Destination: The Worlds of Flavor Conference [Napa Valley, CA]
But first, 24 glorious hours in San Francisco.
Despite the surprising new baggage fees…and the airline loosing that very same bag at my final destination, followed by a few harry moments trying to navigate the BART (light rail) system, I managed to make it to my rendezvous spot…only slightly frazzled.
Surfacing from the underground BART station, I was greeted by a handful of sidewalk hawkers and those quintessential San Francisco trolley bells. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and took in the sounds. Giddy school kid chatter was punctuated by shoe shine barkers. Metal on metal, I listened as passenger-filled trollies heaved into motion. Each clang of the trolley bell recalled that pervasive advertising jingle: Rice-a-Roni…the San Francisco Treat! By the third refrain, the spell was broken and it was time to move on….
Through a series of e-mails and Twitter messages, I arranged to meet LouAnn just a block away. I was sporting a giant green backpack…while juggling a purse and laptop case in one hand, and cell phone in the other. I must have struck a curious picture…one foot in the corporate world, and a Birkenstock-clad toe firmly planted in the backpacker world. Having never met before, I waved to the ponytailed woman across the street, hoping that was my Twitter buddy @oysterculture. Thankfully, she gave a cheery wave back and made her way to my side of the street.
While others may say meeting friends on Twitter is like blind dating, I liken it to travel during the days of stage coaches and steam ships. Back then, a letter of introduction provided valuable connections—and often hospitality—in far-flung destinations. Today, in our techno-dependent First world, your presence on the web serves as both letter of introduction and calling card.
With some time on my hands and the hope of meeting new friends, I threw out an invitation on Twitter: Coming to San Francisco! Anyone want to meet up?
Within days, my dance card was completely booked!
The San Francisco leg of my adventure began with a trip to the Mission District. The goal? Humphry Slocombe ice cream! Their website boasts an impressive collection of flavors and as a bonafied ice cream geek, I had my spoon poised and ready for action. We arrived during off-peak hours and I warned the counter guy, “I want to try them all!” Migrating through the freezer case—sampling everything from “breakfast cereal” to “balsamic caramel”, eventually I settled on Jesus Juice (red wine & classic Coke) and Fudgescicle. (Lou Ann had the better 2-scoop pairing of Jesus Juice and Olive Oil).
Though we were meeting friends for dinner, LouAnn and I made time for a slight detour…indulging in hearty soft shell chorizo tacos at El Tonayense. They were dripping in grease and mind-bogglingly delicious!
Strolling through the Hispanic-centric Mission District, I marveled at the brightly colored murals, juxtaposed by tell-tale San Francisco-style “painted lady” architecture.
Next stop? A writer/blogger/food editor dinner at funky Ti Couz restaurant.
Despite calling TWICE, we arrived at Ti Couz to discover…it was closed for a private party. Too late to reschedule now. We picked the closest restaurant nearby and taped our own sign on the Ti Couz door!
Holding camp at our new location, eagle-eye LouAnn spotted a happy hour sign from across the room: $10 Sangria carafes. “We’ll take two, please!” Before long, the wine was flowing and one by one we greeted a string of people I knew only by electronic means.
There’s nothing like eating, paired with animated conversations about food! Multiple plates of tapas danced around the table and large carafes of sangria stood within arm’s reach. I knew these folks through blogs, online articles and Twitter but when we finally met, the miles…and the fact that none of us had ever met before, suddenly slipped away…
I’ve been following Jennifer Jeffrey’s blog from the early days…cheering from my laptop when she found her lost dog, and traveling vicariously on her trips to Morocco and Portland. While her blog is currently on the back burner, the archives make great reading. As a writer and editor, she's got an impressive body of work. (@jenniferjeffrey)
Anita Chu is a dessert girl after my own heart. Her blog, Dessert First, lead to two books: Field Guide to Candy and Field Guide to Cookies. I've kept a close eye on her delicious creations for years. (@anitachu)
When Scott Hocker, the editor of San Francisco’s Tasting Table introduced himself, others chimed in, “Didn’t you used to be the editor at San Francisco magazine?” Yep. And now, following on the heels of the wildly successful LA, NYC and Chicago Tasting Tables, San Francisco has a newly launched site with a daily dose of deliciousness. (@nogracias)
Stephanie Stiavetti writes the award-winning blog Wasabimon. She was hot on the heels of a big weekend, having attended the FoodBuzz Food Blogger Festival, and working as Jaden’s escort during the SF leg of the Steamy Kitchen book tour. (@sstiavetti)
My ice cream and taco buddy, LouAnn Conner, writes a blog called Oyster Food and Culture and she just finished a terrific piece on breads around the world. Generous and in-the-know, with LouAnn as my guide, I was definitely in good hands! And check out this score. A jar of her sangria jelly is coming home with me! (Are we sensing a theme here????) (@oysterculture)
Surprise, surprise! Enroute to another event, my friend Andre--the wizard behind TasteTV.com, stopped by to say hello. PSST: Andre’s also the man behind the Luxury Chocolate Salons (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York) and the upcoming Tasty Awards gala in San Francisco. (@tastetv)
Ah…there’s more to tell but I’ll save it for another post.