July 8, 2008

How are all you hands-free drivin' people doing? (It seems to be quite the topic of the populus this week.) So of course we had a foggy Fourth, but this week is shaping up for full-tilt weather gorgeousness… Meow. I am thrilled to be heading to wine country for some proper heat this weekend, hitting both Napa and Sonoma. Naturally, I will share highlights (but no low-lights, ha ha) next week, and I'm currently working on a Napa jetsetter piece since many of you seemed to like the Healdsburg one. Stand by.

Sadly I am missing this year's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, but my liver and waistline are singing a chorus of thanks. So, starting next Wednesday, don't be surprised if you don't find many of your favorite bartenders behind the stick. Reason enough for me to head back up to Napa for the TASTE3 conference (July 17th–19th). Am happy to see Dan Barber of Blue Hill & Blue Hill at Stone Barns is returning, plus I'm excited to hear Ben Wallace, the author of The Billionaire's Vinegar. And yay, Ted Allen will be a session host, such a nice guy. Wanna go? Got some dough? There are still tickets left!

So, speaking of fabulous events, I have a "save the date" announcement for you: I'll be hosting the next tablehopper supper on Tuesday July 29th at the inimitable Rubicon! This event will be extra-special, not only because I adore Stuart Brioza's inspired cooking (and his fiancée Nicole Krasinski's one-of-a-kind desserts), but also because we'll be pouring some fantastic wines, including the just-launched Pillow Rd Vineyards' pinot noir, and some killer wines from Ladera Vineyards. (Can you say cabernet? I knew that you could.) Look for all the details about menu, pricing, and making reservations next week! Just mark it on your calendar for now, would love to see you there.

Last week I hosted one of my favorite and certainly most memorable meals in a long time. Now, before you wonder why you weren't invited, it's because this was the first tablehopper dinner with the CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness Through Employment in Food Service) class! For those of you who may remember, the kind folks at Bambuddha Lounge, GM Michael Shaulis and executive chef Jessica Gorin, generously offered to host the dinner when they saw I was trying to gather donations to take the class out to dinner.

Look for a full recap of this very special evening in this week's the regular—I even have a guest reviewer from the class, yay! I also posted a flickr album with a bunch of pics here. Many thanks to CleanFish, who kindly donated the Laughing Bird Shrimp and Loch Duart salmon for the dinner, plus Modesto Food Distributors Inc., who provided us with Fulton Valley Farms chicken. (Hearts to you both.)

Many, many grazie to you, dear readers, who helped raise a total of $1,673 for me to take the class out to a future dinner. Like, whoa! The checks just kept rolling in—it was the best week of mail in my life, lemme tell ya. You all blow my mind with your kindness, and I know the class and program heads are all so touched by your thoughtfulness. I am currently putting together a field trip and dining excursion for the current class, and your donations will go toward the costs to do so. Stand by for the plans on that one. I also plan to make these dinners an ongoing event for each group of new students who start a session in the program, so I plan to apply remaining funds to those dinners in the future. Thank you all for enabling me to give back to our local community in such a tangible way.

Oh, and for those who have a moment, I want to point you to this compelling video about the CHEFS organization that was presented at the recent SummerTini annual fundraiser. It helps show why this program is so dang important, and why I'm all fired up to help support it. Let's rock.

Gratefully yours,
~ Marcia