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Friday, May 25, 2012

05/29 Beyond the Kitchen - Getting Back to our Roots.


New Organization Aims to Support Local Farmers, Help Rebuild Local Food Systems

Beyond The Kitchen, a newly formed organization in Napa Valley, challenges participants to get reconnected with the sources of their food.  Chef and Founder William (Bill) Heubel has recruited several top local farmers and food artisans to create a summer series of ten different farm tour dinners that invite you to dine out, way out, as events take place directly in the fields of where your food was just harvested.  Some of the notable farms participating in this premier season include the likes of Big Ranch Farms and Boca Farm (both in Napa), Full Table Farm in Yountville, and A Preservation Sanctuary in Calistoga featuring the exquisite Buckeye Chicken.  Local food artisans include Clover Stornetta Farms, Rancho Gordo, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, and Model Bakery. The venues are always changing as diners are introduced to different farmers and their philosophies.

Highlights include an exclusive farm tour by the host farmer, farmstead made Italian cream sodas, local wine from some of the best wineries, French pressed locally roasted coffee, and an open kitchen that allows participants to watch and engage in Heubel’s four-star preparations.  A total of five courses will be served family style, all prepared by this Bay Area chef.  As dusk approaches, kerosene lanterns will be lit to carry the early evening into the night.

When asked why he wanted to start such an organization, Heubel replies:

            “There’s a general disconnect between people and their food sources.  We don’t know who grows our food or where it comes from.  It’s my genuine desire to bridge that gap and introduce diners to the fantastic, hardworking people who cultivate our land and sustain us.  It is these people who are the heroes.  These are the people that deserve our recognition and through purchasing direct from them, we help sustain a healthy local food system and support our local family farmers.”

Tickets are $125 per person per dinner and can be purchased online at  A portion of the proceeds generated from Beyond The Kitchen farm dinners will go to support Connolly Ranch, a Napa based nonprofit organization that connects local area youth with nature through hands-on environmental education and nutrition programs.

A native of the California Bay Area, Heubel earned his Associate of Occupational Studies degree in Culinary Arts from the California Culinary Academy in 1993. He has over 20 years of four-star restaurant experience. 


If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with William Heubel, he can be contacted at 707-295-7454 or emailed at

Farmers and Cooks United for a Sustainable Future

The world is changing. Rapidly. More and more as a society, we are preferring to eat food that is whole and unrefined. The days of factory farming are fading as we are moving into a post-industrial era. We are realizing that our poor eating habits have been affecting our health and well being in a tragic way. This is no longer a movement. This is a revolution. Local farmer's markets are popping up at a dizzying rate. We are returning to tradition with the understanding that our grandmothers and great grandmothers had it right. Family meals, eaten together at the table, made from what was available locally at the time and in season with nutrient rich ingredients. Trendy terms like "locavore" and "sustainable" are merely words that are used these days to describe how we used to live, eat and socialize. There's something special again about being a farmer. A sense of pride, of stewardship. Young Americans are getting back into farming. It's the new cool. And I, as a Chef and an American, could not be any happier. Join me in celebrating all that is good with the new revolution…

Host, Stephen Andrews (standing on left) with tonight's guests. From left:
Juston Enos, Bill Heubel, Judd Wallenbrock and (seated) Bob Pallas

The Beneficiary....

Connolly Ranch

Located just a short drive from downtown Napa, Connolly Ranch is a rich reminder of Napa County's agricultural past. These 12 acres serve as the Connolly Ranch Education Center, providing dynamic, hands-on education programs in an outdoor setting for children and the community.
The mission of Connolly Ranch is to connect kids with nature through farm-based environmental education programs. Here they learn about farm life, the role of farm animals, the concepts of ecology and sustainability along with an appreciation for nature. They also learn about organic gardening, the sources and benefits of healthy foods and an understanding of how nature works to sustain us.

