Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chef PR Tips- An interview with Traca Savadogo

More people are becoming chefs and more chefs are getting press than ever before, so I thought I would re run this helpful interview with PR tips from the one and only Seattle Tall Poppy herself.

Ask and you shall receive. That is what happened when I asked the delightful @SeattleTallPopp if she would like to be a guest here on the blog. This is a great interview, as Traca answers my questions with honesty and wit. Read the interview and for more on Traca, see her bio below!

Luna Raven: How do you recommend chef's best utilize social media? (twitter, facebook etc (do you have a preference?)

Traca Savadogo: Social media for marketing purposes is tough and I think in many ways, we’re still trying to determine its role.

For me, I’d say the best use of social media—whichever medium you use--is to make it experiential. Give the reader an insiders’ look at your operation. Thanks to the Food Network, now the public is very interested in what goes on behind the scenes in restaurants. Give your audience a look. Bring them along for the journey.

I’m a big fan of Twitter, as opposed to Facebook. With Twitter, you have the opportunity for a broader audience. Anyone in the Twitter sphere can follow you—they don’t need to ask for permission and you don’t need a mutual friend. It’s more transparent than Facebook, which is great! You never know where that next opportunity will come from. In my opinion, Twitter opens the door for a more diverse audience, and as a result, a wider range of possibilities.

Chefs who utilize social media well? On Twitter, I’d take a look at Rick Bayless (@Rick_Bayless), Jamie Oliver (@jaime_oliver), Grant Achatz(@Gachatz) and Dana Cree (@deensie).
Dana is a Rising Star Chef who runs the pastry side of Poppy. I especially love Dana’s use of social media. She talks about what’s in season, changes on the menu, ingredients she’s working with, or issues she’s having obtaining favorite ingredients. For example, on Twitter, she said “Fireweed honey in low production these days. Fireweed is first to come up after logging, and not as much of that going on in public land.” I work in the business…and yet, I’m fascinated by her posts!

Rick Bayless is another chef I really enjoy reading on Twitter. He shares photographs from the line, new menu items, etc. It’s an interesting read…and it doesn’t come across as self-promotional. With Rick and the others, you really get a sense of what their daily life is like and I find that intriguing. I’ve never met Rick Bayless but you can bet, next time I’m in Chicago, I’m making a beeline for one of his restaurants! That’s the power of social media.

Used properly, social media can help develop customer loyalty, generate interest, and educate your readership. On the opposite end of the spectrum, poor use of social media can alienate your audience, resulting in serious negative consequences. It’s a tricky balance.

What’s the benchmark for using social media? Enlighten and educate your readers. Aim for substance. (And no, I’m not talking about your latest happy hour promotion.)

LR: How important is it to follow trends?
TS: I think it’s important for PR to follow trends. Be aware of the trends, certainly. But understand that not every trend is a right fit for you, your client, or your objective.

In trendspotting, they segment the population into three categories…early adopters, mainstream (critical mass) and late adopters. By nature, I’m not an early adopter. I’d rather take the time necessary to identify where something is going before I jump on a trend--especially with social media. I’ve seen chefs make colossal asses out of themselves by not using it in a meaningful way. Then it’s a giant headache trying to regain credibility. And frankly, once you head into that negative space, people never forget it.

For example, a local restaurant set up a Twitter account and gave one of their employees access. Things were moving along fine. They had a solid readership, consistent updates, etc. Things went downhill when a publication printed a less-than-favorable review of the restaurant. That employee—operating under the banner of the restaurant—took the reviewer to task…ON TWITTER! He called the review out, saying her “name should be banned in eight states.”

Talk about a nightmare!

I learned about the fiasco from someone on the James Beard nominating committee: “Did you see what’s happening with (that restaurant) on Twitter????”

It was an absolute nightmare and all I could think was, “Thank God that’s not one of my clients!”

LR: Steps to avoid?
TS: See above

LR: When is the best time to promote self?
TS:Good question. My philosophy is that old adage: slow and steady wins the race.

Self-promotion often comes across as clumsy and insincere. My best advice: In lieu of self-promotion, spend more time honing your skills. If you’re talented, people will find you. And once your star starts to rise, things move very quickly. At that point, you don’t have time to track back and figure out how to bring your ‘A’ game. It’s best to hone that in obscurity.

Before you e-mail/tweet/or make entries on Facebook, remember this is your image, which is connected to your livelihood. Think before you press “send.”

And for me, trust is paramount. Never let anyone doubt the fact that you’re a credible (re)source.

LR: What are the best connections to make in the food industry?
TS: Best connections in the food industry? That depends on what you’re trying to do. There are a number of organizations worth looking into, but how useful they are…is relative to the goal you have in mind.

The food business can be very compartmentalized. Wine people don’t necessarily bond with beer people. Beer people don’t necessarily associate with cocktail people. Baking is very different from cooking. Chocolatiers are different than candy makers. Each craft is supported by specialty organizations. If you have a client with a specialty, it behooves you to investigate their trade organizations.

For me, I’d say the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) is the most important first step. They have an annual conference that is extremely valuable. Both the training sessions and the networking are, for me, unparalleled. Even if you’re working on the local level, it’s important to understand how all the pieces of the food business fit together. Without a doubt, the IACP conference was a launching pad for my career.

