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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

03/27/2012 - Embracing "Local" with Murray Circle Chefs and Rancho Gordo.

Nestled below the Golden Gate Bridge, overlooking the San Francisco Bay lies a lodge, restaurant, bar and so much more.  The Lodge is Cavallo Point Lodge. The restaurant is Murray Circle, the bar, Farley Bar and the chefs are passionate about supporting their local farmers and purveyors.  In this episode of Slow Living Radio we welcome Executive Chef Justin Everett, and Pastry Chef, Ethan Howard to tell their stories and more about the property. Then we find out the story behind Rancho Gordo, a treasure trove of beans and other delights.

Justin Everett
Executive Chef

Murray Circle Executive Chef Justin Everett is a longtime resident of the Bay Area with extensive experience in California’s Wine Country. As is the case for many successful chefs, Justin’s first experience working in a kitchen was a dishwashing job in high school. From there he worked his way up in restaurants throughout college and received a Culinary Arts degree from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon.

Upon returning to Wine Country, he spent time in some of the best kitchens on the West Coast including working as Chef de Partie at both Bouchon in Yountville and Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford. Most recently, he was Executive Chef at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma for four years where he cultivated relationships with local farmers and instated a regionally-inspired menu that featured approachable seasonal cuisine.

With numerous awards and recognition under his belt, including Best Chef of Napa/Sonoma for 2009 and 2010, Justin has developed a following for his handcrafted charcuterie and whole - animal cooking. He uses a signature blend of both classic and modern cooking techniques but places emphasis on sourcing the best meat, fish and produce. He describes his food as “ingredient-driven” due to his long-standing relationships with local farmers, wine makers, ranchers, fishermen and other artisan producers. His menu reflects his respect for the growing seasons, ensuring that every herb, fruit and vegetable is picked at its peak. This attention to detail results in a complex combination of flavors and textures that enliven the character of each dish.

Justin was personally selected by Murray Circle’s founding Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey as his replacement after the two worked closely together at Auberge du Soleil. He looks forward to bringing his foundation of sustainability and respect for local products to Murray Circle. He is also excited to uphold the social responsibility that he has strived to maintain by “employing, feeding and supporting” his local community. In the past he has mentored local youth in the kitchen and has partnered with Benzinger Family Winery to foster an appreciation and respect for farming the land.

Justin lives in the North Bay with his wife and three sons.

Ethan Howard
Pastry Chef
As pastry chef for Murray Circle restaurant, “whatever has sugar in it is my domain,” says Ethan Howard. Using local culinary resources challenges Ethan to create the freshest and highest quality dessert menus. Ethan most recently was with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, where he was pastry chef for Bouchon and Bouchon bakery in Yountville since 2005.
Prior to that, Ethan helped open Martini House restaurant in St. Helena in 2001 and defined a pastry menu that served as a finale to Chef Todd Humphries’ rustic menu. Ethan accepted that position after studying refined pastry at The French Laundry under Pastry Chef Steven Durfee and Sebastien Rouxel. Before The French Laundry, Ethan joined Chef Francois Payard at Payard Patisserie and Bistro in New York City, where he found his true passion for specializing in pastries. The satisfaction of seeing faces light up when people tasted a fresh pastry was something that Ethan wanted to encapsulate over and over again.
Ethan started his career working for Chef Hubert Keller as saucier at Fleur De Lys.
Ethan graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., with a degree in human biology, and his love for his craft blossomed while working summers in various kitchens.

Steve, his son, and Justin at the Cavallo Point Lodge Cooking School

Steve Sando
Owner, Rancho Gordo
The seeds of Rancho Gordo were literally planted in a grocery store here in Napa. I was shopping one August for tomatoes and despite being in one of the world's most magnificent agricultural regions, all the tomatoes were from a hothouse in Holland! Worse, they were hard and pale pink instead of the ripe tomatoes I was craving. I started to grow my own tomatoes and this eventually led to beans.

