If you’re on a low-carb diet, you may want to stop reading this. Or stop dieting (it’s a stupid diet anyway).
Last Sunday, 20 competitors, three judges and over 200 hungry attendees gathered at the Thirsty Bear in San Francisco for the fourth installment of the SF Food Wars, a food competition open to anyone with a bread recipe worth bragging about. If you’re not familiar with the SF Food Wars, take a second to read about it here. But basically, you go, you eat, you vote for your favorite dish.
There was bread with seaweed, bread with pears, rolled bread, cheese bread and bread flecked with cherries. Bread with pine nuts, crispy bread, soft bread and bold bread filled with herbs. And everywhere you turned, was a stand with California Ranch olive oil and creamy Straus butter to dunk or slather as you pleased. I truly enjoyed biting into every last one of the 20 breads on display, but there was one particular entry that made me stop and say, “Now that is good bread!”
The bread that caught my fancy was plain, old, bread. Sort of. It was baked by Team #9, the Fancy Boyz, who stood up to their name by donning button-ups with purple bow ties. Chris Dibble and Rich Rainboldt baked a rustic baguette that was cushy and soft inside, with a thin, crunchy exterior. That may sound like most baguettes, but trust me, it wasn’t. The crust had just the right amount of give – a gentle bite was all it took to reach down into the floury center. The Fancy Boyz are not professional bakers, but do admit to being obsessed with bread and the baking process. Their winning technique? They used ice water and a steam oven to achieve the perfect texture and taste. Not only did they bake my favorite bread, they were also my favorite competitors – funny, sweet and so obviously loving life. They can bake my bread anytime.
The coveted People’s Choice award went to “Fire in the Fornix,” who created an addictively salty loaf called “The Hurricane.” Studded with brown rice and seaweed, this was definitely the most creative of the bread entries. Lori Oyamada, baker at Tartine in San Francisco, came up with the idea while snacking on Hawaiian Popcorn. Goes to show that inspiration comes in many forms.
The esteemed judges didn’t quite agree with me or the rest of the attendees. Michel Suas from the San Francisco Baking Institute, JT Tredgold from Semifreddi’s and food writer Tamara Palmer awarded first prize to Jen Rosa for her delicate rosemary sourdough loaf, and second place to Team Rocket Baby for a cherry-walnut loaf with hints of cardamom. Third place went to Team Bread for Gold, who submitted a 100% sourdough bread called Sour River Loaf.
The next competition is called “The Cookie Situation” and in case you can’t guess, will feature cookies. Chocolate cookies! I’m sure this will sell out even faster than past events, so keep an eye out on the SF Food Wars twitter and facebook pages to find out when tickets go on sale.