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Monday, August 27, 2012

08/28 - Behind "The French Laundry" Doors - Chefs, Purveyors, Truffles and More

There is a magic to the world-renowned restaurant, The French Laundry, tucked unassumingly on a corner in the small Napa Valley town of Yountville, that few restaurants in the world have been able to emulate... not to mention its 3 Michelin Stars.  There is also 'finesse', 'refinement', 'excitement for the senses', and many other expressions that have been used to describe this unparalleled eatery. 

We have the great pleasure of hearing the story of Timothy Hollingsworth - who has risen through the ranks to become Chef de Cuisine and lead the kitchens - for a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to make this kitchen weave its magic.

From left: Tim Hollingsworth, Nicolas and Antoine admiring Australian Winter Truffles

Their purveyors are of primary importance to The French Laundry, as they rely on them to deliver the quality of ingredients that will match their skills and give their diners a meal to remember.  We meet one of those special people, Antoine Magnani, whose French sensibilities and experience led him to create Euvitis Delicacies providing truffles, mushrooms, vanilla and caviar to the Bay Area's finest restaurants.

We'll also talk to Antoine's friend and fellow expat Frenchman, Nicolas Ronin, who opened Bisou, a truly French Bistro in San Francisco, on all things truffle, from a French perspective!

Timothy Hollingsworth
Chef de Cuisine
The French Laundry

As Chef de Cuisine of The French Laundry, Timothy Hollingsworth leads the kitchen in the continued evolution of its world-renowned cuisine.

Hollingsworth exemplifies Chef Thomas Keller’s commitment to mentorship and personal development. His culinary career began in Placerville, CA, where he learned the fundamental techniques while working as a Sous Chef at a French restaurant, Zachary Jacques. Hollingsworth then accepted a commis position at The French Laundry in 2001, training under former Chefs de Cuisine Eric Ziebold and Corey Lee and internalizing the heritage of the restaurant’s cuisine. In 2004 Keller selected him as part of the core team that traveled to New York City in preparation for the opening of Per Se, Keller’s fine dining establishment in Manhattan. Upon Hollingsworth’s return to The French Laundry in 2005, he was promoted to Sous Chef, where he lent his enthusiasm and dedication to further communicate Keller’s philosophy and culinary vision.
In 2008, Hollingsworth competed in the Bocuse d’Or USA, where he was awarded the opportunity to represent the United States at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest – the biennial global cooking competition first envisioned in 1987 by revered French chef Paul Bocuse. Hollingsworth completed a rigorous training process, during which he worked with some of the profession’s most influential figures. In early 2009, he traveled to Lyon, France to compete in the prestigious event, where he placed 6th out of 24 prominent chef teams from around the world--the highest placement ever received by the United States. That same year, Hollingsworth was also tapped to take on the role of Chef de Cuisine at The French Laundry.
Hollingsworth has garnered national attention for his contributions. In 2010, he received the Rising Star Chef Award from The San Francisco Chronicle as well as the Rising Star Chef of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation. Under his helm, the restaurant continues to enjoy noteworthy accolades, including a 3-star rating from the prestigious Michelin Guide, and a 4-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Antoine Magnani
Euvitis Delicacies        

Antoine came from France 10 years ago to manage a group of restaurants called Curbside, after graduating from Sup Europe, a French business school in 2001 with a marketing degree and also in England at Leeds Metropolitan University with an international marketing degree.

Always interested in the food service industry, Antoine noticed that the distribution of wild mushrooms and truffles in the San Francisco Bay Area could offer him a great business opportunity.  Hence the creation of “Euvitis Delicacies”, the name “Euvitis” coming from a fungus growing on vines.
Antoine's Children

The venture began in October 2007, with a limited offering of wild mushrooms and truffles, and a year later, vanilla products were added as well as a line of caviar products.

With the growth of the business, so did Antoine’s family, where he is now the proud father of Alexia and Paloma.
Over the first 3 years, he and his wife have substantially increased their customer base, building great relationships with their clients sharing the same passion for food and the best quality of products available.
Nicolas Ronan
Chef Owner
Bisou Restaurant, San Francisco

Have you ever imagined a dinning experience full of love, joy and happiness?

Nicolas Ronan was born on June 29th, 1981, in Paris, France but made his first steps in the Hospitality Industry in London, England.  Fortunately, Nick landed himself a job as a line cook in Bentley SeaFood Restaurant, then became an oyster barman, and after took over the management position. Soon after that, Nick was hired as a waiter in a gastronomic restaurant Le Pont De La Tour and later became the head waiter (Maitre’D).

Prominently, Nicolas Ronan took a chance on being in charge of the four stars Harrington Hall Hotel taking the General Manager position. In 2004, Nick decided to return to France and learn more about the culture and the style of food his country is so famous for. In Paris, Nick discovered Chef Francois Pasteau (his mentor), who is the chef and owner of the one star Michelin Bistro L’EPI DU PIN in the 6th district of Paris.

After awhile, Nick arrived in the US where he worked in various French based cuisines discovering new ideas and his greatest passion of satisfying all of his guests. He came to San Francisco Bay Area where he worked in Plouf Seafood Restaurant and Café Claude as a manager.

Nicolas Ronan’s personality and food fulfills this dream. Nick, as all of his guests like to call him, has created such a breathtaking place named Chouchou (French - cutie pie little cabbage) and the latest BISOU(French kiss). Intriguingly, Nick is a chef-owner who emphasizes not only the quality of the food but mostly the love of living live in a delightfully tasty manner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

08/21 - The Rhythm of Guitar and Wine from Italy - Peppino D'Agostino and the Sicilian Harvest

This week we celebrate the start of the Sicilian wine harvest that launched with a midnight harvest at Donnafugato Winery.  Our guest, Alessandro Sbrendola, MS, who owns Alex Italian Restaurant in Rutherford will enlighten us on the wonderful wines of Sicily. 

As Donnafugata have a special place in their hearts for music and wine, or "Tasting in Jazz", what better than to bring to the show an Italian musician who likens his music to the culinary artistry of Italy.  We are very excited to welcome Peppino D'Agostino, the coveted Italian Accoustic Guitarist who now brings his Italian musical sense of "passion" to the US where he resides. Hear his story and his music with us.

Peppino D’Agostino

"The music Peppino Creates is like him: generous, lyrical and abundant."  ~  Pierre Bensusan.

Peppino D’Agostino doesn’t just play the guitar. He composes, arranges, collaborates, improvises and has even been known to sing a song here and there in both English and Italian. But what he does create on the guitar makes the difference between simply playing and truly making music apparent in the most wonderful ways.

D’Agostino has been hailed as “a guitarist’s guitarist” by Acoustic Guitar magazine as well as “a giant of the acoustic guitar” (San Diego Reader), and holds many top guitar awards, but the San Francisco Chronicle encapsulated the essential difference that distinguishes D’Agostino’s music when it dubbed him “a poet.”

A native of Italy, D’Agostino has made his considerable international mark as a musical artist on the guitar since he arrived in America a little over 25 years ago. The readers of Guitar Player voted him Best Acoustic Guitarist in 2007, and the following year in Acoustic Guitar’s People’s Choice Awards he won a Bronze medal for Best Acoustic Album of All Time for his 2002 release Every Step of The Way (tying with Leo Kottke, one of his prime inspirations) and another Bronze award as Fingerstyle Guitarist of the Year. But as said above, it’s not just his talent that makes D’Agostino so notable, but also what he does with it.

How has D’Agostino earned such high praise and honors? “Music is not only what you know musically, but also what you experience in life, because it is a reflection of our personalities and spirit,” he explains. In his playing and writing one feels his heart, spirit, soul and essence as well as your own.

