Sunday afternoon, 20 home cooks and professionals met at the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company to battle it out at the sixth SF Food Wars. The theme was “amuse brunch”—which meant that contestants had to create the most delicious one-bite brunch dish.

The 200-plus attendees circumnavigated the room slowly and methodically, studying each entry. It felt a bit like an elementary school science fair, where each kid stands beside his three-paneled display board as the teachers examine his or her molten lava volcanic sculpture. The wares were far more satisfying, though: corned beef hash knishes, bacon brioche bits with maple-pecan-pear filling, deviled eggs, dosa-wrapped lox.

I was one of three judges, accompanied by Tamara Palmer from SF Weekly (read her roundup of the event here) and Karen Armstrong from Bi-Rite Market. We plowed through each amuse brunch with clear winners, clear losers, and a lot of tough decisions.

pork in the hole

Team Porkuporkia's entry

I was most curious to try Team Porkuporkia’s Pork in the Hole: slow-braised pork belly tucked into a maple-glazed doughnut hole. It both intrigued and frightened me. I took a bite and instantly felt a sugar-induced brain freeze. Yet other people loved it; it took home People’s Choice. The three of us agreed rather quickly on the first- and second-place winners. Good Foods Catering took first with the Bite of Smokey Porky Love: a griddled micro wheat bun with a smoky tomato jam, sliced cherry tomato, pork crackling aioli, and house-cured bacon. And second place went to Memmalicious for their Salmon Dill-ites: crispy hash brown rounds topped with smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche—refreshing and classic yet true to the theme.

Choosing third place was the tough decision. We went with a modern take on brunch—Team TimeCube’s One Shot Waffle—described as “pure essence of waffles distilled into a liquid with extra notes of bacon and strawberries, topped off with a maple syrup foam.” It was strange, yes, but pleasantly tasty. They also won the Photog’s Choice for best presentation.

Two things I noted: The dishes we chose were all bite-size, not two bites or three, and they all stood up well at room temperature. Getting things hot enough is tricky in a chafing dish. As a first-timer to SF Food Wars, I was impressed. It’s an amazing array of food, people, and talent, and a fun food-and-community event. Nice work to all the contestants!

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