Posts From December 2008

December 19, 2008

The Very Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide Part 2

by guest writer, Brooke Cheshier

Unless you plan to make it a Very Wal-Mart Christmas, you only have six shopping days left. Seven maybe, but you’re re-heally pushing it. Before you panic and start stuffing your sweetheart’s stocking with those mini bottles of airplane liquor you stashed away for a “special” occasion, we have a few more gifts for you to consider. Because trust us, your honey deserves more than a holiday cheese ball and a hangover.

Get Cultured: As in bacterial cultures and cheese curds. The premiere issue of Culture: The Word on Cheese landed on my doorstep this month. Since its arrival, I have been dreaming blue cheese and barley wine dreams.

This new magazine from cheese aficionados Lassa Skinner (Oxbow Cheese Merchant) and Kate Arding will introduce your friends and family to cheesemongers around the world. They will learn how to store, serve and even eat cheese.  They’ll also increase their cheese IQs and meet a few happy Normande cows (whose rich, rich milk is a delectable favorite among cheessmakers). Cheese pros and renowned authors like Janet Fletcher and Laura Werlin are contributors to this new, protein-rich magazine.

This magazine isn’t just about making and eating cheese. It’s also about tradition and culture and embracing a richer way of living (cheesy pun intended). After reading one issue I wanted to drown myself in triple-crème and truffles. And have an Irish cheddar affair.

  • Take a sneak peak at Culture’s inaugural issue at Once you’re hooked by the rich, creamy prose, simply click on the Subscribe link and fill out the form. If you want to order an extra copy for yourself, I won’t tell anyone.

Feed Your Inner Literati: People think everything we do out here in wine country centers around eating and drinking. It’s a common misconception, and it doesn’t hurt our feelings. Really. You should know, however, that in between all the fabulous imbibing (and it’s all fabulous), we find plenty of time to feed our minds and souls, too.

That’s where The Threepenny Review comes in. This large format, newspaper style magazine has it all: criticism, fiction, poetry and that not-yet-lost art form, the essay. Some of the literary world’s best authors use this quarterly journal as a creative outlet. 

This holiday season, give someone you love a collection of beautiful words. A pastoral from Louise Gluck may be one of the most underrated gifts of the season, but it won’t be underappreciated. The editors and authors of this nonprofit publication will appreciate your contribution, too.

Max Beerbohm once wrote that, “To give and not feel that one has given is the very best of all ways of giving.” He’s a little verbose, but you get the idea. Give something that gives back. You won’t regret it.

  • To subscribe to The Threepenny Review, go to Take the concept of “giving back” a step further by making a donation to this unique publication. A hundred dollars makes you one of the nonprofit’s beloved Silver Bells. Five hundred grants you entrée into the prestigious league of The Golden Bowl.

Engage in a Little Frivolity: Doug Biederbeck’s philosophy in restaurants and in life has always been high-low. The owner of San Francisco’s Bix restaurant has never believed in doing anything lukewarm.  Which is why Bixology, a sexy, leather-bound guide to cocktail culture and the good life is such an intoxicating gift.

In Bay Area circles, Doug is known as the ultimate guy’s guy, but Bixology isn’t just for the boys. In fact, this alcoholic version of Schott’s Miscellany will appeal to anyone who believes, “If it doesn’t taste like alcohol it’s not a proper cocktail.”

This slim, 156-page volume is about more than just getting a bit gin-y. It’s about embracing life with style. It’s about polish and class and not just “doin’ it well,” but doing it right. Don’t worry you’ll still learn how to shake – and strain – a genuine, honest-to-God Martini. And raise your glass in a proper toast.

Bixology is a contagiously fun read (don’t skip the chapter on Five Essential Jazz Albums). But don’t worry. As Beerbohm also once wrote, “Nobody ever died of laughter.”

  • Bixology will be available through normal channels (i.e. Amazon and national booksellers) in March. Until then, you can order your copy on the Bix Restaurant website, Secrets for great living for only $16.95? It’s the ultimate bargain gift. You might even have enough left over to buy a copy for yourself, too.

Brooke Cheshier spends most weekends watching SEC Football and stealing blackberries from the neighbors. She is the wine correspondent for G -The Magazine of Greenville, where she makes heavenly matches between southern eats and the world of drinks. Visit her blog at:

Posted by Pamela at 9:05 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook |


December 18, 2008

The Very Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

by guest writer, Brooke Cheshier

Maybe you didn't know your brother was bringing his fiance home for the holidays. Or maybe, like me, you looked up from your overstuffed desk and realized - oh s#@$! - it's December 18th. Before you rush out and spend your hard earned money on a dozen iTunes gift cards, check out our last minute gift ideas. Not only do they seem thoughtful. they actually are.

Re-Consider the Catalog. All I want for Christmas is ANYTHING from Corti Brothers but, especially the rare shoyus (soy sauces) and deep sea salts. And the stamped pasta cutters, the Luxardo Box of Cherry Delights and the 750 mL bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin…

If this were Japan, Darrell Corti would be a living national treasure.

He is also a walking encyclopedia when it comes to culinary culture, which is why every item in Corti’s food and drink web catalogue will engage your senses and please your palate. Darrell seeks out only the very best producers. As longtime customer Pam Hunter says, “You can order any product from this catalog knowing you will come to love it.” Food Blogger Elise Bauer of says her father has made daily pilgrimages to Corti Bros, for as long as she can remember.

If your holiday budget took a hit this year, don’t underestimate the value of a Corti Brothers newsletter subscription (It’s FREE!). The prose alone is enough to make your mouth water, although I’m personally dreaming about a stocking stuffed with sherries from Garvey Sacristia’s bodega in Jerez. Just In case anyone was wondering.

