January 20, 2009

Wow, the alfresco living just continues… Who would have thought that on Friday night I was going to be sitting on the outside patio at Chez Papa Resto for dinner, without a jacket or heat lamps? Downright balmy at 8pm. Seems a fair number of Dine About Town-ers were enjoying the patio with me—and it was cool to see Mint Plaza in effect.

Saturday I went to a party celebrating the launch of Culture magazine, a new rag about cheese (and you thought it was going to be about opera). Cowgirl Creamery hosted the dairy-laden event, which was full of cheese heads, like Clark Wolf and Laura Werlin. I was especially taken with the Délice de la Vallée goat and cow’s milk cheese from Sheana Davis, and the “untitled” number from Tumalo Farms in Oregon.

Later that evening, I was invited to a dinner at Acquerello hosted by and using ingredients from the Association of Organic and Biodynamic Producers of Emilia-Romagna for the BioBenessere project. Standout products were the wines from Venturini Baldini (especially the Rubino del Cerro, a blend of lambrusco with bonarda), the organic acacia and chestnut honeys from Alce Nero, vanilla ice cream topped with an extra-vecchio aged balsamic (my new favorite dessert), and of course Acquerello’s classic budino was dreamy. Lucky me, I also scored some premium pasta by Alce Nero and a jar of tomato passata—let’s just say my dinner Monday night of mezze maniche pasta rocked the house.

All of these tastings were merely a sideshow to Sunday, an absolute doozy: day one of the Fancy Food Show. Just think: thousands of exhibitors from around the world showcasing their products. You end up with flavor ADD—one minute you’re tasting pineapple curry, and the next, latkes, or seafood from Australia. I have outlined some of my favorites in the chatterbox, and you can see the entire list o’ things that caught my fancy (har) in this flickr album I set up. All I can say is I’m grateful I tried to keep focused on my criteria (new, exotic, unfamiliar, unique, and of course delicious items) because it’s one heck of an overwhelming array of things to plow through and taste, and I only had one day to do it. I definitely lived up to my tablehoppin' name.

Yo, it’s giveaway time! Thanks to everyone who entered last week; I listed all of your wine country favorites in the chatterbox below. This week’s giveaway is a pair of tickets to Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Wine and Wishes Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting Event on Treasure Island on Saturday February 7th (you can read all about it in the socialite). I am giving away one pair of tickets to a lucky reader. To enter to win, please forward this week’s tablehopper newsletter to a minimum of three buddies, but even more would be so very fabulous. Just tell your friends why they would dig a subscription to the tablehopper e-column (if you call it a blog, you are disqualified, I wish I was kidding!), and CC or BCC luckyme@tablehopper.com so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. Deadline to enter is midnight this Friday January 23rd; I will notify the winner over the weekend!

I have some guest columnists this week in the wino and the hardhat; since this issue got astronomically long, I bailed on writing a review this week. Oh, and some of you get cranky when I mention anything political, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say I have an enormous grin on my face today, and I know I’m not alone.

Best wishes to you all!