Like Michael Jackson’s movie currently in theaters, the recent First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival proved to be the can’t-miss event of the year! From our mouths to your ears (or eyes), we’re moving to San Francisco! Well, not really, but one can dream. The best part of the whole event was its location in the beautiful Bay city. We love this place! It is a much needed departure from LA where the air is crispier, the buildings taller and the sky may be a brighter blue. San Fran = Joy. And we want more of it in our lives!
The festival. Where do we even begin? First and foremost, we must give many thanks to our new friends at Bertolli for the weekend’s sponsorship and also for providing nothing short of VIP treatment all weekend. Big up’s to Craig, Sarah, Scott, Christine, Kai, Nyla, and Lauren! The folks behind Bertolli had everything worked out for us. All we had to do is show up and have a good time. Of course, there is a huge appreciation for everyone at Foodbuzz who made the event happen. All we can say is that Doug, Nate, Ryan, Alexa, Kiersten, Devon, Susan and Patricka are all awesome people. Congrats for pulling this off and doing it well! We came, we conquered, we demo-ed, and then we ate and ate and ate…and then ate. You can’t ask for more. Bear with us as we give you a very long recap of all that occurred.
We stayed at the Hotel Vitale, which is located smack dab across the street from the Ferry Building. Looking out of our window, there was the Bay Bridge singing songs of welcome. We knew we were in for a good time. We were able to check in at 11:00 am, and by 11:30 am, we were out the door to meet Candice of Pork Chops & Chicken for dim sum. The SF weather played a mean trick on us with its morning and early afternoon drizzle, but we were not deterred from enjoying all the city had to offer. We walked under umbrella to Candice’s hotel, the King George, and took a cab to Yank Sing. Funny enough, Yank Sing was diagonally across the street from the Hotel Vitale. Oh, the irony! Everything happens for a reason, and we’re convinced we were meant to get a little exercise in before chowing down.
There was nothing ironic about our meal. We were bombarded with plate after plate of irresistible foods. It was literally an attack of dim sum as the carts swarmed by, and we accepted whatever offer came through. Thanks to Candice for recommending this because it was worth the stuffed bellies and somewhat higher than expected price. We walked out the door feeling heavy but ready to head to the Vitale for a cocktail. But not before we sampled a sweet and spicy sauce-laden rib from a guy named T Dubs who had a spot next to Yank Sing. If you’re ever in San Fran, and you’re looking for a good rib, go see our man T Dubs! You have to trust that a man named T Dubs knows his ribs.
We walked across the street to our hotel and plopped down at the Americano where we happened upon a lovely English chap named Kai who was also there for the festival. Unbeknownst to us, he was also representing Bertolli. Don’t ask how we were confused by this, but long story short, we thought the only English person with Bertolli was a fellow named Scott, and perhaps Kai was his other name. Turns out Scott is in no way English, and Kai is a separate and lovely individual. That’s what happens when you have many folks on a conference call. After some time, Peter and Christey of FotoCuisine also sat with us in the bar. We chatted and sipped cocktails downstairs for a bit before heading up to the room to get ready for our preliminary meeting with the Bertolli team.
During the meeting, we were offered even more food (yikes), but more importantly the chance to meet everyone face to face, including Mardi of Eat, Live, Travel, Write and Lauren of Healthy Delicious. We spent 90 minutes doing introductions, informal run-throughs of a few interview questions and final preparation lists. The Bertolli team was so excited for us that we felt nothing but excited ourselves. We were so ready! No nerves at all. We wrapped up and headed down to the hotel lobby to officially check-in for the festival and grab our gift bags. That’s where we ran into Diana from Dianasaur Dishes and Jenn from The Leftover Queen who had already dug into her gift bag to see what was going on.
Now, let’s talk about the gift bags, shall we? First of all, the Foodbuzz pack was about 15 pounds and filled to the brim. We walked away from the table feeling like a million bucks! When we walked into our hotel room, there was another bag from Bertolli. Foodbuzz and Bertolli dished out a plethora of goodies, and when there are two of you, the gifts come in pairs. From gourmet Dijon mustard to bacon lollipops, ball-wire whisks to cappuccino frothers, classic Lance peanut butter crackers to fancy orange fennel salami, we knew our respective luggages would literally overflow with endless treats and kitchen gadgets on the flight back to LA. (We swear we played a fast-one on Virgin America because there’s no way an FDA regulation wasn’t broken with all the liquid, food, and glassware that we brought back home!)
