I am NOT a food blogger!

I recently have had the unfortunate experience of seeing quite a few food bloggers on television. This is not a good thing because if they are any indication of what food bloggers are like, I am not a food blogger. Most of them seem to have no luck with the opposite sex, can’t cook and the food they write about while tasty, has them all on high blood pressure and cholesterol meds.

This is not what I am. I love food, I write about food some times, but I don’t write about food I’ve bought at a restaurant all the time, I write about food I cook. Yes, I may have a couple extra pounds on me, but seeing as I’m getting closer to 50 that’s not so unusual and I know people in their 30’s who have more of themselves to love than me.

I grew up in the kitchen. I have a picture of myself at about 3 with an apron on standing on a chair washing dishes in the sink. This is probably because that’s where you always start out — as a dishwasher. I remember around 7 I got to move up helping my Mom mix cookie dough and bake the cookies and at 10 I was helping out my Dad at the BBQ. My family is from an Italian and German background, mostly Italian so it’s always about the food. While I’m a city boy we always spent the summers up in the Sierra foothills in what most city people would call a “red-neck” town. All the guys got a gun for their 16th birthday and you could sit out on the porch in the evening and watch the raccoons, skunks and deer walk right past your house. One of the things I learned from this was an appreciation of nature and vegetables. We used to drive out to Joe Malfino’s farm and get about 10-20 pounds of Italian red onions that his father brought the seeds over from Italy when he came here. Nothing is as sweet as one of those onions and my Dad used to show off to my friends when we’d get back my cutting an onion and having them taste it raw. When we’d be driving home we’d always stop at a place called Sloughouse that had the sweetest yellow corn you could ever imagine. When we’d get back home my Dad and I would plant radishes, carrots and swiss chard out in our foggy back yard which was kind of a way of bringing country life to the city.

I learned a lot from those times growing up. I was a city boy for most of the year, but in the summer I’d have to be a country boy picking the walnuts, figs and apples off the trees at my Aunts house or maybe we’d go over to a cousin’s place were we would be wrestling with the pigs and milking the cows and picking the freshly laid eggs from the hen house. For most of the people that was work, for me it was fun because I got to do something my friends in the city never got to. I remember my Aunt’s friends coming by and dropping off boxes of peaches and other fruits that were maybe off the tree for a couple hours at most.

Now I’m carrying on the tradition by cooking like I learned from my family and adding my own side to things. I’m moving out of the Italian/German comfort zone and playing around with South American, Indian, African dishes just to see what new I can come up with. I’ve wanted to be a chef many times, but some of my acquaintances such as Bruce Hill and Joe Zelinsky have said, “You work long hours, with no overtime and you barely make above minimum wage.” I think I’ll have to pass then, because I want to be able to buy the food I cook at home.

Tsar Nicoulai Caviar

cafe_aug09newOK, I’m getting a bit foodie again, but this place came to mind tonight after watching an episode of Chef Daniel Boloud’s After Hours. In the show he brought a chef he would be cooking with that night some of his own name brand caviar. Now for me growing up, fish eggs were something you used as bait when fishing, mainly salmon roe. Then one day a woman walked in to the printer I was working for who needed some folding done of some cards they were sending out. She was from the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar company that was next door. We did the job and when it was finished and I delivered it within an hour she was so happy she gave me some black truffled infused osetra caviar and smoked sturgeon. It was about a 2oz jar which for caviar is pretty sizeable and I had learned that this company which has farms up by Russian River uses sustainable farming techniques. This is due to a ban on importation of Caspian and Black Sea caviar due to the fact that the sturgeon are on the endangered species list from being over farmed.

Fish eggs? hmmmm. I wasn’t sure what to think about eating fish eggs, but I had just received something people who usually make about 3 times what I was making usually get to eat. So i figured I’d do it up right and bought a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka and went home and put it in the freezer. Aside from smoked salmon, I don’t tend to like smoked fish so I gave the smoked sturgeon to my mother who said it was really good. By now the vodka was properly chilled and we broke out the blinis and creme fraice. He both looked at each other with a “you go first” kind of look. We both threw them back and began to taste them. Suddenly, I understood the “nutty, briney earthiness of this caviar. The earthiness was most like from the black truffle infusion which usually means it tastes like dirt, but still it was pretty good. I was really surprised I would actually enjoy this, but it was really good.

Apparently, it’s so good that there are top named restaurants around the US who are purchasing their caviar from them. Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and Rick Moonen to name a few. What they’re doing they’re apparently doing right and getting lots of acclaim for it. They have a café at the Ferry Building where you can have tastings paired with sparkling wines that will run you from $42-$102. Not cheap, but it’s definitely worth a try. They also have a wide range of sandwiches and salads that incorporate their caviar and smoked fish as well. I have to tell you that their smoked salmon is incredible and they don’t focus just on sturgeon caviar, but have other less expensive versions from paddlefish and whitefish that  have a great taste as well. If you have the time and little extra money and want to feel a bit like James Bond, check these guys out.