Waste-Less Wednesday: The Latest in Food Waste

September 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Starting today, Waste-Less Wednesday is getting a bit of a change up. In addition to tips and recipes for reducing food waste at home, you’ll be seeing the occasional news roundup of food waste topics, near and far.

While I think about food waste at a micro level — i.e., my kitchen and local food system — recent conversations with friends have reminded me to look beyond the 650. Conversations about food waste are now happening with more frequency at the national and international levels, thanks to chefs, writers, and food activists. We’re learning more about the impact of food waste on hunger, loss of resources, and climate change — and how all of us can be a part of the food waste solution. Here’s a roundup of what you might have missed recently.

September 29, 2015
Book Release: Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food by Dana Gunders

Photo via Amazon.com

Photo via Amazon.com

Dana Gunders, who authored the pivotal food-waste report “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” is a Project Scientist with the National Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. I first heard her speak about food waste during a panel talk co-hosted by CUESA last year. During this educational and inspiring discussion, Gunders gave a most memorable description of consumer food waste: “It’s like going to the grocery store, buying five bags of groceries and dropping two of them in the parking lot — and leaving them there.”

As a scientist, Gunders wanted to understand what consumers needed to know to reduce food waste. Specifically, what did they need to know about buying, storing, and cooking food, including food that seems ready for the compost pile? For example: “When you’re standing in your kitchen with a wrinkled tomato, what do you need to know in order not to waste it?” In addition to practical information, the book also contains what Gunders calls “use-it-up recipes” for ingredients on the brink (or maybe just a little bit past).

Get the whole story in just 2 Minutes.
Read Dana Gunders’ blog post about the book release: Why I Wrote the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook | Dana Gunders’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

September 28, 2015
United Nations’ Food Waste Luncheon is All About the Leftovers

Photo via @UN_spokesperson (Twitter)

Photo via @UN_spokesperson (Twitter)

Blue Hill and wastED Chef Dan Barber and former White House Chef Sam Kass recently created a luncheon of repurposed food for 30 world leaders. The meal, which included dishes created for and served at Barber’s wastED pop-up restaurant brought attention to the issues of global food waste, loss of resources, and climate change. The printed menu included a description of each course, but also the source of each ingredient. The first course, “Landfill salad,” consisted of “vegetable scraps, rejected apples and pears, and chickpea water.”

Get the 2-Minute version of the UN Food Waste Luncheon:
“UN Serves ‘Landfill Salad’ to Highlight Food Waste”

September 25, 2015
More Than a Billion Pounds of Seafood Going to Waste Every Year

Fresh, wild Alaskan salmon fillets, purchased in the 650

Fresh, wild Alaskan salmon fillets, purchased in the 650

Food waste doesn’t occur just on the farm or in the food-manufacturing plants. According to a recent NPR article, almost half of the US seafood supply ends up wasted. While seafood waste happens throughout the system — from boat to processor to consumer — “consumers are far and away wasting more seafood than any other group,” tossing out 1.3 billion pounds of seafood annually. Some of this seafood is purchased and never eaten, and some is “plate waste” that ends up in pet food bowls or the garbage.

Consumers aren’t solely to blame for seafood waste. Processing plants discard the “less desirable” parts of fish (think: fish heads) in favor of supermarket-perfect pieces. Commercial fisheries contribute to waste as well, through bycatch. Bycatch are the unwanted fish and other marine life that are caught in addition to the target species. Efforts are being made in the industry to reduce bycatch, but it’s still a problem.

Want to know more? Check out this 3-minute read on the state of seafood waste in the US:
Via NPR | The Salt | “We Leave Half Of All Our Seafood On The Table (And In The Trash) by Alistair Bland

September 16, 2015
USDA and EPA Set National Food Waste Reduction Target
Food waste hits the big time — and that’s a good thing! The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a nationwide food-waste challenge: a 50% reduction of food waste by 2030. A variety of big-name US food retailers, agriculture industry reps, and charitable organizations have already signed on with support (Albertsons, Wegmans Markets, and City Harvest, just to name a few.)

