Welcome to the world of Max Garrone.
Made in San Francisco, California.



Next time you think of pitching something outrageous

03.13.18 Posted in Food by

I’m trying to imagine Jonathan Gold’s pitch to his editors; the one that got them to foot the bill for his trip to Copenhagen, a meal at the new Noma, and sundry other pursuits.

There were moments when my trip to Copenhagen last week seemed like a stroll through a panopticon, with a sense that everyone I ran into, from the customs agent in the airport to the barista who made my cortado in the morning knew exactly why I was in Denmark, and had both strong and conflicting ideas about it. If you drink in natural-wine bars, fancy hay-smoked mackerel with your ramen and gravitate toward the kind of taverns where the bar snacks might include cod’s tongues or mead-glazed cauliflower, Copenhagen can seem like a very small town.


He eventually turned to running marathons.

03.13.18 Posted in Obituaries by

And many other pursuits including piano but especially brain surgery. Read Charles Wilson’s obituary to get a glimpse at one of those amazing polymaths that I’m always reading about but never seem to meet in person. Here’s a sample:

Dr. Wilson sometimes worked in three operating rooms simultaneously: Residents would surgically open and prepare patients for his arrival, and he would then enter to seal an aneurysm or remove a tumor before moving on to the next case.


Obit du jour: Joe Frank

02.03.18 Posted in Obituaries by

Don’t know how I missed this one till now. I grew up listening Joe Frank on late night radio. It was  all about his dead pan intonation and minimalist sound design pulling you into these odd stories that just went and went. They still enthrall me.

Life, Mr. Frank once said in a monologue, is like being in a restaurant on a first date with a woman you’ve long admired. But “there is a waiting list and the names will be called in alphabetical order — and your name is Zarathustra.”


Obit du jour: Patton’s driver

02.02.18 Posted in History, Obituaries by

Francis ‘Jeep’ Sanza, Patton’s driver in World War II, dies in Napa at 99

From the preparations for D-Day, in May 1944, right up through the landing at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the final push into Germany, Sanza was at the wheel of an open air Willys-Overland with the four-star general in the passenger seat, tapping at the windshield with his riding crop.

“Everything he did I saw,” Sanza said during a video interview for Profiles in Valor produced by the American Veterans Center. “He was very good to me. He never scolded me when I was driving him.”


San Francisco bar (non) memories

01.29.18 Posted in Food, San Francisco by

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At least, memories that I wish I had. After getting something of a glam turn for a few seconds of screen time in Fincher’s Zodiac the M&M also has its own web page. I was schooled about this place repeatedly at the other SF Chronicle bar, the Tempest. Sadly I never got to know it.


Contramar still has it

01.26.18 Posted in Food by

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Their distinctive font leads the way.

After all of these years Contramar still has it all. Impeccable service by squads of waiters who are there in a second if you need anything. Mostly that’s not even necessary because they seem to intuit when you’ll want something and are already there as your head tilts up. The place is still packed so it’s not just my opinion, of course now that it’s safely printed up in all the travel guides tourists are definitely a presence, but so are all the Mexicans who are always dining to see and be seen.

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Licor 43 and espresso, shaken and strained. A kind of hippy speed ball to get you back to your desk.

This last trip I finally tasted their house cocktail, the 43 which is a shaken mix of Licor 43 and an espresso. At lunch this seems like the obligatory way to get you up and back to work or wherever you may be stumbling. Because the wine list has some wonderful things on it that highlight bottles coming out of the Valle de Guadalupe. They also have you covered on the mezcal front.

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Just another of the many famous fish dishes at Contramar.

But really you’re there to eat seafood, the famous tuna tostada still stands up but the wide variety of seafood cocktails, aguachiles, and the full fish aka Pescado alla Talla in style Contramar so that you can try both sauces.


2017 in music

01.25.18 Posted in Music by

I’m almost a month late but here it is, my favorite songs of 2017 in a nice little mix that will take you in a few directions.

In contrast take a look at the bizarre assemblage of stuff that I listened to over the year. According to Spotify’s Wrapped feature, these are my ‘top songs of 2017’


Cava goes upscale

01.24.18 Posted in Food by

A tasting by Codorníu of some of their more exclusive Gran Reservas.

I had a really fun time tasting through Codorníu’s line of cava over lunch yesterday. They poured their entry level Ann de Codorníu as we sat down but the highlights were the very high end Gran Reserva bottles. Each was very distinct, something to be savored outside of the normal ‘it’s a party, let’s have a cava’ environment. The three stand outs were the

Codorníu “Jaume Codorníu” Gran Reserva Brut 2013

I got some peach notes and a bit of that Sauvignon Blanc grassiness on the nose. This is a sparkler so the fact that my mouth was full of that sparkling sensation shouldn’t be a surprise but in comparison with the the following bottles it is remarkable.

