I just awoke from my 14 hour nap after attending Sunday’s SF Food Wars: Yeast Affliction. Did I really just eat all that bread? Was it worth not fitting into my jeans today?
This was my first SF Food Wars event, because I’m too broke and not quick enough to get the swiftly sold-out tickets. But that didn’t stop the other 248 attendees, as everyone was super excited and raring to go when the doors opened at noon, sharp.
You get a ballot, a drink ticket, and a plate with your own helping of Strauss Creamery butter, EVOO, or Earth Balance. I walked around starting from #1. The first contestant, Doughtron 3030, had this really delicious East Coast Sourdough, a little buttery, airy, and a really different taste than the other West Coast Sourdoughs I tried. My mouth didn’t feel like it was chewing cud like some other sourdoughs in my life (and in this contest). I kept hearing people chatting about this one, but it didn’t seem to win anything.
My next standouts were the two winners, The Cherry-Poppin’ Walnut (2nd Place) and the Rosemary Sourdough from Jen Rosa (1st!). The Cherry Walnut had the perfect balance of savory and sweet and went perfect with my Earth Balance and butter. I mention this because sometimes, the breads tasted strange with EVOO or not good with butter, and I wasn’t sure how to judge that.
The Rosemary Sour had amazingly crispy crust and such a light texture without being too chewy. It tasted perfect dunked slightly in my oil vat. My friend couldn’t stop talking about the Honorable Mention, the Pear Walnut. I believe the juiciness of the pears really lightened it up while the rest of the tasters we tried with that one were mainly walnut-y, fennel-y, and heavy. Which is why my mouth didn’t appreciate the 3rd place winner, the Sour River Loaf.
By the time it was time to try the last six, I was beat. My mouth started hankering for toast and jam, salami and cheese (and I’m a veggie!), or a fried egg with Srichacha. By the time I got to the Hurricane Bread, who won the People’s Choice because it was crunchy with its brown rice and seaweed, I wanted a fried egg and some toast so badly, I couldn’t enjoy it.
In the same area, I thoroughly enjoyed the Fancy Boyz table with their Pain a l’Ancienne. While most of the tasters consisted of largish medium-cuts, this bread, made in a very different manner (refrigeration during fermentation!), was no larger than a key ring.
The boys themselves were cute and dressed and looked like soda fountain guys from the 50’s. The previous night I had watched Re-Animator, and they reminded me of the two main characters, Dan Cain & Herbert West. And their different “concoction” made me hopeful that they were the two rabble-rousers who would stir up the competition with people turning into zombies. But alas, no. BUT! it was delicious: very buttery, chewy but not too soft. It stood out for me, but I could see how the greatness of it was diminished by the size and nuttiness of the other samples.
My mouth became used to the same textures over and over again, and I felt drunk off of chewiness.I did feel a little bloated, full, and carbed out, and couldn’t even enjoy my Meyer E.S.B. The contest’s location, Thirsty Bear, was perfect for my carb-coma, as I was able to score a tucked in booth seat and chill for a good 30 minutes before heading back to BART for my marathon nap.
This returns us to my original question: Was it worth not being able to fit into my jeans today?
No, because as a person who is not from the San Francisco Baking Institute, and isn’t used to having over 20 slices of bread, alone, I would have been able to judge these breads with more tenacity with my original want: sweatpants, coffee, my kitchen, and an assortment of Swedish smorgasbord toppings. I know, this defeats the whole purpose of judging “bread”, but to all the people who attended, they know I’m right.
For the complete list of winners, click here.