I wasn't sure what to expect as I headed over to Pier 3 a few weeks back to represent Terzo in the Taste of the Bay Event, an annual fundraiser put on by the Hospitality Management program at San Francisco State University.
Chef Mark was out of town, and I was told I'd have an intern to help, so I went alone, the solo flyer that I prefer being (or control freak, you choose). My dish was simple with no need for cooking or much fussing: Marinated Feta with Lemon, Mint, Oregano and Olive Oil on Crostini. He planned it perfectly. Even though I'm no rookie in the kitchen, getting ready for the guests translated to smearing feta on toast and schmoozing with the other restaurateurs, chefs, former colleagues and wine industry professionals.
Positioned between Paragon Restaurant who was serving housemade sausage and Luce, where chef Dominique Crenn was putting together pork belly mini-burgers with red cabbage (yum), I couldn't have asked for a better locale. The Bay Bridge loomed behind our boat, the docked San Francisco Belle, donated for the event by Hornblower Dinner Cruises.
It was readily apparent after the 10 minutes it took to decorate my table and set up the mis en place that I would need some vino, as the event was still an hour away from beginning, and was slated to last 3 hours! I perused the other vendors, many still an hour away from being ready (and some not even yet arrived), but was a little shy to ask if any would start popping their corks this early. Who moi? I have a small amount of restraint, sometimes. My intern, Monica, was a bright eyed freshman, having never worked in a restaurant, but in the hospitality program nonetheless. When proded about why she chose this major, she responded that she wanted to be an event planner "because I helped plan my senior prom and loved it". Awww, the naivete' of youth!
As Luce set up I marveled at their almost life-sized poster of Dominique, fresh from the set of Iron Chef, and all of their propaganda promoting her pending television appearance. This was perfect fodder for giving her shit, as she was clearly incredibly embarrassed by their insistence on the large poster. She slipped me a pork belly mini burger to keep me quiet, piled on the most delicious brioche buns that she "had a friend make, as the brioche here in the states is just not as good as in France". Well, that friend should work at Luce with her, because the brioche was incredible, and judging by the fact that she had just earned a Michelin Star that very day, I must be seriously missing out on a great place. Another one to put on the list.
Dominique loves Terzo and promised to come in and give me an equal dose of shit the next time she had a moment free. I couldn't wait.
Once the event got rolling, my intern well trained in swiping the proper amount of feta on the crispy toasts, I cruised around the room again to see (and sample) the other chefs' goods. Damn, I was sad I had a late lunch at Le Garage (yes, I went there again...), as there was ample food to be had. I sampled anyway: Delicious chili from Henry's in the Hotel Durant (Berkeley), a place I once worked for a week over a decade ago while finishing my degree. Lark Creek Steak had its famous Butterscotch Pudding, a dessert I've had more than my share of during my time with their organization, One Market, and Isaac, the nicest chef one has ever met and who has worked there over 10 years, had delicious crab cakes on little spoons. Kuleto's was serving little toasts with incredible duck liver and marmalade. Oyaji, a Japanese restaurant far into the Richmond, was serving sushi, but wait, they were already gone. Why is it that sushi at these events disappears as if it were the latest thing to hit the dining circuit?
I circled back to my table, Peju being right next door, my wine needs met. The beer at this event was crisp and perfect too: Pyramid was pouring their Snowcap seasonal ale and Heifeweisen; Anderson Valley was pouring their famous Boont Amber. The room was hot and full of people who couldn't get enough crammed onto their small plates. I was watching the cocktail style high tables fill with unwanted food morsels and the restaurant manager in me couldn't look the other way as I motioned to the interns to bus the hell out of them. Once a boss, always a boss, I suppose.
As things wound down, Dominque admitted she was drunk which was another opening to give her a hard time. I reminded her she had to stay in top shape to sign all those autographs that were certain to be solicited. I packed up my table a few minutes later, loaded up the cart and said goodbye to all, and then proceeded to scoot around the line of culinary students who were, you guessed it, lined up for autographs at the table next door.