  • For subscription and ordering information – and to pick up the recipe for the Martinez Cocktail (the ancestor to the martini and a classic Old Tom Gin concoction)– go to

Give the Gift of Knowledge. Everyone’s got to eat, right? Now everyone –well, everyone you love in NoCal– can know how and where to fill their bellies with the Bay Area’s juiciest brisket, beefiest meatballs, and leafiest vegetarian cuisine. All you have to do is give them a subscription to "Unterman on Food."

Patricia Unterman has been publishing her bi-monthly newsletter on food, wine, dining and travel for five years. It is safe to say that the restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Examiner and chef/co-owner of Hayes Street Grill knows a thing or two about eating and drinking. And where to go to do the best of both.

With Unterman as their guide, your friends and family will find real joy at Five Happiness (where a banquet for 10 could cost less than $200) and superior pisco cocktails at the Embarcadero’s La Mar Cebicheria Peruana. Unterman is also an expert on where to find the best West Coast version of an East Coast crab shack,  the cheapest 7-course beef Vietnamese beef dinner and the most comforting fusion of Indian, Chinese and Southeast Asian flavors.

This is one of those gifts you send out that comes back to you threefold. Karma, baby. Karma.

  • A subscription runs about $32. Send checks to Unterman on Food, c/o Hayes Street Grill, 320 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Unterman is also the author of the San Francisco Fooder Lover’s Pocket Guide, which makes a sweet little stocking stuffer.
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Embrace The Pleasure Principle:  If there’s one wine that will spice up your life, it is petite syrah. It’s important to remember, however, that not every petite syrah is created equal. On a bad day, it’s baggy, flabby and way out-of-proportion. But on a good day – and with a great winemaker behind it, every day is a good day– it’s rich and voluptuous, even slightly zaftig.

That’s right, we said zaftig. As in erotically ripe and round. Think Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Elizabeth Taylor at her peak ripeness, or Quixote Winery’s 2004 Petite Sirah and you’re on the right track. 

The Doumani family has always believed in making wine with both structure and personality.  At first glance, this petite syrah from Napa Valley’s Stags’ Leap Ranch Vineyard is a hedonists’ dream. It’s all satin and silk, blackberry brambles and earth-covered fruit. And yet, it possesses a robust tannin structure and enough acid for some quality aging.

In other words, a bottle (or a case) of the ’04 Petite Syrah has the potential to keep on giving for years to come. Since Quixote made less than a thousand cases of this wine, the gift has the added allure of being precious and rare.  It tastes mighty fine, too.

  • To order the 2004 Quixote Petite Syrah, visit and click on “Purchase Wine.” If you love the flavor and patina of older red wines but don’t have the patience (or the cellar) to wait for them to properly age, Quixote’ also has an incredible selection of library wines. They sell out quickly, however, so don’t hesitate too long to scoop up some of these juicy treasures.

Brooke Cheshier spends most weekends watching SEC Football and stealing blackberries from the neighbors. She is the wine correspondent for G -The Magazine of Greenville, making heavenly matches between southern eats and the world of drinks. Visit her blog at:

Posted by Pamela at 8:13 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Books


December 15, 2008

SF Urban Holiday 2008

by guest writer, Brooke Cheshier

Book Review; Seeing Through The Fog: A Gateway to San Francisco
What to do When the Fog Clears

Forget Citywalks. If you want a real San Francisco experience this holiday season, let the 72 voices of this inspirational anthology guide you through the beloved Bay Area metropolis known as Fog City.

Pulitzer Prize finalist, ace raconteur, accidental parent, and the man behind McSweeney’s. Over the last decade the many, slightly manic, personae of Dave Eggers have manifested themselves for readers through personal works like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and magazines like The Believer. 

Now meet Dave Eggers, the tutor and mentor to high school kids in San Francisco and across the nation. The founder of a nonprofit writing and teaching organization called 826 Valencia, he is the man behind this combination city guide, historic chronicle and inspirational memoir. Well, he and three high school teachers, 82 tutors and 72 high school students.

>A collection of essays written by seniors from Gateway High School, Seeing Through the Fog is one of several books created by 826’s Young Author’s Book Series, an annual project that allows students to serve as both editors and authors as they learn the ropes of the publishing industry. The results of the series are timely anthologies like Seeing Through the Fog, one of the most original and moving San Francisco “travel guides” in the market to date.
Comprised of 72 surprisingly astute perspectives on life, travel and passion in the Bay Area, these essays will lure you off the beaten path and introduce you to some of the city’s most delicious pleasures. We’re not just talking about the pink popcorn at Stow Lake. Although it is a treat.

This holiday season, why don’t you let the kids of Gateway High be your guide through the neighborhoods, bridges and back alleys of San Francisco. Set off  on madcap adventures through Chinatown’s Pacific Fish Market, take archery lessons in Golden Gate Park and learn to survive in the Mission on just $22 a day. You won’t want to miss Conor Murphy-Hoffman’s poignant take on the neighborhood's gentrification. muralart2.jpg Of course, seeing the city from these young, animated perspectives may just inspire you to look at San Francisco with fresh eyes.  Once you feel steady, you can take off the training wheels and do some creative merry-making of your own.

Christmas Bonus: You can find copies of Seeing Through the Fog on and on , but don’t buy it used! Proceeds from the sale of new books go toward free student programming at 826 Valencia, an educational nonprofit serving the Bay Area and with satellites across the U.S. For more information go to  Remember, giving to others is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Continue reading "SF Urban Holiday 2008"

Posted by Pamela at 3:08 PM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Art Education, Books