We freshened up and made ourselves cute for the evening’s activities, which included a happy hour cocktail reception on the roof top patio of the Vitale followed by the street food fare at the Ferry building. Before the cocktail, we had a quick champagne toast with the Bertolli team and fellow winners. That’s where we met Kelly from Evil Shenanigans. Fortunately, there’s nothing evil about her. She’s sweet as sweet tea! During the cocktail reception, we finally got to meet so many of the people we’ve interacted with online, including Greg from SippitySup, Kelly from The Pink Apron, Steph from Steph Chows, Natassia from Let Me Eat Cake, Natalie of Natalie’s Killer Cuisine, Christina from Hot Pink Manolos, Chelsea and Sues of We are not Martha, Allie of Fat Kid Who Loves Food and Vik of Vik Eats just to name a few. We sipped Skyy Vodka Citrus Coolers and grabbed mini macaroni and cheese hors d’oeuvres while chatting and taking pictures with a few people before heading to the street fare!
By now, you’ve probably already read many other bloggers’ thoughts of the food that would follow from Friday night through Sunday morning, so some of this may be old news. We’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but that is hard to do. There were so many memorable nibbles from the weekend, but if you ask most people what their favorites were, there are a lot that come from Friday’s street food fare. First of all, Thirsty Bear hooked us up with full glasses of beer to keep us hydrated throughout the evening. Plus, we took home two of their glasses for keeps. A very nice prize! Second of all, the food. Oh the food! Hands down, the winners of the evening were Roli Roti’s Porchetta sandwiches and the Pie Truck’s Steak & Gruyère hand pies. When we saw the man in his ‘I love crispy skin’ shirt wipe up porchetta drippings with the bread, we wanted to slap each other. Too good! The sandwich made us float. We tasted the hand pies from Pie Truck and wanted to cry they were so delectable. We wanted to take 50 pies to the hotel and keep them in the fridge. We can’t say enough about these dishes, so we’ll just say no more. When we’re in the Bay area again, we will troll the city for more. We may even look into stock options! Those things were good!
We managed to mingle and mangia while juggling full cups of beer and trying to take pictures. At some point, you find yourself struggling to do all of the above, no matter how many pairs of hands are available. It’s especially hard when there’s so much mingling and mangia’ing to do! We ran into Val with More Than Burnt Toast, Joy from Joy the Baker, Tracy at Shutterbean, Angela the Spinach Tiger, Laura from Hey, What’s For Dinner Mom?, Luna from Luna’s Kitchen Magic, Lori Lynn from Taste with the Eyes, Kate from Something We Dreamed, Krissy and Daniel of The Food Addicts, Lando and Rose from Spots for Dates, Cathy (and Vernon) from Gas•tron•o•my, and Esi from Dishing Up Delights. And we cannot forget our new Cajun friends, Jay from Bite and Booze and Eusebio from Chef Thinks (we need to visit New Orleans, STAT!). While we said our hellos to so many, we packed our faces with the offerings from vendors, closing the night with oyster shots! That’s right. If you left earlier, you missed the shot fest that went on complete with video. Kiersten at Foodbuzz definitely has footage of the Duo taking one for the team, so let’s hope we see that soon!
We rolled back to the Vitale to have a couple of drinks at the Americano with Kai and Nyla from the Bertolli team, our buddy Candice and S.H. from Rice & Curry. Once the clock struck midnight, it was time to pack it in. We had to be up early the next morning for a light breakfast at the Ferry building followed by the prep session for the Bertolli Sauce demo. Amir is no rise and shine rabbit, but Chrystal tends to open her eyes way before the sun rises, so she was in charge of the morning schedule. Twitter was aflurry with intrepid bloggers up and at ’em to run before 7:00 am, but all we could say was ‘Go for it!’ and slide deeper under the covers. By 8:30 am, we were ready to get up and head over for a morning snack. We ran into familiar faces from the night before as well as Allison from Local Lemons. After a quick bite, we sped back to the hotel to get ready for the demo where we ran into Sarah who is the test kitchen chef for Bertolli and a super sweet lady. We hopped in a cab together and headed off to the demo.
After the demo, we had a couple of hours to run through the Tasting Pavillion and see everything that was going on. Boy, was there a lot going on! Beers and wines galore, in addition to too many foods to name. We also took absolutely no pictures, which is a shame! We can say that Mardi and Lauren did a great job with their Bertolli Sauce demos, and Stephanie dished up good bites of her peanut butter chocolate chip rum infused bread pudding muffins for the Nature’s Pride ambassador crew. Look at her beaming! And there was also Hong and Kim from the Ravenous Couple who whipped up halloumi crostini with Nature’s Pride bread. Very tasty. Other than watching our friends cook, we ate. We ate butter crunch from p.o.p. candy, flavored popcorns from 479 Popcorn, ceviche from Fuego, hot dogs from Pranther Ranch Mart, chutney and dried fruits from Frog Hollow Farms, homemade candies from BonBon Bar and cookies from Annie the Baker. There were also all of the samples from our fellow Bertolli demo buddies, the other folks from Nature’s Pride and the remaining food vendors. We haven’t even listed the wineries and beers. As you can read, it was overwhelming. If you’d like to actually see what all of these good eats were, you’ll have to hit up Foodbuzz or stumble over other bloggers pictures for the next couple of weeks. By 3:30 pm, we were walking back to the hotel to get ready for the night’s dinner and awards.