He began playing guitar at the age of 10 when he heard his cousin play in church. After D’Agostino got a few lessons from the cousin, he embarked on a journey of self-study and further exploration on the guitar and in music that continues today. So in addition to his “technical prowess” (Guitar One), he displays a stunning stylistic range in his work that spans classical to pop music and incorporates a spectrum of folk, ethnic and world styles. From his teens into his twenties, D’Agostino learned about and absorbed many musical colors and flavors, being so enthralled with all to know about music and his chosen instrument that he went AWOL one night from the Italian Army to catch a concert by some acoustic guitarists he admired.

After making his recorded mark in his homeland with his first album Bluerba in 1981 and Silk and Steel two years later, he moved to America in 1985. Starting out by performing in the streets and on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, he graduated to playing in restaurants and then clubs and concerts after a fellow musician introduced D’Agostino to a booking agent.

He made his American recording debut in 1987 with Acoustic Spirit on Shanachie Records, and has since issued six more albums prior to Nine White Kites, the most recent being Made in Italy, a musical travelogue through the songs and composers of the country where he was born and came of age.

He has also released three instructional/performance DVDs as well as the book New Acoustic Guitar (Warner Bros. Publications), and also designed his signature Seagull guitar with innovative guitar maker Robert Godin that won a Silver People’s Choice Award for Acoustic Guitar of the Year from Acoustic Guitar magazine in 2008. A hot ticket live performer in North and South America and Europe, he charms audiences with performances that are captivating and full-blooded musical experiences.

“I play Brazilian music, Irish music, country music, blues, ragtime, classical,” he says of just some of the many styles heard within what he creates. Inspired by such diverse players as Paco de Lucia, Leo Kottke and Carlos Santana, among many others, his influences also include the progressive rockers like Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant and Mike Oldfield he listened to in his teens and early adulthood.

D’Agostino likens his musical approach to the culinary artistry of his native Italy. “If you only know about tomatoes, garlic and basil, you will only make a certain kind of sauce. But if you know about maybe thyme, parsley, onions and olives, you make a different kind of recipe. But you have to know how to mix those elements with discretion and elegance.” The results provide a delectable and nutritious listening experience for music lovers of all tastes that brings D’Agostino satisfaction that radiates throughout his self-dubbed “Minestrone music”. For as he says, “Our job as musicians is to try to do what we love.


Donnafugata: Sicilian Wine Producer

Donnafugata was founded in Sicily by an enterprising family with 150 years experience in premium wines. Giacomo Rallo and wife Gabriella, daughter José and son Antonio are engaged in an entrepreneurial project with a focus on attention to detail and synchronizing people and nature to make wines that correspond increasingly more to the potential of this area.

The Donnafugata adventure began in the Rallo family’s historic cellars in Marsala in 1983 and at its Contessa Entellina vineyards in the heart of western Sicily. In 1989, Donnafugata arrived on the island of Pantelleria, commencing its production of naturally sweet wines.

Donnafugata believes that great wine reflects the land of its origin. nature of the soil, exposure, altitude, climate and vines are the principle variables for producing wines which express their belonging to unique terroirs.

 Donnafugata has supported for many years a range of projects for promoting both culture and the territory: archaeological excavations, literary prize, solidarity and micro credit projects

 The Midnight Harvest.

To watch the night harvest begin click on

 Nocturnal harvesting takes exploits the difference in temperature between day and night typical of the micro climate of the Contessa Entellina area: a technique involving targeted and precision oenology that aims to protect the environment and grape quality

Nocturnal harvesting at Contessa Entellina is a technique involving targeted viticulture and precision oenology, adopted in 1998 for the following reasons:
  1. Chardonnay is the first variety to ripen in August, in Sicily. During the day, the temperature is high - sometimes reaching 35°C. This increases the risk of undesirable fermentation of the grapes during transport from the vineyard to the cellar, as well as the loss of some aromas during grape pressing. At night, however, the temperature drops to 16-18°C, preserving the full aromatic content of the grapes.
  2. At Donnafugata the white grapes are cooled and pressed at a temperature of about 10°C. Harvesting at night reduces the energy used for cooling the grapes by 70%.
  3. Nocturnal harvesting is also less tiring for the grape pickers.
Did you know? The Chardonnay harvest at Donnafugata often coincides with the earliest grape picking in the northern hemisphere.

