Category Food

In the Spirit of Collaboration: Paris Popups

Attending a Paris Popup at Penrose in Oakland

Laura Vidal

Laura Vidal preparing the team on wine selections, Penrose, Oakland

Last week Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins were kind enough to invite me to their Paris Popup at Penrose in Oakland. The duo began the events while working together in Paris at Frenchies, taking over restaurants around the city. What would be a regular night off for the business would become a special treat for the owners — seeing their facility through the eyes of another team. The Paris Popups would open for one night only to a range of guests within an already established restaurant space, and provide dinner to the owner in exchange for using the space.

Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins

Laura Vidal and Harry Cummins

Originally from London, Cummins had returned home to visit friends and saw that a new style of food event — popups — were happening around the city. Returning to Paris he realized he hadn’t heard of them taking place on the French side of the Channel. He and Vidal decided to design their own, and Paris Popups were born. The venture developed organically. After their first successful occasion, restaurants around Paris began reaching out to the team offering to host. Paris Popups popped up all over the city, until the pair decided to take a year to both share and learn food and wine culture all over the world, beginning what would become a Popup world tour.

Harry Cummins

Harry Cummins

Unleashed from the team that was integral to their work in Paris, Cummins and Vidal have found their world tour defined by collaboration. The duo selected their route, then reached out to venues, wine distributors, and chefs in cities around the world. In each location they have sought to work intimately with area chefs to develop the menu with consideration for local ingredients, and bring in winemakers or distributors whose work they wish to support. Part of the point is to celebrate the unique offerings of a particular area. In selecting wines too, the people behind the wines are invited to participate, offering guests direct contact not easily afforded elsewhere. Evan Lewandowski of Ruth Lewandowski wines, Raj Parr of Domaine de la Cote, and Anthony Lynch of Kermit Lynch wines all poured, for example, in Oakland.

Paris Popup

Halibut, clams, blood oranges

The menu development occurs as a kind of ongoing conversation. Vidal selects wines in advance allowing for a progression through a multi-course meal. By this point, the chefs have already begun to brainstorm ideas, but now coordinate in concert with consideration of the wines as well. Vidal’s and Cummin’s expertise shows in listening to their process. Their skill in designing a meal in advance of an event reflects their experience with flavor and pairing. For the Penrose event, Cummins and Vidal were able to work with Bones Restaurant’s James Edward Henry and Austin Holey, as well as Charlie Hallowell, the chef of Penrose in the kitchen and to develop the menu.

Paris Popup

Sweetbreads, poached egg, Périgord black truffle

Each city’s food culture comes with a different infrastructure and dynamic. Where New York relies on ordered formality in a restaurant team, California’s Bay Area approaches evening meals with a more relaxed service style. Recognizing and working with the different styles of service for each location, then, becomes integral to the world tour.

Paris Popup

Uni, fermented squash, kumquats

The Oakland popup included two nights in Penrose, serving a seven course meal including wine pairings. The team accomplished an impressive, and well-executed menu showcasing the experience of pairings at their best. My favorite of the night rests strongly in the second course. We were greeted with a glass of Raveneau 2001 1er Cru Chablis then coupled with a dish of Dungeness crab, grapefruit, and artichokes. The pairing gave a beautiful example of how flavors can synthesize. While one of my favorite wines, Raveneau carries incredible strength, approaching the edge of pleasurable intensity on the palate. Similarly, the dish carried a strength of flavors with the richness of the crab absorbing the force of the grapefruit. The food followed by the wine, however, created a sense of elegance through the mouth that was truly beautiful.

Paris Popup

Oysters (served alongside the Rib eye)

Paris Popup

Rib eye

My other favorite pairing brought Les Palliéres 1999 Gigondas alongside a course of Rib eye with a side of oysters, and a green salad of citrus dressing. Rib eye is a classic suggestion for Gigondas, but the oysters nicely celebrated the sea-air freshness I find in the nose of older Les Palliéres, and the citrus note brought out the bright red elements of the wine on the palate, showing off the youthful vibrancy of the 1999. The combination was beautifully done.

