Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More Foodie Fun.

I recently just read a great review of this exhibition, "Ferran Adrià and elBulli. Risk, Freedom and Creativity" from the wonderful folks at Fine Dining Lovers.  I've become pretty passionate about the idea of getting to see this incredible exhibit in person.  Thankfully, it will be travelling to NYC in 2013- watch out hubbs, we'll be jet-setting next year for sure!  (And yes, that is a Matt Groening drawing of Ferran... Love it.)


The following information comes straight from the Generalitat de Catalunya website, in the Palau Robert section on exhibitions...


Basic data

- From 2 February 2012 to 3 February 2013
- elBulli, 50 years of history
- Ferran Adrià turns 50 in 2012
- Ferran Adrià and elBulli: 1961-2011
- The “keys” of elBullifoundation
- The “seed” of a future Centre-Museum in Roses
- An estimated 300,000 visitors
- 171 confirmed schools
- Open to the public for 365 days
- Room 3 at the Palau Robert
- Exhibition travelling to New York and London

Parallel activities
- Lecture cycle in conjunction with ESADE.
- Audiovisual cycle: A Day at elBulli; elBulli, Last Waltz; Documenting Documenta; and elBulli: Cooking in Progress.
- Educational services: guided tours for the general public on Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as school workshops and visits. Starting in March 2012.
- Presentation of Designation of Origin (DO) agricultural products (PRODECA).
- “Thinking about Art Today” master’s degree module at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, directed by Jèssica Jaques.

The Palau Robert unveils the creative universe of Ferran Adrià...

The “Ferran Adrià and elBulli. Risk, Freedom and Creativity” exhibition unveils the creative universe and talent of Ferran Adrià, the late 20th and early 21st centuries’ most influential chef, as well as the comprehensive capacity to innovate that he has applied to gastronomy. Produced by the Government of Catalonia, the exhibition will be open to the public from 2 February 2012 to 3 February 2013 in Room 3 at the Palau Robert in Barcelona.

Over the years, Ferran Adrià has become a global icon of gastronomy. The work done at elBulli –considered the world’s best restaurant for five years running– has received global recognition and has set the direction for the future of cooking. The names of Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler, Albert Adrià and of elBulli’s entire creative team are associated with values such as reflection, talent, innovation, leadership, teamwork, a job well done, internationalisation and solidarity. Going far beyond the field of gastronomy, their work embraces areas such as art and technology.

The exhibition comes after elBulli closed its doors in July 2011, a decision that was taken so that it could undergo its transformation into elBullifoundation, a centre for gastronomic experimentation and innovation that plans to disseminate its creations on the Internet from 2014.

The Government of Catalonia has produced the exhibition with the sponsorship of Estrella Damm, ”la Caixa” and Telefónica, and with the collaboration of Casa Tarradellas. By means of this formula, the Palau Robert has enabled the public and private sectors to join forces to develop ambitious, global-reach exhibition projects such as this one.

Bridges between cooking and other areas
Ferran Adrià and his team have established an active dialogue with other disciplines. This desire
to create and innovate has led him to give courses at Harvard and to receive academic accolades, such as honorary doctorates awarded by the University of Barcelona (2007), the University of Aberdeen (2008) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia (2010). As a result of his passion for creativity, he received very special feedback from British painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton –a pioneer of pop art and the longest-standing client of elBulli– and an invitation in 2007 to be the guest artist at the contemporary art exhibition Documenta 12 held in Kassel, which awarded him the creator category. Also of particular note are his contribution to the creation of the Alícia Foundation to foster dialogue between education and health; the fact that important business studies schools such as ESADE, Harvard and Berkeley act as veritable observatories of cooking and of Ferran Adrià and elBulli; and that composer Bruno Mantovani devoted an orchestral composition to Ferran Adrià and elBulli’s cuisine.

The exhibition will be presented in New York in 2013

The exhibition will be presented in New York in 2013 and will then travel to London, coinciding with a time when Catalan gastronomy has become one of the top-ranking gastronomies in the global arena. It will also become the seed or basis for the future Centre-Museum devoted to Ferran Adrià and elBulli in Roses. The aim of these and other initiatives that may subsequently arise is to project the image of Catalonia to the world –showing it as a modern, innovative country– and to position it as a leader and point of reference on the global stage of gastronomy thanks to the enormous amount of research that was carried out at elBullirestaurant and will continue to be carried out at elBullifoundation. The exhibition also deems that Catalonia should officially ask UNESCO to designate Catalan gastronomy as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as it did with the castellers (human pyramids).

The spirit of elBullirestaurant –creativity, talent, imagination, innovation, leadership, teamwork, risk, internationalisation– is still alive thanks to the numerous stagers who spent time at the establishment and have since become globally renowned cooks. They were privileged students who are now some of the best chefs in the world. René Redzepi (Noma), Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz), Grant Achatz (Alinea), Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana) and José Andrés (Think Food Group).

Parallel to the exhibition, the Palau Robert will be running a programme of educational activities aimed at primary- and secondary-school pupils, catering schools and universities; guided tours for school pupils and the general public; an audiovisual cycle; a presentation of Designation of Origin (DO) agricultural products (PRODECA); and the “Thinking about Art Today” master’s degree module at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Catalonia’s President Mas: “People like Ferran Adrià make it possible to effect the change that Catalonia needs and to project it to the world”

Visit of chefs and representatives of the tourism sector

A fascinating itinerary through avant-garde cuisine

The exhibition offers an insight into the creative thinking of Ferran Adrià and his team. The kind of thinking that has given rise to a series of proposals such as “foams”, “spherifications”, “warm jellies” and “airs”, all of which represent fundamental changes in the history of cooking. By filling the kitchen with good products and amazing ideas, the work pioneered by Ferran Adrià has managed to position Catalonia as a point of reference on the global stage of creative, avant-garde cuisine.

Sections and Content
The exhibition is divided into the following areas: Acknowledgements; elBullifoundation; Origins; Evolutionary Map; The Search for a Style; The Time of Major Change; Moment 0; The Consolidation of a Style; elBullivirus; and The Spirit of elBulli.

Acknowledgements (showcase)
The exhibition itinerary begins with a showcase at the entrance to the Palau Robert, which contains a mosaic of front covers of newspapers, books and magazines –from across the globe– dedicated to Ferran Adrià and elBulli, as well as numerous awards and accolades received throughout their respective career and history, which can be seen on a screen.

