A Wolf at the Door

Time for a little Music Friday. David McDuff, whose wine geekdom is perhaps only exceeded by his music geekdom, recently recapped Meeting People is Easy, a 1999 documentary filmed during Radiohead’s sprawling worldwide tour in support of OK Computer. I don’t really go in for these types of films (really, why bother after this one?), but I do love Radiohead. David rightly points to the disconnect and alienation in Meeting People is Easy which, no matter how successfully or not it’s portrayed here, is certainly a recurring theme with Radiohead’s music, something they really tackle in Kid A and Amnesiac.

Here’s a stop-motion fan video (quite good too) that I found via At Ease Web. The song is ‘Wolf at the Door’, taken from Hail to the Thief.

And here’s a video for a more recent song, ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. More disconnect, yadda yadda, but I’m really posting this because it’s got some great San Francisco footage. Look, there’s the Pork Store! And Amoeba! Then there’s a trip to Japan to, well, attend a Radiohead concert.

Mother Mother

Via Burrito Justice*, easily one of the top local San Francisco blogs, comes Mother Mother, a rockin’ group from Vancouver. Infectious, poppy rock with solid songwriting. And did I mention harmonies? Harmonies! Sort of a New Pornographers meets the Pixies kind of thing.

Mother Mother has two albums out, and you can stream them both at the band’s website, here.

Here’s a video for “Oh My Heart”, the catchy title track of Mother Mother’s second and most recent album.

*Burrito Justice is also an excellent forum to indulge your inner map geek. Check out this post (and the subsequent ones too) about the new BART system map.

Late Night Bling, or I *Heart* SF

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(Above: I started my Friday with a michelada at Nopalito, which is Tecate mixed with tomato, chili de arbol, salt and lime. Yeah, it’s good.)

This post is going up late because I’ve been sick all week. For the record, summer colds suck. And no, I don’t use Zicam.

After gorging ourselves senseless with the Third Degree at Nopalito, we headed over to the Independent to catch Datarock, a fun, dancy band from Norway. The show was great and Datarock had the house dancing wildly for much of the set. The boys in the band got their groove on too, wearing their trademark red track suits (noticeably more blinged out than two years ago when the crew looked like they’d just come from Target).

Here’s a video for what’s probably Datarock’s most well-known song, “Fa Fa Fa”:

Still feeling jazzed after the show, we completed the circle by heading to Nopalito’s big sister, Nopa, where we thought we’d take advantage of the rockin’ cocktail program. Because a fancy rye drink is just what I need at 12.30 in the morning…

Scanning the wine list however led me to Gaston Chiquet’s 1998 Spécial Club Brut. Doing the math for two rounds of cocktails for three people suggested that the Chiquet was a splurge within reach. But really, I don’t care how good a cocktail is: When there’s good Champagne, there’s not much else. And this was pretty epic stuff, with vibrant fruit that felt savory and rich supported by profound mineral depth. Got better with air too. Drink this whenever you get the chance.

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As Peter Liem notes on ChampagneGuide.net, the Chiquets have around 40 percent chardonnay, 40 percent meunier and 20 percent pinot noir planted in the Grande Vallée de la Marne, mostly in the villages of Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Dizy and Hautvillers. Interestingly, the family uses no wood in their cellar, and a program using concrete and glass-lined tanks has been in place since the 1950s.

The Spécial Club (shown above) is bottled as part of the Club Trésors de Champagne, a group of independent grower-producers who have organized under a set of guidelines, including a distinctive bottle, to produce what is effectively a prestige cuvée for each member. At Gaston Chiquet, the Special Club bottling typically includes 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent pinot noir. To learn more about grower-producers like Gaston Chiquet, or most any producer of interest in Champagne, I highly recommend a subscription to ChampagneGuide.net.

Another Datarock song, “Computer Camp Love”:

It’s Good to be Home

Spent this past Saturday — a gloriously sunny afternoon — in Dolores Park enjoying a picnic and a bottle of 1990 Savennières-Roche aux Moines from Domaine aux Moines while playing cards and getting the first sunburn of the year. Lovely wine, although feeling a little soft and worn at the edges, so drink up.

It’s good to be home.

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Above: Picnic treats found at Bi-Rite Market on 18th St., the perfect place to stock up for a long afternoon in a surprisingly uncrowded Dolores Park. (Wine came from my stash.)