I’d say if you’re new, or on the rise, attend everything you can. Eventually it will come back to you. You’ll gain an understanding of how the various events and/or organizations work and make a ton of contacts. And when you attend an event, remember: it’s work. You can’t be a wall flower. Your job is to meet people and make connections. The wine may be flowing, but this is work, and it’s important to treat it as such.

LR: What is the future for chef's and PR?
TS: Personally, I think it’s extremely valuable for a chef to have PR. As a chef, you’re busy managing staff, working on menu development, and growing your business. There’s an art to being a chef. And there’s an art to PR. And they’re very different skills.

Good PR relieves the burden of self-promotion, helps manage the avalanche of media inquiries and keeps things on task. Because PR representatives attend a number of events, they are also attuned to new opportunities—a new editor at x,y,z, television spots, etc.

If the chef’s career has stalled or his public image has grown stale, PR can also help revive that chef’s career. Too often, a chef is in the limelight the minute they open a restaurant. They’re the darling of the media and get tons of coverage. Two years later? For many chefs, they find themselves operating in relative obscurity.

The question is, once you’ve got that spot in the limelight…how do you keep it? Good PR makes sure the chef never slips into obscurity.

LR: What is the most powerful thing a chef can do to promote/establish themselves?

TS:Operate from a place of honor.

Let’s face it, the food community is very small and people move around a lot. Fuck people over and it will come back to haunt you. From your staff to suppliers to the media, I’m here to tell you…we all talk to each other.

Opportunity is knocking on my door all the time. Whether I think of you for that big opportunity, depends on how reliable you are, whether you’re trustworthy. If I endorse you, my reputation is at stake. I’m not going to risk that for some slime ball chef who takes stupid shortcuts.

The truth is, there are a ton of great people doing amazing work…and I’ll move heaven and earth for them. I’d rather take a chance on an up-and-comer, than risk working with a chef who is just out there to make a name for himself.
In this business, humility goes a long way. I’ll take someone who exhibits pride in their work...over ego, any day.

Biggest lesson:
No one ever forgets good manners: Be gracious. Say you’re sorry. And most important: Thank people, liberally.

People don’t “make it” in a vacuum. There are a number of players who help you look good. Be kind to everyone. Whether their actions are obvious to you or not, the most unassuming person may have a hand in your fate. My personal motto: Thank everyone you can think of.

My most valuable resources:
Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey McKay
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Websites for Inspiration
Seth Godin
Idea Sandbox by Paul Williams

International Association of Culinary Professionals

Not-to-Miss Events
International Association of Culinary Professionals Annual Conference
Worlds of Flavor at the Culinary Institute of America (Napa Valley, CA)

Traca in her own words:

Food is my true north…. I worked front of the house in restaurants and slung espresso for a number of years, then I moved on to other endeavors (small business finance & publishing). When I wasn’t directly involved in food, I spent my free time taking cooking classes and delving deep into cookbooks. Ultimately, it was a series of conversations with a chef that brought me back to food as a career.

I am Seattle-based and specialize in culinary PR. The food industry is very broad, which provides a diverse range of opportunities. My clients have run the gamut: chefs, authors, bloggers, TV personalities, cooking schools, products and events.

Traca on Twitter:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Conscientious Carnivore

I was lucky enough to attend the Conscientious Carnivore panel at Commonwealth Club with Traca Savadago, Marissa Guggiana, Deborah Krasner, Mac Magruder and Chris Costentino.

We talk so much about ethical and sustainable that sometimes it almost seems a little redundant.Yet if so many people know so much about ethical eating, how is it we are able to learn so many new things at any given time? The answer is because even as the food system is changing, evolving and getting better, in many ways it is also staying the same. So attending a panel about being more conscience of your meat choices and hearing talk of the fact that corn causes so much indigestion in cows that they are the biggest consumers of bicarbonate of soda is a bit unsettling.

It is very easy to get the best meat and know your ranchers in cutting edge cities like San Francisco. Where I live in Oakland, finding a butcher has been harder than one would think. I am a carnivore (a former vegetarian) and I really do care about what I eat. I don't want an animal to have suffered for my dining pleasure as it won't give me any if I believe that. I also don't want to see the continued amount of waste that seems to walk hand in hand with the big Ag industry.

We are fighting against corn syrup, high fructose and otherwise, yet not paying attention that the price of corn dictates the price of beef. Or that 13 billion bushels are grown just for the purpose of feeding that cattle that cannot even digest it, stressing the animal. Stressed animals leads to tough, bruised meat and not exactly what a true carnivore dreams of on their plate.

In the past 50 years we have worried more about quantity than quality, causing us to lose not only the flavor of the food we eat but the interaction with the animals. If an animal is well loved, cared for, fed properly and honored when it is time to transition from life to food, it will mean more all around. There is no real reason that anyone raising animals has to do so without compassion. Our ancestors honored their animals when they became food, and did not waste any part of it.

