June 3, 2008

The weekend weather was completely bipolar, no? Fortunately it didn’t mess up one of my favorite days of the year, the Wine Country Classic Historic Car Races at the Infineon Raceway—can you imagine 350 historic racecars, some dating as far back as 1915, all racing on the track? Fabulous. My dad and I go each year, and we were happy to finish the day with pizza for dinner at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, my third delish pizza of the week. What a gorgeous wood-fired margherita, earning nothing but grins from me and pop.

The other winning pizzas last week included the rustica at Poggio (an inspired combo of thick slices of smoky speck, red onion, and peppery arugula), and let’s not forget the gricia pizza, a riff on a Roman pasta dish, scarfed down during a lunch at Pizzeria Delfina: it included a delightfully salty-meets-creamy combo of guanciale, spring onion, cream (!), and the kick of some chili (Calabrian?). In a word: in-freaking-credible. And I’ll be riding my bike everywhere this week, thankyouverymuch.

I pinch myself (for luck, and to make fun of my waistline) each week for the bounty of wonderful food (and the people who make it) in my life. This became especially poignant to me last week when I was a guest speaker at the CHEFS program, Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service, a culinary program through Episcopal Community Services that places homeless adults in gainful employment within the food industry. Here’s more about the program: “Hundreds of CHEFS graduates work in restaurants, hotels, and nursing homes. Today more than 85 percent of CHEFS graduates acquire jobs, which is a tremendous rate given the complex challenges associated with chronic homelessness that many face.”

I was a guest for their daily homemade lunch, and was invited to speak (for three hours!) about my work as a food writer. I covered all kinds of topics, from what eating sustainably and locally means to how to describe food (the students play food critic and analyze their meals each day), and answered a slew of questions from the group, from what’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever eaten (real Kobe beef) to how do I analyze food I don’t know well (I try to dine with experts in other cuisines). The 30 or so students were amazing and engaging—their interest and enthusiasm was so impressive, and I noticed a big interest in my experience with “exotic” foods.

To continue their culinary journey, and to expose them to a cuisine style they might not know very well, I had an idea: I want to take the current CHEFS class out to dinner! But to do this, I need your help, dear readers. I’m hoping some of you would be willing to help and donate some money, it could even be just a few bucks, anything at all would be a huge help. Based on the amount we collect, I’ll then see how many students I can take out, and where! I’m thinking an early family-style dinner at Poleng Lounge where we can order some off-the-menu funky and delicious dishes, or perhaps Bodega Bistro for some Vietnamese… A lot of the students are on very limited budgets (like the Care Not Cash program), so an outing to a sit-down restaurant would be so special to them.

Thanks so much for considering a donation—I was really touched by my experience with the students and want to do something fun and educational for them. You can donate via PayPal—just click the donate button below, or send money via this email: [marcia at marciag dot com]. I want to avoid the transaction fees if we donate to my business account. Since PayPal charges an evil fee per transaction after I reach $500 (here’s hoping?!), personal checks are also very welcome: just hit reply and I can provide you with a mailing address. Sorry I don’t have this set up for tax deductions—this is literally a spontaneous idea and therefore a bit “fly by night.” (Next time.)

Thanks so much, gang! Of course I’ll keep you posted, and will do a big recap about the excursion, I can’t wait. Also, be sure to take a look in this week’s socialite for an annual fundraiser event for the CHEFS organization, SummerTini, another great way to provide assistance to this wonderful organization.

One small tech issue: it seems the tablehopper promotion code for the 10% discount for the Pinot Days event wasn’t working last week, but now it’s fixed, sorry! Click here to reread all about the event.

Remember last week when I said I’d have a review this week? I guess I lied—without meaning to, of course. This issue got too huge, eep, so I decided to cut it. Next week: less news and events, and a big honkin’ write-up instead. Oh, and I can’t sign off without tipping my hat to Yves St. Laurent, who sadly passed this week. His contribution to defining what is style, and elegance, is simply immeasurable.

~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia)