2010 Golden Glass Wine tasting and Slow Food Fundraiser


I spent a few hours enjoying the 2010 Golden Glass Tasting at Fort Mason Center with my SO today. It was an easy sell -- buy a ticket for an event that benefits slowfood SF, and get to taste wine and nibble on various artisanal and handcrafted treats? Clearly it was up my alley. And the half priced tickets through bloomspot sealed the deal.

Having been to many wine events at Fort Mason Center, I was struck by how relatively uncrowded the event was. Yes, we had to wait in a 10-person line for claiming our will call tickets, but we were able to easily get up to the tables without anyone shoving us out of their way, and easily caught the eye of those pouring the wine. We even had the opportunity to talk to some of the winemakers and chefs in attendance.

Too often at these events, I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, and feel like I've escaped with my life at the end of a tasting. Today on the other hand, I got to enjoy the food and wine, and be leisurely in making a pass around the floor. I would love it if someone could figure out a way how to retain that sort of a feel in these tastings, while still making the event seem like a good expenditure of time and money for the participating vendors.

Highlights of What We Tasted


Unlike you typical wine tasting which offer up a little bit of bread and possibly some cheese, this event had a number of artisan food purveyors and chefs on hand, which gave you the opportunity to do some food and wine pairings.

  • Perfect crust on the flour+water summer squash pizza, complete with a nice dark blister. They had a wood fired pizza oven out front in the bed of a pickup to make these delicacies. Really need to try to eat dinner there soon.
  • Serpentine and slow club shared a table and had perhaps the tastiest treat of the day -- sliders of roasted pork shoulder with pickled strawberry jam and arugula. Not a combination I would have come up with but perfect as a hand-held taste. It makes me want to start making some pickled jams myself, even if it's just pickled onion jam.
  • A16 had some tender pulled pork on a substantial hunk of baguette. A moist and delicious pork product.
  • The abundance of Italian-inspired food, and the tables of Italian wines already had my brain ready for a vacation even before I had the tiny square of cheese with a drizzle of honey from Marcelli Formaggi. But I am pretty sure I started babbling about how we needed another trip there soon after consuming that amazing honey.


San Francisco was having an unusually warm day (80s), which meant I tasted a lot more whites than usual. And I just could not bring myself to try some wines that looked great (I'm thinking about those amarones) because the heat made the prospect of most red wines seem daunting. That said, my three favorite wines of the day were all reds.

  • Navarro's 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was my hands-down favorite. I know when I think pinot noir I often think of a substantial wine that needs a hearty dinner to go alongside it, not a sipping wine. But I'd happily drink this lighter than average pinot while cooking dinner. Their dry gewurtztraminer was also superb.
  • At the next table over, Handley's 2007 Anderson Valley pinot noir was another lighter pinot noir stunner. Not that I was surprised since I've been a huge fan of theirs for some time. Unfortunately, they didn't bring along their sparkling wine -- it would have been perfect today.
  • Although I'd done some wine tasting in southern Italy, I hadn't really looked into seeing if the greater Venice area, where I spent half of my last trip to Italy, had wineries to visit. But after having Nicolis' SECCAL valpocella DDC CLassico Superiore, you can BET I am going to look into arranging a private tour next time.

What Could be Improved for Next Year

I do wonder, however, if the lack of signage at Fort Mason was a factor in the sparse attendance. Even I got nervous I'd written down the wrong date on my calendar and pulled out my ticker confirmation to check. The 2-day crystal fair had a few signs up, and the Warhammer 2000 tournament was an easy to stumble upon beehive of activity. But the Golden Glass tasting was at the Center's far corner, and without any signs letting you know it was there until you actually got up to it. I have to think that on a gorgeous day like today, in the 80s, signage throughout Fort Mason Center would have generated some significant foot traffic for them.

Something else I'd love to see is use of those little reusable plates that hook on to your wine glass. Why do I mention this? Because a volunteer/staffer at the event went calling after me as I walked my used plate to the compost bin. I'd used the same plate at two stands, and needed to free up my hand for my wine. I'm actually *not* coordinated enough to carry and eat a plate of food and a glass of wine. At home we have a teeny garbage can + a huge recycle can and a handy compost bucket. I don't drive. I am limiting my carbon footprint! And thus, I don't want an event volunteer giving me  a hard time about ditching my used plate (as an aside, I didn't use another plate at all for the event.)

