January 23, 2007

January 23, 2007

First off, I just wanted to let you know last week's benefit for ~LANCE BELL~ raised a little over $10k for him, so that's great news—cheers to everyone who helped out.

So I spent all day Sunday checking out the ~NASFT FANCY FOOD SHOW~ at Moscone. I had to give myself aserious strategic talk before I went in there: I told myself only the obscure, the artisanal, and most definitely the European were fair game for tasting. It's all pretty mind-boggling: both the North and South halls are jammed with food products from all over the world, with everyone wanting you to try their wares. (I made sure to eat a good breakfast beforehand so I'd only taste what I really was intrigued with).

I swear, the market is just flooded with sauces, olive oil, and tea. (If you have an idea for any of those categories, I'd reconsider.) I'm glad I don't have a sweet tooth, because I was able to bypass a ton of stuff without a hint of remorse. It was almost kismet to run into Steffan Terje from Perbacco at the Fra Mani/Cheeseworks table—of course we were both reaching for the mortadella. (Cheers.) I met some Italians from Sardegna and Sicilia—it was great to chew the fat with them while chewing some fat, or cheese.

Some items that stood out:

• The Armenian products from Sylvia of Harvest Song blew me away, specifically the baby walnut (!!), apricot, and her tea rose petal preserves. Would love to sit back with a chunk of cheese and an array of her products.

• Thought my vegan pals would dig the vegan vegetable terrine from Trois Petits Cochons —I was also thrilled to discover their perfect cornichons that weren't overloaded in vinegar.

• Was cool to see so many of the canned seafood options from sustainable fisheries.

• The moist and washed curd extra-sharp "country store" cheese from Yancey's Fancy in New York was some juicy, tangy cheese.

• Got to do some side-by-side pimentón de la Vera sampling, with bright flavors that matched their incredible hues of brick red (I put this stuff on my eggs all the time)—found two of the brands online here—also tried some "mojoma" (salted and cured tuna that comes in a big hunk that you can slice).

• The coconut water and the brand-new açaí drink from O.N.E. totally invigorated me halfway through the event—I am so bringing these to Burning Man this year.

• Loved the calcium-rich and minerally water from Contrex, but was terrified by the tampon-esque packaging—no joke, the label has a heart and a pink cap. See for yourself on the site.

• The mysterious Yumberry juice was interesting—too bad the language barrier at the booth kept me from learning more.

• The wasabeans and means beans from rick's picks were feisty.

• Hanging out with some Spaniards, I enjoyed trying Avruga, a smoky caviar substitute that is made from the roe of herring off the coast of Spain, and tasting the whole Ortiz line of tuna and anchovies. Yum, fishies! Hello, cute Basque man feeding me anchovies! Meow.

• Of course I had to hang out with the Aussies—had a pleasant bite of summer with the semi-dried tomatoes from the Australian Antipasto Co.—the grilled pumpkin was kicky too.

• Yo, go Chile! The preserved carica from Tamaya Gourmet I tasted was begging to be on my Straus yogurt this morning. It was like an interesting cross between a firm canned peach, with some pear mildness and mango coloring, without being cloyingly sweet. Great texture.

• The folks from Mt. Vikos created this very unusual sweet olive jam that was swell with their feta, especially the basket feta. I also lost it over the Ines Rosales handmade sweet olive oil tortas from Spain—I've seen these before at Whole Foods, but now I know to buy these sweet/savory cracker-like rounds. Crispy, sweet, salty, with hints of anise and sesame. Hold me. My favorite edible of the show.

If Alka-Seltzer was smart, they would be out front handing out tablets at the end of event. (Although I prefer Brioschi for such matters—the Italians know a thing or two about indigestion.) It's downright wicked what you subject your palate and stomach to at this show; one minute you're eating cheese, then trying hot chocolate, then eating olives, then some genmaicha tea. Like, ick.

So, a few openings to report: Sharon Ardiana's homey pizzeria, ~GIALINA~, opened yesterday for dinner service out in Glen Park, just across from the BART station. On the menu are Neapolitan pies, antipasti, and special roasts and a fish of the day, plus ricotta cheesecake and her kooky hazelnut dessert pizza. Open nightly, Mon-Thu from 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat until 11pm, and Sun 4pm-10pm. (The restaurant will begin serving lunch in spring.) 2842 Diamond St. at Kern Alley, 415-239-8500.

~ESSENCIA~, the Nuevo/contemporary Peruvian restaurant from Anne Gingrass and partners in Hayes Valley is not opening until February 14, when they will open for lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat. Michael Bussinger is the opening chef. 401 Gough St. at Hayes St., 415-552-8485.

~BITE~ in the Tenderloin's Crash Nightclub has also been delayed until mid or late Feb. 34 Mason St. at Turk St., 415-EXC-ITED.

It seems ~LITTLE JOE'S~ on Van Ness has closed—the building was sold, condos are coming. We'll see if Franco manages to find yet another location to serve his carbonara. 2550 Van Ness Ave.