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Scenes from SF Chefs Food Wine 2011

To kick off the start of the third annual SF Chefs Food Wine extravaganza last Friday night on Union Square in San Francisco, no simple little ribbon-cutting ceremony would do.

Instead, Pastry Chef Lori Baker — who owns Baker & Banker in San Francisco with her husband, Chef Jeff Banker — created an astounding devil’s food cake cityscape complete with chocolate buildings to depict the Transamerica pyramid and an assortment of other iconic landmarks, including her own restaurant.

On their marks, a who’s who of celeb San Francisco chefs — including Chris Cosentino of Incanto, Emily Luchetti of Farallon and Waterbar, Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, and Russell Jackson of Lafite, as well as famed New York restaurateur Drew Nieporent, who flew in just for the occasion — grabbed knives to cut into the cake to signal the start of the three-day food and wine celebration.

That was preceded by the traditional sabering of a champagne bottle, as Cosentino looked on with knife envy, having sabered a champagne bottle with a Russian sword at his own wedding.

When the doors opened to the enormous tent pitched on Union Square, 1,200 folks piled inside to sample wines, cocktails and gourmet noshes prepared by 35 Bay Area chefs and to groove to the sounds of Chef Joey Altman’s band.

Unlike so many other big culinary fests, such as Aspen Food & Wine, which flies in chefs from around the country, SF Chefs is designed to showcase local talent. As a result, almost all of the chefs involved hail from the Bay Area.

Also, unlike other food festivals that are owned by a corporation and run for profit, SF Chefs is run by the non-profit Golden Gate Restaurant Association. To learn more about how SF Chefs Food Wine came to be, read my story in the current July/August issue of Food Arts magazine.

Friday night might have been the official kick-off, but there were plenty of pre-events leading up to it, including a special dinner at Wayfare Tavern for 50 folks, including yours truly.

Chef-Proprietor Tyler Florence was on hand to greet folks and to sign copies of his cookbooks.

The feast was served family-style at long tables set up in the private dining room on the third floor of the restaurant, where a historic black-and-white film of horse-drawn traffic on Market Street was projected on the wall in a continuous loop for a bit of nostalgia.

Dinner included rabbit terrine on grilled sourdough; ginormous popovers; Frog Hollow peaches with radishes, feta, mustard cress and black olives; organic butter lettuce with the Palace Hotel’s famous Green Goddess dressing; seared day boat scallops with whipped almond milk; mac and cheese; petit filet mignon with hen of the woods mushrooms; and the restaurant’s justly famous organic fried chicken flourished with herbs and roasted garlic.

The evening’s finale was simple and sweet: peach cream puffs, and bruleed sammies stuffed with strawberries and brie.

More Scenes from SF Chefs Food Wine 2011: Demos by Bar Agricole and Flour + Water

Plus: Chef Richard Blais Visits Frog Hollow Farm

And: Dining at the Plank at Lafitte

And: An Astounding Dinner at Aziza

And: A Visit to Baker & Banker

And: My Q&A with Chef Chris Cosentino