And finally, slow food events need to get over the little food tickets. No one wants to spend $70 per ticket (full price ticket cost) to get in and receive 5 food tickets, then have to pay another $20 for 5 more tickets for a few more tastes. It was one of my primary annoyances with the slowfood nation tasting here a couple summers ago. None of the food stalls would accept them because clearly they felt the same way as well. Please don't nickel and dime us when we are there in support of this cause we all feel passionate about!

P.S. If you're wondering about the lack of photos from today's event, that's due to my grabbing my small camera at the last second and not checking its batteries. First time in all my years of writing about this stuff that I've made that error, and hopefully will be the last time as well.

slowfoodnation (better late than never)

HoneyIt's taken me a while to mull through what I wanted to share about slowfoodnation weekend that I hadn't already seen at many other blogs during the event.

A week or so after my birthday, I decided to splurge and buy tickets for my boyfriend and I to go to one of the tasting sessions at Fort Mason. Tickets, at $65 each plus fees, were more expensive than most of the wine tastings I've attended at Fort Mason by $10, and more expensive than any concert I've seen to date (even those Bauhaus Ressurection Tour tickets way back when were cheaper.)

As a former slowfood member, I would drool when I would receive the notices about the Italy tasting events and dreamt of some day planning my vacation to coincide with them. I was hoping this would live up to the idea I had built up in my head about what such an event could be. Did it? In short -- no. I was disappointed. But I do see a lot of potential there, that I hope is tapped if they decide to move forward with another slowfoodnation event.

Pizza The Pros

  • Amazing Pizza. That pizza you are looking at here is in my top 5 most perfect crusts ever list. It was thin and crispy and delicious. And made in an oven that appeared to be built on site for the event, with pizzas assembled by an amazing crew of volunteers. It was worth the half hour wait, especially since we had delicious Magnolia Brewpub cask conditioned beer in hand.
  • Lots of Learning. The honey, coffee and chocolate tastings were tasty, fun and informative. The folks we talked to who were manning the counters in these three areas clearly had passion for their subject matter. I had never really thought about how the time of the year would affect the way the honey would taste, so it was cool to be able to taste three examples of honey from the same bee colony from Spring to Fall. And the cupcake, as seen in the photo at the top of this entry, was the perfect tiny accompaniment.
  • A Visual Feast. Throughout the Pavillions, the eye was engaged with all sorts of food ephemera and lots of educational content.

The Cons


  • Lack of Organization. We came through the gates and were handed our slowbucks (which we thought at the time we would surely run out of) and a flimsy map that showed where each pavillion was located. And that is it as far as takeaways from the event. For $65 it would have been nice to have been able to have taken home educational materials of some sort -- be it a flyer on sustainable raised coffees, or a CD-ROM (or heck even a special URL for downloading) with the content from the educational displays. Some exhibits had interesting informative folks walking you through the flight you were tasting. Others -- including the salumi and the ice cream -- gave you no information about the food you were sampling other than what it was on a basic level. No details on the trends or philosophies behind the producer or the food item.
  • Excessively Long Lines. I never got to read all the cheese-making educational content, and did not get to scope out the cheeses that were being samples because I couldn't handle the though of standing in a line that stretched the length of the display, then half the width of the auditorium and out the door and down the side of the building to the front.
  • Poor Wine Tasting Organization. You could only fight to the front of the meade/sparkling wine area; the rest were unreachable thanks to the cocktail rounds blocking the lines and immovable people who camped at the bar, never stepping back for anyone else to obtain a taste as well. I asked our bartender 3 times for a wine on the list that he said they did not have; my boyfriend finally pointed at the bottle in front of him. We then had the tiniest pour ever of said wine, which the bartender did not know anything about. It was the least informative or accessible wine tasting I have partaken in at Fort Mason. They really should not have bothered.

I expected to leave this event excited about local producers and foods. Instead I had sore feet, went home with many slowbucks unused, and ordered a pizza from Pizza Orgasmica because I was starving after spending hours around so much food (and receiving such tiny tastes of it from the few pavillions in which I could actually suffer the lines.)

I was also disappointed with the attendees. Overall, they were unfriendly (like the couple who rode the bus to the event with us, then couldn't even return a smile when we ran into them inside), and rude (the lady who was saving 5 chairs at a table for her friends in line and wouldn't let us sit there for the 5 minutes it would take for us to eat our tiny salumi tastes.) We did chat with one couple after we finally found a seat; they were aghast at the fattiness of the mortadella slivers my boyfriend had (and was not eating) and were deciding against waiting in that line.