After the showcase, the itinerary continues in Room 3 on the second floor. Texts, images and videos explain the objectives of the elBullifoundation project, for which two new centres are planned: a Centre-Museum in Roses containing materials from this exhibition, and a Creative Centre at Cala Montjoi to disseminate creativity and to share the language created by elBulli through new communication technologies.

Origins (The Learning Years)
The history of elBulli is recounted, from its origins in 1956, with the arrival of Dr Schilling and his wife Marketta at Cala Montjoi (Roses), to March 1987, the time when Ferran Adrià took charge of elBulli as its chef. Audiovisuals, documents, photos and objects in chronological order highlight the qualitative jump made by the restaurant through an increasingly sophisticated gastronomic offering that had clear references to nouvelle cuisine. In addition to Ferran Adrià, the key figures in this transformation were Jean-Louis Neichel, Juli Soler and Albert Adrià.

Evolutionary Map (1983-1997)
The evolutionary map (from 1983 to 1997) illustrates the products, techniques, elaborations and philosophy with videoclips. Below the map, visitors can see emblematic dishes elaborated over the same period, all of which have been major milestones in Ferran Adrià’s career and elBulli’s history.

The Search for a Style
Here, visitors can see a recreation of the atmosphere of the restaurant’s dining room through an audiovisual with props (table and chairs from elBulli). Images of an elBulli 40-dish tasting menu are projected onto the table from overhead.

The Time of Major Change
A recreation of elBulli’s kitchen through three simultaneous projections in triptych form. Also presented are documents, photos and a big showcase of Plasticine elements that recreate the colours, shapes and sizes of the different components of each dish.

Moment 0
The first part explains how Ferran Adrià creates neither dishes nor recipes, but rather concepts and techniques that he can subsequently apply to countless elaborations. The second contends, with the support of several audiovisual projections, that elBulli’s innovative contribution is the sixth sense, that is to say, the one that sparks a response in diners, which is expressed in the form of gestures and emotions of surprise, questioning, recollection, desire and happiness.

Evolutionary Map (1998-2011)
This section of the exhibition itinerary follows a similar layout as before Moment 0, that is to say, an evolutionary map with videoclips showing elaborations and techniques. Below, there is a sequence of emblematic dishes from this period, shown using the same lenticular reproduction system.

The Consolidation of a Style
Ferran Adrià’s technical-conceptual cooking requires a team devoted exclusively to creation in an ideal space, and to subsequent cataloguing. Shown here are images of the workshops undertaken by elBulli’s creative team; drawings of dishes done by Ferran Adrià; a display of metal tableware elements used for serving petits fours, of objects and utensils used in the cooking process –a siphon, a dehydrator and a Pacojet, among others– and of cookbooks.

The immensity of the cataloguing process is highlighted by incorporating volumes of the elBulli General Catalogue and other documents, books and objects into the staging of this section. This ensemble is complemented by images from the documentary Cooking in Progress, which shows the workshop in operation. At the back of the space, a large poster reveals the 1,846 dishes elaborated and catalogued by the restaurant.

This section shows the virus/dialogues with art, graphic and industrial design, science, education and health, music and architecture, as well as a space devoted to the relationship with Japan.

The exhibits are rounded off with a unique element: the 23 principles that, as a kind of manifest, summarise elBulli’s cuisine.

The Spirit of elBulli
Here, the chefs, staff and 2,000 stagers –some of whom are now ranked among the world’s best chefs– are mentioned, as are friends who have shared their thoughts. Visitors can also find a tribute –in the form of the last creative dish, number 1,846– that the elBulli team made to Georges-Auguste Escoffier by reinterpreting the Peach Melba, the work of this great chef who consolidated the prestige of French cuisine on the international scene.

The documentary called elBulli, Last Waltz, recorded on the last day the restaurant was open, is projected in this section. At the end of the itinerary, objects connected with the last day are exhibited; in a prominent place are the reproduction of the “Bulli” dog by the patissier Escribà and the Estrella Damm Inedit beer bottle, given that Estrella Damm is the company sponsoring numerous events relating to Ferran Adrià and elBulli.


Booklet [PDF, 7,02 MB.]

 Educational activities programme

The activity consists of a guided tour and then a workshop. School pupils and students will be able to learn about the exhibition contents and get an insight into the world of senses and sensations conjured up by the dishes created by Ferran Adrià and his team.
Participation of over 200 school groups

“The making of” the first major exhibition on cooking
An audiovisual on the process of producing the first major exhibition on cooking, with Ferran Adrià and elBulli as the stars. In this documentary, visitors will be able to see the creative process that involved a large number of professionals, all of whom brought a great deal of creativity and enthusiasm to the project.
Making of 

Film season
Audiovisuals: "Documenting Documenta", "Un dia en elBulli" and "elBulli, l’últim vals"

Gran Achatz offers dishes from the restaurant elBulli
Chicago pays tribute to elBulli 

Sponsors and partners


Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekly Gazpacho.

With an abundance of ripe heirloom tomatoes practically falling in our laps, I've decided that it's time again for a big bowl of savory gazpacho.  I'm using The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria's recipe for a summery soup that will melt in your mouth and leave you feeling full of sunshine...

*Gazpacho*(for two)
1 garlic clove
1 onion
3/4 oz cucumber
1 oz red bell pepper
11.5 oz vine ripe tomatoes
1/4 oz white country bread without crusts
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 oz croutons

Peel and cut each garlic clove in half.  Remove the green shoot inside, if there is one.  Fill a small saucepan with cold water and add the garlic.  Bring the water to a boil.  When the water begins to boil, lift the garlic out of the water and into a bowl of ice water to quickly cool it.  Repeat this twice, always starting with cold water in the saucepan. 

Peel the onion and cut in half, then cut into large chunks.  Peel the cucumber.  Cut in half, then into large pieces.  Halve the bell peppers, then remove the seeds and white membranes.  Chop the bell peppers, then set aside along with the cucumber and onion. 

Cut the tomatoes into large wedges and put into a bowl with the onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers.  Add the bread, torn into pieces, then pour over the water. 

Process everything together using a hand-held blender, or use a food processor.  Strain the gazpacho through a fine-mesh strainer.  Add the oil, vinegar, and mayonnaise, then whisk or blend the soup until smooth and creamy. 

Season with salt and pepper.  Chill in the fridge before serving (at least two hours).

Serve the gazpacho in soup bowls with croutons, plus an extra drizzle of olive oil.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Helpful Fruit & Veggie Tips.

