Why I Cannot Stand Preachy Vegetarians: A Rant

I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback concerning my photo essay regarding the origins of great bacon, which is the post located just below this one. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and only slightly negative. Of course, many of the positive responses include the reactions from many of the chefs whom I know (being a chef myself). Some of these chefs even have Michelin stars here in the Napa Valley. But to answer the handful of folks who bristled at the sight of a pig slaughter, I can only state the following:

• If you choose to eat meat, then you really have no right to complain about seeing where that meat originates. Bacon is not created in the lab. An animal must die in order to provide meat for the table. This fact is not negotiable, and it never has been. By the same token, it’s troubling [… read more …]

Where Does Great Bacon Come From?

For me,

It begins with a gunshot, point blank just behind the ear. The targeted Mulefoot Hog remains blissfully unaware, even until the very end. Once the pig is down, its throat is slit to let the blood. Meanwhile, the other hogs react only briefly to the sound of the gunshot, looking up for just a moment, vaguely curious, and then continuing to feed on delicious fallen fruit. As their former sibling is dragged from the pen with the aid of a wench, life goes on without incident or trauma.

I don’t like to shill too often. However, Slow Food Napa Valley is co-hosting a benefit dinner at the Bale Grist Mill this Saturday evening, in which two Mulefoot Hogs will be prepared and enjoyed in myriad fashions. As a local board member of SFNV (as well as the webmaster), I’ll be there to help out and to [… read more …]

Daytripping Mendocino County: Heirloom Apples and Warm-Weather Wines

Philo's Finest: Gravenstein Apples.

Philo’s Finest: Gravenstein Apples.

The end of Labor Day Weekend is a milestone that I anticipate every year. For one thing, it’s the last three-day weekend of the season, which is fine by me, since I don’t have normal weekends off anyway. Unlike most people in America, I derive zero joy from the almighty three-day weekend. Monday holidays make restaurant work extra difficult, as Saturday and Sunday essentially become back-to-back Saturdays (already the most difficult day of the week), and an otherwise benign Monday is subsequently transformed into a Sunday (the second-most difficult day of the week). But that’s just the perspective of a line cook, although I do admit, there’s an inherent satisfaction in pushing out an insane amount of covers over a three-day span, at least every once in a while.

Beyond my own professional gripes, the end of Labor Day also means something more important: [… read more …]

The Politics of Eating, Prop 37: What Would Michael Pollan Do?


I don’t ever like to get too political on this blog, unless it concerns the politics of food. Even then, I rarely delve into that arena, so I intend to keep this entry short and sweet. But I do have to discuss California’s Prop 37, which is on the ballot this November. In a nutshell, Prop 37 would bring added transparency to the foods sold here in California, by forcing producers to label most products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Rather than get into the science of GMOs — or the debate about whether or not GMOs are environmentally friendly — I think it’s important to step back and simply consider what’s really at stake: The consumer’s right to know what he or she is eating. And that’s it.

Prop 37 is simply about information, and when you look at the companies that are against this initiative, there’s [… read more …]

Scoop: Brenda Buenviaje to open a Po-Boy Shop in the Fillmore

Coming soon to the Fillmore District…

I’ve got a few interesting news stories to break in the next couple weeks, as I patiently wait for more details on a couple of items. But for now, I’ll reveal one of my better scoops: I have a very trusted inside source who has mentioned to me that Brenda Buenviaje — the chef and namesake behind San Francisco’s beloved Brenda’s French Soul Food — will be opening a sandwich/po-boy spot in the Fillmore District. I’m told that the timeline for the new venture is set for the next six months or so, and that the new restaurant will feature a bar that offers beer and wine. If I can get any additional insight as to what else might be on the menu, or a specific name for the restaurant, or a specific locale, I’ll be sure to let you [… read more …]

Book Review: “Knives at Dawn” by Andrew Friedman

Knives at Dawn

Despite our ever-growing fascination with food, the legendary Bocuse d’Or competition represents little more than a culinary footnote for most Americans, and given our taste for competition-based cooking, these circumstances can be somewhat puzzling. While many Americans could easily name several of the past “cheftestants” on Bravo’s “Top Chef “series, I would wager that less than 1% of Americans could name Team USA’s most recent representative at the Boscuse d’Or (or any of our past representatives, for that matter). Of course, the Bocuse d’Or’s lack of exposure here in the United States accounts for much of our national indifference. But while there may be a latent interest in the world’s most famous culinary competition, I still can’t help but wonder if the Bocuse d’Or will ever become anything more than the “soccer” of our culinary landscape.

I hate to sound so skeptical, but while reading “Knives at Dawn” by [… read more …]

Random Food and Wine Photos


As a professional cook, I’ve seen lots of mushroom varietals over the years, but somehow I had never seen pink oyster mushrooms. Really amazing colors, but I wonder if they retain their brilliance after cooking? Probably not. Snapped at Far West Fungi in the San Francisco Ferry Building.

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. My recent lack of posts simply means that life is actually far more amazing than usual. However, I do plan on getting this blog back on track, starting this week. Thank you for your patience. For now, I’ve got a few long-overdue photos that have been lingering in my “to do” folder. Enjoy!

If you live in wine country, then you know that this photo is a few months old. The wild mustard has mostly passed, and I’m sure this fallow vineyard looks quite different today. It may even [… read more …]

First Looks: The G&G Burger @ Goose & Gander, St. Helena


The G&G Burger @ Goose & Gander, St. Helena. See that impressive sheen on the patty? That’s melted bone marrow. Don’t question it.

Will bone marrow become the new foie gras in California once SB 1520 comes to fruition on July 1st? Hmmm. I hadn’t really considered that idea until Bob, one of the bartenders at Goose & Gander (and former fixture behind the bar at Bistro Jeanty), had mentioned it to me this afternoon. It’s an interesting notion, and certainly something to mull over. And while I don’t think that bone marrow can actually “replace” the venerable foie gras at every level, there does have to be some sort of ingredient that can fill that “decadent” void here in California. Typically, if any chef wished to take an otherwise ordinary item and elevate it to something more hedonistic, foie gras was always the staple go-to ingredient. Foie [… read more …]

You should date a girl who eats.


The Chocolate-Almond Croissant @ Bouchon Bakery, Yountville. Once recommended to me by a girl who eats.

Date a girl who eats. Date a girl who spends her money on fancy cheese instead of clothes, who has problems with refrigerator space because she has so many variations of mustard (and don’t even start with all the hot sauces). Date a girl who keeps a list of faraway restaurants she wants to visit, who has been eating foie gras since she was twelve.

Find a girl who eats. You’ll know that she eats because she will always have a half-eaten bar of artisanal fair-trade chocolate in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the produce at the farmers market, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the first morels of the season. You see that weird chick sniffing the leaves of vine-ripened tomatoes at the supermarket? That’s the girl [… read more …]

Movie Review: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” Directed by David Gelb

For those moviegoers who are hopelessly food-obsessed, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” will no doubt leave some viewers yearning for a bit more, but maybe that’s to be expected. After all, with more than 75 years of experience in the kitchen, 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono has developed a wealth of culinary knowledge that probably exceeds that of anyone before him, and arguably exceeds that of anyone in the present day. With so much culinary expertise at the core of the film, those who cook for a living, or even those who qualify as serious home gourmets, will certainly become fixated by the ingredients and techniques in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (these are the same viewers, no doubt, who will instantly recognize Joël Robuchon during the film’s opening sequence).

If you’re at all like me, you’ll spend much of the movie wishing that there was more explanation from the [… read more …]