Alessandro Sbrendola
Alex Italian Restaurant, Rutherford, CA

A native of Forli’ in Emilia-Romagna (60 miles from Florence), Alessandro Sbrendola has always had a “big passion” for restaurants and hospitality. Everything started when he saw a picture of “La Tour d’Argent” in the prestigious magazine “Wine Spectator”. He was only 12 years old when he fell in love with that restaurant and decided he had to go there. Since then he started working hard and attending the best Restaurant Management and Hospitality School in Italy becoming soon one of the best students, and a Master Sommelier by the age of 25. While studying for his diploma, Alessandro started working in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy such as “L’Albereta” with Gualtiero Marchesi in Franciacorta, “La Frasca” in Castrocaro, “Enoteca Pinchiorri” in Florence without forgetting “La Tour d’Argent” in Paris.

In January 1997 following his passion for food and wine, Alessandro decided to move to California. Summoned by Piero Selvaggio he started working at the prestigious “Valentino Restaurant” in Santa Monica where every year he achieved the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award  and from 2000 to 2002 he brought the titles of “Best Wine List in America” and “Best Wine Cellar in America” to Valentino. His work has also been honored with the “Wine Spectator Award of Excellence” at such notable restaurants as “Enoteca Drago”, “Dolce Group” (which he opened in 2003 for Ashton Kutcher) and “L’Orangerie”. In addition to training professional sommeliers through his Wine Street operation, Sbrendola also served as wine manager at two of Steve Wynn’s hotels in Las Vegas for two years. Just prior to coming to Napa, he opened an Italian Restaurant in one of the properties of Mr. Rick Caruso one of the most important developers and retail operators in Southern California.

With nearly 25 years of experience, he wanted to bring his passion for fine food and wine to the Napa Valley, and the beautiful space in the heart of Rutherford has finally given him that opportunity.

"Napa Valley is where you find equal expression of both wine and food and people come here to enjoy both", says Alessandro.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

08/14 - International Scottish Jazz Performer and a Local Author Bring their Passions to the Waves

Slow Living Radio is delighted to welcome Alison Burns, internationally acclaimed Jazz Singer and Actor, who has relocated to Napa Valley from her home in Scotland.  Hear her inspirational story and path to fame.

Olga Cossi has spent her life penning books for children and is now launching a new book in celebration of her path and "sisterhood", another totally different inspiration showing how rewarding the art of writing can be.

Alison Burns
Jazz Singer and Actor

There are singers and there are jazz singers. There are jazz singers and there are a few artists who bring more to the microphone – their life, love, heartaches and joy. Alison Burns is one of those artists.

A lifelong love of music started at home, with an early education in the Great American Songbook from a father who played guitar and a mother who would carry the guitar case into his gigs! As a young girl in Dundee, an industrial city on the east coast of Scotland, the dreams were of singing and acting in Hollywood and the soundtrack was Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, and Bessie Smith, among many others. The road to a recording career has been an inspiring one. From being the first female apprentice engineer in the famous Timex watch factory at the age of 16 (complete with curls and a full face of make up!) to being sacked from a bingo calling job, to the tragic circumstances which encouraged her to make a leap of faith into performing from a secure but unsatisfying job. The death of her brother Alan, who was serving in the Falklands brought home the reality of a life lived unfulfilled.

Alison and Prince William at a performance
before his marrage announcement.
While acting, singing and presenting, her band The Rainmates were offered two record deals but the time didn’t feel right. Her heart took her back to the songs of the 1940s and the close harmony groups such as The Dinning Sisters. This led to the formation of a three-part female harmony group, The Penny Dainties. Not only did the Penny Dainties record an album, but it lead to Alison meeting her now husband who substituted one night when the regular drummer was unavailable. During this time Alison was twiddling her thumbs during the day so decided to do what anyone would – to study for a law degree! A short time practising was enough to send Alison back to music full-time, however.