As we move slowly toward a better way of eating, we move also towards a better way of living. What is healthy for the animals we raise for food is healthy for us. If you cannot stand to see someone abuse a cat or a dog why would you stand by and believe it is okay to abuse chickens, cows, lamb, pigs or any other animal? The fact that we are consuming them means we should be putting in more love and effort to keep them happy rather than less, this much is very clear to me.

Start asking questions and if you don't get answers, move on until you do. It really is up to us to make the changes necessary to ensure the world is running better in another 50 years.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Foodbuzz fest, round two: Eat, drink and be

Friday morning was the start of three days of fun & food with some friends I already had and some I was yet to meet.

Friday breakfast- For those of us who signed up for the focus group we were lucky enough to get the 2nd best meal of the festival. Bocadillos has amazing desserts and we've had apps there, but now I am all about their breakfast.

What if I answer some questions for you I get to drink mimosas and eat Serrano ham? Sweet!!

Photo Courtesy Laura Sampson
The egg sandwiches with Serrano ham, the cheese plates, crispy potatoes with romesco sauce & fresh fruit were perfect and the company was great. This was the most personal I got with any of the Foodbuzz staff over the weekend and it was great. 

photo courtesy Laura Sampson

They care about our thoughts and opinions, which is important. I will admit that once or twice I felt they were asking different questions than what they were looking for.

Oh yeah and when you're invited to be a part of a focus group? Please don't dominate the conversation.

Friday night- I got to meet up with a lot of my local pals & meet some of my newer twitter followers.

I love the gift exchange idea, though I heard some people didn't bring gifts (party foul) or were rude about what they got (party foul) or couldn't figure out how to successfully trade a gift they didn't like.

I was happy with my gift. And the person I gifted seemed pretty happy, too, so yeah!

Also I landed at a great table with fun people (okay, I have to say it, one of the people was not fun. She was scary. And local. Seriously, I'm praying she was just drunk. Otherwise I have no explanation.)

Now the whole weekend would have been a lot less fun without: Heather, Sam, Arnold, Steph, Tracy, Laura, Elise, Irv,Annelies, Crystal, Amir, and a host of other amazing people who should just tell me I forget them!

4505 as usual rocked the house so much I had to go outside and tell the guys on the grill thanks. Pork with jalapeno on a cornmeal sesame bun? I do!

Magnolia had my favorite beer of the night with a Bitter that was clean & smooth and indeed very drinkable.

Hand over the cookie and no one gets hurt..... Courtesy Laura Sampson

Tacolicious was good but sorry, Namu super rocked the taconess with a Korean taco: nori wrapper cradling short ribs, rice, kimchee... I don't even know, but it all made my mouth super happy. Namu? I luv you.

My Roli Roti plate caused the same stir as last year. I get it without the bread and people assumed I said I was gluten free. Roli Roti isn't like that! Just tell them you don't want bread and they'll hook you up with all the yums without the bread. You ain't gotta lie to kick it, peeps.

Photo Courtesy Laura Sampson

I was bummed by the lobster cappuccino & escargot. I would never have known that was escargot. But the puff pastry was nice.

As always the fabulous Randall Grahm had a wonderful offering in the Contra, and my glass of wine included a hug, which made it even better. Wine crush!

The Saturday morning Video blogging panel was really informative.

*Content is key
*If you want success, you have to find it
*You don't have to be in the picture to video blog. And you can always add a voiceover
*The more content you have, the more traffic you get

Evening- I was disappointed that some of the people who were helpful and informative on Twitter and sessions were not really that friendly in person. They were so busy being 'famous' they forget to just be real. I love my friends because they are themselves all the time.

It's cool to be a well known blogger and major kudos to you if you are able to make a living from it. You might want to make a little note to self: without your fans? You'd be back at a 9-5. So be a little less "I'm too cool for you."

The lesson came via Laura, aka Hey What's for Dinner Mom, who pointed out that people don't become asses after they are famous. If you are a genuine person (ahem, Elise aka Simply Recipes? BEST hugger EVER) then you won't let fame go to your head.

On the plus side, I think I was at one of the funnest tables in the joint and can honestly say I would be happy to dine on a Golden beet tart like that again and again.

My scallops were perfectly cooked. No really. Perfect.

The lamb (and there were quite a few lamb jokes earlier in the week, so great timing!) was beautiful, juicy, & well matched with the squash.

Each course was paired with Bonny Doon Vineyard wine (Wine Crush!) and gorgeous.....

Until I was bummed about dessert.

The fruit was lovely. After the tart, the scallops and the lamb, though, that dessert was a letdown.

We went and chocolate toffee cookies from Hot Cookie in the Castro and they were awesome.

Who's a Hot Cookie?! Laura, of course.
Sunday- I wanted bacon and orange juice but settle for bacon & tea.

After brunch we went to Art Fibers where Heather tells us we can 'taste' the yarn before we buy it. This of course leads to a frenzy of yarn tasting. Yummy!

All in all, this was a great weekend, full of food, love, laughter, food, magic, heart, soul, food and friendship. Even if some people, for me, got lost in translation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Foodbuzz Fest: The excitement builds!

This is me. Hello!

Last year I met some of the most amazing people ever in the history of the planet. And the best part is that I have become very good friends with some of them in real time and the rest on Twitter.

If you aren't a member of Foodbuzz, I think you are missing out.

