Cookin' The Mint : Part I : Celebrating San Francisco's Culinary History

Part 1 of 3, this post gives an overview of Standing Ovations: Cookin’ The Mint. Parts 2 & 3 will take a closer look at the food and wine presented that evening. San Francisco is a city rich with history, a culture all its own.…

Cookin' The Mint : Part I : Celebrating San Francisco's Culinary History

Part 1 of 3, this post gives an overview of Standing Ovations: Cookin’ The Mint. Parts 2 & 3 will take a closer look at the food and wine presented that evening.

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.

The-Old-MintHonored 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 RanchNancy 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-Old-Mint-InteriorThe Mint Vaults were a captivating location for the cocktail reception. Each cavernous vault offered tastings from 7 venues and 12 wineries.The-Old-Mint-CocktailsThe 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.

The-Old-Mint-DiningRoom

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.The-Old-Mint-Dinner-Cookin The MintNeedless 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!

Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here
.

Comments

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  1. Stella

    Hey Liren, this looks wonderful. I am envious to some extent, as I live in an area that has very little culinary scene or agricultural scene like California does, so this is only something I get to look at on Blogs like yours (smile). Glad you had a nice time, and your photos are great!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Stella, I have to admit that I do feel so lucky to currently live in an area that has such a vibrant and forward moving culinary scene, but that may not always be the case, so I am doing my best to really enjoy each and every day. But each part of our country has something culinary to offer, and that is part of the beauty of food, and discovering what is available around us. Kind of like how you found those fantastic cherries the other week! I hope that if you are able to visit SF in the near future, you can drop by some of the places I write about and experience it, too!

      Reply
  2. Cristina @TeenieCakes

    Liren: You’ve outdone yourself. Great post and great photography! What a lovely evening to be a part of. How was the Soy-Lemongrass Filet Mignon…do tell more! Sounds amazing. SF is rich in culture and such a great city to live near. Looking forward to part 2 & 3!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Cristina – the Filet Mignon was of excellent quality, and perfectly prepared, which to me, is so impressive when it comes from a large catered event, as it is so hard to control quality when cooking for so many people. The beef was tender and juicy, and I loved the accompanying bites of watercress and pickled Shiitake mushrooms. Each sweet and tangy bite gave the rich flavored beef such a pleasing dimension. The accompanying gratin received mixed reviews by people at my table. There were some that simply did not care for it – it was not overwhelming in any particular flavor – it didn’t really stand out with coconut or squash flavors, and some did not like the texture (crunchy panko type crust while very creamy on the inside). The gratin grew on me and I could understand the balance they were trying to give to the show stopping beef. Overall, the Filet Mignon was superb.

      Thank you so much for the compliments on the photography – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

      Reply
  3. Spicy Green Mango

    OMG! So it was YOU who got to go. Bummer for the last-minute tix since I always have classes on Thursday nights, but WONDERFUL that is was you who attended the magnificent event. So lucky and I’m already in awe of your pictures. I’m so happy there was natural lighting for you :) The food looks so delicious! I’m living this event vicariously through you, Liren!

    Reply
    • Liren

      LOL, yes, it was me! I was stunned at my luck, and I did think of you as I surveyed The Mint’s lighting situation when I arrived. The dining rooms on the upper levels were beautifully bathed in light thanks to the old, nearly floor to ceiling windows. In particular, the Boulevard Room where I was seated had some of the best lighting in the best part of the building for that time of early evening. I was definitely challenged in the vaults, where there was virtually no light, other than accent lighting, and I tried as best as possible to not use a flash (and have to admit the thought crossed my mind that perhaps a Speedlight would be handy). You’ll see how challenged I was in Post 2, but there were some happy results nonetheless. The happiest result, though, was my belly!

      Reply
    • Liren

      Susan, I am so pleased you like it! It was so great to meet and and share the experience with you! Thanks again!

      Reply
  4. Sortachef

    Wow. So many things wrapped up here – a way cool building, some serious history and an impressive culinary treat. You put this all together so beautifully, with excellent photos. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you so much. I realized while I was there that one post just simply wouldn’t do it justice. There really was so much that evening!

      Reply
  5. Debi(Table Talk)

    I miss the Bay Area so much, for all of the reasons you mentioned you love living there now. What a wonderful evening. Your photos are so descriptive; like we were there!
    Looking forward to the 2nd part of this series.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Debi, you know, I have to say that the menu from this evening really reminds me of your menu, of your style! I’m so glad you liked the photos – I really wanted everyone to get a sense for the experience.

      Reply
  6. citronetvanille

    Oh that sounds like a wonderful event, San Francisco is a great city for food and innovative restaurants. What a lovely menu!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi, Silvia! It definitely was wonderful! I have to say, Taste really had quite the task when it came to creating the menu – I did not envy the challenge, but I think they did a lovely job.

      Reply
    • Liren

      Tracey, it really was fun! It was fantastic to have so many of the best venues and wineries under one roof for one evening!

      Reply
  7. The Housewife

    Lucky you! Everything looks so amazing! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Well then, you’ll have to come back, Denise! There are lots of excuses to visit SF!

      Reply
  8. Jean

    Liren, how fun! I can’t think of a better way for a foodie to spend an evening.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Jean, you said it! It was like a foodie’s dream come true :)

      Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Lisa, I know you can understand how special this was. And you’ll see some familiar names in the future posts!

      Reply
    • Liren

      It really was! Hope you do visit SF, it’s a great town, especially if you like to eat :)

      Reply
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