Paris Popup

Apples, Penrose tonic ice served with Neige 2011 Apple Ice Wine

The other pairings throughout the night showcased differing approaches to marrying food and wine. Where the two courses mentioned celebrated an approach of complementing flavors, others focused on contrast. The sweetbreads, poached eggs, and black truffle dish brought a real richness to the palate that was cut through, and refreshed by the red fruit and black tea spine of the Domaine de la Cote 2011 Bloom’s Field, an elegant expression of what Sashi Moorman calls the Heart of Sta Rita Hills. Throughout the courses, I was impressed with the focus on texture. Each dish showcased a blend of varying levels of firmness, and push so that the pleasure of the palate was more than just taste. Such attention to texture showed in the way the wines paired as well. The light grip from skin contact maceration in the Ruth Lewandowski 2012 Fox Hill Vineyard Chilion Cortese Zero, for example, brought a vibrant citrus flavored texture alongside the slippery give of the uni and fermented squash with kumquat dish.


The Penrose Paris Popup had a collaborative menu developed by James Edward Henry, and Austin Holey from Bones, Harry Cummins from The Paris Popup, and Charlie Hallowell from Penrose. Wine Selection was done by Laura Vidal.

Rajat Parr, Eric Railsback, Anthony Lynch, and Evan Lewandowski helped with wine service, while the Penrose team provided floor service.

La Face Cachée de la Pomme has sponsored the Paris Popup since its arrival in Montreal.


All photos in this post are the work of Diane Yoon, and used with her permission.


Thank you to Laura Vidal.

Thank you to Anthony Lynch.

Thank you to Diane Yoon.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to

Hawk Wakawaka Interviewed at Le Metro

Interview at Le Metro – Wine. Underground.

Aaron Epstein, curator of the monthly Le Metro wine service, asked if he could interview me for the work I did in December developing food pairings for their bubbles collection. We end up getting into growing up on muktuk and seal oil, falling in love with French foods, and my being considered “the moose meat underground.”

Here’s a preview:

Le Metro Interview

Here’s the link:


Meals with Melanie: A Thank you for Mattei’s Tavern, Los Olivos

Dinner at Mattei’s Tavern

On Sundays we’d go for pastry. In the 1980s, a small rush of French émigrés made their way to Anchorage, Alaska and started a revolution. They opened bakeries for breads, cakes and delicate sweets.

My family attended Sunday service at the stone chapel downtown. We’d don our best clothes, with long winter coats, and simple shoes then duck-walk across the icy parking lot to keep from falling. After the hour-long service, longer with communion, we’d pile back in the car and stop half way home to pick up Napoleon, Éclair, and cheese Danish when my dad was in town.

He worked every other week at the North Slope of Alaska building and maintaining the electrical needs of arctic oil feeds. On alternate weeks he was home.

Sundays, then, began with a sense of grateful reverence, recognition of how we were blessed. Celebration came through simple silence, moments of prayer communing with god. It continued with simple sweets. The warmth of the prayer coupled with the prickling joy of delicate French sugar. The entire day given a feeling of bright gratitude with the pastries a symbol of the gifts we gained.

Alaska’s food revolution came eventually to include more variation in foods, and my mom’s love for pastries evolved into my parents’ love for bistro fare. Bistros for them a perfect restaurant balance — good food touched by congenial service — hospitality with conversation.

My sister Melanie and I inherited our parents’ love for food. She (along with my friend Fred) sparked in me more than anyone my original love for wine. We found together our enthusiasm first and foremost to bubbles. Together we have devoted ourselves to restaurants around the United States and Canada looking always for food with a deft hand, a delicate intricacy of flavors paired with beautiful wines, in a forum that celebrates warm hospitality.

At its best, eating meals with Melanie feels of succulent revelry — that original sense of simple gratitude our parents gave us through Sundays of church and pastry blooming into a kind of reverence for the beauty of flavor, time together, and relaxing service. Some of my happiest moments have come from these meals.

In the last year, Los Olivos has opened a new restaurant, Mattei’s Tavern, bringing together the history of place — the venue opened for the first time in 1886 — with the intricate freshness possible in today’s farm-to-table restaurant culture.