Bob Pallas
Connolly Ranch Executive Director
and Chairman of the Board

Bob received his BBA from Western Michigan University with a major in Marketing and minors in Economics and General Business. He is the former President and founder of Pallas Advertising; and Vice President/Management Supervisor of J. Walter Thompson Company. Former board President of the Hamilton Family Center; current board member and past President of Summer Search North Bay; and former Chairman of the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County. Bob joined Connolly Ranch in 2005. In 2010 he was named Outstanding Nonprofit Employee of the Year.

A Supporting Farmer....
Full Table Farm

Mindy and Juston are the husband and wife team behind Full Table Farm. Located just down the road from Thomas Keller's "The French Laundry", they can be found selling specialty produce and mainstays at the local farmer's markets. They both started farming as a way to simply grow their own food to sustain themselves. This grew into what they have today. They both are truly wonderful people and are excited to be a part of two of our dinners this season. They take great pride in how little they do to their garden in spite of all the hard work they put in. I've heard stories of vacuuming up pests by hand. Now this is dedication! They can tell you the history of each piece of produce. So if you’re curious, just ask. They'll be providing the bounty for both the July 28th dinner at Connolly Ranch in Napa and the September 1st dinner at a location as yet to be determined.

FULL TABLE FARM is a very small husband and wife run farm just south of Yountville. While we both grew up in Northern California, we made our home in the Napa Valley at the end of 2009. With our first summer upon us, after three years in San Francisco, we were excited to be able to plant and grow our own food, a giant step up from our five small pots with herbs and a pretty sad cherry tomato plant. Our enthusiasm for planting fresh vegetables coupled with the wonderful fruit trees we inherited led to more produce than two people could eat. It was time for a back-up plan. Every table in the house was full, and we began giving fresh fruits and vegetables to everyone we met. Mindy canned for days on end and we were spending hours combing through cookbooks looking for new ways to cook or preserve our bounty. In the midst of a tidal wave of heirloom tomatoes, we asked "should we restrain ourselves next year?". Only to resolve, that it has been so much fun and so rewarding that we can only think of planting more. Sure that half acre of lawn looks pretty serene, but I can think of so many things that taste so much better. Our only alternative was to start a "farm". It is more like an over sized garden at this point, but who knows where we will end up. We hope that you enjoy the fruits of our labor as much as we enjoy being able to provide them.

A Supporting Winery
Signorello Estate

Judd Wallenbrock,
Consulting General Manager
About Judd…

Judd digs soil - both literally and figuratively. Taught in his college soil science classes that "there is no such thing as dirt - just misplaced soil." He's always subscribed to the philosophy that great wines are born of the soil - where the vines are planted is critical to the quality of the wine. A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Agri-Business, he's been
getting dirty for a long time.

Judd is a 31+ year veteran of the wine business. His background is unique in that he has worked in all aspects of the industry - including retail, restaurant, sales, marketing, and winery general management. He is recognized as a creative, passionate and respected leader in the industry.

After spending the last seventeen years as an executive for three highly reputable wineries and consulting several more, he was excited and prepared to start his own winery. "My passion is in the enjoyment of wine, my expertise is in building strong wine brands, and my heart is in philanthropy. Miraculously, the three paths merged, and Humanitas was born."

Judd lives in the heart of Napa with his wife and three children.

About Signorello Estate….

Ray Signorello Jr. began his journey as winemaker and vineyard owner in the Napa Valley during the mid 1980's. Ray, born in San Francisco, California, moved to Vancouver, Canada where the Signorello family continues to maintain a home. Ray divides his time between Napa, San Francisco, Vancouver and business related travel. Ray's father, Ray Sr., initiated the vineyard project during the mid 1970's by purchasing the 100-acre estate located on the Silverado Trail in the beautiful Napa Valley. Ray Sr. worked side by side with Ray Jr., establishing the winery's reputation for excellence until his passing in the fall of 1998.

No Turning Back
Signorellos' original plan was to grow quality grapes to sell to existing wineries, but the harvest of 1985 changed this plan into a new level of evolvement. The bountiful crop allowed Signorellos to custom crush the excess grapes. This opportunity demonstrated what fabulous wine their vineyards were capable of producing. The project continues to grow, as do the spectacular 42 acres planted in several different varietals. Ray's continuing effort represents the invested energies that created this reality from a dream.