Alison with the BBC Big Band
After working behind the scenes for a while, it was finally time to get behind the microphone and sing the songs that had been the soundtrack to her life. Her debut album, Kissing Bug, released in March 2007, was received with universal acclaim and became the first album by a Scottish jazz singer to reach the Jazz Top 10. So far, she has packed her bag to perform in far-flung destinations such as Tokyo, Nashville, New York, Cannes, Italy and Shanghai, as well as being invited to play by Michael Parkinson, who welcomed her off stage with a huge hug and the comment, “Wonderful, wonderful!”

She has played jazz festivals and venues across the country, with her own group and guesting with Martin Taylor at a number of concerts. It was at these concerts that the idea for the new album 1:AM came about. The recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass were the inspiration, stripping back the songs to just vocal and guitar. Despite the smoky dark eyes and robust sense of humour, there’s little of the jazz diva about Alison Burns.

For those who may think that Alison is where she has always wanted to be, that’s true up to a point, but looking at her track record, this is obviously just the beginning.

Olga Cossi
My Italian Sisterhood

A native Californian, Olga Cossi was born in St.Helena and began her writing career as a staff correspondent for  the St. Helena Star while still in high school. Olga has been a  writer all her life, being driven by her older sister, Rina, for whom she  served as a ghost writer during their school years.

When Alta Napa Press compiled “Voices of the Wineland”, Olga was invited to contribute to that project and expressed her feelings for Napa Valley in a poem she entitled "As One Born Here".

Olga’s first young reader title, “Robin Deer”, was published  in 1967 by Naturegraph Publishers of Healdsburg, followed by a crush of almost thirty books, both fiction and nonfiction, in addition to many feature stories for a wide readership in a variety of publications.

Olga Cossi began a life-long participation in Author Festivals throughout California as well as other states, and in  schools in England and Germany.
For a list of all her books and awards, go to,  which also includes the stories-behind-the-stories that give a deeper insight into the personal growth she experienced through each project.

Still writing and studing early every morning, and an active part of Santa Cruz radio station KUSP, Olga has just published “An Italian Sisterhood”, the autobiographical account dedicated to her two sisters and to sisterhood everywhere. A new young reader title, “Playing Your Heart Out”,  is being prepared for release by Silver Knight Publications.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

08/07 - The Spirit of Italy Comes Alive in Sausalito

Slow Living Radio is passionate about the spirit of Italy: their balance of work and play, their celebration of meal-times and care for every simple ingredient, the pure, fresh rusticity of the food and the phenomenally diverse and wonderful wine culture.

Reflections - Steve of Slow Living enjoying the Amalfi Coast

What a delight to find a chef in Sausalito at the very popular Poggio bringing those qualities to life for us to enjoy without an expensive ticket and long flight! And no surprise that his menu grows more like one you would find in a great Italian village restaurant, where all the ingredients sing of the freshness and locality -  that's where he honed his craft and passion.

Peter McNee has nurtured relationships with local farmers and artisans to follow in the Italian village-style of cooking and is delighted to introduce us to a new local farmer creating his beloved mozzarella di bufala, and ricotta di bufala.  Craig Ramini joins us to tell of his passion to bring this ultimate Italian ingredient in its truest form to American restaurants and consumers.

And finally, we talk to an Italian wine importer who focuses on collecting wineries that represent the historical traditions of Italy's diverse wine regions. Siena Imports devotes its search for wines to producers who maintain regional traditions while pursuing the best possible vintages.

Peter McNee
Executive Chef and Partner
Poggio Sausalito

Executive Chef Peter McNee’s rustic, soulful menu features spit-roasted and slow braised meats, blistered Neapolitan pizzas, an extensive house-cured salame menu and housemade pastas paired with slow cooked sugo. His weekly treks to the hillside organic garden and farmer’s markets, even traveling to Piemonte in search of his prized tartufi bianchi (white truffles) act as inspiration to the menu at Poggio. 

