“You're experiencing a dish crawl in a single room," chirped the beguiling CEO of Battledish, Tracy Lee. Lee's Interweb gig entails cataloguing SF dish-by-dish for the pleasure of adventurous food obsessed individuals, a Sisyphean task she says has her organizing the city's restaurants' specialties down to taste. To highlight this spirit of culinary safari, Battledish was taking part in and helping to organizing a dinner assembled by graffEats of some of the finest underground food purveyors in the Bay last night to create eight courses of delicately prepared plates, each paired with glasses of Phelps Creek, Oregon wines hitherto unreleased on the Californian market.
In attendance was Canvas Underground, Radio Africa Kitchen, guys and gals into the “anti-restaurant,” community noshes with friends you never met yet. Most of the chefs are used to preparing meals for 25 meant to be consumed sitting on the ground of a stranger's living room. But tonight the whole, safari embarking lot of us are sitting at three long tables in the middle of a drafty Dogpatch warehouse.
A kitchen space smaller than what I have in my apartment (that's small!) somehow accommodates the marinating and tossing of the three culinary enterprises, who are pumping out more food than you woulda thunk possible, really. I guess they're used to less than ideal cooking facilities; Canvas Underground has even been known to whip up spreads for their doting fans in a grassy field.
Lee addresses what is clearly a source of consternation in her office. “You know, salty, sweet, crunchy, bitter. There's really not that many bitter dishes out there.” I am not surprised by this. I nod energetically to keep her talking through her vast knowledge of restaurants, both known and new. Besides her sits a smart phone, an equally intelligent looking video camera, and an SLR, which she rotates through in a steady bid to capture the moment for tomorrow's web surfers.
Flips are brandished right and left to catch the crowd's reaction to the lavender cumin roasted duck, and Tracy's occasional flash bulb generates a gentle frisson of technology that belies the gluttony we are gracefully acquiesing to.
Ever since Paper magazine came out with its social networking issue, I've been feeling vastly, isolatingly, computer illiterate. (And don't trip, I realize the irony of writing this on the blog I regularly contribute to.) But really, last night amidst the foodies, techies, and foodie-techies, I needed the reassurance that at the advanced age of 25 I could still be integrated into this brave new world of point-click, point-click, eat.
Should I be tweeting this? What taste category does the green melon gazpacho poured over ceviche of prawn, fennel, and vanilla fall into? Can I perhaps slip mention of the saffron almond cake with the roasted loquat and cinnamon crème fraiche into a html coded round up of the city's best pop-up pastries?
There's also a resplendent honey and cheese plate, and an Alaskan halibut kitfo – a word they must have used on the menu because it is more elegant than the one I'd have opted for; halibut poke loaf. We need more loafs these days.
But as the folksy tunes of The Shants swept through the high celinged warehouse-cum-drunk tank (four glasses of good wine go far, even when you're eating your wieght to accompany it), I relaxed and let go of my Luddite, anti-tech mental ramblings. Sites like Battledish are just making more ways to connect for people that want it like that.
Amiably gripping their wine glasses in the pleasant fog between dessert courses, Tracy and my free spirited dinner companion debate the merits of Internet dating versus leaving love to that ever elusive “fate” thing. “It's all about maximizing serendipity,” Tracy sagely intones before once again she is gone in a whirl of gastronomic experimentation. A fine philosophy for the information age, indeed.