Read the press release in 2½ minutes or less:
Food Retailers, Agriculture Industry, and Charitable Organizations Support First National Goal to Reduce Food Waste by 50 Percent by 2030.”

Want more detail? Check out the Office of the Chief Economist’s web page on food waste.

What’s your food waste story? Share in the comments below.

GFA Marketplace: Favorite Tastes, Interesting Stories, and Unexpected Connections

January 16, 2015 § 1 Comment

Following are some of my favorite food and beverage winners, product stories, and unexpected connections from this year’s Good Food Awards Marketplace. (I could post for days about all the delicious creations I tasted, but in the interest of time and space, I’ve listed just some of my favorites.) I encourage you to check out the websites and read the “About” or “Bio” sections for the producers. As I said in Part Un, you never know what you might learn or how you might be connected.

By the way, the usual disclaimer for my favorite tastes applies: I have a professional and personal appreciation for fine chocolate and confections, which puts these two categories at the top of my list for sampling (yes, chocolate for breakfast!), although I indulged in plenty of honey, preserves, and cheese as well.

Charm School Chocolate (Baltimore, MD)
The win: Coconut Milk Chocolate

The Deets: Charm School’s winner is a luxurious vegan milk chocolate bar that is completely craveable. Coconut milk stands in for the milk and butter typically used in non-vegan bars. Charm School’s combination of coconut milk and high percentage cacao (49%) gives their bar a rich mouthfeel that can stand up to any dairy-based bar. No boring, super-sweet milk chocolate here; this bar has flavors of cocoa, toasted caramel, and just a hint of coconut on the finish.

Charm School Chocolate's winning entry: Vegan Milk Chocolate Bar

Charm School Chocolate’s winning entry: Vegan Milk Chocolate Bar

The Connection: Owner/chef Josh Rosen is a fellow alum of both of my alma maters: Carnegie Mellon and the Culinary Institute of America. He also spent some time here in the Bay Area as a culinary student, pursuing his externship at Farallon Restaurant.

 Josh and Irina from Charm School Chocolates

Josh and Irina from Charm School Chocolates

French Broad Chocolates (Asheville, NC)
The Win: 68% Nicaragua Bar

The Deets: French Broad sources single-origin beans from Matagalpa, Nicaragua to produce this bean-to-bar treat that gets its touch of sweetness from organic cane sugar. That’s right: no emulsifiers, no additives, just pure cacao and organic sugar make up this winning bar. And the flavor profile? Complex with dominant dark-caramel and mocha notes and a slightly woody finish.

French Broad's 68% Nicaraguan Bar

French Broad’s 68% Nicaraguan Bar

Interesting Story: Owners/chocolatiers Dan and Jael Rattigan have an amazing story of their adventures along the path to becoming award-winning chocolate producers and business owners, not to mention a thoughtful manifesto of their values and business practices. Make sure you read about it on their site.

Apoidea Apiary (Pittsburgh, PA)
The Win: Rosemary Infused Dark Knotweed Honey

The Deets: Knotweed honey has a dark-amber color and rich flavor that pairs well with rosemary. Under Christina Neumann’s careful hand, the pairing is well-balanced, creating a flavorful, unique nectar. You’ll taste the knotweed first, with the rosemary on the finish. Use your grocery store honey for tea and toast, but save Apoidea’s winner for a special indulgence, pairing it with a rich cheese, such as brie, and toasted nuts.

Honey from Pittsburgh? Yes, indeed! Rich, flavorful Rosemary-Infused Knotweed Honey from the banks of the Allegheny River.

Honey from Pittsburgh? Yes, indeed! Rich, flavorful Rosemary-Infused Knotweed Honey from the banks of the Allegheny River.