A Minnesota native, Peter moved to San Francisco, California to attend the California Culinary Academy after graduating college with a BA in Economic Management. While working in San Francisco, Peter gained extensive knowledge of local produce and built relationships with local farmers at the old San Francisco Green Street market. This farm to table approach would remain a constant throughout his career.  

Driven by a deep love and respect for Italian cooking and with the desire to learn first-hand, Peter embarked for Italy to cook in rustic Italian kitchens and live in the homes of families. From there this passion developed into a quest to not just cook, but to understand, live and breathe Italy. “The friends I made and the time I spent living (in Italy) are more valuable than any recipe I brought home with me. I picked up as much from the Nonne (grandmothers) who spent time cooking and talking to me about the food they had learned from their grandmothers, than any of the restaurants I worked. To me, Italy is about the connections created through sharing food and enjoying the times spent together in the kitchens, at the markets and around the table."

Since joining the Poggio family in 2003 to help launch the restaurant, and becoming Executive Chef in 2006, Peter has devoted himself to recreating the best of Italian culinary traditions through local ingredients. Following peasant tradition, he challenges himself to use every part of the animal and was honored to come in first place at Cochon 555 in June of 2009 where he competed against five Bay Area chefs to prepare a whole hog.
As a member of Slow Food, and dedicated to preserving Italian traditions, Poggio prepares nearly everything in house from the house cured salumi and prosciutto to the hand pulled burrata and tender pastas.  His signature Porchetta is the same as he prepared in Toscana, a young pig stuffed with herbed sausage and slowly roasted over a wood burning fire and the restaurant imported a carello (cart) from Italy in order to serve the classic Bollito Misto presentation of mixed simmered meats served table side.

Today, he is still manning the stoves, cooking soulful northern Italian cuisine while continuing to develop relationships with local farmers, ranchers and vintners, ensuring only the best ingredients find their way onto the menu at Poggio. It is this authenticity and dedication that have helped earn the restaurant the “Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area” ranking in the San Francisco Chronicle since 2008.

Craig Ramini

Ramini Mozzarella is a new food company that is in start-up mode, located in Tomales, California. The vision for the company is to make healthy, local, fresh mozzarella cheese that is worthy of comparison to the wonderful mozzarella di bufala that is made in Italy. With about forty beautiful animals that are milked every day, Ramini makes mozzarella and ricotta from the whey. The milk is luxurious and abundant.

Romano Chietti
Siena Imports, Inc

Siena Imports, Inc was founded in 1978 by partners Romano Chietti and Andrea Bartolozzi, who wanted to create a family-run endeavor based in San Francisco. With the addition of Jason Chietti in 1997 and Serena Chietti in 2000, as well as an experienced and enthusiastic support staff, Siena Imports has developed into a multigenerational organization with a heartbeat of its own.

Siena Imports, Inc. was created with the intention of providing the American market with fine Italian wines that represent the historically diverse spectrum of styles from the 20 regions that comprise the Italian peninsula.

At a time when winemaking can be affected by modernization, emerging technology, and changing trends in production techniques, Siena Imports devotes its search for wines to producers who maintain regional traditions while pursuing the best possible vintages. Not surprisingly, many of them have gained worldwide recognition. As a result, Siena Imports represents more than 160 wines from 40 PRODUCERS by focusing on both small, family-run wineries as well as large, international cooperatives such as Machiavelli, Cesari, and St. Michael Eppan.

Siena Imports devotes its search for wines from producers  who maintain regional traditions while pursuing the best possible vintages. Not surprisingly, many of them have gained worldwide recognition. As a result, Siena Imports represents more than 160 wines from 40 Producers by focusing on both small, family-run wineries as well as large, international cooperatives such as Machiavelli, Cesari, and St. Michael Eppan.

The Alto Adige region