Archive for the Culinary Travels 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

Laulima Farm

Posted in Culinary Travels on August 7, 2007 by winechef

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It’s been over a month since I landed on the Main Land from my 4 weeks in Maui and I still can’t stop talking about my afternoon at Laulima Farm in Hana. What started as a side trip tip to look for the “Bike Powered Smoothies” sign 5 miles past the Seven Sacred Pools, became the most educational and enjoyable culinary experience of the entire month.

My parents and I pulled into the small dirt lot below the fruit shack and were immediately drawn to the lists of fresh picked fruit, from the property of 13 acres, which lined the walls. Once we entered the stand, the breeze wafting through the open windows, we saw the infamous yellow bike mounted on a contraption that allows you to pedal without the bike moving. The bike is outfitted with an energy gauge and attached to a blender, where after your selected ingredients are assembled in the blender cup, you hop on and pedal for 20 seconds. The resulting smoothie is the most alive beverage you have ever tasted. Cane sugar that was harvested and ground moments before in a mill from Brazil, Hawaiian ginger plucked from the fertile ground that morning, coconut milk, painfully extracted and ground with the fresh white meat, and a squeeze of lime come together in an ethereal beverage. The texture is as smooth as ice cream and the flavor is…like nothing you have ever experienced.

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The stand attendant was eager to share any and all information about the farm. She allowed me to follow her into the “jungle” to harvest more sugar cane while I fired continuous inquiries at her. She is young, probably in her early twenties, beautiful and tan, and amazingly ripped. I soon found out why as she was wielding a 3 foot long machete at the cane twice as tall as her, hacking them down and then trimming them up with deft moves. She is also the one who cracks the impossibly hard coconuts in half, extracts the meat, and blends it with the coconut water every morning.

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She is soon running the cane through the mill in what looks like an amazing test of strength and speed. We find out that she is an apprentice who has just been invited to continue on for another 3 years This additional training will ensure that she will be able to start and run a farm entirely on her own upon completion of the apprenticeship. In the mean time she works at the stand and on the farm four days a week in exchange for her room, board, and private garden. She has recently had a wisdom tooth extracted and decided to plant it in her broccoli garden because of the broccoli’s hunger for nitrates. Laulima Farm is a Demeter Certified Biodynamic CSA, and certified organic farm on the island of Maui. Something I will be exploring more in the future, as biodynamics seem to be the scientology of the farm world.

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I leave with my heart full and my recycled shopping bag fuller. Farm honey with roasted cocoa seeds, a bamboo shirt with “No GMO’s” on the chest, a selection of bananas, Jamaican passion fruit, guava, and a brownie made from all ingredients, including chocolate, from the farm. Laulima farm makes the top of my list for things to do, places to see, and things not to miss in your life time. I can only hope owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart, bring some of their Hana specialties to their chain of Café Gratitude’s that grace the Bay Area. Still, those tropical breezes, sun kissed fruits seeming to be from another world, and tastes that transcend reality, are something that should truly be experienced in the paradise of Hana.