Eat + Drink
Anyway, the point of this post is to say that mezcal had earned a bad reputation as rotgut stuff that will make you hallucinate, which is nothing but hooey. The fact is that ever since one company started marketing mezcal with a little worm in the bottom of the bottle, the quality and expectations for the brand have gone way downhill. While tequila ascended, mezcal descended—mostly because of marketing.
The bar at Colibri
Most people think of tequila as a shot or an ingredient that gives a margarita its kick, but it’s actually unique in the spirits world. While it's distilled just as vodka or whisky, the fact that it comes from a plant (instead of grain) that has to ripen gives it qualities that are wine-like. That’s what make it one of the most complex and diverse spirits on the planet.
I spent Saturday involved in very un-French pursuits—no petanque, profiteroles or pommes frites for me, unfortunately. Years ago, when I was working at a cooking school in France (an experience that was in equal parts miserable and glorious) we celebrated Bastille Day by producing 1,000 gougeres (cheese puffs) and 1,000 palmiers (elephant ear pastries fashioned from puff pastry that we made from scratch) for the celebration in the town square. By the end of it I was so tired and so sick of pastry that I didn’t even attend the party.
The gorgeous granola at La Boulangerie
Self-described “wine geek” Jamie Kutch left a career as a stock trader in 2005 to pursue his dream. Four years later, his Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs are on the menu at Gary Danko, French Laundry and Michael Mina.
Kutch’s success story combines destiny, determination and luck in the form of love. Growing up on Long Island, Kutch was always into hobbies: first tap dancing, then magic, then DJing. But success was first found on Wall Street, where he worked as a NASDAQ trader while cultivating his latest passion, wine. “I was closely following the progress of Pinot online, and when wine consumption in America surpassed beer around 2004, I decided to go for it,” says Kutch.
Photography by John Lee.
Chef James Syhabout’s timing is spot-on. Just as the recession has people questioning fine-dining, he’s redefined it with Commis, his tiny three-month-old restaurant set in his native Oakland. Commis’ food is four-star exquisite, but the prix-fixe menu stops at three courses. There are neither tablecloths nor pretensions. The open kitchen’s counter allows patrons to sit within feet of Syhabout and his small team, as they meticulously prepare California-fresh dishes that are rooted in classic technique, such as smoked sardines with green-tomato confit in rhubarb juice, or roasted chicken paired with porcinis emulsified with foie gras.
Man cannot live on coffee alone, even if that man is James Freeman. What else gets him going? Pizza, an obsession he shares with his four-year-old son and frequent dining companion, Dashiell.
We’d heard that Jamie Lauren—the tattooed New York-born chef of Absinthe and former Top Chef contestant—has an obsession with shoes, but we had no idea that she is also really obsessed with hot dogs.