The Connection: Beekeeper and honey producer Christina Neumann is a graduate of my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon (yes, two of this year’s GFA winners are CMU alums!). If yinz live in The ‘Burgh, you should know that the apiary, which consists of 30-50 hives, sits on the north side the Allegheny river, about six miles from the university. Apiary tours are available during the summer; check the website for announcements.

    Christina Neumann: CMU alumna, architect, apiary manager, honey producer

Christina Neumann: CMU alumna, architect, apiary manager, honey producer

Black Dinah Chocolatiers (Isle au Haute, Maine)
The Win: Cassis de Resistance Truffles

The Deets: A harmonious pairing of tart, island-grown blackcurrants (cassis berries) with a rich dark-chocolate ganache in a thin, crispy couverture. Biting into the truffle immediately releases the intense dark-cocoa flavor of the ganache, followed by the lingering tart, fruity flavor of the infused cassis berries.

Black Dinah's Cassis de Resistance: Irresistable

Black Dinah’s Cassis de Resistance: Irresistable

Interesting Story: Black Dinah Chocolatiers is owned and operated by Kate and Steve Shaffer on Isle au Haute, a small island community located seven miles off the coast of mainland Maine. Living on an island means using what’s available, so chocolatier Kate uses local cream and her own butter for creating Black Dinah’s truffles. The Cassis de Resistance was created when the Shaffers traded chocolate for cassis berries grown by local farmers.

Kakao Chocolate (St. Louis, MO)
The Win: Turkish Coffee Truffle

The Deets: A beautifully smooth dark-chocolate ganache infused with coffee and cardamom, hand-dipped in dark chocolate couverture and finished with a sprinkling of coffee. A rich mocha flavor with a hint of something extra.

Kakao's Turkish Coffee Truffles

Kakao’s Turkish Coffee Truffles

The Connection: Chocolatier Brian Pelletier’s approach to confectionery resonated with me: all of Kakao’s treats are made by hand (no machine enrobing involved). It’s time-consuming and labor intensive, but allows the chocolatier to take a true “hand-ons” approach to making and controlling the product.

Plum Tree Jam (Portland, OR)
The Win: Tayberry Jam

The Deets: A tayberry is a blackberry-raspberry hybrid, about twice as long as a raspberry, with a flavor that is both tart and sweet. Originally created in Scotland, it thrives in our Pacific Northwest. Plum Tree’s owner and jam maker Miranda Rake picks the berries by hand, then cooks them with just the right amount of sugar and lemon juice to produce a berry-licious jam that I want to put on everything.

Rich purple-red color, sweet-tart flavor... tastes like summer to me

Rich purple-red color, sweet-tart flavor… tastes like summer to me

The Connection: While chatting with Miranda and tasting her award-winning jam, I found out that she has a day job as a writer and editor with one of my favorite print publications. (Hmmm, multi-tasking writer/editor starts a food business? Sounds familiar!)

Raft Botanical Cocktail + Soda Syrups (Portland, OR)
The Win(s): Lemon Ginger Syrup and Hibiscus Lavender Syrup

The Deets: Barely sweet, with true flavors from natural ingredients and botanicals, these syrups can up your beverage game. Combine with bubbly water for a healthier and more flavorful soda alternative. Replace the plain ‘ol simple syrup in your home bar with one of these syrups (use half as much Raft syrup as you would simple syrup) to add another level of flavor to your cocktails.

Take your drinking-making skills to the next level with Raft's syrups

Take your drinking-making skills to the next level with Raft’s syrups

Interesting Story: Raft is the result of the founders’ Roslynn Tellvik and Sook Goh’s interests in combining creative flavors, healthful ingredients, and food science. If handcrafted drinks (of both the boozy and non-boozy kind) are your thing, sign up for their weekly recipe newsletter and add some new twists to your drink-making repertoire.

Crude Bitters and Sodas (Raleigh, NC)
The Win: “Rizzo” Bitters (Rosemary, Grapefruit, and Peppercorn)

The Deets: Crude’s flavorful bitters are handmade in small batches by macerating roots, herbs, and spices in a corn-based spirit. “Rizzo” is herbaceous and peppery, with a zing that would complement cocktails made with clear spirits, such as vodka, gin, and tequila. I’m trying this winner in my next round of vodka martinis.

