Thursday, August 27, 2009

bachelorette party

This is what I look like when I'm surprised!

Am I really a bachelorette?

A Champagne Shower in my honor! Oh yeah, I was definitely showered in Champagne!

It all took place at my friend Jill's condo at the Four Seasons. Mariangela and Jill planned a fantastic party. Mariangela certainly is the party queen! Bottles of Champagne, a table of delicious food, 15 very happy best women friends, two of my future stepdaughters and one very happy Joanne! In the first ten minutes, my face started cramping from smiling so much.

A glass of Billecart Salmon Champagne was the first thing placed in my hand. Then the food... I can still taste the eggplant dip and the dahl loaded with sweet carrots. (Remond me, I've gotta get that recipe!) Loved the delicious Sweet 100 cherry tomato flatbread from Farina and Kraemer made endive with smoked trout from one of my books! I recall eating a few slices of salumi from a huge platter. I remember Lucques olives and marcona almonds but honestly, the rest is a blurr! It felt like I walked in the door, blinked and the party was over. I guess that's what happens when you're surrounded by so much friendship, love and celebration!

Did I tell you that Joe joined us in the end and we all danced into the night?!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 days to go

You wonder where I've been this week? Pre-occupied and kind of ... How should I say it? Nervous!?

People have been asking me for months if I'm nervous. "Are you nervous?" "Are you nervous?" they'd say. I'd roll my eyes and say to myself, what do I have to be nervous about? Then last night it hit me. In just a few days I'M GETTING MARRIED. Ten days to go! YUP, I'm nervous!

So if I'm a little bit more absent (and absent-minded), I've got a good excuse! Right now I'm doing all the last minute stuff before the big day. So hang in there, more details to follow. I promise to write as soon as I have a minute. And yes, I will post a picture of the dress!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

julia child

Linda took me to see "Julie and Julia" last night as a belated birthday gift. I loved every minute and even snapped this photo of Meryl with my iPhone.

It made me think of years ago when I joined IACP and went to my first conference alone. I planned all of my outfits, packed them into my suitcase and off I went. I knew only a handful of people in the food business at that point and I was excited and scared all at the same time. When I saw Jacques Pepin (now a friend) and Julia Child for the first time, I nearly fainted.

All by myself, I remember walking into the very first luncheon that first day of the conference. The room was packed with people. I searched the room for someone I might know but couldn't find a soul. Terror!!! "Get ahold of yourself! You can do it!" I said to myself as I sat in one of the unoccupied chairs at a table with a bunch of complete strangers. They all seemed so important and I was just a young cooking teacher from San Francisco.

Suddenly behind me, there was a very familiar voice, "Is this chair taken?' As I turned around, it was Julia and she was talking to ME! "No," I said, trying to act calm as I swallowed wrong and almost choked on dried-out conference-chicken! "And how are you?" she said as she sat down. We introduced ourselves (like she needed an introduction!) and talked as we ate. I'd grown up in Northampton, Massachusetts which is where she went to college, and my mother cooked for years with her college roommate and dear friend, Charlotte Turgeon, so we had much to talk about. But I hardly ate a thing!

The next day I saw Julia again in the hallway. I smiled at her and said, Hi Julia, how are you?" thinking she'd never remember me. She said "No Joanne, how are YOU?"

I loved how Julia had a wonderful knack for always giving more than she would ever take!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

farmer's market class and panzanella recipe

Sunny , bright Saturday morning! Perfect kind of farmer's market day. Bags in hand and Bruce, my assistant, in tow, we scoured the market for the makings of panzanella, the Tuscan bread salad so prevalent in summer.

They never throw anything away in Italy and stale bread is no exception. I had a bunch of it leftover from a cooking class I did a few weeks ago so I brought it along. This was my day for "Shop with the Chef," the annual cooking class I donate to CUESA in support of the farmer's market.

We bought ripe, red dry-farm Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Gril Farms, Armenian cucumbers and really aromatic basil from Madison Farms. Bruce had some homemade vinegar from his Paso Robles Cabernet grapes and we bought a nice bottle of Marsala extra virgin olive oil from Sciabica.

We didn't need much else besides some good hungry, eager shoppers/students who flocked at 11:00 AM!


1/2 pound rustic coarse-textured stale bread
6 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 /2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with 1 cup water and let sit 1 minute. Carefully squeeze the bread until dry. Tear the bread into rough 1-inch shapes and let rest on paper towels for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Tear the basil and add to the vegetables. Add the bread and toss carefully.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables and bread and let it rest in the refrigerator 1 hour. Place on a platter and serve.

Serves 6

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Last week, I did four charity and tequila events and by end of the week I was pretty burned out. I thought I'd do my demo with Gary at Williams Sonoma in Union Square on Friday afternoon and that would be it! But after going to the Opening Reception of SF Chefs. Food. Wine Thursday night, I was hooked, it was the hottest ticket in town. Not only the hottest ticket for the weekend, maybe the year!

Saturday night's Urban BBQ was a very cool event. The event was simmering with heat and great food. We sipped cocktails by the likes of all my bartending favorites,- H, Joel, Marco, Dominic, Neyah and Reza and danced to the sounds of music by my buddy, Joey Altman, and the Back Burner Blues Band. Towards the end of the night, Hubert Keller put a spin on things as he DJ-ed. Chantal danced wildly to his techno beat.

The after party at Victor's was wall-to-wall industry. More dancing to the sounds of DJ Dukes. Loved burning off the chocolate calories late into the night! Almost felt like NY!

And by Sunday, I was back again... This time, the Grand Tasting tent. Grand, alright! It was worth going just to see how Union Square was transformed into the ultimate tasting room. Mary Edwards, yummmm, couldn't miss Navarro, Fred Peterson had a great zinfandel, Hall, Gargiulo, Farella-Park's Sauvignon and Flower's Pinot Noir. I hung out with Zardo and couldn't get enough of anything with the word Pisoni or Lucia on the label. And the food... sweet pea gaspacho by Joseph Humphrey. Reminded me exactly of a pea gazpacho I blogged months ago. Really liked the Palio D'Asti meatballs, kinda like what Gramma would make if mine was Italian, Graig Stoll's pappa al pomodoro, Hayes Street Grill's crab crostini with lightly-pickled vegetables and I loved Sean O'Toole of Bardessono's crostini with sweet summer melon, jamon Iberico, lemon thyme, piment d'Espelette, lemon zest and a drizzle of the most delicious Caselvetrano extra virgin olive oil. And isn't blogger, Amy Sherman, the best?

You simply cannot miss this event next year!

Friday, August 7, 2009

don't miss this weekend

I went to the Opening Night Reception last night for the SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Don't miss this "first" in San Francisco. It was the most fun event I've been to in a long, long time. Honestly I can still taste the "corn dog" made by Richard Corbo, rising star, soon to open Pizzeria Zanna Bianca. Great wines!!! Cocktails by bar stars Marco Dionysos, Dominic Vemegas, Thad Volgler, Neyah White and many more. It was the place to see and be seen! All the Kellers were there, Thomas and Hubert, Tyler Florence, Jamie Lauren, so many more. Every food and wine writer. This event is dubbed as featuring the best in San Francisco and if you miss it, honestly, it's your loss!

I have to run.... I am doing a book signing in the Grand Tent in a few minutes and then an heirloom demo with my best chef pal, Gary Danko, at 3:30 at Williams Sonoma Flagship Store on Union Square. Rumor has it, we were the first to sell out. I guess we've got a lot of tomato lovers out there. Garrison Keillor said that when you no longer care about fresh tomatoes and sweet corn, death is near!