A week or so after my birthday, I decided to splurge and buy tickets for my boyfriend and I to go to one of the tasting sessions at Fort Mason. Tickets, at $65 each plus fees, were more expensive than most of the wine tastings I’ve attended at Fort Mason by $10, and more expensive than any concert I’ve seen to date (even those Bauhaus Ressurection Tour tickets way back when were cheaper.)
As a former slowfood member, I would drool when I would receive the notices about the Italy tasting events and dreamt of some day planning my vacation to coincide with them. I was hoping this would live up to the idea I had built up in my head about what such an event could be. Did it? In short — no. I was disappointed. But I do see a lot of potential there, that I hope is tapped if they decide to move forward with another slowfoodnation event.
- Amazing Pizza. That pizza you are looking at here is in my top 5 most perfect crusts ever list. It was thin and crispy and delicious. And made in an oven that appeared to be built on site for the event, with pizzas assembled by an amazing crew of volunteers. It was worth the half hour wait, especially since we had delicious Magnolia Brewpub cask conditioned beer in hand.
- Lots of Learning. The honey, coffee and chocolate tastings were tasty, fun and informative. The folks we talked to who were manning the counters in these three areas clearly had passion for their subject matter. I had never really thought about how the time of the year would affect the way the honey would taste, so it was cool to be able to taste three examples of honey from the same bee colony from Spring to Fall. And the cupcake, as seen in the photo at the top of this entry, was the perfect tiny accompaniment.
- A Visual Feast. Throughout the Pavillions, the eye was engaged with all sorts of food ephemera and lots of educational content.
- Lack of Organization. We came through the gates and were handed our slowbucks (which we thought at the time we would surely run out of) and a flimsy map that showed where each pavillion was located. And that is it as far as takeaways from the event. For $65 it would have been nice to have been able to have taken home educational materials of some sort — be it a flyer on sustainable raised coffees, or a CD-ROM (or heck even a special URL for downloading) with the content from the educational displays. Some exhibits had interesting informative folks walking you through the flight you were tasting. Others — including the salumi and the ice cream — gave you no information about the food you were sampling other than what it was on a basic level. No details on the trends or philosophies behind the producer or the food item.
- Excessively Long Lines. I never got to read all the cheese-making educational content, and did not get to scope out the cheeses that were being samples because I couldn’t handle the though of standing in a line that stretched the length of the display, then half the width of the auditorium and out the door and down the side of the building to the front.
- Poor Wine Tasting Organization. You could only fight to the front of the meade/sparkling wine area; the rest were unreachable thanks to the cocktail rounds blocking the lines and immovable people who camped at the bar, never stepping back for anyone else to obtain a taste as well. I asked our bartender 3 times for a wine on the list that he said they did not have; my boyfriend finally pointed at the bottle in front of him. We then had the tiniest pour ever of said wine, which the bartender did not know anything about. It was the least informative or accessible wine tasting I have partaken in at Fort Mason. They really should not have bothered.
I expected to leave this event excited about local producers and foods. Instead I had sore feet, went home with many slowbucks unused, and ordered a pizza from Pizza Orgasmica because I was starving after spending hours around so much food (and receiving such tiny tastes of it from the few pavillions in which I could actually suffer the lines.)
I was also disappointed with the attendees. Overall, they were unfriendly (like the couple who rode the bus to the event with us, then couldn’t even return a smile when we ran into them inside), and rude (the lady who was saving 5 chairs at a table for her friends in line and wouldn’t let us sit there for the 5 minutes it would take for us to eat our tiny salumi tastes.) We did chat with one couple after we finally found a seat; they were aghast at the fattiness of the mortadella slivers my boyfriend had (and was not eating) and were deciding against waiting in that line.
I left feeling even more disconnected with the local slowfood movement. I let my membership lapse after a few years due to the only SF convivium events tending to be last minute (a few days in advance usually), incredibly expensive dinners. I had expected the SF chapter to be ripe with informative educational lectures, farm tours and volunteer opportunities, and fun tastings. I was hoping slowfoodnation would deliver on that. Maybe next year.