Rather refined: Rizzo bitters

Rather refined: Rizzo bitters

The Connection: I had a nice chat about handcrafted libations and the vibrant food and drink scene in Raleigh with Bitter Soda Jerk, Craig Rudewicz (hey, that’s what it says on his business card!). Turns out Craig knows the guy who installed the taps in my brother-in-law’s new restaurant. It’s a small world.

Crude's Bitter Soda Jerk, Craig Rudewicz

Crude’s Bitter Soda Jerk, Craig Rudewicz

Avalanche Cheese Company (Basalt, CO)
Tomales Farmstead Creamery (Tomales, CA)
The Wins: Avalanche’s Goat Cheddar and Tomales Farmstead’s Assa

The Deets: Avalanche’s Goat Cheddar is aged 6-12 months and made in the style of traditional British cheddars — but with goat milk. It’s a medium-firm cheese with a touch of creaminess that slices like an aged cheddar. Tomales Farmstead’s Assa is a hard goat cheese (reminiscent of a manchego, but made with goat milk), that is aged 6-24 months.

The Story: By the time I’d worked my way through the sweet stuff, I was riding a pretty serious sugar high, and the Marketplace was winding down. I managed to squeeze into the crowded charcuterie and cheese area for some last-minute cheese tasting before calling it a day. I had a tough decision as to which cheeses were going home with me (because, well, cheese), so I was a good girl and limited myself to these two.

Both the Avalanche Goat Cheddar and Tomales Bay Assa Aged Goat are perfect on a crisp cracker with a touch of Plum Tree’s juicy Tayberry Jam or shaved into a wintery salad of shredded lacinato kale, roasted sweet potatoes, thinly sliced apples, and toasted pecans. Or, with a glass of wine after a full day at the Ferry Building.

Phew! Did you attend the Good Food Awards Marketplace? If so, what were some of your favorite tastes, interesting stories, or unexpected connections? Missed Marketplace event? Be sure to check out the full list of winners here. There’s likely a Good Food Award winner or two near you. If so, show some local love and support their businesses by trying their products and learning their stories.

Field Trip: Good Food Awards Marketplace in San Francisco

January 16, 2015 § 2 Comments

This time of year, you’d be hard pressed to get me out of bed before sunrise on a chilly Saturday morning. Unless, of course, there’s an incentive, like a major shoe sale… or a perhaps a fest of award-winning food. This past Saturday it was The Good Food Awards Marketplace that had me up before dawn, under-caffeinated, and in the car heading up US 101 to San Francisco’s Ferry Building. For me, the event is a kickoff to a new year of food and drink and an opportunity to taste some of the best handcrafted deliciousness in the US without leaving the Bay Area. (Need a review of last year’s GFA Marketplace adventure? Clicky to read Part Un and Part Deux.)

Displays by winners in the Good Food Awards confections category: Sweet decadence, as far as the eye can see!

Displays by winners in the 2015 Good Food Awards Confections category: Sweet decadence, as far as the eye can see!

If you’re not familiar with the Good Food Awards, here’s a short summary from their website:

“The Good Food Awards celebrate the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic and responsibly produced. We grant awards to outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients.”

Note that the awards go to the food and beverage producers and those providing the ingredients! It’s not just the craft and end product that receive recognition, but also the ingredient producers. An award that celebrates the value and importance of a sustainable food system, including the relationship between producer and farmer? Yes, indeed! Because, really, isn’t that what good food is all about — marrying delicious, fresh, sustainable ingredients with the art and skill of food making?

Awards are given in 11 categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, pickles, preserve, spirits, oil, and honey. There’s no single winner in each category, rather there are multiple award winners representing five regions throughout the country: Central, East, North, South, and West.