In 1986 the Signorellos began the second phase of the venture, this was the building of the main winery structure. This beautiful building is used for barrel storage, wine tasting and retail sales. Along with the building of the winery, wine production was expanded to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. By the end of the 1980's the Signorello family was thoroughly committed to making wine as well as growing grapes.

The decade of the nineties proved to be pivotal for Signorello Estate. In 1990 the first planting of red varietals began on the property- Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.
What brought the Signorellos to the Napa Valley was the romantic side of wine making; growing grapes, working the land, and enjoying the wine country lifestyle of camaraderie, good wine and great meals. While the Valley lifestyle is a very real part of the business, there is a serious responsibility to making a dream become a reality, both father and son realized this fact early in the endeavor.
This venture was a dream; now it is reality. We have enjoyed every moment of it, and we look forward to continuing on to make quality wines from the Napa Valley!

Monday, May 21, 2012

5/22 Diabetes 101 and the Evolution of American Food Service

Diabetes, obesity and many other chronic health conditions are on the rise in the USA.  It's somewhat surprising, as you'd think our growing knowledge into prevention of these conditions would be causing healthier living practices.  Two organisations are tackling this problem head on with different strategies:

The Culinary Institute of America hosts regular conferences and programs aimed at instituting healthy change in all areas of food service, from fine dining to large chains, retailers and kids programs - even education of doctors and health professionals into practical and enjoyable healthy eating strategies.

Clinic Ole in Napa is working one on one to educate a growing population group afflicted with rapidly increasing diabetes rates.

Chef Scott Samuel
Chef Instructor
Culinary Institute of America

Scott Samuel is a chef-instructor and the conference chef for The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Chef Samuel also leads the Greystone Gardens programs, which provides seed-to-table experiences for CIA students at the campus’ 2-acre garden. A graduate of Washington State University’s hotel and restaurant administration program, he apprenticed under Christophe DeGouix at Gerard’s Relais de Lyon in Seattle and under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. Chef Samuel worked in a number of kitchens and was the original chef for Seattle’s Brie & Bordeaux, a combination wine and cheese shop and open-kitchen, 30-seat bistro. In 2000 he helped open the Waterfront Seafood Grill and later helped re-open the acclaimed Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA. Prior to joining the CIA he taught at the Seattle Culinary Academy and through his own company, which provided private classes in clients’ homes. (Napa Valley, CA)

Worlds of Healthy Flavors:
Bringing Together the Best of World Cooking and the Latest in Nutrition Research

Worlds of Healthy Flavors is a groundbreaking educational initiative launched in September 2004 by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard School of Public Health—Department of Nutrition. This annual invitation-only three-day leadership retreat is designed to help volume foodservice operators expand options for healthy menu choices within their businesses and on behalf of their customers.

Produce First!
American Menu Initiatives

Produce First! is a one-day invitation-only retreat immediately following Worlds of Healthy Flavors. Produce First strives to spark the imagination of chefs and foodservice operators in bringing produce front and center in new menu development. Drawing inspiration from the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean, Asia, and Latin America as well as from innovation across the United States, this program asks that instead of thinking about produce last in the menu development process that menu developers think of it first.

Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives:
Caring for Our Patients and Ourselves

Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives is a continuing medical education (CME) conference bridging nutrition science, health care, and the culinary arts. This annual gathering of physicians, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals; hospital, insurance, and other healthcare executives; and healthcare foodservice directors and executive chefs is held every Spring at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Greystone Flavor Summit:
The Art of Flavor in the World of High-Volume, High-Quality Dining

The Greystone Flavor Summit, co-presented by the CIA at Greystone and Food Arts Magazine, is a three-day invitational leadership retreat that brings together each year a select group of top food and beverage directors, corporate and executive chefs and other experts in American foodservice to explore, discuss, and taste their way through a stimulating, critical set of flavor and related kitchen and dining management issues.

Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids:
A National Initiative to Improve the Health of Children and Young People Through Food Education, Culinary Strategy and Flavor Insight

Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids is The Culinary Institute of America's health & wellness initiative focused on advancing healthier food choices in children. This initiative includes an annual three-day invitational Leadership Summit held at our San Antonio, TX campus, focusing on culinary insights and actions around K-12 school foodservice, but chain and other restaurant kids' menus, campus dining, and the family food environment are also being examined.


Kathy DeMaggio, RD, CDE
Community Health Clinic Ole
Director of Planning and Education

Kathy with her son and husband
prepare thanksgiving

I began my career in hospital dietetics, the first few years in San Francisco and then moved to Napa and started working at Queen of the Valley Hospital in 1982, where I provided medical nutrition therapy and eventually specialized in diabetes education.   I also joined the new team working at the Healthy Moms and Babies program in 1986.  After 15 years at Queen of the Valley, I was ready to  expand into public health so moved into a  managerial position at the Solano County Public Health Department, overseeing a team of Registered Dietitians who provided diabetes education for underserved patients.  After 10 years in Solano,  I was pulled back to Napa to begin working with the newly formed Children and Weight Coalition as well as Community Health Clinic Ole and the Healthy Moms and Babies program again. After several years of providing nutrition and diabetes education, I moved into management and am now the Director of Planning and Education where I oversee the nutrition and diabetes education programs in the clinic as well as three departments (Healthy Moms and Babies, Case Management and Education,  and our Medical Records team).  I feel so very lucky to be working at Clinic Ole at this time and am especially lucky to be working with our new CEO, Tanir Ami and all of the wonderful providers and staff.
About Clinic Ole
Community Health Clinic Ole (Clinic Ole) was founded in 1972 to provide health care to the resident and migrant agricultural workers in Napa County. With no County hospital and no County-provided primary health services, these low-income, uninsured individuals had nowhere to go for affordable health care. We began providing health services with volunteer physicians and staff from St. Helena and Queen of the Valley Hospitals in a small room above La Luna Market in Rutherford. Today, Clinic Ole is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and the only not-for-profit community clinic in the County. We provide health care to 25,000 patients annually. We charge for services on a sliding fee scale, based on federal poverty guidelines. We provide primary and preventive medical care, including behavioral health services. In addition to our main clinic in the Napa Valley Vintners Community Health Center (Napa), we have medical clinics in St. Helena and Calistoga. We also provide weekly clinics at Napa’s two homeless shelters and we oversee a clinic for students at Napa Valley College.
1141 Pear Tree Lane, suite 100
Napa CA  94558

Monday, May 7, 2012

05/08 - A Celebration of International Mothers

In this Slow Living Show leading up to Mother's Day, we celebrate the success stories started by women who have brought their children into the US.  Many of these young people arrive speaking no English and having no understanding of American culture, yet defy the odds and pursue their goals with unparalleled energy and enthusiasm, encouraged lovingly by their mothers.

One such story is that of Chef Kang Kuan who was raised in Taipei before his mother brought him to the US as a 12 year old.  Earning a masters in Environmental Toxicology,  Chef Kang ended up as a celebrated chef, coming through the French Laundry and now running the culinary operations at Morimoto Napa.  His story is one of inspiration.  Read the full story below and tune in to hear how his mother played a role in his success.

Amelia Moran Ceja, now president and owner of Ceja Vineyards, went from learning about flavors while cooking with her Grandmother in Las Flores, Mexico, before her mother brought her and her sister to join their father in Rutherford in 1967.  She took to the wine industry with  zeal, marrying Pedro Ceja and soon becoming the first ever female wine company president. Her daughter, Delia, joined the company as Director of Marketing after travelling for 6 months around South America. Together, mother and daughter have an amazing story that brings families, their passions, energies and drive into real perspecitive.

Chef Nai Kang Kuan
Executive Chef, Morimoto Napa

Nai Kang Kuan was born on July 1, 1973 in the city of Taipei amongst the hustle and bustle of 2.6 million people living in apartments and high rise condos.  He lived a happy but unremarkable childhood except for immigration to United States when he was twelve years old.  He moved into a house located next to the home Marilyn Monroe died in, in the upscale town of Brentwood, Los Angeles with his mom and an Italian heritage stepfather. To say the he had a bad case of culture shock is an understatement.

