Last night, SF Weekly held its third annual DISH event, taking over the entire fourth floor of the Sony Metreon to celebrate the San Francisco food scene and raise money for STREETSMART4KIDS, an organization which provides funding for homeless youth service and outreach programs like La Casa de Las Madres, Larkin Street Youth Services, and Huckleberry Youth Programs.
More than thirty local eateries, such as Farina, Hard Knox Café, and Oola participated in the event, offering guests the opportunity to taste and talk about their wares.
I arrived at the City View Terrace at 6:30 sharp, hoping to beat the crowd of hungry event-goers I was certain would collect and form itself into tediously long lines. Even at that early hour, the queue to enter the event was already longer than one to any summer blockbuster the movie theaters below might offer.
Once inside, I scanned the room. It was already full of people standing about eating, drinking, and chatting in twos and threes. And then there were those who displayed the remarkable ability to eat, walk, and talk on their cell phones all at the same time.
The crowd was ripe for people-watching, with its delightful mix of food-lovers, the tragically hip, the merely tragic (feel free to ask me about a certain alarming combination of silicone, facial reconstructive surgery, and a gigantic purse with a working clock face), lots and lots of gay men (I am very comforted by the fact that it's become fashionable for us to eat again publicly), and a vast number of nice people looking to chow down for a good cause.
And then, of course, there were the roving hordes of foodies, who a twitter friend of mine once described as people who "would stand outside a mediocre sandwich place for two hours because of a Yelp buzz."
And that pretty much sums up the event.
The lines were very long for some of the more popular vendors. In fact, it was nearly impossible to distinguish one queue from another in some cases. I waited in one line for sushi only to find that I'd somehow taken a wrong step and wound up with a tiny cup of tomato bisque (which was lovely, by the way).
I made my way to the less crowded booths which, in hindsight, wasn't the brightest approach. At the Gussie's Chicken and Waffles table, I was informed by a charming and very apologetic woman that she had recently been so swarmed by the ravenous that she'd temporarily run out of food. Disappointed, I walked over to the almost-equally crowd-free Lark Creek Steak table in search of a little protein, which I received in the form of... butterscotch pudding.
As I fought my way through the crowd to get to the relatively peaceful oasis of the VIP lounge, which had been marked off from the rest of the room by curling boxwoods and a wrought iron trellis, I heard the Pama Pomegranate liqueur girls screaming their own name as a prelude to doing shooters, the sound of which reminded me of one of those odd little Japanese videos in which Japanese schoolgirls are encouraged to drink heavily and then made to do stunts.
It also reminded me that I was in desperate need of a drink-- the crowd was growing; it was getting harder and harder to move about the room.
Once inside the VIP area, I found myself at Bi-Rite's table, where I enjoyed a summer berry pudding made with angel food cake (my favorite food intake of the evening); wandered over to Masa's table, whose menu proclaimed that they were celebrating tomatoes, but whose offerings indicated that perhaps they were celebrating said tomatoes elsewhere; and then over to the Herradura tequila table where I chatted with a kind enabler who told me all about the Reposado I was about to drink.
I sipped at it and chatted about the event with a few people for a little while. The VIP room was getting as crowded as the rest of the room. As I was talking, I was trying my best not to imagine someone yelling "Fire!", which is what I typically imagine whenever I find myself in the middle of a crushing crowd-- especially a crowd that has been drinking.
I finished my Reposado, said goodbye, and left.
When I got out into the relatively fresh air of Mission Street, I realized I was still incredibly hungry. I'd been to a food event and hardly eaten a thing. "My fault," I thought. I'm just not the type of person who is willing to wait in line for ten minutes for a paper cup with lord-knows-what in it waiting for me at the other end. I can't stand crowds. I am not, as that Twitter friend classified, a "foodie".
And yet, I was actually really glad to know that SF DISH was as crowded (and successful, one hopes) as it was. It meant that they were going to raise a lot of money for something I consider a very good cause. The irritation I felt had nothing to do with SF Weekly's event, but rather with the choices some of the vendors made themselves. And with the crowds. But who in their right minds is going to limit the number of people they let into an event when there's a good cause at stake. I thought about all this as I made my way home.
And then I decided to go out for pizza.