The Marketplace event gives the public a unique opportunity to meet producers and taste the winning products. Hosted by CUESA and The San Francisco Ferry Building, the tasting event, which ran concurrently with the Saturday farmers’ market, was set up around the outside of the Ferry Building and along the driveway. (Two other Good Food events — the awards ceremony gala and Good Food Mercantile “un-trade show” — were held at other San Francisco locations on January 8th and 9th, respectively.)

Good Deal: $5 gets you tastes of all award-winning food products!

Good Deal: $5 gets you tastes of all award-winning food products!

More than just a tasting event, the Marketplace is an opportunity for Bay Area food lovers, trendspotters, and food and beverage crafters to connect with the people who are making good stuff all across the US. Where else might you meet a beekeeper from Pennsylvania, a chocolatier from an island off the coast of Maine, or jam maker from Oregon? Certainly the Bay Area was well represented among the winners, but this year I wanted to look beyond our local and regional foodcrafters, because good food happens everywhere. (While the focus of 650Food is my “local” — the San Francisco peninsula — I can’t encourage you enough to examine the food system in your neighborhood, town, and region.)

Equally as valuable and engaging as the products themselves are the stories about the creation of those products. Every foodcrafter has a story about how he or she was inspired to follow a passion, practice their craft, and create something delicious that is worthy of a Good Food Award. The story behind the food and its ingredients is, in fact, part of the product itself. As consumers and food lovers, those stories can become part of our food experience, too. And that goes a long way to providing support and broadening the community that is so essential to the growth of small food businesses.

What struck me as I tasted and chatted my way through this year’s market was the role that food plays in connecting us. At the GFA Marketplace, it’s certainly an easy conversation starter, but those conversations can lead to connections. A love of well-made and responsibly produced food, not to mention the experience of sharing that food, brings people together. I can’t say it enough times: talk to the people who make your food — whether you’re shopping your local farmer’s market or visiting a chocolate shop in St. Louis, MO. You never know what you might learn or how you might be connected.

My haul from the 2015 Good Food Awards Marketplace

My haul from the 2015 Good Food Awards Marketplace

For a roundup of products I’m crushing on from this year’s Good Food Awards Marketplace, not to mention interesting product stories and unexpected connections, click on over to Part Deux.

Field Trip: Celebrating Summer with CUESA

July 1, 2014 § 4 Comments

It’s summer! Just writing those words brings a smile to my face. (Could you tell that it’s my favorite time of year?) rusty-blade-flowers

How did you mark the official arrival of summer? Did you barbecue at home with the family and neighbors? Take your kids to the park for a picnic? Pass a leisurely afternoon day drinking with friends on the patio of your favorite restaurant? Whatever you did, I’ll bet it included friends or family and food!

I get a little giddy when I think of all the wonderful, fresh food that’s available from our gardens and local farms this time of year — which you could probably figure out from my recent posts about local stone fruit and coastal strawberries. We’re so fortunate to have fine weather and a long growing season here, but also a culture that values growing, making, and  sharing good food.

So how did I mark the official start of summer? With some delicious food and fine cocktails, of course! CUESA’s Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building on June 22 was the perfect summer kickoff party. The event, which benefits CUESA’s educational program, celebrated the bounty of summer produce with small plates and handcrafted cocktails created by some of the city’s best chefs and bartenders. (There were also fresh nonalcoholic libations: juice blends and shrubs.) Each plate or beverage was inspired by one of six categories of summer produce  — or “culinary families,” as CUESA calls them:

  • Alliums
  • Berries
  • Cucurbits
  • Grains and legumes
  • Leaves and flowers
  • Stone fruit

Most of these food families are probably familiar to you — especially berries and stone fruit. Alliums and cucurbits might be less-familiar names, but you’ll recognize their family members. Allium, the latin name for garlic, includes all varieties of garlic and onions, including shallots, leeks, and scallions. But what the heck are cucurbits? (Ok, am I the only person who hears Bill Cosby’s voice saying “Riiiiight. What’s a cucurbit?”). The cucurbit family includes vine-growing produce, which are botanically classified as fruits: squashes, melons, and cucumbers.

