Cookin' The Mint : Part I : Celebrating San Francisco's Culinary History
San Francisco is a city rich with history, a culture all its own. Though I am not a native Californian, I have grown to love the Bay Area more than I had ever imagined. In my nearly 10 years here, I am so proud to call San Francisco home. My family and I have embraced its love affair with seasonal cuisine, its wine, and the desire to eat local, organic, and sustainable foods.
So, when I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend and cover Standing Ovations: Cookin’ The Mint for Foodbuzz, I was beyond thrilled. Held on May 13, 2010, Cookin’ The Mint was an evening dedicated to celebrating San Francisco’s culinary history at The Old Mint, a National Historic Landmark.
Honored that evening were San Francisco culinary notables that have shaped not only Bay Area cuisine, but the way America thinks about food: Bill Fujimoto of Monterey Market, Bill Niman of Niman Ranch, Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, Charles Phan of The Slanted Door, Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe, Annie Somerville of Greens Restaurant, Albert Straus of Straus Family Creamery, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, and Warren Weber of Star Route Farms. The celebration included a cocktail reception, a seated dinner with a menu inspired by the honorees, a chocolate bazaar and awards ceremony, and a live performance by Joey Altman and the Pimentos featuring the Back Burners.
Cookin’ The Mint was the third Standing Ovations event dedicated to support The Mint Project. Led by the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society, The Mint Project will create a historical and cultural venue housed in The Old United States Mint, dedicated to preserving and promoting the people of San Francisco and their achievements. Attendees enjoyed a preview of the exhibit From Earth to 5-Star: the Bay Area’s Innovations in Farming and Food, which will be open to the public May 15-31.
The Old Mint is truly the perfect setting for this endeavor. Located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, The Old Mint is a structure that exemplifies beauty, history and resilience. This landmark was one of the few buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, and housed a third of our country’s gold until 1937. Its classical revival architecture is stunning, both outside and in. The Mint Vaults were a captivating location for the cocktail reception. Each cavernous vault offered tastings from 7 venues and 12 wineries. The historic Mint rooms were named for each the culinary honorees. Each room was its own unique venue, and you can imagine how excited my husband I were when we learned that we were seated in the Boulevard room – that restaurant is very special to us and is where we love to celebrate anniversaries. How appropriate! Taste Catering created the menu in tribute to the honoree’s culinary achievements. While all the rooms shared the same dinner menu, each had completely unique wine selections.
Executive Chef Chris Borges had quite a tall order to fill when creating the dinner menu, but it truly showcased all the delicious freshness the Bay Area has to offer.
A family style antipasto platter set the stage: there were Fava Bean Crostini with Nicoise olive, mint gremolata and Bellwether Pepato, Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Preserved Tuna and Artichoke Caponata, and Poached Jumbo Shrimp and Monterey Bay Squid with Brokaw Avocado Relish, Mariquita Beets and “Louie” Dressing (my favorite of the trio).
The first course was a lovely salad with Star Route Farms Spring Lettuces, poached Bella Viva Orchard apricots, Alfieri Farms almonds, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and a delightful Green Cardamom vinaigrette. Breads were provided by Acme Breads, and served with Straus Family Creamery Sweet Butter.
And finally, for the second course, there was a mouth-watering Soy-Lemongrass Filet Mignon, served with watercress, pickled Shiitake mushrooms, and caramelized red spring onions, and a creamy green garlic, summer squash, and coconut milk gratin. Needless to say, it was a culinary experience that awakened every one of the taste buds. Well, almost all. Because awaiting us afterwards, was a Chocolate Bazaar at Mezzanine. And I’ll tell you all about that in the next post. Stay tuned!