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Mar 9, 2008 09:56 AM

Toast of the Town

I just ran into this while surfing. Any Chowhounders planning on attending this? Have any of you been before and care to share your comments?

A spectacular evening of music, food and wine. Raise your glass and join us for a star-studded celebration of the finest wines the world has to offer. Taste over 500 wines and spirits from internationally acclaimed wineries. Savor the most celebrated culinary creations from 30 of San Francisco's top-rated restaurants.

Thursday, March 27, 2008
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street
5:00 - 7:00 PM VIP Tasting
7:00 - 10:00 PM Grand Tasting

I'll be in St.Helena, and while its a bit of a drive for one night, it definitely sounds tempting. I'm thinking of doing just the Grand Tasting, for $95.

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  1. I think I am an anomaly, but I hate these events; they are horrendously crowded so going from station to station to try and get a sip of wine and two bites of food amongst a throng of people is just not my thing. Also, looking through the list of wine participants, it *is* across the board with with California and International wines but knowing the wine industry like I do, it seems they are "distributor centric" meaning there are very few smaller, family-run wineries and mostly larger production houses that will have tables manned by salesman.

    Also, the food at these events tends to be hit-or-miss; the restaurants have to prepare platters of food that will travel well to the venue and will ultimately feed hundreds of people. Very often -- I believe -- it is not the best of what the restaurants are capable of doing but what is easiest to promote a presence in the community and get their name recognized.

    Zeph, I know you are visiting from Maine for the week and I think the drive to and from St. Helena would be a bit horrendous for an event like this. Stick to the valley and enjoy the fruits of what wine country has to offer without subjecting yourself to an event of this nature which will just overwhelm and exhaust you.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Carrie 218

      Well part of my trip is not only for the learning experience, but also for networking. Float the name of the inn I work at around, meet some other chefs in the industry, in a nutshell meet some new people. Being a single guy in Maine who lived in Boston for 6 years isn't a cakewalk. I have some social frustration to let out :)

      1. re: zeph74

        I maintain that staying in the valley and networking there will be more fruitful for you; the restaurants serving at Toast of the Town are going to be busy serving hundreds of people to be able to chat with you and the folks paying the money to go to the event aren't necessarily going to be in the industry.

        Go to Bouchon late at night; that is where local (Napa Valley) chefs go for late-night cooling down.

        1. re: Carrie 218

          Someone mentioned this in another post. Talking shop with other chefs is one of my favorite things to do. Hopefully I'll be able to jump into a conversation, since I'm flying solo.

          1. re: zeph74

            The same woman, Carrie, mentioned Bouchon to you in your other current thread.

            Don't do the SF drinking event. You DON'T want to drive the 2 hours back to the Napa Valley after imbibing. SERIOUSLY. Better, more personalized networking anyway in the Valley, with its concentration of food professionals and the ability to have longer conversations where you can really cover some ground. Start, of course, at the CIA.

    2. Zeph, I plan to attend with my husband, and 5 other friends. We have not done it before, but we have heard very good things about the Grand Tasting, which is the pre-party with reserve wines, before the general tasting.
      Both my husband and I are working towards our Master of Wine, and we always try to take advantage of any event where we can taste many different wines.
      Also, some of our friends have attended in the past, and found it very enjoyable.
      If you would like to meet us there, feel free to contact me at

      1 Reply
      1. re: wellworld

        Aren't YOU nice?! Wow.

        Not to diminish your kindness a bit...

        For San Franciscans and those nearby, I think the event will be an opportunity to taste a number of wines, but it won't be the chance to talk too much to winemakers and the like. Just too many people who'll be clamoring for their wine to do that.

        The OP has a 2-hour drive back to St. Helena, over unfamiliar roads (I live near the CIA so I know), and I'm guessing will have to be suited up in chef's clothes and in class by
        8 a.m. That bites. Plus, he'll be on East Coast time, meaning the "late" hours here on the West Coast will hit him hard the first few days.

        That changes the situation.

        If the OP has been drinking and sampling, the long drive back to Napa Valley could be dangerous, and at the very least, exhausting, so the next day at school will be drudgery rather than educational. (Um, I'm speaking from experience -- I've done this very thing.) Sort of defeats the purpose of him attending a 5-day special class to increase his competency/expertise.

        Oh, golly, I just realized I'm repeating myself...sorry!

      2. I'm not clear from reading this thread if anyone posting has actually attended these Toast of the Town events. Can anyone who has attended past Toast of the Town events say something? Are they as crowded as indicated?