If you don’t know this most San Francisco of parks, check out this humorous profile.

Below: Aside from a lively people scene, Dolores Park is notable for the incredible view.

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Building Community

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Above: The new tools of the trade?

One of my favorite aspects about the wine, specialty cocktail and food business is that it builds communities, from casual tasting groups to communal neighborhood gardens. And this is one reason tools like blogging, twitter, Chowhound and (gasp) even Yelp are so well-suited to the food and wine world, or at least to the people who get excited about those worlds. These are the tools that easily bring people together to form new (and hopefully lasting) communities.

A great recent example of creating a food or booze-centric community is San Francisco Cocktail Week, which just wrapped up the other night. I didn’t participate much this year because of deadline pressures, but the event was a success and I’ve heard from many people that this year’s was the best yet. I bring up SF Cocktail Week because in my opinion one of the main reasons San Francisco’s cocktail scene has evolved the way it has is because of the strong community ties among bartenders in this town. As local booze scribe Camper English puts it in his excellent essay, SF Cocktails: A Recent History, published on the SF Cocktail Week website:

What helps San Francisco bartenders stay current and at the top of their game is the fact that most of the top bartenders are members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, visit each others’ venues, share information, value education, and collaborate on projects. We may see a flavor trend (yuzu, smoke) show up in a variety of bars, as we also see techniques (shrubs, fat washing) used across various types of ingredients. Good ideas don’t last long at a single venue in San Francisco- they spread rather quickly.

Recently I was invited to be on a podcast produced by Richie Nakano, aka linecook415. Richie and his friend and fellow cook Corey Nead (and their friend Amy) record an informative, fun and sometimes raucous podcast mostly about food, always about life in food, and sometimes about crocs. The three are all cooks at Nopa, one of San Francisco’s most popular and successful restaurants. I like the podcast – and Richie’s blog – because it’s not only a glimpse into the food community, it’s an invitation to join in the discussion.

I met Richie through blogging but the idea of doing this podcast came about via conversations on twitter between ourselves and Kevin Kelley of the Natural Process Alliance. And before Kevin or I could say ‘natural yeast’, we were sitting in Richie’s kitchen in front of a microphone talking wine, organics, natural wine and the aforementioned crocs. We covered other topics too, but you can listen for those yourselves. It’s a fairly long (and somewhat rambling) recording, so sit back and pour yourself something nice before digging in.

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Above: Action shots!

Click here to listen or download the podcast.

Ramp fever, or some recent blog posts of note

Since we on the West Coast don’t really have ramps, I’ve satisfied my spring ramp fever reading my friend Jonathan Meyer’s delightful food blog, i8ny. After reading his post about making ramp butter, I might just have to smuggle a frozen stick back with me the next time I’m in New York.

And then David McDuff, one of Philly’s resident wine gurus, has a post and recipe up to make pickled ramps. Yum. David has also been consulting with me over buying a new bicycle to replace the one I had stolen recently from my garage. We both agree that it is, in fact, easier to buy Barolo or Burgundy than it is to get a new bike.

*Starting at the end of this week I’ll be traveling to Israel for a friend’s wedding and then New York for Wine & Spirits, so it will be quiet around here. You can always check in with me on twitter.

SF Street Food Meets Terroir

Or, Terroir, welcome to SF street food.

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(Above: An empty taco truck lacking signage is parked in front of Chez Spencer)

Via Inside Scoop, one of the bestest, greatest things ever in the San Francisco Chronicle: Looks like plans are in the works for a Chez Spencer taco truck, erm, make that a frog truck, to park itself across the street from Terroir. Which makes sense; after all, two of Terroir’s owners used to work there.

Within a week or two, look for the Spencer on the Go truck across the street from Terroir Natural Wine Merchant & Bar (1116 Folsom St., at Langton) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when visitors can take their plates of skate braised with capers ($8) and frog’s legs with curry ($9) inside the wine bar and order a glass. Katgely aims to keep all prices less than $12 and rotate the menu often.

(Go here for the whole thing)

Exciting news, and just in time for summer too. Sigh, there go my dreams of fitting into my vintage swimsuit…

*Note: If you don’t know Terroir, check out this article I wrote last year for the Chronicle.

(Thanks to Rob for the tip)