Being a part of a community of food lover's who write about food, eat food and really sincerely care about the food they eat is such a fantastic experience. In this life we don't always get opportunities to meet like minded people. So this is one that should be taken advantage of.

Last year we took classes, we ate, we drank, we photographed everything! We laughed, we chatted and we meet some remarkable people who wanted to teach us some great new stuff.

I am excited because have since made new friends who are coming for Foodbuzz and because Heather, who was ill last year, actually gets to come and have fun this time around too!! YEAH!!!! And she introduced me to Laura, who will help me lovingly terrorize, should it come to that.

My little-sister-friend Tracy will be there this year, as will Jerry, Elise, & Crystal and Amir, and that is only the beginning!

Now, if you are coming to the Fest, here are some things you need to know:

1) Get ready to meet a lot of people. No, really, a lot.

2) Bring plenty of business cards. No, really. Plenty.

3) I know its been unseasonably warm but bring warm clothes. This is San Francisco, not L.A. We have microclimates and you will freeze if you decide to wear shorts and a tank top in November. And it happens pretty suddenly too!

4) Drink plenty of water. We are on the go from Friday night. We are made up of water. Hence staying hydrated will help you keep with the whirlwind pace.

5) Relax. Smile. If you feel to shy to say hello, but you are smiling, it makes you more approachable. 

6) Learn. Laugh. Live. Life is short. How about this weekend, you maybe taking yourself a touch less seriously and just really enjoy these moments? I promise it will be worth it.

Okay, well that is all for now, and I say, you look fantastic today! See you this weekend.

Monday, November 1, 2010

David Benton is one to watch

I meet a lot of people I like, but it is not every day that you meet someone you like so much that after you interview them, you really want to be their friend.

I woke up this morning to such an awesome email: It was David telling me he loved the article I wrote on him and thanking me for getting him right.

I am really happy about this, because I really do thing he is going to be the next big thing, and if he isn't it's so totally your fault!

This is what I wrote after first meeting David but I must say it is nothing like experiencing his desserts and his personality for yourself. He'll be hanging out with me at the Tasting Pavilion Saturday afternoon at Foodbuzz, so read the article before you meet the man!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eating Seasonal for the Ordinary Mortal

Today I was reading The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook when something occurred to me. Penne with arugula is so simple, and sounds delicious. Yet that isn't what I am thinking when I go to the market. I'm worried about getting enough vitamins and making sure there's enough potatoes so Sascha doesn't complain.

And therein lies the challenge.

It is difficult to be a broke ass gourmet, to say the least.

To so many people doesn't mean as much since for several generations we have been able to to just go buy food in the store with no regard to seasonality. It can hamper us in many ways, killing off the creativity that comes when you have few options and hungry mouths.

Sometimes I go to the market and I want more, more gorgeous tomatoes, more squash, more fruit. What the hell do I do with all this stuff?

Being reminded that fresh tomatoes taste amazing with white beans, that arugula is wonderful with penne, and that sweet potatoes are magnificent mashed with a hint of butter is what makes it all easier.

It is so easy to forget these sensibilities when unemployed thus faced with stretching both your dollars and your food. And there are so many people who never really knew that in the first place.

It doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive to eat well, because at the market you can find delicious treasures that cost less than the at the grocery store.

For those ordinary mortals who know next to nothing about eating seasonally and making a new & delicious meal every night there is plenty of help. Just remember that if a recipe or idea seems too easy, that just means it requires less work for you and allows more time for relaxing. fun.

The Ferry Building Farmers' Market

East Bay Farmers Markets

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Sweet picture

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting someone who made me crazy in a good way.

He is a fellow pastry chef who loves classic movies, retro themes and made me laugh so hard you wouldn't believe.

You will be able to read my interview with him in Cuisine Noir Mag next month but I wanted to show the tarts he brought me so you can get your drool on and give you his website you too can fall in love!

SugarsweetsSF Both tarts were soo good. Being a strawberry fanatic though, that one was my favorite!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Blogger in Me: Project FoodBuzz

Baking pastry is like magic
like all the food I create
love pours from my fingers
in the form of butter, sugar and eggs
whipped, creamed, beaten
so they can thrive to become
the gift of a kitchen witch
and I can share my soul

Cooking is creation
the joys of the share
food can be a revelation
with sweet scents in the air
pumpkin challah, rosewater cupcakes,
or just plain old chorizo soup
let me make you a little happier
and help chase away your blues

Eat oysters and sushi with me
we will drink champagne until dawn
I am so much more than just a food blogger
chef, singer, artist,
creator of desserts so right they are wrong

I write because I love it and
words flow from my fingers
like sugar into a bowl as
I make cranberry pecan brownies
and drink a classic cocktail

Come into my kitchen
magic you will see,
I create with passionate joy
and with passionate joy you eat

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mobile Bottling at Stomping Girl Winery

I left early and a good thing too as I got lost. I wandered in the wrong direction until Google maps said "uh hullo? Turn around."

Walking down Fourth Street in Berkeley, away from all the shops and bustle, I discovered quite a few things I didn't know where there. Go past the Sake tasting room, leather handbag shops, you'll find treasures like and June Taylor Jams.