All of my agricultural pursuits have been based on being someone who likes to cook but gets frustrated by the lack of ingredients, especially those that are native to the New World. It seems to me these indigenous ingredients should be familiar, if not common but instead our own food is considered exotic and sometimes in danger of being lost as we pursue a watered down Euro-centric diet.

American cuisine seems to be in a position of re-inventing itself and I'd love to include ingredients, traditions and recipes from south of the border as part of the equation. I love the concept of The Americas. I feel as if it's just as important as the European heritage many of us share.

Of course you don't need to know where food originates in order to enjoy it. The beans are amazing and work in almost every cuisine. Their roots may be Mexican but can you imagine anything more French than the Flageolet bean? Borlotti may be the pride of the Piedmont in Italy but they wouldn't exist without their roots in Colombia

I quickly learned that I wasn't a particularly gifted farmer and in order to grow the amounts of beans I'd need to really make this work, I'd have to work with bigger growers. We now have four growers working with us, all in Northern California except one in Fresno. We import one bean from Peru and our quinoa comes from Bolivia. My goal is to support Northern California agriculture but there are some instances where the best quality means sourcing outside of my state. Sourcing quinoa and amaranth led me to a cooperative of Bolivian farmers who hand-harvest the Rancho Gordo products.

I'm lucky enough to travel throughout Mexico and Central America searching for unique and rare legumes and herbs that I'll bring back to my trial gardens here in Napa. Each summer I grow them out to see if they'd be suitable for production or just seed-saving. We're starting to develop a substantial seed bank as friends and customers are constantly sending me odd and rare beans from their travels. I share seeds via the Seeds Savers Exchange and I'd encourage anyone to give growing beans a go. It's easy, fun and the rewards are almost immediate.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

03/20/2012 - Sonoma Magic at Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar

Sonoma is often overlooked by visitors scurrying to the Napa Valley, but this is a big mistake as we soon learn from our guests at Caneros Bistro and Wine Bar in the Lodge at Sonoma.  Hear all about the hidden gems from purveyors, growers, farmers, winemakers and restaurants.  Learn about the terroir from Sommelier Christopher Sawyer, and his two invited winemakers, Steven Urberg or Gloria Ferrer, and Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars.

(From left, Michael Muscardini, Christopher Sawyer,
Steve Urberg and Chef Andrew Wilson)



Chef de Cuisine, Andrew Wilson, brings his signature style, highlighting seasonal ingredients with European techniques. Andrew came to Carneros with 20 years of restaurant-industry experience, cooking in internationally-acclaimed kitchens from South Carolina to San Francisco and has earned accolades in Esquire, The Wine Spectator, The New York Times, Food & Wine and Gourmet.

Spending summers as a child at his grandmother’s house in Greenwich, CT, Andrew’s passion for fresh vegetables and simply prepared food sprouted at an early age. No stranger to the Bay Area, Andrew graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked in a handful of San Francisco kitchens early in his career. Cooking with a clay tandoor oven alongside internationally-recognized chef Alan McLennan at Cypress Club eventually led to a role as Chef de Cuisine at Cafe Kati–one of the first and original Asian Fusion restaurants in San Francisco. Departing California first to Chicago for the legendary Tru restaurant, Andrew then spent 10 years in South Carolina as Executive Sous Chef at McCrady’s, and Sous/Pastry Chef at FIG.

Andrew's menu celebrates Sonoma’s agricultural bounty using fresh ingredients from local farmers, foragers, fisherman, and artisans and an organic kitchen garden on property that supplies the restaurant. Simple, straight-forward bistro cooking allows the purity of ingredients to come through while fostering a strong sense of place. Hints of Andrew’s experience in Asian, European and Southern kitchens add subtlety to the bold, hearty food.

Chris with his famous wine flights

Christopher Sawyer travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a judge in international wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide array of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CNN, Redbook, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler and Esquire.

Sawyer was recently named the 2009 Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by The Wine Tasting Panel Magazine, and is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. In 2008, Sawyer was selected as “Sommelier Star” Host for the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, the largest Wine Country event in Northern California. As the world's first and only Film Festival Sommelier, Sawyer conceived and curated the wine experience throughout the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, including creatively pairing wine and food with films throughout the festival and at celebrity tributes.

