic bread with burrata, which was my favorite during my first and (so far) only visit. Very enticing, guys…








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