Codorníu “Finca La Pleta” Gran Reserva Brut 2007

This one has a nose comparable to many Champagnes full of toasted notes but also something akin to a fresh oyster’s brininess. On the palate that toastiness continues but it’s amazing just how mellow the sparkling sensation is. Sure, there’s no denying this is a sparkling wine but it’s so full of flavor and the bubbles are so few that your attention swivels to the flavors that much more.

Codorníu “457” Gran Reserva Brut 2008

This one also favors toasty notes on the nose. And that continues over onto the palate but with a bit of  lemon zest. This bottle had the highest acid of the bunch which meant that it paired really well with our lunch and, most likely, would be a great food wine.

The contrasts between these bottles and the cavas I’ve tried before were categorical. These bottles belong in a different class and might be even doing a disservice to the brand exactly because they’re so distinctive and so far outside of the realm of the relatively simple sensations that the word cava now summons. Only the first really makes your mouth sparkle, the other two are very mellow so that you focus on the flavor rather than the sparkling sensation.  The vintage clearly matters; those latter two are ten year olds.

But this also raises the question of what this means for cava as a brand because they’ve worked incredibly hard to establish the idea of an inexpensive sparkling wine in all of our heads. So much so that no one expects too much from a cava because the price to sensation ratio is really clear. I bet most people have completely swallowed that idea that ‘sure these aren’t high end Champagnes but they’re perfect for a summer day’ or whatever marketing idea was originally designed for these wines. Now that Codorníu is intent on building a high end, high quality strata, what does that do for the entire category? Plenty of wines and spirits have made the transition, but standing right at the beginning of the process, it looks like an incredibly vertiginous climb.

Sadly, at least for the time being, my favorite of these bottles, the “Finca La Pleta” isn’t even available for sale. It’s part of a 300 bottle batch made in Codorníu’s “laboratory.” Clearly they’ve been working on this transition to quality and premium prices for some time so I’d expect more of these bottles to be available sometime soon. The market is seeded with events like this and I’m part of the process – maybe it really is a cava world and we all just live in it…

And that’s not such a terrible thing. Codorníu in particular makes for a better world. It’s a large, old, family owned winery which is carving out space for new viticultural expressions on a global market that thrives on novelty and great background stories. That “457” in the title for the third wine means, 457th bottling. That’s something to be proud of  as an independent company and augers much more to come.


Finding that tasting room that counts

01.08.18 Posted in Food by

Birichino’s John Locke pulls some bottles for a tasting.

I first encountered Birichino wines through Gus’ wine selection and Local Cellar which are both great for finding gems in small production Californian wine makers. One thing led to another and I started following Birichino on Instagram which is spare but actually performed the role that I want out of social media for this sort of thing, it gave me a better sense of what they’re up to while actually telling me useful information viz that their tasting room just opened in Santa Cruz. High signal, no noise.

So I dragged my family there on this weekend’s visit. We were racing to beat the Santa Cruz traffic back to Monterey so the thought was, ‘a quick visit and out the door,’ which instantly vaporized once we walked into the beautiful tasting room and started chatting with John Locke, one of their wine makers. Hours later we dutifully inserted ourselves into the traffic and happily dealt with it, the glow from the tasting was more than enough to help us cope with the frustrations of that drive.

So well appointed that you’ll just want to lounge for a while.

Just go to the tasting room for the design sensibility. I’d like to make it my new reading room then conduct mezcal tastings and dinner parties. It should be a social hub with a bed in back so that I don’t have to drive home at the end of the night. Then stay for the wine to appreciate what individuality can do for grapes in California. I know Jon Bonne has been beating this drum for some time but we appear to be reaching a nice new normal where the baseline is anything but average.

The tasting flight du jour.

Birichino’s wines are all full of individual personality. The little flight this past weekend started with their pet nat malvasia which gives you a sense of what the grape can do and makes you instantly relax like a glass of sparkler should. Appreciate it on so many levels without the fuss because it’s both simple fun and worthy of a second look. Then there are the other whites like their Chenin Blanc which changes radically over vintages revealing all sorts of variables; the 2014 is lean and restrained, the 2015 voluptuous. And then there’s the red line up that features all sorts of Rhone varietals like a Cinsault from, in the California context, truly ancient vines from Lodi. Their lean Grenache and a really ephemeral Mourvedre which are all well worth tasting and bringing home. Our informal tasting panel agreed that these are all nuanced enough to be enjoyed alone but sculpted to be enjoyed along food which we’ve been doing for the remainder of the weekend.


Gomorrah and Manchester City

01.04.18 Posted in Movies, Sports by

It’s been pointed out that Pep Guardiola and Ciro Di Marzio aka Il Immortale bear more than a passing resemblance.

Pep and Ciro

After watching too much football and the second season of Gomorrah in the past weeks I’m now convinced that Azpilicueta and Lino Musella aka The Dwarf continue the trend. Similar jaw line, missing mole…

Cesar Azpilicueta

Rosario O’Nano / Lino Mosella