"...I have no doubt some serious work went into getting the formula just right because no one flavor dominates, the spice and seasonings all meld together beautifully. I couldn't stop dunking my short ribs into this sauce. I'm convinced it would make just about anything taste good."

– Amy Sherman, Cooking with Amy

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking at Healdsburg Through BBQ-Colored Glasses

The drive from San Francisco to Healdsburg has always been a favorite of mine. Best enjoyed unhurried, sunglasses on, rolling hills, rolling by. Always a beautiful and scenic trip, it’s even more so viewed through the lens of a brand new wine country account. So, indulge me while I wax poetic about one of those special, slow-moving, dreamy kind of days that I didn’t want to end.

The official purpose of the trip was a sneak-preview of the new Jordan Winery Estate Tour, which I was accompanying John on that afternoon. We had decided to start our journey early, so we could spend a full day in one of our favorite cities anywhere. The timing was perfect, and it allowed us to do our delivery first, and meet the folks at our new account, Shed.

I felt instantly comfortable and welcomed walking into this two-story modern barn, where floor-to-ceiling glass windows impart a lit-from-within glow. The natural light washes over you and puts you at ease. Classes are taught, meals are served, drinks are poured, ice-cream is scooped, dinner-parties are imagined, and it’s obvious the wide array of offerings have been curated with great care.

I could have easily spent a good part of my day inside of this idyllic culinary petting zoo. I got to chat with the owner Cindy, who describes Shed as, “a place where people eat, gather, stock up and learn.” Needless to say, I feel fortunate that our sauce has been included as part of their offerings. If you’re in the area, this is a must-stop.

Once outside and back on the road, a sign for The Gardener caught our eye. Having visited another location before, we were easily lured in, car tires crunched gravel as we pulled in and parked in the shade of a sycamore tree. Walking in, under a canopy of trees, the late morning light was soft and slightly muted, as a slow moving swing caught a gentle breeze and greeted us with a wave. An even slower moving mobile lulled us inside the tranquil, undisturbed garden setting. We were the only ones there. Such was the setting as morning became afternoon.

Walking next to rows of pomegranate heavy with hanging fruit, red and ripe, low and tempting, within arm’s reach. Meandering down a path where huge sunflowers bent down and touched our heads, we sat side by side in weathered adirondack chairs, looking out at a sea of red dahlias surrounding a red barn. Before leaving, we purchased a baby finger-lime tree, and a purple succulent, and drove to Jordan – going from one Eden to another.

Our next task being to sip wine all afternoon, in and around the vine-covered castle that is the Jordan Winery Estate. When we arrived a small group had gathered in the shade, sipping water and juice, enjoying a few snacks while awaiting the winery’s inaugural tour to begin. After exchanging pleasantries, we boarded a small van, and began the tour.

Listening to the family’s history unfold while eating al fresco by a small lake, we enjoyed nigiri of apricot and plum with Jordan’s extra virgin olive oil, Sonoma honey, and arugula flower; followed by a spiced garden vegetable escabeche with Gravenstein apple vinaigrette and wild fennel, with sips of their delicious Chardonnay in between.

Then, it was up the mountain for more of Chef Todd Knoll’s sophisticated cuisine. Almost all the edible products used at Jordan are grown on the property, and the kitchen staff really knows how to show them off. We finished this near-perfect afternoon with a gorgeous walk through the overflowing gardens, and then it was time to reluctantly return to the car, and head home.

It was a magical day, and as we drove out of town, I couldn’t help but wonder how fast the sauce would sell at Shed, and how long it would be before we returned. I can’t wait.

How To Make Your Own Dry Rub 

Jordan Winery's Chef, Todd Knoll shows how to make your own variety of dry rubs. Great video!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pigskin

Football is tribal. Whether tailgating or gathered in the living room with a group of your friends, cheering in the stadium or parked in front of the TV come kickoff, ancient game day rituals in place; representing team colors in a favorite new or faded jersey; faces painted; screaming and yelling in unison; it’s game day, and we’re going to battle, together. But first, we feast.

BBQ is tribal. Eating with our hands, faces smeared with bbq sauce “face paint”; tackling plates of pork ribs while watching others ribs being tackled; cheering in unison when a fresh plate of shiny, hot wings is set down; or booing and jeering when someone fumbles a beer.

San Francisco recently watched its last game at Candlestick Park, and this has me feeling a bit nostalgic. The ‘Stick’ is set to be demolished, leaving behind more than a half-century of memories. From the sublime magic of Walsh and Montana, to the savage hits of Ronnie Lott, our tribe’s home has seen some of the greatest moments in NFL history.

I will remember riding up that long, steep escalator in pairs, like we were boarding some kind of giant spaceship. The seemingly omnipresent present wind and fog, and sometimes rain. And the women’s bathrooms. Yes, even the bathrooms left their imprint. Banging on the dented, cold metal, bathroom stalls, I’ll forever remember the sound of women’s voices, chanting in unison, in their own private stalls, waiting in line, or washing their hands under the flickering fluorescent lights ….. “Who’s got it better than us?! ….. Noooobody!”