Exhausted and absolutely full, we boarded the bus to the Greenleaf Produce at 5:00 pm. Most people were chatty, but we used the 20 minute ride to close our eyes and try to rest up for what was next. Mind you, we’d gone strong for hours on end, and this was the first bit of rest we had all day. Once we arrived, it was time to jump around and meet even more people. The warehouse was a large, open space with fresh produce along the walls from floor to ceiling. It is here that the best goods of the Bay come in and out to restaurants in the city. The meal would be hosted by Outstanding in the Field complete with a huge, winding communal table that would seat 250 people. There was an hour to sip wine and move about the room, so we chatted with people here and there and got to meet Diana from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. When it was time for dinner, we sat down with our group, including Nichelle from Cupcakes Take the Cake, Yvo from Feisty Foodie and Bonnie from Chrysanthemum.
Dinner was impressive from the spread alone. Our favorites may have been the soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails and the mushroom risotto with crispy ‘shrooms on top. The roasted brussels sprouts with soft guanciale were high on the list as well. Funny enough, most tables had a beautiful basket piled high with shrimp chips. Our basket was dead empty by the end of the meal. Clearly, they were also a winner. The dutiful servers refilled our glasses with an assortment of red and white wines paired with a couple of the courses. As we passed our dishes family-style across our tables, it was a chance to sit, relax and eat, sharing not only food but also time with new friends. The awards ceremony followed dinner. We gathered around the stage, while eating our Koshihikari rice pudding. Superlatives went first, which meant we were waiting for “Blogger You’d Most Want to See Open Their Own Restaurant”. Well, sorry to say it, but we lost to Tartelette. If we’re going to lose, it might as well be to a champ. Next year guys!
We took the bus back to the Vitale and met friends in the Americano for more drinks. This was the first time we’d had a chance to see folks not related to the festival, which was nice. Friends from high school and family of significant others welcomed us to their city, and we chatted for a while. We were so lucky to have Christina from East Bay Dish and Tengo Hambre drive over the bridge to hang out for a bit too. She’ll be reviewing restaurant and food info from her area, so stay tuned! Around 1:00 am, it was time to turn it in. The entire day and night’s list of events had us tuckered out, and the cushy bed was calling!
On Sunday morning, we once again got up early for the farewell brunch at LuLu with a menu featuring Nature’s Pride bread and Skyy Vodka in a Bloody Mary bar. We piled our plates with Croque Monsieur with truffle mustard, pear and bleu cheese salad, French toast, bacon, panzanella salad, and cheddar and mushroom frittata. Oh, and a screwdriver and Bloody Mary for fun. Most people were heading out early, so it was the last chance we had to say hi to anyone we hadn’t met yet and bye to everyone else. We left LuLu and headed back to the hotel to stuff our bags with all the new loot scored from gift bags and also the Tasting Pavillion. Then it was time to check-out and run around the city for a few more hours before our flight. There is a rumor that we left the hotel, met up with Candice for dim sum in Chinatown, shopped at Old Navy, snagged a couple of chocolates at Teuscher, grabbed beers at Lefty O’Doul’s, felt enticed by yet denied ourselves of ribs at Lefty’s, bought sourdough loaves from Acme Bread Company and sipped one last happy hour beer at the Americano with Diana while snacking on cookies and fleur de sel caramels before boarding the towncar for SFO. Again, that could all be a rumor.
Never before have our stomachs experienced such over indulgence. Even at Thanksgiving you stop eating at some point. Well, we didn’t stop. The festivities lasted all weekend, and we stuffed our faces from the moment we stepped off the plane. We’re still full actually. The detox has officially begun, and the gym will be hit up with a vengeance. Just like Cheers, everybody in there will know our name! Apart from all of the good eating, we met so many beautiful, sweet, kind, supportive, encouraging, excited, happy people who just wanted to have a good time meeting other bloggers and eating good food in a vibrant city. If there’s anything more fun than that, we challenge you to let us know. We cannot say thank you enough to Foodbuzz and Bertolli for the experiences that were offered, but we’ll try to make it as clear as possible that we are over the moon ecstatic to have spent three days as we did. To next year and all of the years to come!