I’ll be blunt: I had low expectations. I’d detected no buzz about the SF Fab Food Fest beforehand. And I couldn’t find a list of food sellers online. The venue, the Concourse Exhibition Center, didn’t look promising either. Three strikes right there.
But it wasn’t out of my way so I stopped by en route to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. Still, I mulled over why anyone would opt to go indoors to a convention hall on a gorgeous fall day to sample food when fabulous fresh produce and gourmet goodies awaited just down the road — in a truly fabulous waterfront setting.
A quick sweep of the booths and I’d be on my way. Happy to report I was pleasantly surprised by some of what was on offer.
The pick of the stalls I perused:
Spice Hound: This South Bay-based company won me over with their 2 ounce-tins of Middle Eastern spice blends Za’atar and Dukka. A staple of many food pantries in my hometown Sydney, Dukka is a mix of sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coriander, and cumin. It’s added to olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar to jazz up bread dipping sauce. Za’atar (thyme, sumac, white sesame seeds, and sea salt) is used in the same way or added to vegetables or hummus for extra zing. Bonus: Check out Spice Hound’s Chai Tea recipe here.
Mum’s Homemade: A sucker for a cheese & chutney sandwich, a childhood staple, I spotted these preserves made by East Bay cooks Briony Bax and Margaret Heafey, who specialize in British fare using natural ingredients produced in the commercial co-op Artisan’s Kitchen in Richmond. A toss up between the subtle charms of Autumn Chutney, made with apples and pears, or the robust Date and Banana Chutney.
Tres Classique: The Garlic Classic Dipping Oil, from this Ukiah custom balsamic vinegar and oil outfit, is thick and oozy and made with grapeseed oil, 18 year old aged balsamic, garlic, parsley, pepper flakes, and sun-dried tomato. It will probably not last long in my house and needs nothing else beside a crusty loaf of bread to enjoy.
Thumbs up as well to the tropical zip in the mango marmalade from Carol Hall’s Hot Pepper Jelly Company and the pungent, deep brown Greystone Herb Garden Honey harvested from hives at the organic garden of The Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley and sold by farmers’ market staple Marshall’s Farm Honey.
Speaking of farmers’ markets…I started to get that claustrophobic feeling typically induced by such closed, unnaturally-lit environs and began pining for the great outdoors. It was time to skedaddle out of the concourse center and take my condiment-laden self off to the Ferry Building in pursuit of fresh food and a loaf of Acme bread to pair with my purchases.
Lesson learned: Keep an open mind. Who knows what gems you might stumble upon in unexpected locations?
San Francisco Fabulous Food Festival, November 7th & 8th, 10am-5pm, Concourse Exhibition Center, 8th & Brannan Sts., San Francisco