My friends and readers-

I will be taking the rest of the week off from my own writing due to a sad loss in our home.  This week, the hubbs and I had to say goodbye to our beloved pug, Sebastian Guinness, after 12 years of immense laughter, adventure and life.  Our hearts are broken but we are forever touched by the little soul of this tremendous, furry, ultimate foodie.  No plate went into the dishwasher without his approval, no bowl unturned.  I will miss him at my feet in the kitchen and by my side, waiting patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) for his portion of my ice cream on movie night.  There wasn't a food on the planet he didn't devour wholeheartedly, with gusto and glee, like a true culinary aficionado.  I will always look at summer cherry tomatoes and smile- they were his favorite.  His snoring presence on my lap as I read through my cookbooks will be a delightful memory I cherish.  <3

Pug snoozing in one of his favorite spots- the kitchen, as I cook.

I came across this interesting article after questioning myself on how exactly I was supposed to store all these fresh fruits and vegetables I collect throughout the week... I hope you find it as helpful as I have.  From an excerpt titled, "The ABC'S of Fresh" by Henry's Markets, who have merged with Sprouts to create the new Sprouts Farmers Market.  I'm excited and very curious that we will have a Sprouts opening here in the East Bay this September...

“The main way to lengthen shelf life is by using cold temperatures to slow food’s respiration, or ‘breathing’ process,” explains Marita Cantwell, PhD, a postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davis. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration, which is why refrigeration is critical for most produce. But while you want to slow it down, you don’t want to stop the breathing altogether. “The worst thing to do is seal produce in an airtight bag,” says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University. “You’ll suffocate it and speed up decay.” Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables. Put spinach or kale in the same bin as peaches or apples, and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a couple of days. So the first trick is to separate produce that emits ethylene from produce that’s sensitive to it. (See “Gas Wars,” below).

There are also some innovations to help extend the life of your fruits and veggies. Some products actually absorb ethylene and can be dropped into a crisper, such as the E.G.G. (for ethylene gas guardian), which is shaped like, you guessed it, an egg, and ExtraLife, a hockey-puck-like disk. A variety of produce bags are also on the market, such as those by Evert- Fresh and BioFresh, which both absorb ethylene and create an atmosphere that inhibits respiration.

At least as important as how you store produce is when you buy it. Do all your other shopping first so that your berries and broccoli don’t get warm—and respire rapidly— while you’re picking up nonperishable items. Get the produce home and into the fridge as soon as possible. If you’ll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, put a cooler in the car. Shop farmers’ markets soon after they open: Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.

Even under optimal conditions, fragile raspberries will never last as long as thick-skinned oranges. Eat more perishable items fi rst (see “Fastest to Slowest Spoilers,” right). And if you still find yourself with a bushel of ripe produce—and a business trip around the bend—improvise. Make a fruit pie, a potful of soup or a great big vat of tomato sauce, and throw it in the freezer. You’ll relish your foresight when you get home.

Gas Wars
If you notice that your produce always seems to rot just a few days after you buy it, you might be storing incompatible fruits and veggies together. Those that give off high levels of ethylene gas—a ripening agent—will speed the decay of ethylene-sensitive foods. Keep the two separate.

Use trapped ethylene to your advantage: To speed ripen a peach, put it in a closed paper bag with a ripe banana. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Mold proliferates rapidly and contaminates everything nearby, so toss any spoiled produce immediately.

For longer life, keep your produce whole—don’t even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. “As soon as you start pulling fruits and vegetables apart,” says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University, “you’ve broken cells, and microorganisms start to grow.” Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Store them on the counter, not in the fridge. Once they’re fully ripe, you can refrigerate them to help them last, but for best fl avor, return them to room temp.

Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate.

Apples, Apricots, Cantaloupe, Figs, Honeydew

Avocados, Bananas (unripe), Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes

Bananas (ripe), Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Squash, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon

Fastest to Slowest Spoilers: What to Eat First
With proper storage and a little planning, you can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with just a single weekly trip to the supermarket. The key is eating the more perishable produce early on. Use this guide—created with the help of Marita Cantwell, PhD, postharvest specialist at the University of California, Davis—based on a Sunday shopping trip. The timing suggestions are for ready-to-eat produce, so allow extra days for ripening if you’re buying, say, green bananas or not-quite-ripe pears. And remember, looks count. Appearance—vivid green spinach; smooth, unbruised peaches; plump oranges—is the best clue to whether fruits and veggies are fresh to begin with.

Green beans
Mustard greens


Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts

Winter squash

Thank you to Henry's Markets and Sprouts Farmer's Market for the useful info, and thank you all for your understanding and support.

Love and laughter,


Monday, August 20, 2012


The hubbs and I will be here with bells on!

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco and
Hirsch Vineyards Launch ‘Prelation’ Pinot Noir 2010 Sonoma Coast

What: Through an exclusive partnership, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco’s Brasserie S&P is proud to launch Hirsch Vineyards ‘Prelation’ Pinot Noir 2010 Sonoma Coast with a unique wine tasting journey through California’s extensive Pinot Noir appellations.

Mandarin Oriental and Hirsch Vineyards’ third Pinot Noir vintage, “Prelation” 2010, adds another fine palate to the Hotel Group’s selection of preexisting vintages. Honoring Mandarin Oriental’s inspired sommeliers, chefs and mixologists, the name “Prelation” literally means to “set one above another”.

In addition to “Prelation” Pinot Noir 2010, guests will also enjoy a collection of vintages from Hirsch Vineyards and an array of wines from local, boutique wineries; all complemented with small bites.

Who: Brasserie S&P

When: Thursday, September 6, 2012, 6PM to 8PM
Where: 222 Sansome Street
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

 Cost:  USD28 per person

A selection of Pinot Noir specials will be on offer daily during the month of September between 4PM to 6PM

RSVP to +1 (415) 986-2020

Additional information:

Winemaking Notes
To create this perfectly blended Pinot Noir private label, expert sommeliers from a handful of Mandarin Oriental properties spent three days in the Sonoma Coast, tasting barrels of varying lots and clones from the Pinot Noir grape at Hirsch Vineyards. The team specifically chose four distinct clones from four separate vineyard lots and blended them to make our own signature wine.

Tasting notes
·         The wine is a bright, garnet color. 
·         Floral notes are immediately present on the nose, followed by red fruits on the palate, lightly balanced acidity with a long mineral finish.
·         Fruit notes include McIntosh Apple, raspberry, and Bing cherry.
·         Floral and spice notes include dried roses, lavender, thyme, and white pepper.
·         Earth and Mineral notes include graphite and ocean breeze.

