While the rest of the country goes on a diet after its holiday over-eating, leave it to San Francisco to buck the Weight Watchers trend. We don’t curb our appetites in January. Instead we celebrate food and wine and the gastronomic and gustatory arts, with food shows and awards and restaurant deals at many of the best San Francisco restaurants.
The Bay Area food binge starts with the Good Food Awards, which recognize American food producers who are committed to sustainability and make extraordinarily delicious comestibles using only natural ingredients.
Although 2011 is the first year of the awards, which were initiated mostly by Bay Area organizations, more than 780 products from across the US were competing in the categories of beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles and preserves. The judges, Ruth Reichl, Nell Newman, Chez Panisse chefs, cookbook authors and other food luminaries, did blind tasting.
Of the 130 finalists, 70 winning products will be announced at a Jan. 14 ceremony hosted by culinary legend Alice Waters.
Many finalists are local, such as Bison Brewing, Thirsty Bear Brewing Co., the Girl and the Fig, Cowgirl Creamery, Fiscalini (cited for its “Bandage Wrapped Cheddar”), Blue Bottle Coffee and Ritual Coffee Roasters. The chocolate finalists sound particularly intriguing: Dragon’s Breath by Jade Chocolates, Milk + Black Lava Sea Salt by Vice Chocolates and Aztec Chile Tiles by Poco Dolce.
On Jan. 15, the morning after the awards announcement, most of the Good Food winners are expected to be sampling and selling their wares to the public at the Ferry Building farmers’ market.
The Good Food Awards folks are also launching Good Food Month--a series of coffee tastings, chocolate, farm and market tours, hands-on workshops (e.g., making cheese, marmalade and pickles) and other foodie events through Feb. 20.
For food-industry insiders, the feast continues at the Fancy Food Show, which boasts 80,000 specialty items to eat or drink from about 40 countries. The Jan. 16-18 trade show is at Moscone Center.
Everyone, though, is welcome to eat out for less during Dine About Town in the second half of January. Dozens of San Francisco restaurants, ranging from Absinthe to XYZ, are serving two-course lunches for $17.95 and/or three-course dinners for $34.95.
The East Bay version of Dine About Town is Oakland Restaurant Week, Jan. 23-29. Bay Wolf, Miss Pearl's Jam House and other restaurants are offering prix fixe dinners (at $20, $30 and $40), tasting events and other specials.
Coincidentally, an exhibition at the main library, San Francisco Eats, provides a broad perspective on the San Franciscan obsession with food. Since at least the Gold Rush era, San Francisco has been a gastronomic epicenter, as evidenced by cookbooks, menus, historical photos, and food gadgets and dishes invented here.
San Francisco Library is also presenting food-related films, cooking demos, talks, book discussions, book signings, and how-to sessions throughout the exhibit’s run. The first event, on Jan. 18, features a panel of local food bloggers. Speaking of which, two of my favorites, who aren’t on the panel but are passionate and knowledgeable, are Food Gal and Eat the Love.
You can start the diet next month.
Food, Glorious Food
Good Food Month
Jan. 14-Feb. 20
Discussions, tastings, food classes, tours. Venues and admission prices vary.
Good Food Awards Marketplace
Jan. 15, at 8 am-2 pm
Good Food Award winners sample and sell their products. At Ferry Building farmers market (under the arcade). Free.
Dine About Town
Lunch for $17.95 and dinner for $34.95 at about 100 San Francisco restaurants.
Oakland Restaurant Week
Bay Wolf, Miss Pearl's Jam House, Levende East, Flora, Scott’s and other restaurants offer $20-40 prix fixe dinners and other specials.
San Francisco Eats
Through March 20
A display including matchbooks, photos, cookbooks, menus and other memorabilia from San Francisco’s gastronomic history as early as the mid-1800s. Food-related films, talks, book signings and other activities on various dates. At the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St. Free.