I left feeling even more disconnected with the local slowfood movement. I let my membership lapse after a few years due to the only SF convivium events tending to be last minute (a few days in advance usually), incredibly expensive dinners. I had expected the SF chapter to be ripe with informative educational lectures, farm tours and volunteer opportunities, and fun tastings. I was hoping slowfoodnation would deliver on that. Maybe next year.

Two Days 'til slowfoodnation Kicks Off

While many San Franciscans will be headed out to The Playa for Burning Man this weekend, I am excited about staying home. Why? Because of all the slowfoodnation events this weekend, of course. I have tickets for the tasting pavillion, and plan to hit up the Civic Center as well. Undecided about the workshops-- may just wait and see what is available once I arrive at Fort Mason. Are you going?

Save the Date: CUESA's 2008 Sunday Supper to be Held October 5

Every year, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), the folks responsible for the wondrous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market's home at the Ferry Building, holds a bountiful benefit dinner dubbed "the Sunday Supper."

Featuring 50+ of the Bay Area’s best chefs, a dozen regional wineries, two local distilleries, and sustainable farmers from across the state, diners enjoy an hors d'oeuvre reception with 20 hors d'oeuvres stations and a wide variety of cocktails , followed by a four-course meal that highlights the region's delicious artisan-produced foods.

One of these years I am going to brave the crowds for this.

slowfoodnation taste workshops

SO many great sounding events. It's going to be tough to pick just a few...

slow food nation Taste Workshops

Saturday, August 30; 10:00am - 9:00pm | Sunday, August 31; 10:00am - 9:00pm | Cost: $10 - $20 each | Fort Mason Center, Building C

In-depth guided gastronomical and educational experiences led by experts and food producers who share the stories behind the taste.

Each workshop is one-hour long.

Saturday Taste Workshop Schedule

  • 10:00 – 11:00am
    Presidium Coffee Cupping
    Throw a “Slowtail” Party for 6 Friends for Under $60
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm
    The Apple in the Pig’s Mouth
    Rare Flavors of the South
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm
    Tasting California Olive Oil
    American Artisan Cheeses and Microbrews
  • 4:00 – 5:00pm
    Bounty from the Midwest
    Heritage Pork and Sparkling Mead
  • 6:00 – 7:00pm
    Sustainable Stories: Associations of Wine and Food
    Slow Wine & Food Pairings
  • 8:00 – 9:00pm
    Coro Mendocino Wines & Organic Cheeses
    Celebrating American Raw Milk Cheese

Sunday Taste Workshop Schedule

  • 10:00 – 11:00am
    Exploring Coffee and Chocolate Pairings
    Slow Food Meals on a Budget
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm
    Fermented Delicacies
    Northwestern Sips & Morsels
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm
    Mendocino Pinot Noir
    Heirloom Tomatoes with Wines from Lodi
  • 4:00 – 5:00pm
    A Traditional Taste of Southwest Heritage Foods
    Eat It To Save It, Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm
    Slow Sips & Charcuterie Snacking
    Biodynamic Wines
  • 8:00 – 9:00 pm
    Slow Spirits

Slow Food Nation Showing Some Cracks

I was wondering how long it would take local foodies to realize that Carlo Petrini's new book took some major pot shots at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market. I'm guessing for most of them, it was the scoop item in the SF Chronicle's food section today. In the book, Petrini is somewhat dismissive of the Market as being elitist and catering to rich ladies who lunch, happy to pay exorbitant prices for trophy food, from farmers who are milking the organic food trend in the Bay Area. I know I was taken aback when I read the anecdote, and that it colored my reading of the book. It's interesting that he would make such a sharp jab at exactly the constituency whose support is needed to make next year's Slow Food Nation event in SF a success.

I'd been planning on offering up myself as a SFN volunteer -- both on site (since I have worked as a volunteer at dozens of food and cultural events in SF) and pre-event. I've been a SlowFood member off and on for 5 or 6 years, after all. But after I read the book, I've cooled on the idea. Am I any less of an authentic slowfoodie because I am not a multi-generational farmer? Or not part of an indigenous people trying to save their own cultural traditions? Is my own evangelizing of eating locally and supporting local farmers of no value to the Slow Food movement? It sort of feels that way.

SF to host Slow Food Nation?

The San Francisco Bay Area is notable for its overflowing fount of foodies. After all, it's the home of Alice Waters. And the Ferry Plaza Farmers market. And Judy Rodgers. And hundreds of artisanal growers.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle announced that Ms. Waters is tentatively thinking of making it the home of the first major U.S. slow food show.

And that's not the only tasty tid bit in today's Chron food section: Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics, is doing several local speaking engagements as an outgrowth of her stint at UC Berkeley. Her profile includes details on those events.