Monday, August 31, 2009

NAPA VALLEY

Photo by Randy Bonnell

The Wappo Indians who once inhabited the Napa Valley clearly understood the rich fertile ground they lived on; Napa literally means “Land of Plenty”.


With the exception of my non air-conditioned rental car, I would have to say that the drive from Sacramento to the Napa Valley was spectacular. I traveled from East to West on the curvy back road of Highway 128. The geographical diversity went from the hot dry grassy flat lands of the Sacramento Valley to warm, golden, hilly, studded oak country, to a more temperate climate where redwoods thrive and finally drop down into lush vineyard country where distant ocean breezes meet the warm interior.

Duckhorn Vineyards invited me to speak at a multi-course dinner that featured White House meals paired with Duckhorn wines. Guests at this suave affair were treated to a "3 level" dining experience that included the inside of the winery, the veranda, and a short walk to the gardens. The event was a beautiful success.


While I was in the area I also had a chance to dine at Bouchon for a light dinner of small plates. Bouchon was surprisingly half empty for a Friday night. Regardless, I was delighted to be able to sit in the outdoor courtyard under the wafting aroma of fresh baked goods from the Bouchon Bakery. The staff was very friendly and the service was excellent. I tried several dishes including a chilled corn soup, the Salad de Poulpe – a grilled octopus and fresh bean salad, Dungeness crab with seasonal melons, and a rabbit dish . Overall, I would say that the dishes were technically executed very well. However, they didn’t truly “sing” as I thought they should have.


One Napa Valley restaurant that did sing was a hopping little burger joint called Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. This place was packed to the the rafters with all kinds of people. I waited 45 minutes to grab a Niman Ranch beef burger and garlic fries. Wow! The flavor was exceptional; it was well worth the wait.

Friday, August 28, 2009

OLD TOWN CRIER

The OLD TOWN CRIER is an insightful and interesting publication in Alexandria Virginia that covers local travel, events and people profiles. They recently interviewed me for the following article:

We live in an age of celebrity chefs. Former White House Chef Walter Scheib, now managing his own business, The American Chef, is certainly one of them.

Chef Scheib writes about his White House years in “White House Chef, Eleven years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen”, going into a third printing. Those eleven years began in 1994, early in the first Clinton term and ended in 2005 midway in the G.W. Bush years. Interspersed with recipes, the book is a fascinating read and a way of looking at the White House as a residence, a full time home for the First Family, and very much a home away from home for the large staff of people who keep it running.

For anyone panicked by a dinner party for eight, Scheib’s book furnishes a look at the logistics of preparing state dinners, receptions, picnics, private parties and the daily feeding of the two First Families he served.

“You are there to serve the First Family and carry out their wishes, and you leave your politics at the kitchen door,” Chef said, over a recent dinner at Geranio’s. (Foodie Alert: Chef ate duck confit salad, pasta with tuna and blackberry sorbet, drank Chardonnay). So don’t expect to read anything scandalous in this book, though a tabloid offered megabucks for him to do that. “I wonder if they have an office marked ‘Honor Purchases’”, he said.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

NUTS! and BEER (Efforts to make the World a Better Place)

"Galen" photographed by Kiyomi
Recently, while I was in Westchester County, New York I met a small group of lady entrepreneurs who own a company called Bobbysue's Nuts! Barbara Kobren, Sue Spiegal, and Deb Mehne are the optimistic leaders of this enterprising group. The unique thing about Bobbysue's Nuts! is that they started the business to help fund their passion for rescuing homeless animals. A portion of the proceeds goes towards animal rescue shelters providing care and shelter to those animals awaiting adoption. Bobbysue's Nuts! are savory (not too sweet) and organic. This product is a nice way for people who have the heart, but do not necessarily have all the resources, to help provide assistance to rescued animals.

One of the common culinary pairings is to simply serve nuts with beer. Recently President Obama chose to serve beer as an olive branch / reconciliation between himself, Officer Sergeant James Crowley, and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Time magazine recently quoted me for their article, "What kind of Beer Does the White House Serve?" You can read the article here.

Obama Photograph by REUTERS/Jason Reed