This Pinot Noir private label is limited to Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco and our sister properties throughout the United States.

Alcohol Level

Come join in the fun, this is a great opportunity to discover Brasserie S&P and the wonderful MO wine collaboration. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Loaded Kitchen.

I'm taking a break tonight to help the hubbs pack for his trip to the Wine Blogger's Conference in Portland, Oregon tomorrow.  But while he's busy getting ready for a weekend away, I'll be at home doing some serious nesting. 

As I flipped through The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria, I came across 2 pages that made my jaw drop.  Behold, a list of essentials that every cook should have in their kitchen pantry- I've got some serious shopping to do...

whole milk
whipping cream
Parmesan cheese
cheese slices
plain yogurt
smoked bacon
hot dogs

fish stock
chicken stock
beef stock
ham stock
tomato sauce
bolognese sauce
romesco sauce
pesto sauce
vanilla ice cream
squid ink

five-spice powder
green anise seeds
ground cinnamon
ground cumin
dried chiles
ground nutmeg
achiote paste
dashi powder
ras el hanout
sichimi togarashi
sweet paprika
table salt
sea salt flakes
white pepper
black pepper
vanilla beans
dried bay leaves
dried oregano
dried rosemary
dried thyme


sunflower oil
ordinary olive oil
extra-virgin olive oil
toasted sesame seed oil
sherry vinegar
white wine vinegar
red wine vinegar

pickled capers
canned coconut milk
canned cooked beans
canned cooked lentils
canned anchovy fillets
canned tomato sauce
canned corn kernels
canned chopped tomatoes
dried shitake mushrooms

polenta or cornmeal
short egg noodles
egg noodles
white superfine sugar
confectioners' sugar
brown sugar
ground almonds
all-purpose white flour
corn tortillas
potato flakes

red miso paste
black olive paste
red mole paste
whole-grain mustard
Dijon mustard
barbecue sauce
oyster sauce
soy sauce
teriyaki sauce
Worchestershire sauce

anisette liquor
white rum
white wine
rice wine
dry sherry
red wine

caramelized almonds
whole toasted Marcona almonds
caramelized hazelnuts
dried plums
crushed almonds
peeled walnuts
pine nuts
peeled green pistachio nuts
white sesame seeds
toasted sesame seeds

potato chips
potato straws
dark chocolate
white chocolate
unsweetened cocoa
instant coffee
grated coconut
menthol candies
honey-flavored candies

If you are anything like me, you gasped, "WHOA!" when reading this list.  In all honesty, I think a lot of people have these items in their kitchen already, but it's a great list to base some staple shopping off of because clearly, you will use what you collect.  There are some super helpful basics and some fun throw-in's if you are really feeling experimental.  Remember to try new things, you will be pleasantly surprised with what you may discover.

Get out there and have fun shopping!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chicken, Rice and Other Stuff.

Day One of utilizing recipes from The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria...   The hubbs is looking forward to this one because he loves Mexican/Spanish foods and this recipe is just the right blend of both.  We're going to start of with a simple, homemade guacamole, dinner will be a hearty Mexican-style chicken with rice, and dessert (oh lovely dessert!) will be an infused watermelon dish served with menthol candies.  Sound different?  Of course it is, that's the point!

*Guacamole with Tortilla Chips* (serving for two)
1 tbsp ripe tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 avocado
1 tbsp medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch salt
3 1/2 oz tortilla chips

Fill a saucepan with water, then bring to a boil.  Cut a cross into the underside of each tomato with a knife.  Fill a bowl with ice water.  Put tomatoes into the boiling water for 10 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to the ice water to cool for about 2 minutes.  Once cooled, peel the skin off the tomatoes.  Use the tip of a knife to help if necessary.  Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds, and cut the flesh into very fine strips.  Cut into dice. 

Pick the leaves off the cilantro stems and chop them finely.  Cut the avocado in half and remove the pits.  Scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  Mash the avocado using a whisk, fork or hand-held blender. 

Chop the onion finely.  Add the chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro to the avocados.  Pour in the lemon juice and stir.  Season with salt.  Serve guacamole with tortilla chips. 

*Mexican-style Chicken with rice*
2 chicken legs
2 1/2 cups water
1 pinch salt
5 sprigs cilantro
3 1/2 oz red mole paste
2 tsp sesame seeds

Place the chicken legs in a large pan, cover with water and add the salt.  Add the cilantro sprigs.  Bring to a boil and simmer the chicken for 45 minutes, adding more hot water, if necessary, to make sure the chicken is covered.  Remove chicken from the cooking water (reserving the liquid) and divide the legs into drumsticks and thighs.  Strong kitchen scissors or a cutting board and cleaver are best for this.  Transfer the chicken into a roasting pan.  Strain the liquid and set aside for use in the mole sauce and Mexican rice.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spoon the mole paste into a saucepan.  Stir over low heat until it begins to melt.  Add one-third of the reserved chicken liquid.  Boil for 15 minutes, until the sauce has a creamy consistency. 

Cover the chicken with the sauce and roast for 30 minutes, until the sauce is thick and the chicken is very tender.  To check, insert the tip of a sharp knife into the chicken flesh.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat, stirring frequently.  Remove from pan as soon as they are ready.  Arrange the chicken on a serving dish.  Cover with the sauce, then sprinkle on the toasted sesame seeds.  Serve with Mexican rice. 

*Mexican Rice*
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup small onions, roughly chopped
2 sprigs cilantro
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup paella rice
1/3 cup canned corn, drained
1 tbsp butter

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, use a hand-held blender to puree the onion and half of the cilantro into a smooth paste. 

Pour the oil into a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the rice and cook for one minute, stirring.  Add the onion and cilantro mixture to the rice and continue to fry gently for 2 minutes.  Pour in the hot stock and simmer the rice for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 

Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining cilantro.  When the rice is nearly cooked (after about 17 minutes), add the drained corn.  When the time is up, turn off the heat.  Add the butter and stir until the rice has a creamy texture.  Add the chopped cilantro, season  with salt and pepper, and serve.

*Watermelon with Menthol Candies*
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 wedge of watermelon
4 hard menthol candies

Strain the lemon juice into a bowl and add the sugar.  Remove the skin and cut the watermelon flesh into cubes about 1 1/2 inches.  Transfer the melon and lemon syrup into a resealable bag or nonreactive bowl, then marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Put the candies between two sheets of parchment paper and crush with a rolling pin or other heavy utensil to make a fine powder.  Drain the watermelon pieces and arrange on serving dish.  You can serve it on crushed ice, if you like.  Serve the melon with crushed candies in a separate bowl for guests to sprinkle.

