Archive for the Bay Area Festivities Category

Copia Closes, What Now?

Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Culinary Travels, Industry News on February 3, 2009 by winechef

copiaThe doors to Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food, and Art in Napa Valley are permanently closed, chapter 11 has been filed, and the gardens are left to take over like an apocalyptic Garden of Eden. The employees were sent home in November, although some have chosen to spend their own time checking in on and tending to the gardens and fulfilling previously scheduled wine classes in San Francisco, while still waiting for back pay.

The day that Copia opened in 2001, a crowd of thousands lined First Street waiting for a glimpse of Julia Child and Robert Mondavi. They went on to experience the vast gardens and take in the exhibits.  In the coming years there were cooking classes, wine seminars, and book signings, but within the following seven years the attractions did not work, the restaurant was still in flux, and visitors left wondering if the time and admission price would have been better spent elsewhere.

Misguided projections for attendance, pricing for admission and events, management in general, the restaurant being poorly conceptualized and financial missteps are at the forefront of the issues that lead up to the closure. After a series of drastic cuts and a shake up of the heads, as well as a last desperate attempt to bring on Tyler Florence as the “Dean of Culinary Studies’” the hole they were in was beyond a bailout. At this point no one knows for sure what will come of the vacant 70,000 square foot building with beautiful views of the river and a sprawling 12 acre educational garden. copiagarden


I heart Fernet/One of the best articles ever.

Posted in Bay Area Festivities on December 30, 2008 by winechef

fernetHere is a link to the original article, this is a snippet of the beginning including my favorite line ever in bold at the end.

The Myth of Fernet

The saga of Fernet, and its cultlike popularity, says a lot about San Francisco

By Nate Cavalieri

Published on December 07, 2005

Excellence knows no oceans, no frontiers.

— inscription, Fernet-Branca bottle

Our story begins above the ocean with the dearly beloved namesake of a reclusive Italian count lying stone-silent in a child’s coffin, among the suitcases and souvenirs in the cavernous belly of a commuter jet bound for the New World.

The quiet package is in the possession of two young Americans. They had a carpenter in Lucca, Italy, fashion the diminutive pine casket, dutifully packed it with their fragile cargo, and saw it past the unquestioning customs officers, who, back in 1999, enjoyed an age when baby coffins were treated with less suspicion than they might be today.

When the container is pried open some 8,000 miles later, in one of the newest restaurants in one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods, the contents are pulled from the yawning mouth and carefully placed on display in a softly lit glass case, ending the miraculous passage from their homeland in Italy to their final resting place, on Fillmore Street.

“I had a couple friends …,” begins Scott Dammann, proprietor of the Eastside West, starting the tale of how he acquired the celebrated and highly sought-after trophy.

For San Francisco’s devotional, seeing the contents of the coffin — an unopened, perfectly preserved 3-liter bottle of Fernet-Branca, the ancient Italian miracle drink with a remarkable local cult following — was like discovering the Holy Grail, filled to the brim.

The legendary liquid in that emerald bottle is more than merely San Francisco’s preferred method of self-medication; it’s an intoxicating fairy tale. And even though Dammann’s story is one that demonstrates the devotion of Fernet’s fans, in a city that drinks more of the liqueur than any other locale in the United States and more per capita than any place on Earth, there are plenty of asses on barstools with a story to tell about Fernet-Branca. And in telling the tales, they continue the life of the drink itself, which was born of myth, and somehow along the way has become perfectly suited to San Francisco’s palate.

This is how Fernet-Branca came to thin the lifeblood of our city.

If I say to you, “Fernet-Branca,” what is it? Yeah, you’ve had it? It’s good isn’t it? It does the job. But, oh the taste.

— Bill Cosby, “Fernet-Branca” from Fat Albert, 1973

You never forget your first time.

When you hold a shot glass of Fernet-Branca to your nose, the first thing that strikes you is the physicality of the smell, which, if such a thing existed, is like black licorice-flavored Listerine. Put it to your lips and tip it back, and the assault on the throat and sinuses is aggressively medicinal. For many so-called “Fergins” uninitiated to the drink, it can be accompanied by a feeling that may either bring a tear to the eye or lunch to the esophagus. As a bitter Italian aperitif of more than 40 herbs and spices, it most often gets compared to Campari and Jägermeister, though by measure of accuracy, it’s equally similar to Robitussin or Pennzoil.

It’s so difficult to love that James Hamilton-Paterson’s Booker Prize-nominated novel Cooking With Fernet-Branca is a 281-page sendup of the taste, including stomach-turning recipes like otter with lobster sauce and Fernet-Branca.

If you can imagine getting punched squarely in the nose while sucking on a mentholated cough drop, you’ll have an idea of Fernet-Branca’s indelicate first impressions.

Truly pure poetry, and one of the best lines ever.

Amuse Cochon

Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Celebrity Chefs, Inked Rogue Chefs: The Book, Pork on October 22, 2008 by winechef

Guess where I’ll be November 2nd? Stuffing my face with amazing porky dishes from amazing pork obsessed chefs. Join me.

Meet Theo

Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Chocolate, Personal on September 18, 2008 by winechef

Introducing Theobromine Winslow Lavrinc Smith…or Theo for short.

Launching a month of Theobromine

Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Chocolate, Cooking at Home, Recipe on September 18, 2008 by winechef

September 14th marked the first day of my month long dedication to Theobromine, the chemical in chocolate that makes you happy…and the name of our new 9 month old Chocolate Lab mutt. The month will be filled with chocolate recipes inspired by the TuttiFoodie Sharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest, recipes for dog treats, and dog friendly haunts around the bay area.


Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Product Review, Restaurant Review on August 22, 2008 by winechef


Chocolate with Salted Caramel Sauce and Cocoa Nibs

Chocolate with Salted Caramel Sauce and Cocoa Nibs

I have no idea why I’ve been craving soft serve this summer, but it has become my mission to seek it out. having just heard that Sketch turned to all soft serve recently I decided to spend an extra 20 minutes that I found myself with in front of the shop with 2 servings of their most amazing offerings. Hey, how was I supposed to know if I would have this opportunity again anytime soon?

Remember to bring CASH, and indulge. 

Vanilla Bean with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Vanilla Bean with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

An Evening with Sherry Yard

Posted in Bay Area Festivities, Pastry Chefs on August 22, 2008 by winechef

It’s been 8 years since I first met this amazing woman at Spago in Beverly Hills. I had just gotten back from an impromptu drive from Napa Valley to Mexico right after the millennium New Years, (hey why not?) and had decided to stop by the restaurant on my way back. It was between lunch and dinner service and god knows what I said or what excuse I gave to who ever was at the front door, but Sherry took me in, gave me a full tour (I think she’d just gotten her chocolate room) and then sat me down at the bar and sent out plate after plate of her legendary desserts. I remember feeling totally in awe and as if I was being taken in by a close family member and the most amazing mentor at the same time. 

This last Wednesday I was able to attend a 3 hour cooking demonstration at Draeger’s in San Mateo with her. The time was filled with the same New York attitude and warmth that I remembered from our last acquaintance. She is just as amazing and talented as ever and her newest book Desserts by the Yard have left her a place forever in my heart.