Napa Valley, Mid-Eighties

December 27, 2018

Looking for wrapping paper the other day, I came upon a small trove of old menus from St. Helena, when it was a quieter place than it is today.

The original French Laundry, under Don and Sally Schmitt, was a lovely, simple place much beloved by local winemakers. (Don was also the town mayor.) They had the best wine list: everyone around them was deeply represented.  And they served wonderful California food.

Mustard’s was another beloved local establishment.  Cindy Pawlcyn had her finger on the food pulse; she once called her place a “deluxe truckstop.” And unlike most of the old places in the Valley, Mustard’s is still going strong, still pleasing people.

Miramonte was more representative of what the tourists wanted…

And then there was Doidge’s.


Gift Guide 2018: Get The Dirt

December 23, 2018

This is the day of the year when I always suggest giving a subscription to a food publication.  In the past I’ve suggested Fool, Cherry Bombe, Sabor, and the late lamented Lucky Peach- and I still think those are all great ideas. (For the one that’s no longer around, you might buy back issues.)

But this year I’m going to suggest something a bit different.  The Dirt is a compilation of the best articles supported by the Food and Environment Reporting Network. Here’s their mission statement:

“The Food & Environment Reporting Network is the first and only independent, non-profit news organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism in the critically underreported areas of food, agriculture, and environmental health. Through partnerships with local and national mainstream media outlets, we seek to tell stories that will inspire, inform, and have lasting impact.”

It’s a much needed – institution, and the work they support is impressive.  (In the interest of full disclosure I should note that I’m on the editorial board.) Because FERN is a non-profit institution, this also means your gift is tax deductible.


Gift Guide 2018: Why Not a Book?

December 22, 2018

Too late to order by mail?  You can still support your local bookstore.  Lots of possibilities there. For an  Italian food lover, for example, you might put together a selection of regional recipe books, covering Tuscany, Rome, Puglia, Venice.  For those who are enamored of the food of the middle east there are a number of great new books on the market (there’s always Ottolenghi, and I’m especially fond of Anissa Helou’s new Feast) .

They can, of course, buy these books for themselves.  This book, however, is one that seems meant to be a gift.

I’m generally suspicious of coffee table gift books, but there’s something so appealing about Let’s Eat France!: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus hundreds of maps, charts, tricks, tips, and everything else you want to know about the food of France,  that I find myself unable to put it down.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who loves the food of France will feel the same way about this quirky compilation.  Weighing in at 6 pounds, it covers  everything from famous chefs to glassware, pasta, historical menus, writers

cheese, fruit, tripe

The book, in short, is everything a gift book should be: big, bold, unusual, fun – and not the sort of thing a person is likely to buy for herself.

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Gift Guide 2018: Snack Time

December 21, 2018

It’s getting to be very late for shipping, so now you have to be more creative.  This is the time I usually suggest that you promise your friends some fantastic fruit later in the year, when it comes into season.  I’ve suggested the fabulous pixie tangerines from Tangerine Man in Ojai, the peaches from Frog Hollow Farm, dried apricots, and even, one year, that you buy an olive tree for a friend so they can have the oil come harvest time.

This year, however, I’m going in a more frivolous direction.  How about snacks from Japan?  Bokksu sends a monthly selection of treats – some sweet, some salty – from the nation that worships snacks. Not sure I approve, but in this absurd political moment, with everything going completely crazy, a monthly box of junk from halfway across the world seems somehow appropriate. 


It’s Not too Late for Oysters

December 20, 2018

If you’re still trying to buy a Christmas tree, at least in my neck of the woods, you’re too late.  They’re gone. And if you’re trying to ship gifts, you’re running out of time. Fast.

But you can still send your friends a few dozen oysters.  Island Creek Oysters are my favorite east coast oysters, and I’ve been ordering them for years.  They harvest the oysters today, put them in the mail, and you’ll have them tomorrow.  And here’s the best part: shipping is free. (Although you have to pay for Saturday delivery; and since there are no deliveries on Christmas Eve or Christmas, time is of the essence.)

I can’t think of a better gift than 100 oysters – unless it’s 200.  Add a little caviar and the gift gets even better.

But don’t wait too long.  Even oystermen take Christmas off.

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