Who said August doesn’t have any holidays? While Paris is probably barren of pain au chocolat for the entire month, the biggest food-and-drink festival in San Francisco returns to Fort Mason over the last summer weekend before Labor Day, with no fewer than four grand tastings. Eat Drink SF, sponsored by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and celebrating its 10th year, has everything from ice cream and Impossible Burgers to foie gras and cigars.
Tickets for the grand tastings, each one a unique, two-hour-and-45-minute affair, start at $129 and get you drinks and nibbles throughout the festival pavilion. (One tasting takes place on Friday evening and another on Sunday, while Saturday has two.) This year, beyond the dozens of restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and others, the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant will open a pop-up spirits store so you can take home bottles of your favorites. The Museum of Ice Cream will have a special set-up for that irresistible selfie, while a Willy Wonka-esque “golden ticket” giveaway will reward a lucky few Charlie Buckets with rewards at specially chosen Bay Area restaurants.
Monk’s Kettle chef Bridget Austria is a relative newcomer to the Bay Area, having relocated here from Ohio less than a year ago. Consequently, it’s her first Eat Drink SF — although having worked in hotels, she’s accustomed to scaling up.
“We’re doing a barbecue pulled pork sandwich with sweet corn and peach salsa, and our house-made pickles,” she tells SF Weekly. “I’m used to it. I know I need 1,500 sliders for this event, but for another event I did mac-and-cheese and it’s harder to figure out how much pasta you need.”
“We’re going to do bellinis with a compote of heirloom tomatoes,” says Rogelio Garcia, chef de cuisine at Spruce, who’s making his debut appearance.
That’s just for Spruce’s station, though. In addition to prepping well more than 1,000 of those babies, Garcia will do a Top Chef reunion Q&A and demo on stage, where he’s making an heirloom tomato gazpacho with cucumbers and micro cilantro alongside fellow Bravo alums Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo) and Tu David Phu (AN).
“The hardest part is leaving the restaurant,” Garcia admits.
Jason Raffin of Comstock Saloon isn’t just doing food, but an Irish coffee with Mr. Espresso as well. That’s because Comstock, a historic North Beach treasure, is essentially two connected bars served by one kitchen.
“We’re still figuring out some of the exact details on what kind of cream, but it’s going to be pretty cool,” he says.
In the food column, he’s planning white cheddar Chex caviar puffs with corn cream — because Tsar Nicoulai is sponsoring him with “seven huge tins of their reserve caviar,” he says. Be warned: He’s got a zest for American sturgeon roe.
“I’m going to be piling on caviar because, I told them I don’t want to be giving little portions of caviar,” Raffin says. “I want to be giving big hunks of caviar.”
It’s admirable in that Raffin and his team have found themselves in the weeds at previous events, trying to spoon caviar onto the tops of plates. It’s also notable in that food festivals of this scale can’t or don’t always aim for such elegance. But while it’s a little decadent, Eat Drink SF is anything but typical.
“I’m going to tell them to bring a lot of caviar spoons,” Raffin says.
Eat Drink SF, Friday-Sunday, Aug. 24-26 (four grand tastings in all), at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, 2 Marina Blvd., $129-$229, eatdrink-sf.com