Central Coast Wine Classic

16 09 2008

July 10th I had the pleasure of working the Central Coast Wine Classic dinner at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA.  This premiere event has been one of my favorite gigs for years now.  Sommeliers from across California come together in Cambria to work this special event led by Toby Rowland Jones and Seth Kunin, our fearless leaders. 

This year was a bit different though, as our team included many of the brave resident sommeliers from Big Sur, along with Toby who had been fighting the fires for many days.  We were all incredibly grateful that they were alright, but it has been an incredible struggle for them and the community.  Toby received an award from friends and Central Coast Wine Classic Founding Director Archie McLaren and Carissa Chappellet after a photo essay Carissa prepared brought the audience to tears.  I am so honored to know someone so brave as Toby. 

After many heartfelt hugs and love was exchanged, we finished our duties for the night and the post-event festivities continued as normal as we sang karaoke at the Cambria Pines Lodge and had a good old hotel room party well into the night.

The events of the weekend feature wines from the area, but we also had the opportunity to taste some great Italian wines with Sergio Esposito from Italian Wine Merchants in New York, NY which were amazing. 

The Central Coast Wine Classic benefits many local charities.

 Make your reservations now for next year’s Hearst Castle Dinner!  Dinner is always hosted by a “celebrity” chef, this year, Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood, last year Iron Chef Cat Cora!  These chefs are always assisted by Hearst Castle Coordinating Chef, James Sly of Sly’s in Carpinteria, CA.  Further activities abound at the Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa and the Shell Beach Resort.   http://www.centralcoastwineclassic.org/

Marble Pool at Hearst Castle

Marble Pool at Hearst Castle





Staglin Benefit for Mental Health

16 09 2008

This past weekend my husband Michael and I headed up to Napa Valley to work as sommeliers at the Staglin Benefit for Mental Health. It ‘s amazing that it has been about eight years now that we have worked this amazing event, even including the 2001 benefit when many couldn’t get to California due to 9/11.

The event starts with a symposium where some of the nation’s leading professionals discuss progress from last year and what the future holds for mental health research in the coming years followed by an amazing tasting in the Staglin caves of some of California’s most prestigious cult wines. This is a once of a lifetime chance to taste all those bottles that the collectors are hoarding in their cellars, Harlan, Bond, Abreu, Screaming Eagle and tons of the “new guard” cult wines, Gargiulo, Sloan, Scarecrow, etc. Sometimes the least familiar names are those that are the best wines of the tasting! I heard great comments from those that came to my table, I was pouring Sloan.

This incredible tasting was followed by a concert by the Pointer Sisters on the property and then a four course dinner with food prepared by Mark Dommen of One Market Restaurant.

Over the past 14 years the Staglins have been able to donate $30 million to mental health research and the most amazing thing is that there are tangible results, their generosity never ceases to amaze me.

I hope you will consider attending next year, or a donation. http://www.music-festival.org/festival_2008.html

Thank you to Shari, Garen, Shannon and Brandon!





Wilco pairs well with Charcuterie

3 09 2008

Although I thought that $85 for a concert was a bit pricey (come on I’m used to free concerts in my park!  www.strictlybluegrass.com) I figured I had enough of listening to Tom Petty and Steve Winwood and Radiohead from my windows and wanted to actually experience the Outside Lands Festival, so Sunday the 24th of August I headed over.

