Posts From January 2008
January 29, 2008
Your Port In A Storm for Valentine's Day
Napa Valley confectioner Penelope Orsini makes chocolate truffles in exotic flavors from yuzu to coconut. For Valentine’s Day, she teams up with Yorkville Highlands winemaker Karen Meyer to create gift packs of port-infused chocolate truffles and Meyer Family Cellars Port.
To order visit: Meyer Family Cellars online store.
Both working moms met their husbands in the line of duty. Australia-born Karen Meyer met husband Matt while interning at an Oregon winery. Penelope met chef husband Dominic in the restaurant world. Today, Karen and Penelope have their young offspring nearby as they work. Karen says daughter Sidney supervised her first crush last year and Penelope is pretty sure son Giovanni has strong opinions about chocolate.
January 24, 2008
Bamboo Bags for Bread Storage
In our house, we don’t eat a lot of bread, but we like what we do eat to be the best: just-this-side-of-charred, crusty crust and a chewy, well-baked interior, all made from the best flour. This means that we place a premium on effective bread storage. For some years this has meant using IKEA’s take on an old-fashioned metal bread box, which we augment by bagging the bread in plastic recycled from the produce market.
One recent, frosty winter night, food-loving friends Patricia Unterman and Tim Savinar arrived with a holiday gift that replaced all this in a New York heartbeat. The Bamboo Bag contains in its fibers an anti-fungal protein and produces a natural anti-bacterial substance called “bamboo kun.” Unlike plastic, the bamboo fabric breathes yet retains moisture, creating an ideal environment for storing bread.
I was a little doubtful as I slipped my first freshly-baked loaf of Acme walnut bread into the bamboo bag, one day before heading off to New York for a week. But, when I returned, the bread hadn’t molded and still had sufficient integrity to give me my morning toast.
The bags are available at San Francisco Bay Area bakeries or through www.bamboo-bag.com.
Our history with bamboo--
Five years ago our friend, Ray Kinoshita, a professor of architecture at the University of Massachusetts, took a sabbatical in Japan with her scientist-writer husband Charles (Cam) Mann and their two children, Emilia and Schuyler. We were invited to insinuate ourselves into this year abroad and did so enthusiastically for one glorious month.
There, we saw regal stands of forest bamboo in parks and public gardens from Tokyo to Shikoku. We discovered the delicacy of tender bamboo shoots dug fresh and served almost immediately. We saw pliable, durable eyeglass frames fabricated in this strong grass and jeans woven from its fibers. We saw beautiful fence and garden details of bamboo poles.
Prior to this trip, we’d installed bamboo flooring in our SoMa San Francisco home, cultivated forest bamboo in the garden with the expert assistance of Santa Cruz bamboo guru Karl Bareis and planted a second stand of bamboo in our Napa Valley garden.
In Hong Kong we marveled at bamboo scaffolding towering alongside high-rise buildings. In Oaxaca, Mexico we joined Chicago restaurateur and cookbook-author friends Rick and Deann Bayless at their Christmas party, sipping local mescal from bamboo cups.
Now, it seems that bamboo is ubiquitous. There are bamboo plates and utensils, cutting boards and prefabricated bamboo buildings. Wherever it turns up, it seems to be a life enhancer. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
January 16, 2008
One Man's Work: Knowing What We Like to Eat
The son of a superior court judge and a great southern belle, Paul Fleming grew up in an antebellum house in rural Louisiana where delicious, unpretentious food was plentiful. Small farms produced a bounty of fruits and vegetables; fresh fish and wild game were close at hand. That food had a life that began long before it reached his plate was a reality he understood from boyhood.
Seasons announced themselves by delivering crawfish, tomatoes, red fish and duck. Paul raised rabbits, fished and hunted. His mother and father gathered the family and friends around the dining table at every meal. “We always ate together. Our family employed great cooks and the family cooked,” says Paul. “We thought our home was large, but it was just larger than what other folks had. We really didn’t have a lot of money, but everyone else was so poor that we felt better off. We thought the weather was great, but now it looks god awful.” The Flemings were a blend of a poor family that raised pigeons for income and a family of some means from the oil business.
Theirs was a life rich with culture and simple pleasures. So, was it any wonder that Paul would make his life’s work figuring out what people want to eat? Since 1985 he’s been opening restaurants.
Paul graduated from Loyola University and after his oil business pursuits abruptly ended with a market dive, he partnered with Ruth’s Chris opening what would become the first of many restaurants for him in the demanding market of Beverly Hills, California. With the help of his wife Kelly who he recalls simultaneously balancing the books and a child on each knee, he methodically became an expert in every aspect of the business.=
In concert with several partners, he’s begun companies and concepts that have grown to over 300 restaurants across the United States with names like: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; Pei Wei Asian Diner; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar; Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse; Z’Tejas Grill and Blue Coral Grill. In the summer of 2007, he invested in Habit Burger Grills started by Brent Reichard in Santa Barbara. With each of these ventures he’s been on the forefront of freshness. Fresh ingredients and fresh ideas. Fueling these high volume restaurant groups are menus that rely on quality meat, fish and produce delivered and prepared daily. Margins are built smartly by eliminating waste, not by skimping on food quality or employee compensation. In that respect, they have all been sustainable businesses. Paul is generally thought of as one of the most successful restaurant concept developers in America and has won the Nation’s Restaurant Group Hot Concept Award an unprecedented three times.
It could be that his next restaurant, Paul Martin’s American Bistro, which just opened in Roseville California this past October, has been inspired by Kelly Fleming and her eponymous Kelly Fleming Cabernet Sauvignon made exclusively from organic estate fruit. Paul moved with Kelly to Napa Valley in 2001. Wine country life with its emphasis on casual eating, range fed beef, udder-fresh cheeses, and purely seasonal, mostly local organic produce was something he took to immediately and naturally. “It was as though I’d come full circle to the way we all ate in Louisiana when I was a boy,” says Paul. Naturally, the next step was that he wanted to share this way of eating in a new restaurant.
Kelly Fleming’s arcadia grew to include an organic vegetable garden, fruit and olive trees and a stone house, largely of her own design. She’s added an outdoor pizza oven, fireplace and beds of myriad herbs. Most nights Paul and Kelly sit down to dinner with selections from Paul’s long-nurtured wine cellar and good friends to share the in the moment. With the opening of Paul Martin’s American Bistro, residents of south Placer County can scoot their chairs up to that same proverbial table. Paul and his managing partner Brian Bennett say this bistro is where they’ve always wanted to eat. ###