More than just a tasting event, CUESA’s Summer Celebration brought together farmers, chefs, beverage crafters, and food lovers of all kinds from around the Bay Area to taste, savor, and learn. While you might know CUESA as the people who put on the Ferry Building farmers’ markets, much of what CUESA does involves educating consumers about sustainable agriculture and local food systems. (Want to know more about their mission? Check out their site.) The Summer Celebration included a variety of fun and creative educational games to teach attendees more about each culinary family. (An added bonus for food geeks!)

Santa Cruz’s Dirty Girl Produce had a gorgeous display of alliums and challenged attendees to an allium “sniff test.” Could you tell the difference between onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions with just your sense of smell? Not as easy as you might think! I had a chance to test my berry knowledge by spinning the Wheel of Berries to answer a berry trivia question. My prize? Yum — a tasting of fresh berries! However, one of my favorite games of the evening was “What’s Your Stone Fruit Name?” (I won’t tell you how it works, but there’s not much skill involved).  For the rest of the evening I was “Flavor King,” and my date? “Golden Blaze.” We wrapped up our game-playing at Grains & Legumes Jeopardy, rocking the Grains category, but stumbling on the Legumes. Looks like I need to brush up on my legume facts, but it was fun all the same.

The event was also an opportunity to connect one-on-one with food growers, such as Frog Hollow Farm, Sierra Cascade Organic Blueberry Farm, Star Route Farms, and Dirty Girl Produce. I learned some “Fruity Facts” and talked food waste solutions with the Frog Hollow folks, who grow some of sweetest, most flavorful peaches and apricots in the area. I got the lowdown on how Sierra Cascade’s farmer, John Carlon, created a sustainable farm by understanding and working with the synergy between the blueberries, bumblebees, and gophers. And I experienced edible blossoms and leaves (oh my — Meyer lemon blossoms! Floral, perfumey, sweet, and citrusy, with a bit of crunch.) at Star Route Farms’ beautiful display.

There were so many delicious creations to try, but here’s the short list of favorite tastes from the event.

The Sweet Onion and Tasso Ham flatbread from Il Cane Rosso doesn’t look fancy, but it’s so flavorful and craveable. To me it was like a next-level nacho plate. The flavors paired well, as did the contrast between the crispy flatbread and the tasso ham. Even thinking about it now is making me hungry.

Sweet Onion and Tasso Ham Flatbread with Roasted Shallot Cream and Crispy Spring Onions (Lauren Kiino: Il Cane Rosso, Red Dog, and Fearless)

Sweet Onion and Tasso Ham Flatbread with Roasted Shallot Cream and Crispy Spring Onions (Lauren Kiino: Il Cane Rosso, Red Dog, and Fearless)

Most of the handcrafted cocktails showcased locally produced spirits — and gin seemed to the spirit of choice. I’m not a gin fan, but this cocktail of raspberry, lemon, bitters, and No. 29 gin was a favorite. Plus, it had a super-cool (pardon the pun), large ice cube.

Logan's Run with No. 29 Gin: raspberry, lemon, bitters, gin and one really nifty ice cube (John Gasparini: Rye on the Road)

Logan’s Run with No. 29 Gin: raspberry, lemon, bitters, gin and one really nifty ice cube (John Gasparini: Rye on the Road)

Everyone I talked with listed “the pork belly” as one of their top tastes of the evening. 1760’s tasting spoon paired rich pork belly with a sweet berry compote. A bit of bad planning on my part, as I tasted this one later in the evening, not leaving enough time to round back for seconds… or thirds…

Pork Belly with Berry Composte, Coriander, and Pistachios (Ben Stephans: 1760)

Pork Belly with Berry Compote, Coriander, and Pistachios (Ben Stephans: 1760)

And this is why I love tasting events: being surprised by something unexpected! I was thinking “yeah, yeah, stuffed squash,” when I saw this plate, but this stuffed squash from Bluestem Brasserie was delicious!