I am always a bit wary of these events, first the bathroom situation.  It’s important to go early before they get icky and try not to go at all if it can be helped.  Thus beer intake must be very carefully monitored.  Second issue is usually the food.  It drives my husband crazy, but if I can’t find something truly delicious to eat, I often opt not to eat at all.  Then that brings you back to the beer intake, without food you drink more beer, and then have to go to the restroom and that is NOT GOOD.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had reasonable, ok they were $7, not reasonable but at least decent beer, Sierra Nevada, and they were even offering Foggy Bridge wines from my friend Daryl Groom.  There was also Winehaven, a selection of very good wine brands under a tent complete with some of my friends in the business, Bonny Doon, Peay, Trinchero, they were swamped with customers who were all willing to pay for premium wine.  This piqued my interest, and then I saw it.  Food nirvana at a huge concert, the Fatted Calf charcuterie and Hog Island Oyster Co.  I was able to get a delicious charcuterie plate for $15, it was huge, and well worth it.  Two Hog Island folks noticed my Cochon t shirt (New Orleans’ hot spot for the hog www.cochonrestaurant.com), then another girl came by wearing the same shirt and then a third person commented on it, foodies running rampant.  I was very impressed to find that the foodie city by the bay doesn’t scrimp when it comes to live music.

And the music wasn’t bad either!  Mother Hips were good followed by Drive by Truckers, great, and I only saw a short set but Bon Iver was really interesting and really got the crowd going.  The best though was Wilco, an amazing performance and they played longer than expected.  All in all a good although pricey afternoon.





San Francisco Food Nation

3 09 2008

I went by the Slow Food Nation events this weekend just to check it out and see what the deal was.  I had trouble getting in as press (Rebecca Chapa’s life on the D List coming soon), as they were overbooked, but was able to help the spirits folks out as a volunteer on Saturday.  The Slow Food group is near and dear to my heart as they sponsored me and nine other New Yorkers to head to Piedmont, Italy for a twenty-one day stint, back in 1993.  We visited and tasted through the regions best wineries and wrecked havoc on the area, but that’s a story for another time.  They took such great care of us, so I am glad to see them making strides in the U.S.

San Francisco is clearly the right place to hold such an event, we tend to have great consideration for the environment, interest in where our food comes from is almost second nature, so it is not a far stretch to get some avid foodies to an event like this.  It was a hard choice, but I did pull myself away from the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market for a Saturday and headed to Civic Center to check out the free offerings of Slow Food.  Things got off to a bit of a late start, but we were able to stroll around the gorgeous Victory Garden, and we came across my favorite Huarache Loco stand that was already open at 10 am, so we got our Blue Bottle New Orleans Style Iced Coffees (without the lines we normally experience at the Farmer’s Market) and ate our delicious blue corn huaraches.  The stands were a bit random, for example our favorite Happy Girl Kitchen Co., from whom we normally get an amazing heirloom tomato salsa, was only serving pickles.  It seemed to me more an exhibition than a realistic food market, as my friend Marcia at www.Tablehopper.com said, there were no eggs to be found.  We found ourselves running off with some corn, a tomato (no basil that I could find) and some great books we picked up at the Point Reyes Books booth.

Then I headed off to Fort Mason to check out the rest of the event.  At the entrance of the pavilion one was immediately struck by a snail made out of bread and the aroma of a clay oven.  Inside the displays were gorgeous, the area was divided into many small sub areas featuring different commodities, honey, pickling, ice cream, charcuterie (I couldn’t even get close), spirits, wine, chocolate, coffee, etc.  Volunteers were not allowed to taste the food, and that was just as well considering there were long lines at most booths, but the displays were stunning.  Possibly the most organized area was Spirits where tasters lined up to try a variety of cocktails and cocktail and spirit folk were on hand to answer questions.  Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican restaurant helped answer tequila questions.  Well-known SF bar owner Greg Lindgren (Romolo, Rye and Rosewood) was on hand managing the flow and seemed to have it under control.  Another area that seemed very organized and efficient was the beer pavilion.  Outdoors it was breezy but sunny and Dave McLean, brewmaster at Magnolia was on hand to offer tasting advice.  Three beer trucks provided beers from draft, cask or bottle.  He spent some time with us discussing the cost of hops and its effects on small brewers.  Overall it was a great day, highlighted by food, spirits and people who get as excited about them as I do.  Thanks to Carlo Petrini for bringing this movement to the US.  www.slowfoodusa.org