Steven Urberg
Gloria Ferrer

Steven Urberg’s finely tuned sense of focus, passion for detail, and strong science background are indispensable in crafting Gloria Ferrer sparkling and estate varietal wines. As a young man from Detroit, who came to California by way of U.C. Berkeley for graduate school in chemistry, Steven discovered that wine making provides a way in which to use his innate technical ability in creating wine as an art.

His journey into wine making began in 1995, when he decided to take a break from chemistry. He was offered a job at the Hess Collection, working in the cellar, and he never looked back. “The excitement of that first harvest at the Hess Collection inspired me to take a left turn from the path of chemistry research, return to graduate school at U.C. Davis, and pursue my new passion of wine making,” says Urberg.

Steven first arrived at Gloria Ferrer during the harvest of 1996, and he returned in 2001 as a full-time member of the Gloria Ferrer wine making team. He joined Bob Iantosca and Mike Crumly, who have grown grapes and made Gloria Ferrer wines together for almost a quarter of a century.

With his tremendous ability for hard work and focus, Steven Urberg integrates his scientific background with inspired artistry in crafting elegant and balanced Gloria Ferrer sparkling and estate varietal wines. “I enjoy the exercise in subtlety involved with making sparkling wines. The challenge lies in creating the delicate texture and mouthfeel, while maintaining balance with the fruit structure. The same challenge lies in Pinot Noir estate varietal wines, where blending to achieve the silky mouthfeel is as important as the balance of the fruit, spice, and earth characters that are so irresistible in Carneros Pinot Noir,” says Urberg. The diverse array of clones planted on the Gloria Ferrer estate vineyards, married with the Carneros terroir, result in a palate of flavors that is a dream come true to a scientist with an artistic bent.

Clearly, Steven has the discipline and talent required to create the Gloria Ferrer wines that are true expressions of the Carneros region — sparkling and estate varietal wines — vintage to vintage.

When not making wine, Steven enjoys cooking, entertaining, woodworking, and gardening.

Muscardini Cellars
Bottled with love, for the joy of living.

Let’s start in Italy, 1892, when my grandfather, Emilio Alchera, was born in the village of Calliano, just outside of the city of Asti in the Piemonte region. Emilio came to America in 1909 via Ellis Island in New York. After heading to the West Coast by train to meet his two brothers, Antonio and Louis, he settled in San Francisco.

Emilio began his living in California by helping to dig the Caldecott Tunnel, which connects the East Bay to Contra Costa County. After saving his money, he began to buy and run corner grocery stores where he sold fine bulk wines, and in his spare time made a red table wine for the family. His business would eventually become the St Helena Napa Valley Wine Company.

It has taken me some time to finally continue and expand upon my grandfather’s tradition in wine making, but after owning and managing a construction company, Creative Spaces, for 27 years, the time was right. With family and friends, and blessed by Monsignor O’Hara from St. Leo’s Church, I planted our first Sangiovese vines in May of 2000.

As the grapes grew, my son, Gian Carlo and I built our family home at Monte Terra.  After moving into our new home on May 12, 2001, I began to study wine making from two local winemakers, and took numerous related courses at UC Davis and Sonoma State University.

(The Muscardini and Alchera Brothers)
With our Sangiovese grapes ready to harvest in 2002, I took our first crop and my new wine making knowledge and jumped in with both feet (less shoes). Now, with a number of harvests from both Monte Terra and other growers ~ some of the best in Sonoma County ~ behind me, I had honed my skills and won numerous awards, including two Best of Class awards and two Best of Show for my organically grown Sangiovese.
With wine making in my blood, I asked the question, "Does the world need another winery?" And I thought, "Perhaps not, but the world does need to taste my wine."