My destination was a local winery by the name of Stomping Girl. When the call went out from the newsletter for bottling volunteers, I immediately responded. Though having worked at a winery I never got to be a part of the bottling process, so I thought it would be interesting to see the process.

Stomping Girl is owned by Uzi and Katherine Cohen, two delightful people. I actually talk to Uzi on Twitter, which is how I discovered them. You have to love people who provide a delicious lunch for their volunteers and take the time to make sure there is both meat and vegetarian options. And cookies!

It is also great to meet someone who I've been chatting with on Twitter.

The mobile bottling unit is just what it sounds like: a bottling unit in a truck. On the left is the bottles and argon. You put argon in the bottles and then you put them onto the filler. The bottle moves to Kaleb who tops off the bottle and corks it.

The truck open & ready to rock

The bottle is then passed off to get a foil cap, pushed back into a machine to seal the foil, labeled and placed in a box. Sound easy? Well it takes most of a day. We worked in a morning and afternoon shift and though it is fun to meet new people, if you had to do it all day you'd find the repetitiveness tedious.


Ooh, look at those shiny green babies filling with wine!

It's really a wonder though, being the nosy character that I am, so I found the whole process very interesting. The wine was pumped in from a tube linked to a vat in the warehouse. As you can see above, the bottles get filled on the machine in the truck.

Kaleb puts corks into the corker.

This is one of the most fascinating times I have ever had. Having no idea that mobile bottling trucks even existed, I asked a million questions about the who what when why and how. Kaleb is really patient and was happy to share information with me. And he has agreed to a blog interview, so if you want to know more, send your questions.

Getting ready for labels

We haven't tried the '09 Pinot that we bottled yet. That will lay down for a few months and then we'll get to taste it. All I know is it smelled pretty amazing!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mad Scientist Cookies: Kalamata Cocoa Paprika

What do you make when you're invited to a mad scientist party? Well that is a tough question. I settled on one thing and then at the last minute went in a totally different direction that you might find surprising.

While you might say a cookie is a cookie is a cookie, you can't say that when it's got some new and surprising elements. May I present to you my Kalamata Cocoa Paprika Cookies. Go crazy!

For the cookies you will need:

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 c kalamata olives, drained and chopped

Whisk together flour, cocoa poder and baking soda. Set aside. Use a bowl and a wooden spoon, toss in butter, sugar and paprika and mix it all together. Add the dry ingrediants and mix. Add the egg, mix until you can't see any more flour.

Set the dough aside for a 1/2 hour. Line baking sheets. Preheat oven to 325 F. Using a regular teaspoon, measure out the dough, roll, press down and place on the baking sheets.

Bake about to 5-6 minutes. Turn off oven and let sit 3 minutes before removing from oven to cool.

You can serve these alone or with some fresh ricotta!

Oh and look at how gorgeous all these woman are! Thanks to Tracy Lee for the picture!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Terra Savia: Wine you have to experience

Sometimes we food writers and creators forget that not everyone knows the how and why. When I spoke with Yvonne over at Terra Savia, I realized that while people love wine, they may not always quite understand all the terms or why a winery makes a certain thing a particular way. Jim Milhone, Terra Savia's winemaker, was kind enough to fill in some blanks. Thanks, Jim!

Luna’s Kitchen Magic: Being successful with your olive trees, making olive oil and specialty honey, what made you want to branch out into wine as well?

JAM: Well it was a natural progression of products as well as good fortune. The land best suited for our olive mill was occupied by a mature organic vineyard and an experienced winemaker. (Sanel Valley Vineyards & Jim Milone) As Jurg and I discussed the possibilities of working together we found we shared similar philosophies about food, wine, agriculture and the environment. The rest as they say…….. is history.

LKM: What inspired you to choose the varietals you offer?

JAM: Those varieties were chosen and planted by my father and I years ago. Having made wine from this vineyard for over 30 years it became evident that these varieties made the best wine from this location. I am a firm believer in planting what makes the best wine. In the wine world like real estate it has always been location, location location.

LKM: are all of your grapes hand harvested?

JAM: Yes

LKM: On the website, you say your Blanc de Blanc is “Allowed to remain on the yeast in “Tirage” for 26 months”. Can you explain what that means?

JAM: In the traditional method of producing Champagne the wine is fermented in the same bottle that is delivered to the consumer. The sparkling wine gets its sparkle from that fermentation. After the fermentation is complete the now sparkling wine is aged in the bottle to add complexity and softness to the wine. This is the “Tirage” or laying down process. Generally the longer the better but it is the winemakers call as to when the wine is ready.

LKM: What difference does French Oak vs. a stainless steel barrel make in the wine?

JAM: Stainless steel is inert and imparts no flavor or aroma to the wine. If you want to reserve the pure profile of the grape it would be the recommended storage vessel. Oak on the other hand imparts various flavors and aromas depending on the type of oak, where it is grown, how the barrel is made, and the duration and condition of the wine in the barrel. This is a whole science in itself.

LKM: One of your Chardonnay’s is made in the French style while the other seems very California. Is there a story here?