Sausage-Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash with Goat Cheese and Squash Blossom-Pepita Pesto (Francis Hogan: Bluestem Brasserie)

Sausage-Stuffed Ronde de Nice Squash with Goat Cheese and Squash Blossom-Pepita Pesto (Francis Hogan: Bluestem Brasserie)

I was holding off tasting most of the desserts until later in the evening, which meant that I missed out on a few — and maybe that worked out for the best. Yigit Pura’s Panna Cotta was worth it, and he has restored my faith that there is well-made, creamy panna cotta in the world. Perfect summer dessert: light, balanced, fruity. Trust me, if I weren’t so full, I would have eaten two more.

Strauss Family Creamery Yogurt Panna Cotta, with Cucumber, Basil, & Gin Gimlet Gelee, and County Line Tuscan Cantalope (Tout Sweet)

Strauss Family Creamery Yogurt Panna Cotta, with Cucumber, Basil, & Gin Gimlet Gelee, and County Line Tuscan Cantalope (Yugit Pura: Tout Sweet)

Grains & Legumes
Andrew Court’s Ancient Grains & Seaweed Salad was another surprise of the evening, which is why there’s no photo of the plated dish. (Sorry, you’ll have to make do with this fancy copper baby bathtub full of the grains and legumes used in the salad.) I pretty much inhaled it once I tasted it. The grains were perfectly cooked, the seaweed added a bit of umami flavor and crunch, and the dressing brought it all together. Deliciously healthy, and yet indulgent at the same time.

Ancient Grain & Seaweed Salad with Wasabi Vinaigrette (Andrew Court: The Fairmont San Francisco)

Ancient Grain & Seaweed Salad with Wasabi Vinaigrette (Andrew Court: The Fairmont San Francisco)

Leaves & Flowers
Here we have the first gin cocktail of the evening, and it might have changed my opinion about gin! This one, made with the 650’s own Rusty Blades Gin, was probably my all-around favorite. Again, not a gin fan, but Rusty Blades reminded me more of an aged whiskey and was really tasty with a bit of sweetness. The cocktail was summery, citrusy, and floral, and garnished with a pretty flower. Loved it!

Rusty Blade Gin's summer celebration cocktail

Rusty Blade Gin’s summer celebration cocktail

Smoked salmon? Yes, please! I thought Gaspar’s English pea and chive blini would be nothing more than a delivery device for the salmon, but I was so wrong! This bite pulled together the sweet flavor and soft, creamy texture of the blini with the smokiness of the fish and the herbal accent of the chives. So good!

Gaspar's English Pea and Chive Blini with Smoked Salmon

Gaspar’s English Pea and Chive Blini with Smoked Salmon

Stone Fruit
If you’ve read past posts, you know that Campo de Ecanto Pisco is regular in my home-bar lineup. Pair that with Frog Hollow Farms apricots for Rye on the Road’s Pisco Apricot Tropical, and wow! Yes, I’ll be doing some major “research” to reverse engineer this one at home.

Pisco Apricot Tropical, made with Campo de Encanto Pisco and Frog Hollow apricots (Greg Linden: Rye on the Road)

Pisco Apricot Tropical, made with Campo de Encanto Pisco and Frog Hollow apricots (Greg Linden: Rye on the Road)

Last, but in no way least, was A16’s Stone Fruit & Roasted Beet Salad. The beets and fruit played perfectly together, while the yogurt and nuts added texture and flavor. The kind of salad you could eat all summer long!

Stone Fruit & Roasted Beet Salad with Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Pistachio & Dragoncello Sauce (A16)

Stone Fruit & Roasted Beet Salad with Sheep’s Milk Yogurt, Pistachio & Dragoncello Sauce (A16)

Did you attend CUESA’s Summer Celebration? What was your favorite drink or small plate?

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