September 2005 was our first custom crush at Wellington Vineyards in Sonoma Valley. We plan to make about 200-300 cases each of a 100% Syrah grape grown by our friends Unti Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, a 100% Sangiovese grape grown by Merlo Vineyards in upper Dry Creek Valley, a Cabernet Sauvignon grown next door to our home, and a very special blend made in super Tuscan style – 65% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. All four are barrel aging for 12 months in French and American oak.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow Living Radio on CRN: 03/13/2012 - An Irish Celebration

Slow Living Radio on CRN: 03/13/2012 - An Irish Celebration: Join the Slow Living crew as we celebrate our Irish ancestry and many of the wonderful things the Irish have brought to our doors - amazin...

03/13/2012 - An Irish Celebration

Join the Slow Living crew as we celebrate our Irish ancestry and many of the wonderful things the Irish have brought to our doors - amazing cheeses, the  best stouts, corned beef, soda bread and much more!

Our regular guest chef, Bob Hurley, a Gaelic-blooded man himself, tells us the secrets behind corned beef, cabbage, Irish Stew, Dublin Crab Cakes and more of the delectable Irish items on his "St Paddy's Day" menu.

The cheese crew from Whole Foods, Annie Smith and Sara Quintana, will fill us in on Irish cheeses and trips exploring Irish dairies. 

And our own in-house wine host, Scott Lewis, of  Irish birth, will give us all we need to know about Guinness........and being Irish!

But from me (Sally), a St Patrick Day's gift - the recipe for my Irish Guinness and Whisky Cake!

You can soak the fruit in sherry or whisky - depends on how much 'bam' you want from the fruit!


1 pound mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, prunes, blond raisins, cranberries)
1 cup sherry or whisky
½ pound butter
2 cups brown sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tablespoons treacle (or golden syrup)
300ml warm GUINNESS
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon each nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon
3 ounces diced candied ginger or peel
2 tablespoons whisky

Cover fruit with sherry or whisky and allow to macerate overnight. Drain well, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid if it’s whisky.

Preheat oven to 335°C. Grease and line a 9 or 10 inch cake tin with brown paper or parchment.

Using electric beaters, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the rind and treacle and beat again until incorporated. In a separate large bowl, Combine the Guinness with the soda and carefully beat in the eggs.  Sift the flour and spices together, and gently fold a quarter into the creamed butter and sugar. Add a third of the Guinness mixture, and continue to add remainder of flour and Guinness alternately, ending with flour.  Stir in the macerated dried fruit and the ginger, and mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, then reduce oven to low then cook for a further 1 - 1/ 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Take out of oven, immediately sprinkle with the whisky, cover top with a sheet of parchment and then wrap a layer of newspaper and a towel.  Allow to cool like this.  (This cake is best stored for at least 1 week before eating to allow flavours to develop and will get even better after a month.  Store in a sealed container in a cool spot for up to 3 months.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

03/06- The "Delicate-C's" - Caviar and Crepes

Deborah Keane
Owner and founder
California Caviar Company

A long time expert in luxury products, Deborah Keane “Caviar Queen” is the founder and CEO of California Caviar Company, the only woman-owned and woman-run caviar company in the world.

Using her inexhaustible caviar knowledge to blend old world caviar traditions with modern culinary trends, Deborah’s expertise and impeccable palate is often sought out by many top chefs in the industry.  She has produced private labels with world-renowned chefs such as Jacques Pepin and Todd English. 

Additionally, she has supplied caviar lines to such culinary powerhouses as Williams-Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.  She has also taught at the renowned De Gustibus Cooking School in Macy's, Manhattan and lectured at the top culinary school, Johnson and Wales.
Deborah is recognized throughout the industry as a leader and expert in sustainably farmed caviar and has honed her skills with the pioneers of the industry who have set the standards for sustainable farming worldwide. 

Taking her medical background and melding it with her interest in nutrition led Deborah to recognize the numerous health benefits of caviar. This in turn has lead to partnerships working with charities towards the prevention of cancer.

Deborah is a true innovator in the caviar industry promoting sustainability, accessibility and affordability for all.

