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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Le "making" of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie: the hungry blogger


Have you seen it yet? Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie covered food blogging and bloggers this week. Perhaps you're here because of the show, in which case, welcome. Besides me, the show also featured Mark of Sticky Rice in Hanoi, Josh of Cha Xiu Bao in Hong Kong, and my dear friend David Lebovitz in Paris.

I must say I wasn't so sure how it would all turn out. I had fun filming the show, but frankly it's my first time doing something like this, and I was more than a bit nervous. It, happily, turned out great. As Louisa said, my crew was fantastic and everything went smoothly despite the newbie me.

I love that the show portrayed us food bloggers as passionate food lovers who have a story to tell, rather than a gang of snarky, vindictive, camera-toting weirdos hell bent on messing up the livelihood of honest, hard-working restaurateurs. Of course we don't always have good stories to tell, to be a foodie is to have a discriminating taste, after all. What some of the blog critics have often forgotten, and my friend David Lebovitz stated quite eloquently on the show, we write from a personal point of view. We tell our stories, talking about our experience with a meal, a recipe, or our sometimes exciting and sometimes mundane lives.

Blogging is about sharing, and it proves to be interesting to hundred of thousand of readers each day, not on my blog alone but the entire food blogosphere. We love food and we love sharing it, and through the blogs you can go scouring the "gutters" of Vietnam with Mark on a search for the ultimate bowl of Pho, or follow Josh on his quest to eat a diseased crab, a delicacy of sort in the summer months of Hong Kong, and eat your heart out in the sweet city of Paris with my even sweeter friend David.


As for my bit on the show, we taped it last summer, on an unusually warm and fog-free summer day in San Francisco. Dianne Schutz, the producer, the camera man Brett Albright and I ran around San Francisco and Oakland picking up the best local artisanal products to put together a basket for the ultimate foodie. You saw me assembling the basket at the end of my segment there, but it wasn't explained why I was doing it. Now you know.

It wasn't easy deciding what to put in there, especially since the ultimate foodie I had in mind was Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet and the hostess with the mostess of the show. The Bay Area is full of delicious things, yes, but when you're sending a basket to a foodie who has tried everything, you've got to think about it a bit, no?


We began the day at the Ferry Plaza farmers market, doing my rounds shopping and saying hello to friends. The one product I wanted for my basket here was heirloom beans from my friend Steve Sando at Rancho Gordo (and he blogs too!). I had not been a lover a beans until Steve showed me the way. Now it's my turn to help him spread the words. The beans from Rancho Gordo are new world variety, many of which are on the verge of extinction until Steve began growing and selling them. If you haven't tried it yet –and you might just be the last person in foodiedom- do try, you'll be amazed at how tasty beans can be.


Our next stop was at my friend Jing Tiao of Le Sanctuaire. Jing is the go-to guy for all kinds of fancy chefs in search of the best of everything edible, from the best olive oil or the best salt to the best chemicals to do the whatnots all the avant-garde chefs are doing these days. But the very best Jing has to offer was what I was looking for that day, his exquisite spices. Jing carries just about every spice known to mankind, from the rare long pepper to the even more rare green Sichuan Peppercorn. We put together a selection of peppers and off we went on to the next stop.



Crossing the Bay Bridge over to Oakland, we went to visit my friend James at Blue Bottle Coffee Company. Jame's coffee is what I wake up with every morning, that's the best endorsement I could give to a product. You might have seen James gracing the pages of the New York Times recently, in the article about the $20K coffee machine, the Hario Syphon Coffee Maker that he imported from Japan to his new café at the Mint Plaza in San Francisco. He was still experimenting with the machine back then, and made us a beautiful cup of Jasmine Estate coffee from it. It really was an amazing cup, and I'm not usually a black coffee kind of girl.


Our next stop at St.George Spirits somehow ended up on the cutting-room floor. They make the fabulous Hangar One vodka, you see, so it must have been my incoherent babbling while, ahem, tasting the vodka. That must have been it. Anyway, if you can only imagine vodka as inoffensive, light tasting alcohol, you've got to try to stuff they make there. Hangar One vodka is made from fragrant Viognier grapes grown right here in the Bay Area. You can really taste the difference. They also make fantastic fruit-sented vodka, like the heady Buddha Hand Citron, and the sweet-scented Mandarin. If you're visiting the Bay Area, you should definitely make a stop at the super cool Hangar One tasting room, in one of the decommissioned airplane hangars (hence the name) right under the shadow of the Bay Bridge on the Oakland side. You'll love it, I promise. Just don't plan on operating heavy machinery (or being filmed) afterwards...


The final stop of the day was at June Taylor's workshop, the Still Room, to watch June make some of her magical jams. June's products are very unusual. They are not too sweet and softer on the palate than commercial jams. This is because she uses very little sugar and relies on natural pectin from citrus peels, so you can actually taste the true flavor of the fruits. I've often talked about her products on my blog, but that was the first time I saw her in action and it was a lot of fun.


You wouldn't think visiting a few artisan food producers around town would be exhausting, would you? But let me tell you, I was entirely spent at the end of that day. I'm glad they didn't show me talking while putting the basket together, frankly I wasn't so sure what language I was babbling in by then.

If you missed the show, you'll just have to wait until the end of the season when they'll be put on iTunes and on the website. Meanwhile, you can watch the entire season one online. Happy viewing!

Click here for more of the photos I took from that day.


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