Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

“Twog” This…Part 2 August 30, 2010

This is where all the good cheese comes from...


Travel Blog, Part 2 – San Francisco/Bay Area – August 2010

More Tweets from my summer travels that I never Tweeted.

(…continued from Part 1)

*Ah, Chez Panisse….what can I say….lots of history here.  Very unassuming, copper, warm wood, an actual fire, everyone from kitchen to floor focused on welcoming you.

*We order most of the menu: start with bellwether ricotta salad with perfectly cooked romano beans and a carpaccio of  both halibut and wild salmon with lots of lemon zest; wolfe quail with heirloom beans; sf bay squid, grilled, with purslane and padrones, green olive gremolata of sorts tucked in there; side of anchovies with olive oil.

*I make a note to ask Hans to grow both purslane and padrones for me. Stacey had a good run on padrones last year.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what these 2 growers can grow for me (when I get back to H-town, Stacey tells me the story of the stolen padrones this summer…yet another devastation for Stacey – you remember the chicken incident?)

*for dessert: the fruit tart (nectarine) and the chocolate sundae (Lili just wanted the ice cream, but we want the caramel and toffee).

*Lili is still processing the experience at Chez Panisse.  She had the pizza and ate it all.  I keep reminding her that this is Alice Waters’ restaurant and she is the Mother of American cooking.  She asks if Alice was “the girl” who made her pizza

*The other day, I told Lili she was a perfect kid and she stomped off saying people aren’t perfect; I said she was a perfect kid meaning she wasn’t perfect but perfect the way a kid should be.

*At Chez Panisse, she tugs my arm down to get my ear and whispers that, when we get back, I should tell people in my class that “people aren’t perfect but food can be perfect.”  I think Alice will like this comment.

*We have plans to hear Alice speak at Toby’s Feed Barn on Saturday night; we’re all excited, but Lili is wary.  “Is this the girl who made my pizza?” she asks again.

*After Chez Panisse we drive to Oakland to check out Camino.  It was my favorite eating experience last time (created by two Alice Waters’ alums, but who isn’t out here?).  All the food on the menu comes out of a wood-fired brick oven or the fireplace.  It’s really simple food and also has the only sustainable bar in the country.

*The next day for dinner (back at the bay house), I sauté the mixed mushrooms from the Ferry Plaza and toss them with some tagliatelli, McEvoy olive oil, parsley and garlic.

*Tonight is our Alice Water’s experience in the barn.  The series is called Food For Thought and has had such speakers as Michael Pollan.  Big people thinking about food, then writing about food and now talking about both in a barn.

*Lili is fussing about going to a lecture and doesn’t care anymore that Alice is the girl who made her pizza…after all, that was days  ago! Then she sees the hay bales and says she wants to go up to the top.  (This is hilarious because on all the hikes she couldn’t stand the smell of freshly mown hay and now she wants to be in & on them.)

*So we head to the top bales. Lisa and I have our Green Kitchen books ready to sign.

*My friend Davia shows up first.  She is one half of the Kitchen Sisters (they have a show that airs on NPR).  The last time I saw her was in Austin when she was on her cookbook tour.

*The stage is set with two Japanese-California style outdoor chairs, a chest, beautiful flowers.  There are probably 200 people in the barn.  Toby’s Feed Barn hosts one of the top 10 farmer’s markets in the country on Saturday mornings (it also has yoga classes, a café and lots of hardware and feed).

View from the top of the hay bales...



“Twog” This…Part One August 21, 2010


Travel Blog, Part 1 – San Francisco/Bay Area – August 2010

I was supposed to Tweet during my vacation but, because I prefer to eat life instead of tweet life, I saved all my tweets and decided to blog them instead.  Call it “twogging.” That’s kind of like my other new favorite word:  “GLOCAL” ( going local ).

*We land in SFO and hit Ferry Plaza Seafood.  Had a Deluxe Seafood Platter — the best Fanny Bays and Little Skookums I’ve had…ever.  Also, boiled shrimp and mussels with salted caper butter and Acme bread.

seafood platter

* I also had a flight of white wines starting with a Muscatel, then a Reisling and a French something…who knows now

*That was all a preamble for our 1:30 lunch reservation at Slanted Door.