Joël Hoachuck
La Crepe
Oxbow Public Market, Napa

(The following story isfrom the Napa Register, January 16 by Paul Fransen)
Many cultures have their own version of pancakes, and now Napans can enjoy the French version, crêpes, year-round. The operators of the popular La Crêpe booth in the orange tent at last summer’s Napa Farmers Market have opened an eatery inside the Oxbow Public Market, and they’re serving sweet and savory crêpes from breakfast through dinner and dessert.
Joël Hoachuck and Barbara Schwartz Hoachuck have wanted to open a crêperie — crêpe restaurant — ever since they moved to Napa Valley 20 years ago. Instead, Hoachuck started working in restaurants.
At the time, Napa had a popular creperie, the Crêpe Place, on Pearl Street where Bui Bistro now serves Vietnamese-French food, including crêpes. The owner closed the old restaurant in the mid-’90s.
“People have fond memories of the Crêpe Place,” said Schwartz Hoachuck. “Many tell us about their experiences there.”

Hoachuck is well known locally for managing Bouchon and now Bottega in Yountville. Born in France, he learned to make crêpes from his grandmother — and to enjoy eating them.

Schwartz Hoachuck has owned Zoom Design in Napa for 18 years, creating graphics, shooting photographs and developing websites for many local customers. She designed the La Crêpe logo and the Oxbow space. She is responsible for the marketing of La Crêpe.

Last summer, the Hoachucks opened a crêpe booth in a bright orange tent at the biweekly farmers market in the Oxbow Public Market parking lot. Their stand became a market favorite, and this led to talks with Steve Carlin, the founder and manager of the Oxbow.

The result is their new booth, which has a definite French flair. The Hoachucks hope to heighten that experience with art from local artists. They played French music during the summer and that may return, too.
Customers like to watch their crêpes being made on the special French griddles. The crêpe makers pour on a measured amount of batter, then spread it out with a special T-shaped paddle. It quickly browns, then is flipped over and the fillings added.

Both sweet and savory fillings are available. The sweet ones include sugar and Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread so popular in Europe, along with seasonal fruit and whipped cream, chocolate sauce with fruit, caramelized apples and nuts.

The sweet crepes with thin fillings are folded twice, creating a tasty quarter-circle. They range in price from $4 (for just sugar or cinnamon sugar) to $7. They can be dessert or breakfast — my granddaughter likes Nutella for lunch.

Savory crêpes are served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, though I suspect few Frenchmen really eat them for breakfast. They’re mostly lunch fare.

However, many Americans would happily choose the “Breakfast Americain” with cheddar cheese, morning sausage, scrambled eggs and maple syrup for $8.

The “Breakfast Francais” (“French breakfast”) is mozzarella cheese and ham for $7; an egg can be added for an additional $1.

Schwartz Hoachuck says the most popular crêpes are the“Forestiére” with sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella, roasted chicken and crème sauce for $9; the “Florentine” with spinach, mozzarella and béchamel sauce for $8; and the “St. Tropez” with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and prosciutto for $10.

As with the sweet crêpes, you can add or leave out ingredients or even invent your own favorite. They serve any crêpe at any time, and offer specials using seasonal ingredients each day as well. Almost everything is organic, and local produce is used as often as possible.

La Crêpe also prepares its own fresh fruit and vegetable juices using organic produce. It doesn’t have a license to sell alcohol, so can’t offer wine or the cider traditionally drunk with buckwheat crêpes in Brittany; but many other vendors offer wine in the market, and the Wine Merchant sells a pear-flavored cider.

Speaking of buckwheat crêpes (“galettes de sarrazin”), the specialty of Brittany, the Hoachucks are working on them. One appeal is that they are not only tasty, but potentially gluten-free. The traditional versions contain some wheat flour, so La Crêpe is looking into a version without it.

Also in the future may be a possible satellite; the operators of the planned movie theater behind Home Depot have asked them about opening there, and there are many other farmers markets in the area that might beckon.

Schwartz Hoachuck has an even bigger vision: She sees La Crêpe as a familiar face around the world one day.

For more information, visit