Chef Robbie Wilson offers a seasonal menu designed to showcase, on one side, foods that might have carried that original 1886 menu elevated with a gentle lift — schnitzel of flatfish kept away from the heavy side, accented with the crunch of pickled mustard seeds and calabrian chiles. On the other side, he offers too foods carrying the cultural flavor fusion that so clearly speaks of now — short rib pot roast put along side lightly cooked vegetables and poured over with fresh made ramen broth. On both sides, the flavors are rich, layered, with a light bite of surprise.

The Mattei’s team also hosts the expertise of wine director Stephane Colling. His wine list shows smart devotion to Santa Barbara wines. He seems to select labels that consistently give clean fruit expression with the juicy and often mineral length that works so well with food. The list treats local wines seriously, however, by offering more than merely what comes from Santa Barbara County, offering too worldwide selections.

The current by the glass iteration, for example, mixes local jewels with worldwide gems. It’s possible, for example, to taste Goodland Wine‘s Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc, then follow it with Mulderbosch‘s South African iteration. The intent seems less about comparing the county’s wines to wines from elsewhere, however, and more about selecting beautiful wines for a range of palate interests that can be poured at a range of price points.

Visiting Mattei’s Tavern the thread that winds through the decor space, the menu, the wine list seems to parallel my description of Chef Wilson’s food — layers of interest, warm expression, and bites of surprise. The approach to service and overall presentation bring together the heritage of the place with modern flare. The salumi plate, for example, Felix Mattei’s Dirty Laundry, literally hangs prosciutto (my favorite) and coppa with clothespins over a board carrying pickled vegetables and mustard. One of my favorite details houses the children’s menu within the slides of a working View Master, giving kids their own visual treat for the meal.

Throughout the meal, server Jenny Mitchum offered a comfortable touchstone. She hit the balance I enjoy of showcasing the food as it arrived, checking in to track our needs, and giving us space to enjoy our conversation.

I appreciate the revitalization of the historic Mattei’s Tavern space. Partners Robbie and Emily Perry Wilson, plus Charles and Ali Banks, have navigated the challenge of utilizing a historic landmark in a manner that honors its heritage while celebrating fresh new flavor for the region.

I can’t wait to meet my sister there for dinner.


The Mattei’s Tavern Website:


Thank you to Robbie Wilson and Stephane Colling.

Thank you to Jenny Mitchum.

Thank you to Jason Smith.

Thank you to Charles Banks.

Thank you to Sao Anash.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to


Chinese Food Holiday Meal Wine Pairing Guide over at Serious Eats!!

What to Drink with Chinese Food?

Some of us are spending the holidays alone (raises hand slowly). Some of us are just smart and like om-nom-nom mu shu and noodles plus spicy business for the holiday (raises hand straight-up yes!).

If you’re thinking about celebrating the holidays with Chinese food, check out my drinks pairing guide over at Serious Eats — illustrated and with tips.

Here’s a preview of the drawn portion.

pairing wine with Chinese food

Check out the post itself here:

Happy Holidays, Everyone!



Touring Tarbouriech Oyster Farm in the Etang de Thau, Languedoc

The cooler waters of the R-months in North America mean prime time for eating oysters. As some of you know I did a post over at Serious Eats on drinks to pair with oysters. I also promised to take a look here at one way we get that shellfish. Here’s a look at a tidal-influence inspired oyster farm from the Languedoc. It was a ton of fun. I love being on boats as I grew up on the water, and am generally fascinated to know how almost anything works. I really enjoyed getting to learn through the stages from alien-like oyster reproduction to growth, to monster size gonna-getcha growth.


Visiting Tarbourich, an Etang de Thau Oyster Farm

the Etang de Thau oyster farms

looking into the Etang de Thau oyster farms

In the Etang de Thau, an oyster rich pond where the Languedoc meets the Mediterranean, the Tarbourich family farms what are considered to be some of the highest quality oysters in Europe.

Driving out to see the oyster farm

driving into the oyster beds of Tarbouriech-this is one of my favorite photos that I’ve ever taken from a trip. Such a nice group of people too.

Thanks to the organizing efforts of Domaine Paul Mas, a few of us were able to take a tour of Tarbouriech in September. The family facility utilizes their own patented system that mimics tidal influences, which facilitates both growth and quality of the shellfish. With older (though still used) systems, on the other hand, oysters simply remain in the water continuously.