JAM: My idea of winemaking is to produce varietal wines that are true extensions of the grape. Our no oak chardonnay is exactly that. This is what chardonnay taste like grown in my front yard (location, locaton etc). The barrel aged tradition started mainly in Western Europe. People used what they had available to them. In France it was oak. In other countries different type of aging vessels were used. The French style has become the benchmark for quality. Any winemaker who is making chardonnay is going to feel the urge to experiment…………….we are all a little bit “mad scientist”. And chardonnay lends itself to various styles of wine. So for diversity and the never ending “experiment” we have two style of chardonnay.

LKM: How did you choose which varietals to use in your Meritage?

JAM: The first decision is made over time as I mentioned above about choosing what grows best in this location. The final decision is made by tasting all the wines after vinification and deciding what combination makes the best wine.

LKM: where did the idea for the Hoplander come from?

JAM: Before I became involve in the Terra Savia project I decided to make a very idealistically produced Meritage. Holding back nothing and only bottling what I felt was excellent above the rest of the production. When I told Jurg about the project we again found common ground. It is not something that happens every vintage……………. But when it does it is worth the wait. The name is about my history…….. I am a fourth generation winegrower in Hopland.

LKM: why did you choose to go 100% Chardonnay for your Blanc de Blanc?

JAM: This is the traditional grape used for the “white of whites” or Blanc de blancs of Champagne. For us it is another opportunity to show what pure chardonnay from our big organic garden taste like.

Want more? Listen to my interview with Yvonne about olive oil and honey!

*Special thanks to Pecos and Jim for providing the photos!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Epicurious, 15 years and counting

"In some ways it's trying to be ahead of the curve a little bit and figure out what people want and don't have yet." Tanya Steel on what's next for Epicurious.

Long before I went to culinary school, I loved to cook and bake. Like many people I hunted around for the best recipes to test out my skills on. Epicurious has been a go to me for a long time for many reasons. It is convenient, easy to navigate and always has recipes that translate to 'yum!'
It was also a fantastic resource in school for when you needed something last minute and didn't have time to go through a ton of books to find what was needed.

When I heard that Tanya Steel was going to be in San Francisco and that Bay Area food bloggers were being offered the chance to sit down with her, I jumped at it. Who wouldn't want to sit down with the Editor in Chief of one of the most well recognized online recipe sites in the world?

Epicurious is 15 years old, and for the last five years has been led by Tanya Steel. They've won 62 awards and they are an amazing daily online publication for food and drinks. The growth they have shown since their inception shows that the passion for good food gets stronger everyday.

Tanya herself is warm, friendly and open, so it made me infinitely more comfortable to sit down with her and talk about what's new, what's good and what's next. Also, two days after I met her, I got to see her on Hell's Kitchen which was pretty awesome.

Oh and in case you don't know, Tanya wrote Real Food for Healthy Kids with Tracey Seaman and during our chat expressed a desire try and help tackle childhood obesity and food insecurity. Here are some kid friendly recipes from the book.

So now, what's new and good? Well how about Epicurious being the #1 lifestyle IPAD app? They were one of only 9 apps actually launched with the IPAD, which shows good sense on the part of Apple!

As for what's next, Tanya would love to see new growth with cooking for and with kids, healthy eating and entertaining becoming more a part of the Epicurious community, possibly even a spin off site or two. The great part of Epicurious is that they listen to what their readers want and try to be ahead of the curve in providing it.

Where else can you go global with around the world in 80 dishes, discover classic drinks, learn to make fudge, get seasonal recipes, and travel dining all in one site?!

Tanya would also love to provide more content where people can tackle more difficult and unusual dishes. She recognizes that the readers cooking level is growing and wants to be a part of the newest food revolutions. Having more complicated, technique driven dishes on the site is just one exciting idea we discussed.

I can't wait to see what Epicurious does next and I am glad I had the opportunity to tell the Editor in Chief how much I love the site and hear what excites her about working with Epicurious and helping people to learn more about cooking at home.

"The way for us to do that is to show how easy it is to pull these things together." Tanya Steel on making real food and cooking accessible to everyone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's all about the cheese: I loaf you!

I admit that it is no secret that I am a longtime cheese lover. There are a few I won't touch: taleggio makes me want to run out of the room. Havarti is a bit bland for me. Brie is good, but there are so many cheeses out there to explore, I couldn't possibly always light upon that one.

I was not very knowledgeable about Tillamook. I knew their mild cheddar made a perfect grilled cheese sandwich when you needed one, with some red onions and a little pepperoncini on wheat. However, I learned at the San Francisco stop of the Loaf Love tour just what I have been missing.

Tillamook is a farmer owned cooperative. The first Tillamook cheese plant was established in 1894, so you can bet they have plenty of practice getting it right. They have a visitor's center and cafe, so it looks like we all need to trek over to Oregon! The gang from Tillamook are fun know how to throw a party and are really great dressers!

Heather and I were early and enjoyed watching from across the street as people stopped and smiled, laughed and took pictures of the Baby Loaf buses. Truly these babies really do have a way of making you happy. I mean how can you not smile when you see them?

As they make their way across the country, or parts of it, you to can meet up with these cutest of little buses carrying some really tasty cheese. Oh, and you get to pose with them too! Here's Heather with a Baby Loaf.

