Gallery: Best Bites from SF Chefs Grand Tasting Tent, San Francisco

Cochinita Pibil from Tacolicious
Cochinita Pibil from Tacolicious

Surprisingly bright, this achiote- and citrus-marinated pork shoulder tostada from Chef Telmo Faria rested on a black bean spread and splotch of guacamole with a garnish of pickled red onions.

Three Little Pigs from Incanto
Three Little Pigs from Incanto

You can depend on Chris Cosentino for shock value. He presented three skinned Berkshire suckling pigs with their little heads facing the crowd. Each had been de-boned and crammed with a stuffing of truffle mortadella spotty with pistachios, pâté de campagne, or smoked liverwurst. "There has to be a joke," Cosentino said of his choice of dish. "It also has to to taste good," he added while sprinkling sea salt onto someone's pâté. “Otherwise, what the f@%k is the point?”

Peach Cobbler from Tyler Florence
Peach Cobbler from Tyler Florence

Representing Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco and El Paseo in Mill Valley, Tyler Florence tweaked a homey Southern dish with two savory components: Smoked Virginia ham similar to prosciutto and peppery crumbled biscuits baked with herbes de Provence.

Ceviche from Lolinda
Ceviche from Lolinda

After ingesting so much pork, I dove into this refreshing halibut ceviche from Chef Alejandro Morgan. The jumbo fried corn called cancha (it's like the Peruvian version of corn nuts) floated alongside cubes of sweet potato and red onion. The marinated liquid was Lolinda's version of the ceviche classic leche de tigre, snappy with lime juice, habanero, and the yellow Peruvian chile pepper called aji amarillo.

Crab Cake from One Market
Crab Cake from One Market

It almost feels inelegant to call this one-bite scoop of fresh crab a "crab cake." It was pure Dungeness crab bound with a little scallop (no bread crumbs allowed) with a saffron aioli. And in the most verdant presentation of the evening, Chef Mark Dommen presented each of his spoonfuls atop a hedge of microgreens.

Caviar from The Plumed Horse
Caviar from The Plumed Horse

I lucked into Chef Peter Armellino's luxurious caviar cannoli as my first bite of the night. At one end peeked a black head of California Hackleback caviar, donated by the California Caviar Company. At the other, diced chives decorated the filling of smoked sturgeon mouse, creamy with mascarpone and crème fraîche.

Cedar Plank Salmon from EPIC Roasthouse
Cedar Plank Salmon from EPIC Roasthouse

Smoked in the oven on a cedar plank, the salmon had a raw-ish coral middle with a slightly sweet and smoky flavor. An heirloom tomato salad in a corn vinaigrette kept things fresh.

Scallop on Rice Cracker from Betelnut
Scallop on Rice Cracker from Betelnut

Raw, chopped Day Boat scallops that were marinated in sweet and salty nouc cham boarded a crunchy, black sesame-studded rice cracker along with a kaffir lime peanut brittle and sweet black sesame purée.

Salame Duo from Columbus Salumeria
Salame Duo from Columbus Salumeria

This specialty meat company based in South San Francisco produced two bites that showed their products could play in a top chef arena. One was a crunchy peanut brittle with pistachios and chewy bits of slow-aged, smooth Felino salame; the other was a sweet fig smeared with goat cheese and a slice of pepper and garlic Crespone salame.

Corn Vichyssoise from Baker and Banker
Corn Vichyssoise from Baker and Banker

The puréed corn that formed that base of this cool soup smacked of sweetness while chopped smoked mussels and black-eyed peas added body.

Whole Hog Terrine from Spruce
Whole Hog Terrine from Spruce

Who knew a terrine of pig trotter, shoulder, and head could be delicate? A briny pickled carrot was the perfect chaser.

Middle Eastern Lamb from Depot Eatery, Aukland, New Zealand
Middle Eastern Lamb from Depot Eatery, Aukland, New Zealand

Hopefully, it didn't bruise any Bay Area pride that a Kiwi out-shined some of our local talent. In town for the America's Cup and invited to cook for SF Chefs, Chef Al Brown wooed guests with a crispy-edged, pull-apart soft lamb shoulder. It posed alongside soft eggplant relish fragrant with cumin topped with crunchy fried curry leaves and sliced almonds. A silken cauliflower purée at the base of the dish held the lamb in place.

Salmon 'Pastrami' from Water Bar
Salmon 'Pastrami' from Water Bar

Pepper-crusted smoked salmon graced a corn cake juicy with plump corn under squirt of a little brown butter-miso aioli.

Pork Terrine from Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
Pork Terrine from Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Diced pickled green peaches riffed on a Thai green papaya salad accompanied this lovely terrine of smoked and confit pork with a chicharrón on top. The peaches, like all the produce served at the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, came from the restaurant's farm.

Desserts from Morimoto Napa
Desserts from Morimoto Napa

Of the four different desserts sticking out from Morimoto Napa's display tree, two required second helpings: a super soft, chewy, salty miso and peanut butter cookie and single-malt Yamazaki whiskey fudge (pictured) which was served cold. You didn't taste the whisky until the fudge practically disappeared down your gullet, making it almost as if you were taking a shot after each smooth bite of chocolate.

Roasted White Chocolate Crémeux from Absinthe
Roasted White Chocolate Crémeux from Absinthe

How does one roast white chocolate? For this innovative and irresistible dessert, pastry chef Bill Corbett cooked the white chocolate in a water bath over low temperature to gently toast the mild solids. His method turned the crémeux a pale shade of pumpkin and gave it a caramel flavor. This slightly-sweet pudding accompanied a mild tarragon foam and juicy raspberry compote mixed with a little fennel. Crumbled chocolate cookies stepped in for crunch.

Let's Toast...and Toast and Toast again
Let's Toast...and Toast and Toast again

Sponsors for the evening included Livermore Valley Wine Country, Wines of Portugal, Rhône Valley Wines, Washington State Wine, and Wines of Chile.

Party People
Party People

Big smiles from a well-soused and well-fed crowd.