Entering Tarbouriech

entering Tarbouriech

The Tarbouriech facility includes a casual dining space offering oysters fresh from the water, and wines to accompany. Tours of the farm itself can be arranged.

Driving towards the farm on the boat

driving to the farm on the boat

The Tarbouriech family hosted our small group, bringing us out to the farm itself by boat to explain how their tidal system works.

The new oysters

New oysters are bred at an oyster nursery, then purchased by oyster farms around the world to be grown into edible size.

Stage 1 of the oyster bed

Young oysters small size demand them to be grown in sets within a series of hanging baskets initially. In the Tarbouriech system, the baskets move in and out of the water at changing intervals to imitate the impact of tidal movements on the shellfish. Oysters within the water develop their shell, while the shellfish out of the water develop their meat. As the animals tumble in the water their shells round and deepen.

Stage 2 of the oyster bed

Once the oysters are large enough, they are glued to ropes that then move up and down through the water in similar fashion as the baskets. This allows them greater space for growth, and more direct contact with the water.

our host

Romain Tarbouriech guided our tour, as the third generation, along with his sister, of the Tarbouriech family oyster business.

Stage 3 of the oyster bed

When the oysters have grown large enough on the rope in the second stage, they are gathered and affixed instead to a net that allows more room for the oysters to grow for the third stage. Mature oysters are gathered from this third stage for eating.

Huitre Seven

The Tarbouriech family is known too for their older, larger sized oysters, like their Huitre Seven, an oyster grown over seven years and featured in restaurants most especially in Paris. (Looking at the thing was intimidating–it was as big as my hand and several inches thick. We didn’t get to see inside to the meat of one, but I admit, I scare.)

Eating oysters

After touring the farm on the water, we were able to come back to shore to enjoy oysters on the beach with a bright Vermentino made by Domaine Paul Mas that matched the freshness of the food. The Etang de Thau also sits beside the famous Picpoul de Pinet region, a wine full of pert acidity that pairs beautifully with oysters, and that I like to drink on occasion for its aggressive (at its best nervy) zing.

Oysters on the Etang de Thau

The oysters were beautiful. Being on the water is my favorite thing. Eating beside it as lovely.

If you want to read more about possible oyster pairings, check out a previous post that links to a write-up I did on Serious Eats, as well as posts on pairings by both a cocktail-tender, and a beer lover:

Thank you to Michelle McCue, and Anne Alderete.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to

Oysters Slurp-Zing-OmNomNom Wine (and beer) Pairings over at Serious Eats

Oysters on the Half Shell over at Serious Eats

In case you missed it, my latest food-and-wine pairing post went up over at Serious Eats. This installment looks at what to put alongside oysters on the half shell.

Oyster yah!

Check it out here:

My editor Maggie Hoffman really went for the idea making a whole day of oyster pairings. Check out the other oyster write ups too! Pretty fun, cool stuff.

Here’s the links.

Oysters and Beer!

Oysters and Cocktails!

Later I’ll post a tour of an oyster farm in the Languedoc too.



Carmenere Characteristics: The Chilean Master Class

Carmenere Wine Characteristics

Carmenere Grape Characteristics

click on image to enlarge

The History of a Variety

Though originating as part of the Cabernet family in Bordeaux, France, Carmenere barely grows today in that region. After phylloxera decimated vineyards through Europe, a changing of the guard occurred with varieties taking ready home to grafted vines stepping to the fore. Carmenere was one of the hardest hit grape types when phylloxera landed in Europe, leading people to believe the variety had become extinct.

Enter Chile.

Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, cuttings were taken from top vineyards in Europe to establish wine in the immigrant settlements of South America. Among them was included a softer tannin, medium bodied crimson juiced grape treated as Merlot in the vineyards for its shared characteristics in the glass.

One hundred years after import to Chile, Carmenere was discovered interplanted to Merlot vineyards. Chile, then, became one of the few places on earth the grape had survived. Through the research on quality done by a few producers from the 1990s forward, Carmenere has become a flagship grape of Chile.