I was also reminded just how good beer is with cheese! Really you have to do a tasting with beer and cheese. You will be delightfully surprised. Go for something exciting or spicy to pair with your cheeses and you won't believe your taste buds. Big thanks to Coney Island Beer et al!

The event took place at the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, who whipped some amazing treats for us, including Heidi's amazing blondies, the Piglet Tillamook sharp cheddar, artisan cured ham, apple mustard, rosemary butter, and the Jalapeño Popper chèvre, monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeño relish.

All of the cheeses were tasty and it was great to be able to try all of the different varieties available.
 I really loved two specific cheeses, the Vintage Extra White Sharp

and the Smoked Medium Cheddar which in no way diminishes any of the others!

One of my favorite cheese combinations ever is one introduced to me by my soul mother, Althea. We would get crusty bread, smoky cheese and pumpkin oil. Then we would drink wine and feast. Smoky cheddar and pumpkin oil are positively brilliant together. Trust me.

There was some fun swag, like a magazine and a squeezey cheese loaf! And the atmosphere of the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen is nice and homey. It is also a nice walk from the BART, and right across from 21st Amendment Brewery, so it's an all around win, right?!

Thank you so much to the Tillamook team who was kind enough to fit me in at the last minute, and to the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen for hosting and cooking!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Savory Cocktails with CUESA and more!

When it comes to cocktails I may not know how to make them but I know what I like. And I like that I won a pair of tickets to the CUESA savory cocktail from the fabulous Drink Me magazine, an event which gave me the opportunity to try drinks from some of the mixologists in San Francisco.

I love events such as this one; you get a chance to try so many varieties of greatness and you don’t have to go far to do it. This was a cocktail crawl of magnificent proportions: all savory and made from the freshest ingredients found at the farmer’s market.

Kate Bolton from Wexler’s had one hell of an amazing cocktail, refreshingly light with fennel, oranges and a spritz of Absinthe. I could easily see this as a welcome addition to any brunch menu with its cool flavors and clean stimulating balance.

Kyle Ford made us a Jaguar Sun, tequila, oranges and the Aztec Elixir (a coffee syrup that would make even the most coffee wary a convert.) He let us try it alone and the thick rich syrup made me want to take it home and make ice cream with it. Or maybe something with mascarpone and fruit.

Michael Callahan of Gitane brought home a winner with a lamb neck sausage infused bourbon based cocktail that blended with Cynar, lavender bitters and a garnish of radish and sausage that made the drink tastier and interactive. I liked the combo of the sausage with the cocktail, but I loved the cocktail with the radish. Since it had a spicy back, the radish was perfect to help balance it out.

Lauren Kino of Plum had an appetizer of pork and peaches, a concoction that was simply lovely. The flavor combination was a total winner. Now I am even more excited about the impending opening of Plum here on my side of the Bay!

This is the second time I have been able to sample the wares of Tacolicious, which I think is worth seeking out. The offering here was a crispy taco with a bean spread, shredded pork and cabbage that was so delicious it makes my mouth water just to think about it!

Comstock Saloon had a pisco sour (with secret green liquid, oooh!) and Carlos Espinas’ take on a hangtown fry: crisp bread with a pickled egg, crispy bacon and oyster vinaigrette. This was inventive and fun, crispy in all the right spots.

Robert Gonzales, the USBG Nor Cal ambassador, was the best showman of the night, presenting a gorgeously composed lime, egg white, cilantro, tequila cocktail with spicy sea salt and bitters made with pepper skins. It was fun watching him slap the cilantro and double shake the cocktails!

The GLBT Proud Mary from Greg Lindgren at Rye went for interactive as well, with lettuce and baconnaise on white bread paired with a lettuce, gin, bacon & tomato cocktail for dipping. I wasn’t crazy about the cocktail alone, but as a dipper, you don’t get much better! And thank you to the delightful Heather as our interactive model!

Far and away my favorites were the blendings by the peeps at 15 Romolo: Katy Borzee rocked with the unexpected but smashing combo of white bean puree with peaches and crispy bacon. Never would I have thought of peaches and white beans together, but tasting my way through the rest of the apps, this one stood out strongly in my mind.

Her bar counterpart, the equally adorable Ethan Terry brought it all home with the Sherman Breakdown, pink peppercorns, fresh sage, nutmeg, Luxardo, cahacha and the piece de résistance: smoked apricots! This cocktail had everything I wanted; it was rich, smoky and elegant.

This cocktail blended all that a savory cocktail should be, and was indeed a shining star in the drink heavens.

This is by far one of the best events I have gotten to attend: amazing drinks, wonderful people, the beauty of San Francisco and my friend Heather, who was nice enough to come with me and enjoy the bounty of the farmer's market based cocktails! Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baked Apple Fritters

Breakfast should be simple and tasty. So I adapted a recipe from Food Down Under for a quick, tasty breakfast that includes fruit!

1 egg
2/3 c ww Pastry Flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c half and half
1 large apple, peeled and cored. I grated half and then chopped half for texture.

preheat the oven to 400 C. Beat the egg, then add dry & wet ingredients. Grate in half the apple, then chop the rest and toss it in. Fold together until just mixed.