 Kang’s first Christmas meal in his new home was bacalao (salt cod), pine nuts, raisins, and oil cured olives in a tomato sauce.  He spent much of his teenage years helping his stepfather remodeling the house as well as chores on the family farm in Napa Valley, California.  Some of these chores were just that, digging, pruning, and moving rocks.  But there were many other chores that become life lessons such as rebuilding the engine of the resident farm vehicle, a red 64 jeep, and the slaughtering and butchering of six angus steers. 

Kang and his Mum
Kang graduated from Pacific Palisades high school in 1991 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Soil Science from the University of California Riverside in 1996.  He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to pursue a Master degree in Environmental Toxicology at the school of Medicine in University of Cincinnati.  Despite all the education and school, he was an indifferent student, making average grades in high school and college.  It wasn’t until grad school when he faced real academic challenge and realized that he was spending more time outside of the laboratory instead of in it.  The realization forced him to turn to his long time hobby, cooking.  After working in many restaurants in Cincinnati and Ontario Canada, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, where he met his future wife on day one, and went on to a restaurant fellowship after graduation.  He has worked for CMC Rudy Speckemp in Baltimore Maryland, and Fabio Trabocchi of the famed Maestro at Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner, and Fiamma in New York City.  It was under Fabio’s tutelage and support, he arrived at The French Laundry in Yountville California where he worked for Thomas Keller, Cory Lee, and Tim Hollingsworth, staying for five years, rising from the ranks of commis to sous chef. 

Kang was called on by Jeffrey Lunak, the opening Chef of Morimoto Napa to join the Morimoto team in October, 2010, and formally joined the kitchen in March 2011 after giving French Laundry a five months notice out of respect and gratitude.  He has since then moved on from the Executive sous chef position to assuming the full responsibility of the Culinary operation after Chef Lunak’s departure.

 Kang’s insight in East Asian cuisine, his formal training in French techniques, and his diverse and talented staff have continue Chef Lunak’s legacy in excuting Chef Morimoto’s signature style.

Amelia Morán Ceja
President and Owner,
Ceja Winery
 At the dining room table that occupies a prominent place at the rural “world headquarters” of Ceja Vineyards, Amelia Morán Ceja reveals her conviction that the diligent pursuit of a passion is key to success. “My grandmother told me,” she says, leaning forward over her morning mint tea, “‘Whatever you do, if you love it and learn everything you can about it, you will be successful—and not dependent on a man.’” It’s advice that both Amelia and her husband, Pedro Ceja, have banked on.

