Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Aug 30, 2008 03:51 PM

Taste Pavilions

Just got back from the Taste Pavilions at Fort Mason. When I first got the email about the "slow dough", I was a little disappointed at the late notification and also skeptical that it would live up to the hype. But I must say I was pleased with our experience. The food was very high quality and delicious. I loved the charcuterie and so did everybody else. Be prepare for LONG lines (at least 20 min). They rotate the meats so if you go an hour or so later, there will be a different selection. If you go tonight or tomorrow, I suggest you do the divide and conquer method with a friend(s). Stand in line first at charcuterie, then have a friend get your wine and another friend get cheese and another get pizza. Those are probably the most popular "tastes" and the lines reflect that. My favorite was the fish taste. There was an octopus salad with deep fried garbanzo beans--yummy! Also in the taste was a fresh sardine and a trout(?) salad. Later in the afternoon there were other dishes that were equally good.
In the end, we were trying to figure out ways to spend our dough because we'd had enough to eat. We ended up just getting more wine and beer. I do wish there were more sweet things to end it. My daughter can't do dairy so the ice cream was out. The chocolate taste was good, but not very substantial.
Thank god for the water stations and no bottles!!! Finally someone gets it!

Was it worth $65? For just the food? No. But the displays were interesting and informative and there were lots of people to answer questions and steer you in the right direction. So I'm ok with paying for that overhead.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I concur.

    The lines were very long and I suspect that the orgnaization will try to solve for next year.

    I foolishly did not stand in lines early on thinking that they would be smaller later in the day. Hah!. I almost did not get to taste the very very good margerhita pizza because they actually ran out just behind me.

    Same for the very good beer pavilion. They started to hold back or stop pouring certain casks so that they would have enough for the other times.

    The bread guy said that they actually prepared 50% more than they were told. far too many people showed up.

    There were the following sections as best as I can remember:

    Bread (right outside the main gate): european style, pizza and naan. 4 ovens I think.

    Other side of the bread baking was a bread exhibition and Giusti's milling show. I still do not understand why the Sullivan Street guys would place into show bread that was very very dark (read burned). Several others also had the same problem. See photo.

    Beer pavilion

    Native foods tent( nothing really all that interesting to my surprise. The rice cakes were not too flavorful nor did I think the bison stew distiguishable from beef...but I think my palette grows old so I am willing to defer to others).

    Inside there were:

    Olive Oil
    Coffee (Clover brewed coffee tastings and espresso)
    Ice Cream (6 ice creams and 3 sorbets)
    Pickles and Saurkraut
    Honey and Preserves
    Cheese (absolutely ridiculous lines...didn't even try.)

    skimc is right about the Slow Dough. I gave my card with unused tokens to one of the beer pourers to see if he could give it to someone who needed it. I saw lots of this going on.

    So the $65 was a good value. Very good tastes and enough food.


    Both the coffee and tea were extraordinary. I have never experienced the pronounced flavors of berries as I did today with the coffees. Both the espresso and Clover brews were outstanding.

    The Rishi oolong tea was another extraordinary tasting. We had 5 cuppings of a Fujian Ben Shan (sic) exotic that Rishi does not even sell as they do not get much. Very delicisious , fragrant mineraly, red tannic brew. Great presentation (6 people sit around a small table where there is a drain sink underneath the slotted top to remove the excess tea).

    While I was thinking why drink coffee or tea, this is well worth the effort. Both venues were a big hit for me.

    The Charcuterie....well what can you say about preserved pig. Other than get outa the way. Yum. Bovolo tricolore salami, Fra Mani Mortadella and soppressata, rabbit and trotter terrine... All very tasty although I was surprised at the level of smoke in the mortadella...not somehting I expected and will take some getting used to. And there was also some great rillettes with some muscadine preserves....saved your ass while waiting in line.

    I did not try the wine or chocolate lines. I get to find really good wine pretty much at will and the chocolate line was just too daunting.

    I did enjoy the conversation with one of the Giusti's on milling grain. A very good hands on demo.

    So it was a pretty good success. I did not even try to park in Fort Mason, but found a spot on the street a few blocks away. Did I say that the weather was perfect?

    Easy to walk (and burn off the hazelnut ice cream).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Food Tyrant

      I thought it was going to be a rip-off. It certainly wasn't a bargain, and I am not sure I would say I got $65 in value out of it, but it was not at all a rip-off. We had a really good time and ate some great stuff. The 20 credit thing was fine. I got 19 in and we had to work hard to do it. I think $45 would have been a better price but I would have paid $75 if there would have been fewer people there.