I baked it 10 minutes in a small buttered cake pan. Fast, easy and delicious!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quick & Easy Chocolate Pudding

1 c milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cocoa powder(or more if you like chocolatey)
3 tbsp brown sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp vanilla

Whisk first four ingredients in a saucepan. Turn heat to medium, cook until mixture is hot, (not boiling) stirring constantly. This important, it's in that moment that it will overcook! Turn heat to low and cook until thick. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and enjoy!

Even  better, you can add whipped cream and fruit for an easy & fabulous parfait.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cashew Brownies w/White Chocolate Frosting

1 c vanilla sugar *+ 1 c roasted, unsalted cashews, pulsed together (though not fine3/4 c peanut oil
3 eggs
1 c buttermilk
2 c flour
1 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

Frosting: 12 oz white chocolate, melted w/2 tbsp half & half
1 c powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp half & half (if needed)

To make Brownies: Preheat oven to 325 F.

Combine dry ingrediants and set aside. Combine oil with sugar nut mix. Add eggs one at a time until just combined. Add butter milk, then dry mix. Do not overmix.

Pour out into a wax paper lined small cookie sheet. Bake @ 325 F for 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While Brownies are baking, combine melted chocolate, sugar and extra half and half if needed. Spread frosting ontop Brownies, slice and enjoy!

If you like your desserts sweeter, you can add up to one more cup of sugar, though I think the frosting makes it plenty sweet enough!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Whoopie for Whoopie Pies!

United Cakes of America review part 2

Next up were the Whoopie Pies, which I made for my birthday cake. Okay, it’s not a cake per se but it is delicious and filled with gooey goodness so what is not to love?! I have long searched for the perfect Whoopie Pie recipe and personally I think I found it. The consistency and flavor are spot on and they are really very easy to make.

 I served them with fresh strawberries and a few blackberries after a gorgeous dinner of chicken mushroom Marsala with red potatoes and green beans.

For Whoopie Pies:

Dry Ing

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill, Potato Starch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ing

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 light brown sugar, packed
1 egg

preheat oven to 350 F. line 2 baking pans with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.

In separate bowls, combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, set aside.

cream butter and sugars for 3 minutes, then add egg. alternate dry and wet mixture. do this quickly and make sure you scrape down your bowl. This batter is sensitive, so don't overwork it!

Using a 1/2 cup or a 2 oz cookie scoop, drop dough onto sheet pans and make sure they are spaced out. bake 12-15 minutes. i wouldn't use my regular cookie racks to cool these as they would leave a pattern on the soft cakes.

Seven Minute Frosting

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: vanilla, amaretto, rum (or your preference...I like scotch or bourbon!)

Bring a pan of water to simmer so you can create a double boiler. Combine sugar, egg whites, salt and cream of tartar over the simmering water. beat with a handheld mixer for 7 minutes.

The seven minute frosting is marshmallowy and though it takes a long time, is quite delicious. That being said, I think that next time I will take a half cup of sugar out of the filling as I found it a bit too sweet.

I stored these covered on a plate and you want to make sure you use parchment paper or the like to separate or they stick together.

The major bonus is that after sitting overnight they bear a strong resemblance to that childhood favorite you no longer eat because it is filled with junk. Yeah!!

also next time i want to try some different flavors, maybe adding a bit of fruit puree to the filling just for fun.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cherry Bundt Cake

I am breaking this cookbook review into three parts or else it will be ridiculously long:

A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Warren Brown and chatting about his new cookbook. He is such an encouraging person with the sort of enthusiasm I don’t often find in many people. I was very excited when we talked about his newest book, the United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State, which showcases each states specialty cake.

When it landed on my doorstep, I was thrilled beyond belief: after a few weeks of not really baking, I was ready to get into the kitchen and show my stuff. First off, I went through the book and looked at each recipe. Then I bookmarked the ones that I most wanted to try immediately, followed by making a list of ingredients I would need for the task.

As a pastry chef and avid baker, I do generally have most of the ingredients one would need lying around, but it’s good to make sure you have fresh milk, eggs and well, when you bake a lot you go through sugar pretty fast!

It was hard to choose where to start first, but I went for Bundt cake. I made minis using my angel food cake pans, and I added fresh cherries. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. Not only is this cake delicious, it is good when used to bribe your friendly neighborhood bartender when he spots you a drink cause you're broke!


Dry Ing
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ing
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 335 F after making sure rack is in the center. Spray or brush either a 12 cup bundt pan or mini pans as you wish. I used 4 mini angel food cake pans and 3 loaf pans.

whisk dry ingredients together in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another bowl and set aside. cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes then add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides down.

alternate the dry and wet ingredients, scrape down the sides and use your spatula to make sure the sides are combined in. Scoop into prepped pan(s) and bake approx. 50 minutes for large cake, 30 miniutes for minis. Cool 5 minutes, invert and cool.

Glaze or leave plain. Or drizzle with chocolate!

I added a 1/4 cup of cherries but next time I will add a 1/2 cup of cherries and some lime zest, just because that sounds good to me. I also think you could add lemon and anise for another delicious set of flavors!

Stayed tuned, because next up is....Whoopie Pies!