On Friday, the 19th, the SF French-American Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Beaujolais and Beyond festival. I have only recently begun volunteering with them, so I didn’t have a good idea of what it was. I think I was expecting an intimate evening with a couple hundred people, the DJ playing some oldies in a corner, and a few select food and wine vendors. Even when I went in to help set up tables at the Metreon City View, I didn’t fully comprehend.
My preconceptions was totally off base! Even when I walked in, ready to work the event from 12pm until the end, and even as I set up a couple dozen tables for silent auction items and food vendors. I didn’t even believe it when I saw what must have been 600 wine glasses “neatly bunched” at the welcome table at the entrance.
And then 6pm rolled around, and the place started filling up. Two circus performers arrived on stilts, dressed as a satyr and a–white bird? They hopped, writhed, and frolicked among the guests all evening. An enormous head-shaped projection screen ruled over the dance floor. Balloon sculptures were put in place by the entrance and over the dance floor, their “tentacles” swirling like jellyfish over the crowds. It was starting to look surreal.
I decided to work at the coat check area because 1) the first people scheduled there were obscenely slow, and the line to drop damp coats off was getting ever longer, and 2) they weren’t filling the racks as they should have, and we were quickly running out of space. What an adventure!! First, I helped put the coat check tickets in order, because someone had stored them out of order. Then, I spent a couple of hours running coats around, and squishing them more and more on the racks in the hopes that we could take just a fewww more coats. At one point, in a desperate attempt to handle the never-ending waves of incoming coats and umbrellas, my husband and some other volunteers fashioned a makeshift coat hanger with a dolly and an easel. We only dared put a couple dozen coats on, because the easel looked like it was ready to snap. I think the organizers had not counted on so much rain that evening, and so was not that prepared to accept so many coats and umbrellas. By about 8pm, we had to stop accepting coats. It wasn’t even halfway through the event, but I was exhausted from continually diving among hundreds of heavy coats and wet umbrellas. Also, at this point, coat organization was applied in pretty loose terms. The umbrellas were piled atop one another in groups of 100s–the first pile was the 100s one, then 200s, then 300s. Actually, it’s a wonder that only one person lost an umbrella that evening.
At around 9:45pm, I was moved over to silent auction duty. Luckily, it was ending right then, so I found some time to roam the food and wine vendor booths. The best wine, hands down, was a 2002 St. Emilion, although I couldn’t see which winery it was from. There was only one case of Beaujolais Nouveau available to the folks at the Soirée, which is not bad, since it’s usually not that great, anyway. But that was one case for about 700 people or so. Yeah. No.
There were some jewels on the food side, though! First off, Artisan Sonoma Foie Gras’s samples (of foie gras) were a delightful surprise! I have heard of them for a long time, but this was my chance to try their product. Mr. Cheesemonger (a native Normand) gave his approval. I grabbed a morsel of “le petit bleu” from the Marin French Cheese Company. It was a respectable cheese, although not really as flavorful as I would like. It might serve as a good starter blue with jam or honey.
I spent most of my browsing time with Laura Chenel Chèvre. They gave me their Mélodie, which the cheesemonger described as a “goat brie.” It’s got a very mild flavor, also a good starter cheese, maybe with some fig jam. I can see this as a good melting cheese over a melt sandwich, though, or on a cheeseburger. Mmm….melting cheese is just so fun. I love the ribbons of oily, milky goodness as you pull melted cheese apart. Anyway, my favorite cheese was the Taupinière, which is another ash-coated, soft-ripened cheese. The mouthfeel was could have been that of a triple-crème; it just coated the tongue in creaminess. The lighting was low, and the room was crowded, so I couldn’t take any good photos or take a look at the rind or paste. The flavor, on the other hand, needed no light! It was perfectly balanced, tangy and fresh, slightly sweet. Magnificent. This has been my favorite discovery since tasting Vermont Butter & Cheese’s Bijou. There’s just no resisting a goat cheese done right! It’s my biggest weakness.
The rest of the evening was a sleepy blur. I know we had, literally, entire boxes of leftover bread that we had to throw away. I saved some of it, and my boss now has a freezer full of it (and is planning a fondue party accordingly). This Soirée was a huge success, beyond anything I could have imagined. Maybe this is a way for me to keep up with my turophilia.