*We’re sussing out the ferry plaza stores for our provisions to bring to the bay house.  We check out Boulette’s Larder and get yelled out by one of the owners — that’s always fun.  We take some pictures and promise to only use them as our own personal porn

*We buy a mixed carton of wonderful mushrooms….all local

local mushrooms

more mushrooms



Red Necks and Wilting Lilies: My Visit to The White House July 19, 2010

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything but this one will get us back on track.  I’ve got more Green Plum Cooking School blog posts coming very soon.  Thanks for being patient!  MP

Gracie Cavnar & me at The White House

When people ask me what it was like to be invited to the White House by Michelle Obama, I tell them, “It was HOT!”  I do mean that figuratively, but mostly literally.

It all started with a call from Vermont.  Gracie Cavnar, founder and director of Recipe for Success, calls me from Vermont to laughingly chide me, “I invited you to the White House and I want to know why you haven’t responded!”  Truth be told, I’ve been so busy I missed that email.  Gracie tells me that Michelle Obama is launching Chefs Move to Schools, the second part of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity; the event is in less than a week on the South Lawn of the White House and the First Lady wants 1,000 chefs from all across the country to show up in answer to her call to action.  She knows that a group of chefs is a powerful thing, and not just because we all wear white jackets.

I have been working with Gracie and Recipe for Success since its inception over four years ago.  The Recipe for Success Foundation’s mission is to combat childhood obesity through dynamic, interactive programs that bring chefs and gardens into schools.  The way I see it, we’re not just fighting obesity, we are also fighting hunger – the kids I teach are starving for real food with real nutrition.  Recipe for Success reaches 3,500 kids in Houston each month, all 4th graders, and changes their relationship to food by connecting them to the sources of real food.  I help by teaching in the classroom once a month.  The kids’ first question always is, “Have you been on TV?”  And when I tell them I have, they want to know if it was Iron Chef, or Chopped or… (fill in any reality TV show involving food here).  That is their slim connection to food when I start the school year with them.  But, somewhere in the middle, they become thoughtful, informed, curious eaters and cooks; every year, even though I know it is going to happen, this transformation continues to astound and move me.

Gracie tells me that she is bringing six Recipe for Success chefs and six Board members to the White House and she wants me to join them.  I have some schedule adjustments to make, and I want to bring my daughter, Lili.  I regretted not bringing her to Terra Madre three and half years earlier in Turino.  But, for more than a couple of days, I am actually debating going, which is ridiculous.  It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.  A friend who works for Continental Airlines arranges our flights.  I reschedule my Thursday night gig.  I am starting to get excited, but Lili is nervous. Scared, is more like it.  I know how she feels.  When I go on the “circuit” and have to perform like I did on Top Chef Masters, it’s nerve-racking, but I’m not sure why Lili is nervous.  I tell her she doesn’t have to perform.  It’s her first week out of school and her summer is looking really exciting!

We arrive in D.C. and Lili and I head to the Native American museum because Lili is part Native American and I had heard it was a new and fabulous museum (although, to be honest, Lili was more interested in the gift shop where she got a traditional [but made in China!] beaded necklace and bracelet; she only wants to wear the bracelet as an anklet.  I buy some traditional beef jerky.)  The cafeteria there serves good food from different native Indian regions like traditional South American or New Mexican.  Lili is more excited about room service and movies back at the hotel than exploring D.C.  And she’s still nervous about going to the White House.

Weather-related delays cause the rest of our group to arrive at odd times, so Lili and I are hanging out with Rahm Emmanuel at the Sofitel bar.  We’re supposed to get together with our group at 8:30pm, but it’s not until three hours later that Randy Evans and Michael Kramer arrive.  Lili is disappointed because she is looking for Marcus Samuelsson.   He tweeted that he was going to be here.  We would see Barbara McKnight and Kiran Verma the next day at the breakfast.  It’s off to bed, though, because we’ve got to meet in the lobby at 7:45am tomorrow to get to the breakfast of champions (or chefs, that is) at the Marriot just down from the White House.

The next morning, the breakfast room is a-buzz.  Everyone is in chef uniforms, starched more than usual, and unusually cordial.  I run into some old chef friends like Ann Cooper, Kim Muller and Marcus Samuelsson.  Some young chefs come up to take a photo with me since I had just been on Top Chef Masters.  Most of the chefs can’t believe Marcus and I hug after he said those things about my game playing on the show.  They can’t believe we are friends – but we really are.  He grabs Lili by her shoulders and says, “Your mom was the best chef.  The best chef!”  And Lili is looking up at him and replies simply, “I know.”

Monica & Marcus...yes, we're really friends!



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