I make my way down Market towards the Ferry Building. It's Saturday and the farmer's market is going strong. As I make my way through the stalls and tables it's very clear to me I'm not in Colorado anymore. The food available in the end of autumn in amazing here. The selection of vegetables and fruit is just spectacular for this time of year. Back home, we're down to roots, a few hearty greens and some onions and potatoes. It's a strong argument as a chef to want to live here. California is certainly a fertile place with a virtual year-long growing season.
Not only am I amazed with the selection of produce - persimmons, Buddha's hand, lots of fresh greens, root vegetables, fruit - but also with all of the prepared foods available. There are pizza stands, dessert carts, sandwiches galore, vegan meals, rotisserie chicken trucks, coffee stands, and everything in between. I sample a few bites, took a lot of pictures, and then make my way inside the building.
Three of my favorite places in SF are in the Ferry Building: Slanted Door, Hog Island Oyster Co., and Boulette's Larder. Each one unique and each one spectacular. I stop into the Larder just to see what they are cooking up, then walk through Hog Island, and finally take an outside table at the Slanted Door. My first course is by far the best of the meal: crispy hamachi collar. It is a huge chunk of collar from one side of the fish, crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked, served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce and a salad of green papaya. I watch the boats sail past the docks as I enjoy every morsel. A few more courses and it is time to go.
Tonight is the big event. The reason for my trip: Simply The Best Dinner Gala IV. This annual event is organized by the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (link). Bonnie is a lung cancer survivor and she has made it her life's mission to help end the disease. I have personal reasons for wanting to do whatever I can to help, as my father is currently battling the disease. He is among the more than 25% of lung cancer patients who never smoked cigarettes. The group is strong, big, and well funded. They are doing so much for the cause and I hope to add my little bit of strength to an already strong movement.
The dinner is held at the Farimont Hotel, a regal monument at the top of Nob Hill. Everything at the Faimont is luxurious, including the life-sized gingerbread house that you can walk through.
The dinner is held in the ballroom with over 500 people in attendance. There are a number of presentations by doctors, survivors, an auctioneer, and an amazing opera performance by Zheng Cao, a stage IV survivor. I was asked to design the menu for the evening, and with Chef James's help, put out a room full of beautiful food. First course was Dungeness crab with citrus and fennel pollen. Second was buffalo tenderloin with sunchoke and blackberry. Third was a chocolate and espresso mousse. The dinner was followed by an auction, where yours truly was sold off for a whopping $9000.
I am glad to be helping in any way I can. As evidenced by Bonnie's actions, there is always more a person can do. I am encouraged by her strength and by the hopeful words from so many of the doctors in attendance that there is hope for everyone with this terrible disease (and all cancer patients everywhere). It's a long, heavy road, but one that many of us must take at some point in our lives. Thanks to the help of so many generous strangers, there are some good endings to some of these stories.