Thank God for illy coffee this past weekend. The crowds came out in full effect to Union Square for the fourth annual SF Chefs – San Francisco’s most anticipated culinary festival. It was non-stop action and the caffeine definitely came in handy. It’s hard to believe that it was already four years ago since then Mayor Gavin Newsom and Bay Area-local Tyler Florence were cutting the ribbon on opening night. Back in 2009, we didn’t know what would become of SF Chefs, but fast forward to 2012 and I’m happy to report that it has gotten better, even more delicious than ever.
SF Chefs is no longer just a celebration of local chefs, but a gathering of food and beverage industry talent from near and far. In fact, one of the first events to sell out this year was the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony hosted by Scandinavian-raised, New York-based Chef Marcus Samuelsson with Italian illy Master Barista Giorgio Milos. You can’t get more international, culture club than that. Samuelsson noted that Ethiopian coffee has recognizable citrus and floral notes, and it’s a must that you cook coffee beans at the correct temperature. If not, they will burn. Drinking coffee in Ethiopia is taken seriously, and it’s not just a quick 5-10 minute occurence which you often see here in the United States. In Ethiopia, Samuelsson says that it’s often an hour or more beginning with the process of washing raw, unwashed coffee beans and then roasting them on a fire.
At SF Chefs, Samuelsson also hosted an illy’s Explorigin event with San Francisco star chef Chris Consentino. They, along with a chef from the CIA prepared courses incorporating illy’s MonoArabica coffee with local ingredients and the result was absolutely divine. The morning crowd was wide awake and hootin’ and hollerin’ “Yes, Chef” and oohing and aahing while tasting the prepared dishes – which included Consentino’s Prather Ranch Veal tartare with coffee, mushrooms and dried blueberries, and Samuelsson’s coffee-cured duck breast with Matsumoto peaches.
Samuelsson’s illy MonoArabica -cured duck breast
Throughout the weekend, the gracious, fashionable Samuelsson -the new illy MonoArabica Brand Ambassador was decked out in signature illy red either in button-up leather vests or high-top chucks (Converse). He credits his fashion-industry wife for assisting him with his outfits and it’s no surprise, he was named one of Vanity Fair Magazine’s Best Dressed. Despite the bright and colorful crimson clothing and accessories, Samuelsson’s generous spirit and infectious energy is what makes him a constant standout. In addition to being a James Beard Award-winning chef, and author of several cookbooks, with a recent memoir, Yes, Chef, he is also a philanthropist who finds it a priority to give back to the community.
Decked out in YSL & Gap in San Francisco’s Union Square
The collaboration with illy seemed a natural fit, since both Marcus and the origins of coffee were born in Ethiopia. While interviewing Marcus, he noted that “Illy is committed to finding the best coffee beans in the world and their Mono Arabica line is the best of Brazilian coffee, Guatemalan coffee, and Ethiopian coffee.” He was happy to see Ethiopian coffee finally “getting the recognition it deserves with a brand such as illy” and although he moved away from Ethiopia after he was adopted as a young child, he mentioned that he and his wife still go back every year with the various charities they work on.
During SF Chefs, the illy Lounge was the hot place to be. At any given moment, you’d find the industry’s most-notable talent getting their conversation and coffee fix on in the stylish illy Lounge. Spotted in the chic, contemporary gathering spot were industry folks such as Charles Phan, Consentino, Thomas McNaughton, Drew Nieporent, Dominique Crenn, Martin Yan, Tyler Florence, and the legendary Cecelia Chang.
Cecelia Chang – a woman who definitely lives happ(illy)
Tyler Florence chatting with Samuelsson in the illy Lounge
With illy-coffee desserts prepared by local patisseries and illy single-origin coffee being brewed all day long, how could you resist. I mean, when someone is offering you a Devil’s Chocolate Cake with illy-coffee frosting and a whimsically-decorated latte, are you going to say no. I don’t think so.
Even if you didn’t make it to SF Chefs this year, you can still discover the excitement of illy’s new MonoArabica coffee which consists of three single origin beans from Ethiopia, Brazil, and Guatemala. They are each unique and come alive with distinct characteristics born of region-specific soil, altitude, rainfall, sun and cultivation profiles. The notable Aroma, taste and body vary from origin-to-origin, country-to-country, to create a wonderfully satisfying effect in the cup. As an appreciator of beautiful aesthetics and great taste, illy has been a brand that I’ve chosen to experience around the world and even in my own home. Their collaboration with contemporary artists have resulted in some gorgeous masterpiece coffee cups. With illy, it’s not just about drinking a cup of coffee, it’s the entire experience – from smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound.
If you are in San Francisco, you can sample the new MonoArabica coffee at:
123 Battery Street
San Francisco (CA)
Learn more about the exciting world of illy HERE