A strong matriarchal tradition in her family fostered Amelia’s independent spirit, but more than anything, Amelia feels it is flavors and her experience with food that have shaped her life choices. Long before the California legislature recognized Amelia as “Woman of the Year” in 2005 for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business,” the first Mexican-American woman ever to be elected president of a winery was on the frontier of wine. The dynamo behind more than 100 video blogs since 2008 on preparing Mexican cuisine and pairing it with wine, Amelia has introduced thousands to exciting flavor combinations they never dreamed of.
Amelia’s love affair with flavors started in Las Flores, Jalisco, Mexico, where she began cooking on her own at the age of eight in the farm kitchen of a strong maternal grandmother. “Mamá Chepa” taught Amelia to cook with fresh, home grown ingredients and to identify edible wild mushrooms by smell. When Amelia joined her father, Felipe Morán, in Rutherford in 1967, along with her older sister and mother, Francesca Fuentes Morán, Amelia threw herself into her new world. On her first weekend in the Napa Valley, Amelia was in the vineyard, harvesting with a knife that seemed half the size of the petite 12-year old.
That vineyard wasn’t just any vineyard. It was Robert Mondavi’s Tokalon Vineyard, where her classmate and future husband, Pedro, was also picking Merlot with his family. In the coming months at Robert Louis Stephenson School in St. Helena, Amelia advanced from the “academically challenged” level of 7th grade to the “most challenging” level in a matter of months, but it wasn’t until she was studying history and literature at UC San Diego, and collecting $5 per person from friends to create authentic Mexican cuisine wine dinners for them, that her future became clear: Pedro, cooking, and wine were the great loves of her life. In 1980, Amelia and Pedro pooled their dreams and marriage vows, and the energetic Amelia joined Pedro, his brother Armando, and their parents Juanita and Pablo Ceja in methodically creating Ceja Vineyards.
When the family chose its first president in 1999, Amelia, with nearly a decade in the wine industry and always a firebrand ready for new challenges, was the obvious choice. In the early years, being president also meant being PR and marketing director, compliance person, executive chef, grape picker, and general pick-up person.
Amelia’s mettle is tempered by a genuine fondness for people and a talent for making them comfortable. “It’s easy to get attention if you’re nice and genuine,” explains Amelia about her approach to business and life. “It’s just so much easier to be nice!”
It’s an approach that serves the family business well both with the public and internally: Ceja Vineyards was twice named “Best Boutique Winery in Napa & Sonoma” by Best of Napa and Sonoma Valleys Magazine, based on its 2008 and 2009 popular polls. “We like efficiency, but nurturing and warmth must be present with efficiency,” says Amelia. “Our team becomes part of our extended family. That comes from our culture,” explains Amelia, who was named Business Woman of the Year by the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2008, “because it’s about sharing.”
Embracing both her Mexican heritage and American home, Amelia combines the best of what she finds in food and drink, tradition and innovation. “As a minority cellar, we are shaping the wine industry,” explains Amelia, who was honored as the “most outstanding female leader, innovator and visionary in the wine field in the North Bay” by North Bay Business Journal at its 2008 Women in Business gala.
“We’re embracing the best in both cultures and tossing away what doesn’t work,” says Amelia. “I don’t want to be homogeneous; my experience is enhancing my adopted country. We’re making both of our cultures better. Why not share what is wonderful—and keep it?” Salud!
Dalia Ceja
Director of Marketing
Dalia Ceja has been surrounded by wine, food and travel her entire life. She may have grown up in the wine industry but she comes from very humble beginnings. In the late 1960’s her grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, worked in the vineyards and settled in the Napa Valley. With her parents as her role models, hard work and education have been the forefront of Dalia’s drive to excel.
In 2008 she graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Marketing & Communications. After graduating from college she departed on a six month “Study Abroad” backpacking journey through South America, learning, exploring and enriching her career with real life experiences. This became the anchor for a blog that she would later launch in 2011.
In 2009 she brought her expertise to Ceja Vineyards as the Sales and Marketing Director. “A lot of minority wineries are developing their own style,” she says. “For us, it’s been about family and taking wine to a new level.” And for Dalia, being a Ceja means being part of that evolution, which includes promoting awareness of authentic Mexican cuisine and its subtle, complex flavors—the perfect companion for pairings that yield a new wine experience.
“Technology and social media have been a great way to expand our presence,” she says of the tweeting and blogging she does regularly. It is, however, cooking and the Ceja approach to wine and food that continue to be the biggest factor in opening doors. Dalia’s growing role in the culinary world is reflected in the expanding presence of food on the winery’s website,, and on YouTube, where she has published cooking demonstration videos.
Though she and her mother, Amelia Ceja, share many of the same talents and responsibilities, Dalia’s dynamic energy marks the young woman as an identifiable presence and distinctive representative of Ceja Vineyards. It was Dalia’s honor to be chosen for the role of co-host in the Napa segment of’s “Rediscover” web series in 2010. In 2011 Dalia was named 'Woman of the Year" through the Napa Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her entrepreneurial leadership and charitable contributions. In May of 2011 she launched her own blog and website titled The Ole! Report. She highlights her own passions to creatively focus on wine, fashion, food, travel and fiestas! Visit
“You’re never too young or too old to explore your passions,” says Dalia, who is grateful to her parents for encouraging her to do just that. She plans to further her education and attend Sonoma State University to receive her M.B.A. in Wine Marketing. With her personal flare and her passion for wine, cooking and travel, Dalia is set to leave her mark! Ole!