I must say, every one of these dishes was divine.  The guacamole turned out perfect- flavorful, ripe and fresh tasting.  The chicken with mole had the ideal combo of spice and sweetness to it, and with the added taste of the Mexican rice it was delicious.  The rice itself is so simple and will now be on my favorite foods list, with it's cilantro and onion bath.  I'd always thought it was difficult to make paella or risotto style rice, but it's painfully easy, I wish I'd tried it before now.  And the watermelon!  The watermelon with menthol candies is amazing!  It sounds like a really weird combo, but the menthol causes the lemon soaked melon to taste even more refreshing and cooler than it already does, we both loved it and I'm definitely serving it again during these hot months.

Overall, a great meal that both the hubbs and I enjoyed. 

Try it out!


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Family Meal.

After our week of low-carb food business, I think it's safe to say the the hubbs and I are ready for something new and different.  While I appreciated the simplicity of the meals I made last week, I long for more creativity in the kitchen as far as interesting dishes are concerned. We both enjoyed the food very much, but limiting what we eat so specifically proved too hard on a day-to-day basis. 

I found the biggest problem for me was with meal planning.  We hit up the market on the previous Sunday and tried to stock up on every item we'd need for the week.  The issue wasn't the amount of the grocery bill- it was keeping an entire weeks worth of yum fresh for 5 days.  I suppose that was my mistake though, I thought it would make my life easier, but boy was I wrong.  It put me on a cooking schedule, made me feel like I *had* to make certain dishes on a certain day.  I just don't cook (or live) that way at all. 

I love fresh food, and honestly, I really enjoy the act of grocery shopping regularly.  Whether it's heading to the butcher for a special cut of meat or to the farmer's market for a bushel of green onions.  It makes me happy.  I can feel the folks starting to recognize me, they smile, they save goodies for me, they are excited to share their product and their ideas.  So I'm sticking with them.  I know it's not practical for everyone to go to the grocery store or market every single day, but I see it as a chance to get out of the house, be dazzled by the food and perhaps find something new and different to try.  It works well for me and I'm blessed to lead a lifestyle that allows it at this point in time. 

Recently, as a gift, I gave one of my best girlfriends my favorite cookbook as a birthday present, "The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria."  She too loves to cook and finds immense joy in food, and we often times exchange recipes and insight as we cook on our own.  I was really passionate about sharing this treasure with her because I know how much she adores cooking herself and this seemed like the perfect addition to her collection, also a beloved member of my own library.  I discovered this cookbook after I watched the documentary "elBulli: Cooking in Progress" quite some time ago.  A tasty peek into the world of some of the most innovative and exciting cooking in existence, this film had both the hubbs and I mesmorized, sitting in silence and awe. 

I became obsessed with Ferran Adria's persona, a quiet and highly intelligent kitchen genius.  His legendary elBulli restaurant in northern Spain was considered the best restaurant in the world until it's closure in July of 2011.  With his incredibly low-key demeanor and meticulous attention to detail, I find myself fascinated with this culinary magician.  I also really enjoy the way Ferran embraces all different styles of cooking, in this case, The Family Meal.

"The family meal is the dinner eaten every day by the 75 members of staff at elBulli restaurant.  We call it that because the staff members are like a family, and the family meal is an important moment when everyone sits down together to eat.  You might assume that the staff would eat the same food as the guests, but the don't.  In fact, people are surprised when we tell them that we eat ordinary food...  Why is the family meal so important at elBulli?  The answer is very simple: we believe if we eat well, we cook well." 

Practical, fresh, seasonal and balanced.  With this in mind, I've decided to attempt a slew of meals from his cookbook over the next few weeks.  I have confidence in myself that I can do it and do it well, plus it just seems like a fun idea.  As I sit here leafing through the book, I find it shocking just how easy an elegant meal can be.  I recommend "The Family Meal" to everyone, at-home chef to young people.  With it's easy to follow recipes and clear, concise instructions, there's really no excuse to not get in the kitchen and get cooking!  We'll see how it goes- menu, photos and commentary to come soon enough.

I think first up tomorrow night will be the Fried eggs with asparagus, chicken wings with mushrooms and sangria with fruit- can't wait!

Eat well, cook well & be well,


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Low Carb Thursday.

Thursday.  Almost Friday, but not quite.  I tend to enjoy Thursday evenings more- perhaps the anticipation of the following day makes for a more relaxed mood.  During the summer, we almost always end up on the front porch Thursday nights, chatting, sipping wine, taking in the neighborhood sights and sounds.  I may switch things up tonight and suggest the back patio instead because I've been working so hard out in the garden this week.  We may have to fire up the BBQ!

I just finished up my morning session in the yard by potting the last of the homeless cactus.  Yesterday I purchased 6 more succulents to fill the empty pots we had leftover.  Let me start by saying, wow, potting cacti can hurt!  My hands have been mauled by the spiny thorns and furry teeth that cover them, even with gloves.  At one point I had a 2 inch barb jammed into my palm- I just stood and stared at it a few moments before pulling it out, shaking my head, all the while telling the cactus, "that's ok, you're just doing your job."  The plants look quite lovely on the patio, I must say.  They give it a sort of arid resort-y feel, which is what I was going for.  I love the simplicity of succulents and their clean little pots, scattered around our sandstone tiles.  Indeed, I think the backyard is much too inviting to ignore this evening, especially when the house reaches 90 degrees inside...

*Steak with Olives* (Courtesy of Gourmet.)
2 lb boneless sirloin steak
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup drained pitted brine-cured olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a dry 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Pat steak dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, then sear, without turning, 5 minutes.  Turn steak over and cook 5 to 6 minutes more for medium-rare.  Transfer to cutting board and let stand 5 minutes. 

Wipe out skillet, then cook garlic with red-pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add olives and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in parsley just before serving.

Slice steak and serve with olive sauce.

Ah yes, the beauty of a well-cooked piece of beef.  What's not to love?  The olive sauce gives this dish just enough spice and saltiness.  You don't need much else, just let the sirloin shine on it's own.  I'm sure the hubbs is going to pick out a splendid red wine to accompany our meal, which will be a perfect complement to the steak's natural flavor.  I think I will keep things very basic and just slice a few fresh peppers to serve raw along side of the beef.  Perfect.

