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Friday, April 18, 2008

Last Night: Taste 2008 at Root Division

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 8:01 AM

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Taste 2008 Food and Art Extravaganza

Root Division, at 3175 17th Street

Notes by Janine Kahn

April 17, 2008

Last night, flanked by fancy food and fancier people, I ate dirt.

OK, maybe drank is the more accurate term, since the nice ladies behind the counter inside the Mission's Root Division studios did swirl it around in a wine glass with some water before handing it over, instructing me to inhale the earthy aroma while chewing on a leaf. Actually tasting the soil wasn't exactly on the regular agenda, mind you, but the woman attending to me confessed she'd tried it, and I was not to be undone.

I felt rabbit-like, unhinged, torn from my true carnivorous nature, and quickly turned to the table handing out salami samples. Instantly, all was right with the world.

Taste 2008 wasn't all organic weirdness, though other gourmet booths were similarly interactive. Cook Club's Chef Alex Tamburro had a lovely "create your own creme brulee" setup in which folks were asked to blow torch their way to dessert. The final product was brilliant, with a thin crispy sugary layer atop the soft, warm cream. Definitely the kind of cooking I could get into.

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Lotus vodka had a table on which you could literally pick your poison - from the kind of vodka down to the fruit mixed into it. I was boring and opted for the lemon and mint, but was pleased with the martini produced. Safe, yes. Sorry, no. Fancy finger food Taste attendees enjoyed included creamy guacamole and ceviche from Zazil, a delicious assortment of sushi from Ozumo, choice meats and cheeses from Bar Bambino, oysters in a mild salsa from Brick, and then some.

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Root Division was an interesting setting for the event, and the organizers thoughtfully left platters of cheese and fruit inside select artist's studios so the snacking didn't have to end (heaven forbid!) while you poked around. It felt oddly invasive to be entering the tiny rooms with half-finished art on the walls and brushes still heavy with paint sitting on the work tables - almost like going through somebody's mail or sneaking into someone's home after finding the door unlocked.

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Leyna Noel strummed her guitar and sang softly onstage, blending into the background as the throng milled about, chatting up chefs, participating in the silent auction and indulging in their $100 tasting. An hour and a half into the event and Root was packed. Slightly buzzed, I headed out, tongue fishing dirt out from between my teeth.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Meat rocks.

Random Detail: The giveaway bag (a cute "Taste" tote) contained a book of coupons to San Francisco organic restaurants and local eco-friendly products, a Root Division coffee container, a Yelp nail file, a Michael Lowe Grandi CD, and bittersweet almond toffee from the Hard Crack Candy Company - among other things.

By the way: Everything was delicious, but it didn't sum up to dinner, so I did the fried chicken thing on the way home. Blasphemy.

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Janine Kahn

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