      1. re: Food Tyrant

        For some reason the photos did not attach.

        Here they are again.

      2. I went Saturday night and had a good time. Like others, I was initially upset about the "Slow Dough" ticket but had a hard time using up my 20 dots. For one or two dots, you get not a single taste but a run through a line where there will be quite a few things to try.

        The best values among what I tried were Spirits (2 dots/$4 for unlimited sampling, including the amazing St. George Absinthe) and Pickles (also 2 dots to try more things than you ever imagine could be pickled). Not so good was cheese... a long long line and two dots to get three pieces of cheese.

        Although the start time was officially 5, they were letting people in when I arrived and I heard a few people say they'd been there since 4:30. So you might try going early to get the best value and avoid some of the lines.

        1 Reply
        1. re: otis


          Thanks so much for the ticket. We went today and had an enjoyable time. We got full before we were able to finish the "slow dough". One particular highlight was the coffee tasting. They were very knowledgeable and patient with our questions.

          Also thanks for the recommendations on the pickles pavilion, they're amazing.

          Thanks again.

        2. I was truly looking forward to this, and I am amazed at the lack of indignation. I went today, Sunday. The lines were atrocious, the staff rude, with bouncers at the gates. Even the pickle section had a long line, and the area of wine pourings was overwhelmed. Pizza line over 30 minutes for average pizza.

          The most disappointing part of all this is the lack of education. It is impossible with throngs trying to get the little food that was available.

          I think this event, which was obviously overrun by those that want to profit from the Slow Food movement, set the philosophical construct back many years. Instead it was a fetid, commercially crass attempt to use the goodness of sustainable food to turn a quick buck. I thought I might even see Dick Cheney collecting the $65.00 tickets.

          10 Replies
          1. re: aadesmd

            If that was your definition of "commercially crass" -- given the lack of merchandising and items for purchase -- you must have just come out of a cave after hiding for the past 3 decades.

            I think the event was pretty botched, but it is a first-time out. Slow Food in Italy labels everything, and here everything just about relied on conversation. Good in theory, but the reality left people with no take-home information for follow-up.

            And complaining about a $65 entrance fee for a non-profit? The all-you-can-eat Sizzler is down the block, thank you very much. You don't get it if you came there expecting that.

            1. re: aadesmd

              Nobody turned a quick buck. Slow Food Nation cost $1.8 million and they recouped about a third of that through ticket sales.

              The nearest Sizzler is actually in Colma. San Franciscans are way too slow-foodish for that kind of place to succeed.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                From the press release after the event:

                "The event generated a small profit in its inaugural edition, all of which will be reinvested to fund the next edition of Slow Food Nation.

                The major expenses included hiring an event production company to help manage and run the weekend’s events, Dominic Philips Event Marketing (DPEM); the building and installation of the Victory Garden (which will remain in place until November, per the Office of the Mayor); venue rental; the cost of building the Taste Pavilions and of the products served there. "

                1. re: Fig Newton

                  Given that the event cost around $1.8 million and they only sold around $600,000 worth of tickets, "profit" isn't the right word. The event lost $1.2 million, and they got slightly more than that in donations.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    They never set out to have the tickets fund the entire event. From their site:

                    "Slow Food Nation is funded by ticket sales (20% of revenue), corporate sponsors (50% of revenue), foundations (25% of revenue) and philanthropists (5% of revenue)."

                    So if I'm reading it right, it seems that the ticket sales actually covered 33% instead of the projected 20%?

                    Profit was their word, not mine.

                    1. re: Fig Newton

                      Right, they apparently sold more tickets than they expected. It's their press release I was criticizing for misusing the word "profit" to describe the resulting surplus.

                      My main point is that it was not, as aadesmd claimed, a for-profit event.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Calling corporate sponsorships "donations" is like calling TV commercial revenues "donations." (Well, KQED would, come to think of it.)

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        SFN is a 501 c(3) nonprofit. The donations are tax-deductible.

                        Are attendees now more likely to shop at Whole Foods, buy Anolon, Sub-Zero, or Wolf products, rent a Zipcar, or join Kaiser than they were before? I doubt it.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    You may want to watch the generalizations... I know many San Franciscans who are happy eating at Chevy's and the like.

                    1. re: chemchef

                      Chevy's SF locations are patronized mostly by visitors and commuters. And unlike Sizzler, the Chevy's chain makes significant efforts in a slow-food direction (no cans, fresh tortillas and salsa, charcoal grill), so the food sucks somewhat less.