Who Knew?: A Short Review of SF FallFest 2004

Normally when I hear about big marketing events where for fifty, seventy, one hundred bucks you get a ticket to wander around various booths offering nibbles and small splashes of wine I’m incredibly suspicious. I’ve been burned more than once after shelling out a big chunk of change and then finding myself in a massive crush of people, waiting fifteen minutes at each station for a crappy bit of food and a wine I could buy at Safeway later if I wanted.

Imagine my surprise, then as I experienced the SF FallFest 2004 today at Justin Herman Plaza, where not only were there not a million people, but the food was fabulous and the wine, frankly, stupendous.

I know, I know, it’s hard to believe that an event sponsored by what amounts to a yuppified San Francisco mall (Embarcadero Center) could actually amount to much, but this was most definitely the most pleasant and highest quality event of this type I have ever attended.

Start with what was an absolutely stunning day in San Francisco — perfect fall weather, not too hot, but blue skies and sun. Then add (much larger than the usual microscopic) samplings of food from hot restaurants like Quince, The Fifth Floor, Piperade, Aqua, Tartare, Asia De Cuba, and you’ve already got the makings of a hit. In a remarkable and brilliant move, the organizers (or the restaurants themselves) paired a wine producer with each restaurant — very deliberately and intelligently in many cases. And to top it off, many of these wine producers were stellar small producers like Acorn, Tandem, Jim Neal, Two-Tone, Andrew Lane, Mojon’s Bench, Whitcraft, and Frias Family. Look for some reviews of the standouts here in the next week.

Needless to say, I was in heaven. The organizers must be complemented for an extremely flawless event, from the live jazz in the background to the small kit everyone got when they entered — a plate with a built in wineglass holder (and wineglass) with utensils. The cooking demonstrations and lectures that also were available looked interesting and well done, but frankly I was enjoying the weather, wine and food too much to go sit in a tent for half an hour.

Mark your calendar for next year. This is a good one to catch.