SF Chefs, the annual food/wine/spirits festival presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, will be held in various San Francisco locations from July 30 to Aug. 5. We've filled our tummies and worn out our shoes at this well-produced celebration since its inception in 2009. It was huge then, and it's only gotten bigger, tastier, and a bit more confusing to navigate. Below, some advice and suggestions on how to start:
The Grand Tastings: There are four Grand Tasting events held in a tent in Union Square, including the opening ceremony on Aug. 3, a daytime and an evening session on Aug. 4, and a tasting on Aug. 5. At $135 ($160 for VIP), it is a steep ticket price, but there is a lot of food and drink on offer. It's not one of those dainty sampling taster events -- you can be a ridiculously huge glutton if you want to, and you won't even stand out a little bit. It's a great way to get a first impression of a number of different restaurants and wineries. Each session has different chefs and restaurants, so it's a good idea to check out the detailed lineup for each day and see which looks most intriguing.
Classes and Demos: Eater hosts the Top Chef-like Eater Chef Challenge on Aug. 3-5, and although they're set up to be battles, they'll surely elicit some great tips from the pros for cooking at home on the fly -- or under pressure. Chris Cosentino joins New York chef-turned-memoirist Marcus Samuelsson on Aug. 4 for an Illy-sponsored cooking demo where the charismatic chefs will demonstrate dishes using various single-origin coffees.
The Parties: 49 Square Miles on Aug. 2 at Westin St. Francis is going to be novel, since all the participating chefs will be making San Francisco-inspired cakes. It's basically a cake-and-alcohol party, so win. And SF Chefs' version of a rager will likely take place at E&O Asian Kitchen on Aug. 3: "Steamed, Fried, and Shanghai'd," it's called, and people will also be getting boozed, cruised, pickled, and probably tickled. E&O recently underwent a remodel and menu overhaul, so it'll be an early opportunity to see what's new there, too.
General tips: Wear good shoes. Pace yourself with everything, but especially the alcohol. Learn for yourself how friendly most of the chefs are at this event. Have pockets or a tote to carry menus and business cards, if you're nerdy like us.