Today small plantings of Carmenere have also been discovered in Northeastern Italy, where it snuck in as misidentified Cabernet Franc thanks to their shared vegetal-herbal tendencies. Though not common in Italy, Carmenere has begun in small quantities to be labeled under its own name. Among the few regions to intentionally plant Carmenere from the beginning, Washington, and California also house the variety.

Vineyard Character of the Vine

On vine, Carmenere ripens at least one month later than Merlot, and gives a characteristic copper colored burst to its buds, plus copper striping on the shoots.

The grapes also differ in Carmenere’s tendency to produce distinctive vegetal characteristics depending on crop management and vintage duration. In hotter shorter vintages where clusters ripen faster, the fruit is more likely to show bell and hot pepper notes. Thanks to the varieties later ripening tendencies, crop management proves crucial to flavor development of the grape.

The larger the crop, the harder the vine has to work to ripen its fruit. The less ripe the grape, the more vegetal its profile. Thus, intentional crop size decisions can help determine the fruit to pepper notes in the final wine. How this balance is struck depends on producer, as some prefer a touch of pepper as part of the fruit’s character, while others wish to highlight the fruit elements.

Allowing for crop size decisions, Carmenere can do well in a range of climate conditions showing a greater structural focus with long juiciness when grown in cooler climates, and more fruit expression when grown warmer.

Thanks to the softer tannin of the grape, canopy management is less essential than on a variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, where some sun exposure helps tannin to soften to the benefit of the final wine.

Wine Characteristics of Carmenere

Once brought to glass, the crop conditions of the fruit heavily influence the fruit and spice components of the wine. Warmer temperatures encourage more apparent fruit notes with a mix of dark berries and pert red fruit being typical. As the climate of the vineyard cools, the juiciness of the wine tends to increase, with a greater overall focus on structure and leanness brought to the wine. To take advantages of these differing characteristics, many producers blend fruit from multiple vineyard sites, offering structure and acid from cool spots to the fruit of warmer locations.

Carmenere’s fruit readily carries its own spice elements too, however, with vegetal aspects being influenced by crop conditions, as already mentioned, but red spice, smoke, and earth readily coming with the crop. The wine can also easily deepen into tobacco, cocoa, and leather depending on the handling of the fruit in the winery.

More on specific examples of Carmenere in future posts, and also in the previous post on Root: 1 wine.

Pairing Food with Carmenere

I’ve become obsessed with a Chilean dish, Pastel de Choclo, that the wine pairs beautifully with. It’s a corn and meat pie that would serve as the perfect means to talk me into almost anything. While you argue your case I’ll happily nod again and again trying to listen while actually losing myself in deep-deep choclo love. (Potato will always hold the deepest place in my heart (and gullet–I could accidentally die eating unbridled potato) but choclo comes next. Love me anyway, dear corn?)

Carmenere is classic paired with lamb, and does well with smokey notes of grilled lamb.

I can also imagine Carmenere’s spice and cocoa combo doing well with molé, though I haven’t gotten to try this yet.


Thank you to Sergio Hormazabal.

Thank you to Francisco Matte, Gonzalo Badilla, Juan Carlos Castro.

Thank you to Marilyn Krieger, David Greenberg, and Alfredo Bartholomaus.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to


Pumpkin Pairings over at Serious Eats

Hi folks,

The latest food and wine pairing illustration and write up is up over at Serious Eats. This time it’s going for pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pairing

There are some yummy wines suggested.

Check it out here:


The Sean Connery of Wine, over at Serious Eats: Cru Beaujolais

Morgon food pairings

Ever fall in love without expecting to? Walk into a room to visit a friend and discover your self wrestling hysterically with someone you’ve never been so close to? Check out my latest food-and-wine illustration over at Serious Eats: Morgon, the Unexpected Lover. If you enjoy it, please share it with friends. Thanks!

Morgon, the Sean Connery of wine

The direct link is here:



Food pairing with California Cinsault over at Serious Eats

Hi folks, the latest illustration in my food-and-wine pairing series is up over at Serious Eats.

Serious Eats Cinsault

check it out here:

I’d love to hear from you — what would you like to explore or hear more about in food and wine pairing? Shoot me an email: lilyelainehawkwakawaka (at) gmail (dot) com