For dessert, we'll be slicing up various stone fruit and tossing them straight onto the grill.  The natural juices and sugars of the fruit act as a sumptuous built-in glaze, dripping with goodness.

Be well,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Low Carb and Light Wednesday.

I'm going rogue!  Today is just too darn hot to cook much of anything.  Our house doesn't have air conditioning, and right now it's about 85 degrees inside.  We keep the windows shut tight until about 7 o'clock when a slight breeze picks up and the air is a little cooler.  In the meantime, pug and I suffer the wrath of a sweltering 90 year old house made out of redwood.  I'm glad I chose tonight's meal just by chance- it's easy, delicious and relatively quick to prepare with very few ingredients.

Around these parts we love tomatoes.  We really, really LOVE tomatoes.  So I decided to whip up a batch of good old fashioned farm-style tomato stew with pesto drizzle.  I don't have a set way of making this dish because I usually toss in whatever I have available in my fridge the day of.  I'll try to make sense of it all for you guys, here it goes- my very own recipe...

*Fontaine Farmstead Tomato Stew*
10 vine ripe organic tomatoes, chopped into quarters
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28oz)
2 cups chicken broth
1 small bunch fresh basil, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup of fresh cream
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

In a large stock-pot, pour your chicken stock in and place on medium heat.  Add all ingredients except the San Marzano tomatoes and cream (reserve).  Boil stew on low-medium heat until liquefied- the skins will separate, remove if you prefer- we leave them in.  Once mixture has reached a generally liquefied state, add your San Marzano tomatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes on low.  Add cream at the last minute and stir vigorously.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with pesto drizzle on top.  

*Pesto Drizzle*
(You will need a blender, small chopping appliance or garden pixies to puree this mixture for you.)
1 large bunch of basil, stemmed and chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp pine nuts
Parmesan cheese (if preferred, I keep the cheese out to taste the pure flavor of the basil.)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

This one is easy.  Basically combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Add oil as needed.  The consistency should be that of thick but viscous sand.  If you like a little more bite, add more garlic according to your tastes.  Drizzle on tomato stew and serve.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be served hot OR cold.  It's a very refreshing treat as a cold soup, especially on these hot summer nights.  During the winter, it makes for a hearty, wholesome meal- perhaps paired with white cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches and a nice glass of wine? 

Ok, I'm going to go open up some windows and chow down on this stew.  Man, it smells absolutely insane.  The hubbs came home and smiled ear to ear- he loves homemade soup. 



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Low Carb Tuesday.

I just spent nearly the entire day keeping busy out in the garden.  I got up early this morning to water while it was still cool enough outside.  You have to understand, I live on a very large plot of land teeming with plant life- fruit & olive trees, flowering hedges, climbing jasmine, giant aloe, lavender, 11 rose bushes, 14 succulents, lemongrass, a grape vine, 2 flowering cercis, 10 mock orange plants and a gaggle of other flora.  Watering my yard is no walk in the park, it takes me two hours to complete the task, along with a lot of hose dragging.  Why do I do this you ask?  I have no idea.  I love my yard and I like to treat it well, especially when it is hot out.  I enjoy watering each plant and giving them some words of encouragement throughout these scorching summer months, just in case.  "Stay strong little one!  Conserve your energy!"  I then used up another hour rock hunting for my rock wall.  Literally, I was hunting in my own yard for large rocks to fill in the gaps of my rock wall... In my own yard (!)  Needless to say, it's a BIG job to take care of this place. 

After finishing up with that, I made sure to hit up the gym to cover all my bases.  Five miles of running and cycling later, I needed to refuel and sit a spell.  My late afternoon was set aside to re-pot, water and fresh bark my 10 indoor orchids, so I took full advantage of the sunshine and did just that, outdoors.  I even managed to pot three newly purchased baby Bonsai trees, as a surprise for the hubbs (his old Bonsai was stolen out of our yard after almost ten years of care taking, grrrr!)  I thought a fresh start would put a smile on his face. 

All this work today has made me starving for some good food.  On the low-carb menu tonight...

*Mustard Grilled Pork* (Courtesy of Bon Appetit)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbsp packed golden brown sugar
2 lbs trimmed boneless pork loin, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
Olive oil
Green onions
Red and green cabbage

Spray grill rack with nonstick spray.  Whisk mustard, mayonnaise, tarragon, and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Brush mustard sauce generously on both sides of pork cutlets.

Brush cabbages with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill cabbages until dark marks form, 3-4 minutes per side.  Grill green onions until charred on one side.  Transfer vegetable to work surface.  Chop green onions and cabbages, dress with pinch of Dijon.   

Grill pork until just cooked through and firm to the touch, 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate.  Serve with cabbage slaw.

Per serving: 294 calories, 13g fat, 85mg cholesterol, 618mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 33g protein.

This is a quick, simple and satiating meal for any night of the week.  If you can't find the time to use an actual grill, a broiler makes a fine substitution.  Make sure you use the freshest pork possible as well, it only improves the flavor of the dish and you'll be thankful.  Another great meal option for those looking to keep things lean!  By the way, for dessert we had sliced navel oranges drizzled with honey, olive oil and Maldon sea salt... accompanied by a hunk of dark chocolate.  It's the little things that make happiness complete.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Low Carb Monday.

Last night's dinner was a huge success, so I'm very excited to for our meal tonight.  I'm trying to rotate protein rich meat, fish and poultry meals with exciting vegetarian dishes every other night to keep us healthy and full of fresh fruits and veggies.  Tonight we'll be having and amazing dinner salad, packed with all the good stuff...

*Mesclun Salad with Veggies, Goat Cheese and Crispy Garlic*
(Courtesy of Epicurious & Rebecca Minkoff)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 cloves of garlic
2 large shallots
Juice of 1 large lemon
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup pine nuts
About 10 cups mesclun
1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and coarsly chopped
4 cooked beets, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp minced dill
1/8 tsp dried onion flakes
4 oz goat cheese, preferably fresh local

In a small saute pan over moderate heat, melt the butter until it begins to bubble slightly.  Add the garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 2 minutes.  Pour the garlic and butter into a small bowl and let cool.  Do not clean the pan.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, and Dijon mustard.  Whisk to combine then season to taste with fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Return the small saute pan to the stove over low heat and toast the pine nuts, stirring occasionally, until aromatic and light golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to plate and let cool.

