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May 2, 2017 7 min read

Last Thursday Night, the Stars Came Out in Honor of Jeremiah Tower

Last Thursday Night, the Stars Came Out in Honor of Jeremiah Tower
Yours truly with Jeremiah Tower and director Lydia Tenaglia. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.
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“Can we bring Denise Hale with us?” When you get an email like that from Gary Danko, that’s when you know Jeremiah Tower should be really happy at your party (especially since we were going to keep her as a surprise). Yes, his swan of Stars was going to float into our event.

Last Thursday evening, it was my great honor to host a chefs-only after-hours party and screening to welcome Jeremiah Tower back to San Francisco. While he was attending many events, screenings, interviews, and Q&As during the week for the release of his documentary, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, I wanted to throw something a little more industry and special for him. I called it The Family Screening, a continuation of the previous after-hours events I have hosted for our local chefs.

The night’s mix definitely needed to balance the old guard of SF chefs and include the ones who knew JT, worked for him (like Dominique Crenn, Jan Birnbaum, Loretta Keller, Rob Lam), were inspired by him, and those who remember having drinks at the bar at Stars (many). But I wanted some up-and-coming chefs the chance to meet him too. It was an intimate night, such a warm reunion with a lot of hugs and laughter. We were in a tiny downtown screening room, so unfortunately I couldn’t make it into a full-blown Stars reunion, with ex-servers, bartenders, and more. (Sorry, gang!)

Sadly, some chefs got stuck in service and couldn’t make it in time for our 10:45pm screening. Such is chef life. But it was a lovely surprise to be able to have an impromptu Q&A with the deeply talented director Lydia Tenaglia (co-founder of the award-winning Zero Point Zero Production) and JT at the end of the film. I think it was around 1am, but fortunately we were on Negroni time!

I couldn’t host these chef events without the ever-gracious and appreciated support of Campari America. They agreed we needed to serve cosmos and lemon drops in honor of what we all drank at Stars back in the day—’80s flashback! Rye on the Road created some updated versions for the party: the cosmo was made with SKYY (celebrating 25 years!), muddled lime, dash of Aperol and Grand Marnier, cranberry bitters, with long lime zest, and the lemon drop daisy was made with Espolòn blanco, pressed lemon, citrus, and vanilla bean oleo sacrum, shaken and topped with splash of prosecco, with a dehydrated lemon and sugar rim. (We made sure to serve everything in a rocks glass so the cocktails would fit in the theater cup holders, heh-heh.) And it wouldn’t be a chef event without Negronis. There were also some tequila shots that may have happened, but I am not responsible for those. As Jeremiah said at the end of the screening, all movies should be screened with lemon drops! Agree.

Of course there had to be Champagne! Tremendous thanks to Jordan Winery, which provided our guests a sneak peek/advance taste of the Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble. It’s a special bottling of nonvintage brut from Champagne AR Lenoble, which will be debuting on May 13th (you can attend the release party!).

It was also my great delight to hand-feed JT and Mrs. Hale a heaping spoonful of the Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar by Tsar Nicoulai, and then place the jar into his hand and tuck my mother-of-pearl spoon into JT’s pocket, which he should always have there, now that I think of it. I was also gifted a bottle to pour of 2007 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Champagne from Kim Beto of Southern Wine & Spirits (I heard “PJ fleur” was one of JT’s favorites), and he brought it into the theater to share with Denise during the film.

Howard and Kris Case of Casa de Case were huge Stars regulars and credit JT with inspiring and supporting them in their decision to follow their passion and start their Italian import company. They helped re-create the Stars hot dog that used to be served at the bar: Kris made the sauerkraut (with duck fat, white wine, and botanicals), which Howard served over 4505 Meats hot dogs (thanks, 4505—we could only have the city’s best dog at this event). There was also Grey Poupon Dijon, per the original specs.

We were going to have plenty of hungry chefs coming off service, so leave it to Casa de Case’s chef Colin Dewey to completely rock the popcorn service. It was the most gourmet theater food ever, I swear. We had Parm Pop, with 24-month Parm, oregano, and peperoncino, and Fish Pop, with colatura di alici, garlic, lemon, anchovy, chile, and bottarga grated on top. Outstanding. I want this in my life all the time.

We also had cases of cold beers from Fort Point Beer (their refreshing KSA and Villager IPA were there to greet chefs emerging from hot kitchens), and huge merci to Le Marais Bakery, which donated BOXES of cookies, madeleines, and other sweet treats, plus some breakfast viennoiserie for chefs to tuck into their gift bag for the morning. Truly, so sweet.

I want to give a very special thank-you to our other event sponsor, Poached, which really helped me pull this thing off! Couldn’t have done it without them. Their lovely team helped me at the event and also created a fun gift bag, which had some Jacobsen’s travel salt (love it), a Poached hat, and thanks again to 4505, we were able to stuff the bags with their famous chicharrones. It was like the ultimate chef to-go bag.

Huge thanks to publicist John Weaver—who, like me, had fond memories of cosmos and lemon drops at Stars—and agreed that this party needed to happen. Thank you for making it possible! Mwah.

I hope you all enjoy the photo album of the event by the one and only Eric Wolfinger. There are very few photographers who can shoot your event and say, “Almost every chef I staged with in 2004 when I was looking for a line cook job was in the house…Gary Danko, Suzette Gresham, Robbie Lewis.”

When we talked about the image look and feel, I threw out the idea of taking Polaroids there, and damn, did he rock it. I didn’t expect him to show up with just a Polaroid camera, but wow, did the images turn out great. And that’s Eric—not only did he understand the chef dynamics in the room and all the players, but he managed to capture all my favorite moments. On a Polaroid camera. He also said that he will personally send anyone who wants their original Polaroid! What a guy. You can email him here.

(To learn more about Eric, who is one of my favorite local food photographers, check out this SmugMug short film about him and his craft. You’ll also learn more about Dandelion Chocolate. It’s a fab film, and also a touching homage to how to live your life, and there’s insight into how to handle loss as well.)

A few hours prior to the event, I was able to interview Jeremiah and Lydia Tenaglia about the film, San Francisco dining, restaurant design, and more. But that’s going to take some time to wade through the recording and a separate post. So I hope you enjoy this party recap and pics for now—I’m still shaking the Parmesan and caviar out of my hair. Oh, and here’s the Spotify music mix I made, in case you’re in the mood for an ’80s (and early ’90s) party mix. (Always!)

We missed you here in San Francisco, JT, thanks for coming back. Don’t be a stranger. And everyone, see this film. Lydia has created something very insightful and unique. It’s deep.

Yours truly with Jeremiah Tower and director Lydia Tenaglia. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

Campari America cocktails (cosmos and lemon drops!) in the house! Photo: Eric Wolfinger.
Spoon feeding Jeremiah Tower Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar. Mic drop. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.
Dear friends, reunited: Jeremiah Tower and Denise Hale. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.
The best theater food ever: chef gourmet popcorn, Stars hot dogs, and Negronis! Photo: Eric Wolfinger.
The lemon drop daisy, with Espolòn blanco. Photo: ©
Chef Dominique Crenn and Jeremiah Tower. Photo: ©
Howard Case serving up the Stars-meets-4505 Meats hot dogs! Photo: ©
The antidote to a hot kitchen: Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble and Fort Point Beer. Photo: ©
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