In large bowl, layer the meslcun, pepper, beets, tomatoes, cranberries, and pine nuts.  Add the dill. dried onion flakes, and fried garlic, including the butter from the bowl.  Shake the dressing thoroughly then drizzle it over the salad and toss to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, crumble goat cheese over top, and serve.

This is a hearty, delicious salad that is sure to please even the pickiest of palates.  With a nice combo of veggies, tangy dressing and creamy goat cheese (just a little!), it makes for the perfect summertime dinner delight.  Both the hubbs and I LOVE it.  So darn tasty, it's hard to stop eating. 


p.s. I added alfalfa sprouts because I adore them.

Wine Riot SF.

I was invited to attend the inaugural Wine Riot- San Francisco this past Friday at The Concourse Exhibition Center and was thrilled with the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of the good people at Creative Feed.  I was eager to check out this new, hip production brought to the bay by Second Glass because I truly believe that more people need to get out there and learn about the wines of the world, near and far.  I've said this before and I'll say it again- I'm no wine expert, but I respect, appreciate and enjoy the entire realm of the wine industry.  Here's how the folks at Second Glass see things...

"We want you to drink more wine. Sure, wine can seem complicated, but in the end it all comes down to whether you like it or not. It’s that simple. Our goal is to give you the tools to find cool wine tastings, talk to experts, explore wine regions and constantly discover new favorites. You don’t have to use dorky wine-speak or spend a lot of time learning about wine to have fun with it. And we’re here to help."

"Wine Riot is your all access pass to hundreds of new wines. With two parts education and one part revolution, Wine Riot has reinvented "wine tasting" for the thirsty and curious. Grab a glass and hit the floor -- it's you unleashed against 250 wines from across the globe. Travel the world of wine all under one roof and tackle things you've never tried before. We've rallied up a team of die-hard experts to bring you the brain juice: interactive booths and crash courses loaded with tips and tricks for conquering the wine world. Fueling your night of conquest is a tireless DJ, photo booth, temporary tattoos, and a few thousand of your closest friends. The best part is, we made an app that tracks your favorite wines and shows you where to buy them later, arming you with all the tools needed for total wine domination."

Sounds like fun, right?  Indeed.  The night was jam-packed with introductions, laughter, great wine and fun foodie treats.  I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about wine, wandering aimlessly through the sea of libations, bumping into industry friends left and right.  The only problem that I encountered?  Four hours to experience 123 wineries.  I couldn't keep up!  I wanted so much to hit as many winery and food booths as possible, but there were just too many with too little time.  That is my own fault though, admittedly.  I couldn't help but savor and sip slowly.  It was a blast- chatting with the wine vendors, sharing stories and connections.  At times, I felt overwhelmed by the good spirit of the event.  In the end, I managed to snag a few cards after conversations with these lovely Wine Riot favorites...

Honig Vineyard and Winery-  The fellas working this booth had me cracking up all night with their humorous, yet professional good nature. 

"In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in the heart of the Napa Valley and planted it with Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He sold the fruit to neighboring wineries with the dream of retiring one day from his San Francisco advertising business and making wine from his vineyard in Rutherford. Before he could realize his dream, Louis passed away, leaving the estate to his children and grandchildren. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, the family rallied together to produce several hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard's old tractor barn. The wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, and thus, the winery was born."

"In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis' grandson, Michael Honig, took over management of the vineyard and winery. With a lot of hard work and a beat up pickup truck, Honig managed to get their Sauvignon Blanc into most fine restaurants in California. In 1987, they began producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. The family business grew with the addition of family members Regina Weinstein in 1997, Steven Honig in 2000, and Stephanie Honig in 2007. In 1998, winemaker Kristin Belair joined the family to produce award winning Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon that is now featured on the wine lists of hundreds of fine restaurants across the country."

"What began as a small garage winery has become a team of people who work collaboratively to run an inspiring and socially responsible business, donating wine to charity auctions all over the country, hosting political and community events at their vineyard, and leading the way in the sustainable farming movement."

I particularly enjoyed their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  "This juicy, refreshing, medium bodied wine abounds with aromas of honeysuckle, grapefruit, and lemongrass mingled with mango, kiwi, peach, and grapefruit rind. The finish is long, crisp and minerally."  In fact, they even hooked me up with a sweet embroidered polo shirt for describing it correctly.  Go me!

Hahn Family Wines-  Some of our favorite wines.  Both the Hubbs and I really enjoy Hahn Family Wines, from the awesome Cycles Gladiator brand to Smith&Hook, we drink them on a regular basis in our own house.  The beautiful Hahn Winery, located in Monterey County, is home to the Hubbs very own self-planted Pinot Noir vine, something he is very proud of.  His very own vine baby.   

"The Hahn Winery Story:  The spectacular beauty of California 's central coast is probably the best-known region in all of California for its unique lifestyle. Monterey County's dramatic ocean scenery, historic communities, artistic culture, verdant pine forests, and bountiful agriculture have beckoned adventure-seekers, seafarers, artists, writers and vacationers for over 100 years. And the 99 miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline is something no other California county can boast.

"With an inspiration to raise Monterey wines to the highest level, the wines of Hahn Winery are created with a philosophy that all great wines are special – akin to the region they were grown in. The Hahn wines celebrate everything that is Monterey – unique in thought, style and setting. Wines of Monterey Distinction."

"Hahn History:  The Smith Ranch had been a horse ranch, while the neighboring Hook Ranch had raised cattle for generations. With their prime location in the Santa Lucia Highlands overlooking the Salinas Valley, these ranches-turned-vineyards presented ideal growing conditions for growing premium varietal fruit. Smith & Hook Winery released its first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon to high acclaim in 1980. In 1991, Nicky created the Hahn Winery brand to showcase supple, accessible, and attractively priced wines from the family's Monterey County vineyards."

"In German, “Hahn” means “Rooster” and for this reason a rooster embellishes the Hahn Winery label, honoring the Hahn family's European heritage. And while Smith & Hook remains the first wine produced by the Hahn family, Hahn Winery is the primary wine brand produced by the Hahns."

Huge Bear Wines-  These guys probably win the "Coolest Branding Award" in my book.  Not only are the wines amazing, the look and feel of their brand is quintessential old school California.  A great story and particularly great wines- small batch, but Huge.

"The Big Story Behind Huge Bear:  At Huge Bear, we’re passionate about making exceptional, hand-crafted wines. Each wine is made in small lots, and is meant be enjoyed with family and friends."

"Our wines are inspired by California's rich history and Sonoma County’s long-standing reputation of growing exceptional wine grapes that produce exciting wines. It’s this adventurous spirit of the west that is captured in each bottle of Huge Bear."

"What’s in a Name?:  The Huge Bear name comes from an article we discovered in the local historic archives from the mid 1800s. The story chronicles the adventures of a huge bear that would come down from the mountains in search of food, surprising the local Justice of the Peace whose home he routinely raided. That elusive bear was never trapped. During this time Thomas Knight (namesake of Knights Valley) was leading the charge to raise the Bear Flag and pronounce California as an independent state. We imagine that the Bear Flaggers were inspired by this local bear, and decided to celebrate the bear’s independent spirit on the California State Bear Flag."

"A Spirited Label:  The illustration used on our label is adapted from Lynd Ward's classic book The Biggest Bear, winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1953. Mr. Ward illustrated over 200 books and most are now considered American classics. His works include six woodcut graphic novels, of which four have recently been republished. He is also known for his art in watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint. You can read more about the amazing life of Lynd Ward on the many websites that are dedicated to his extraordinary life. We are grateful to the copyright owners of Mr. Ward's work, his daughters Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Ward, for their permission to use this amazing art."

Steele Wines-  The ladies working the Steele booth were particlarly friendly and warm.  They gave us plenty of chance to check out all of their wines, one in particular, the 2009 Writer's Block, piqued my palate and made me smile.

"At Steele Wines we have a minimalist winemaking style in that we use standard, non-GMO yeasts, natural fermentations, no extra additives or enzymes. We use a gentle pumpover during fermentations, inert gas to move the finished wines, and use gravity flow rather than pumping as much as possible. The use of gentle pumping and gravity flow decreases the chance of bruising the wine during cellar movement and is important to keeping fresh aromas and flavors in our wines. From hand picked grapes to gentle processing and our own bottling facility we know how our grapes are cared for from vineyard to bottle. We believe a lighter hand in the winemaking will highlight the aromas and the flavors of the quality fruit we source."

"We source fruit from as far away as Santa Barbara County to Washington State, to as close as next door, to give our customers a quality product they can enjoy everyday without paying ‘quality prices’. After the grapes are harvested they are kept in their individual vineyard lots until blending time, which is just before bottling so that integrity of each vineyard shows through in the wines. The fruit we source for the Steele label is the same as Shooting Star. The Shooting Star wines are more appellation blends and off- the - wall varietals that are fermented in stainless or aged in oak for a shorter period of time to ensure bright, fruit forward wines that are meant to be enjoyed while young. The Steele label wines are single vineyard designates or specific vineyard blends that age in oak for a longer period of time and are meant to drink soon or will hold up for 8-10 years of proper cellaring or longer."

A big shout out to the kids at the Bordeaux booth for being so darn hip, cool and informative.  Their little corner of the concourse was bumping all night long, teeming with wine junkies and aficionados alike.  They spent the evening promoting 5 styles of quality, affordable Bordeaux wines, all under $20 and available locally at K&L Wine Merchants.

As for food, I must say that the selection was quite sparse.  It seems as though there was a snafu in the food planning for the event, but I did find a few gems...

Taza Chocolate-  I took home a "Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano" 40% dark disc.  The most delicious blend of savory and grainy sweet chocolate I've tasted.  Melts slowly in your mouth and it's also too much fun to snap off little triangles and share with friends. 

"To make Taza Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano, we start with our single-origin, Hispaniola cacao and whole, raw almonds from Big Tree Organic Farms in California. We roast the almonds in our cocoa roaster just in time to make each batch, ensuring the freshest, most intense almond flavor possible. A touch of kosher salt added before tempering makes Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano a compelling sweet-salty treat."

"Our Mission:  At Taza Chocolate, we craft every batch of chocolate with our mission in mind. This trio of guiding principles reflects our passion for exceptional chocolate, our dedication to forging an economically sustainable company, and our commitment to doing business in a socially responsible way."

"Our Product Mission:  To make minimally processed, full-flavored and textured stone ground chocolate, with sustainably farmed ingredients, that brings happiness into the lives of and inspires all of our key partners, employees, our customers, and our community."

"Our Economic Mission:  To maintain sustainable growth supported by long-term profitability in order to improve the lives of all our stakeholders, including our key partners, our employees, and our local and global community."

Good Eggs-  I love this idea of bringing local farmers and people together.  I support the idea of local sustainability big time and am excited to see this company taking off.  Yay, good for Good Eggs!

"Good Eggs is a hub to bring people and food closer together. It’s a local food marketplace, a guide to eating well, and a set of tools to help local farmers & foodmakers sell direct.  We’ve just launched the pilot of our marketplace in a few neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Later in 2012 we’ll have a full launch in the Bay Area, and then we’ll start bringing Good Eggs to other cities in the country and around the world."

"Local food excites us. It’s better for you. It’s kinder to the environment. It emphasizes relationships and sparks conversations, and in so doing, renews a sense of community. We also think it tastes a whole lot better. The first cherries of the season, the tomatoes you waited until summer for—those are exciting."

"We’re committed to our mission as the primary goal of our company. We believe that if we focus on our mission to change the world we’ll be able to build a successful business – as both a byproduct and an enabler of our work."

Overall, I'd say that Wine Riot was a success for San Francisco.  Being it's first year, I think they could've used a little more press and promotion throughout the bay area, but the event still did well.  Competing with the infamous SF Chefs event is no easy feat- Second Glass did a good job with the space they were given.  My only feedback?  More food please!  Noshes for everyone!  Loved the photo booth, it was great fun.  Hopefully the Riot will return bigger and better next year, I know I'm looking forward to it.

Be well,





*Brasserie S&P August Offer*

Perfect for after work, pre-dinner tapas or ladies night out!

Slip into Brasserie S&P for an exquisite pairing of the area’s finest oysters and a luxurious selection of champagnes. This decadent duo will excite your senses and is sure to warm your palate before further exploring the luxurious offerings of Brasserie S&P. The perfect combination can be shaped to include 6 oysters and a ½ bottle of Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne best suited for a couple. Alternatively, for larger groups brimming with 12 oysters and a bottle of Argyle Brut 2008, Oregon or 12 oysters and a bottle of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 2004. This unique union promises to pleasure the most discerning tastes.

Who: Brasserie S&P

When: Month of August
Where: 222 Sansome Street
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

6 oysters and a ½ bottle of Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne at $45
12 oysters and a bottle of Argyle Brut 2008, Oregon at $50
12 oysters and a bottle of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne 2004 at $198