Cheers to you and your tribe! May your Superbowl Sunday be filled with good beer, plenty of friends and family near, and of course, tons of great (hopefully SFQ-slathered) food! And remember, it’s not over until the fat lady sings... and licks the last of the sauce off her fingers!

Pig Photo (c) Flickr User Dwayne Padon

For more great Candlestick memories, by some of the Bay Areas best writers, including Bruce Jenkins, Ann Killion and Scott Ostler check out - "Candlestick Memories."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays, and thank you so much all for your support in 2013. It was a huge year for SFQ, as we tripled the number of retail locations that carry the sauce.

The biggest driver of that growth was being introduced into virtually every Bay Area Whole Foods. So far it’s been a great partnership, and we’re looking forward to expanding even further with them in the New Year. We did tasting demos at numerous locations, and all were met with rave reviews and brisk sales.

By the way, our sources at the North Pole are telling us that jars of SFQ are going to be very popular stocking stuffers this year, so if you’re still looking for that certain something to stick in your favorite foodie's Christmas sock, be sure to pick up a few jars. Thank you, and enjoy!

Santa Photo © Fabriche

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SFQ Goes Back to the Future at Whole Foods Market

The original S.F. Whole Foods.
It feels as if I’ve come full circle and traveled through time. When I worked in the specialty foods department at the original San Francisco Whole Foods back in the 90's, I never thought that one day I’d actually have my very own product on their shelves, but that's exactly what just happened.

That's right, SFQ is now carried by this country's premier natural foods supermarket chain! We are currently on the San Francisco shelves in the Franklin; Noe Valley; Haight Street; Ocean Ave. and SoMa stores and very much hope to eventually be stocked in all of the Northern California locations.

Whole Foods field trip to a local
goat cheese vendor!
While working for Whole Foods, one of my favorite parts of the job was helping people put together interesting menus using unique, artisan products not typically available in other grocery stores. I also enjoyed meeting new, local and original producers who would bring in their own goods for us to sample.

I find it a happy coincidence that one of those early producers was Michael Recchiuti, who had brought his newly created pate des fruits for our department to taste. I can still remember the excitement in his eyes when he brought in this special confection.

Years later, with as much excitement in my eyes, I asked him to taste our sauce. In its earliest stages, I knew I wanted to pay tribute to San Francisco’s love and history with chocolate, and include it as an ingredient in the sauce.

Chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti,
was an early inspiration.
So it was fortuitous to be able to have some one of Michael's palette give me his trusted opinion. I wanted to reveal hints of chocolate in the final recipe, but still wanted it easily identified as a classic American BBQ sauce.

I "heart" Christine's truffles!
Adding yet another chocolate layer to this story, Christine Doerr, of Neo Cocoa, was my neighbor at the first farmer’s market I ever attended, and introduced me to Harv Singh, Whole Foods Markets Local Forager. Under his guidance, SFQ has gained approval to be carried in Whole Foods Northern California region of stores.

On the shelf at the
Whole Foods in Noe Valley!
I feel very excited and fortunate to be working with Whole Foods again. I still smile remembering Christine’s words of encouragement after I thanked her for the introduction, telling me to just “pay it forward.” Now, to think I’ll be that artisan producer that gets to do tastings with the Whole Foods employees, gives me a very special feeling of pride and satisfaction.

I wish to extend heartfelt thanks to everyone involved with our sauce getting into Whole Foods, and maybe one day I can help someone who is launching a new product of their own. As long as it's not another San Francisco-style barbecue sauce, that is. ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Meeting Mezcal


He leaned across the table and whispered, have you ever tasted mezcal? “He” being the aptly named Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow.

I had been invited to join John and travel to Portland where he and Andrew Scrivani, were teaching a class at the International Food Bloggers Conference. Warren was also attending and teaching a freestyle mixology class, and that evening found the four of us dining together at OX.

We had walked several blocks from the hotel, so by the time we were seated, we were ready to eat; appetites made a bit more aggressive by the heady smells of smoky grilling meats sizzling in the open, wood-fired kitchen.

After some very satisfying appetizers paired with lively conversation and a full-bodied red Argentine wine, I was presented with a perfectly charred, beautifully marbled, rib-eye steak. It did not disappoint. Mid-way through the meal, Warren leaned in and asked if I’d ever had mezcal, and then seemed rather delighted to hear I had not.

With noticeable excitement, he had merely to turn around and with one step was at the bar and speaking to the barman, and with another, returning with a shot glass and a bottle of Del Maguey’s Chichicapa in hand. Smiling, he gave me a quick crash course on the spirit’s background and its industrious founder, Ron Cooper. Warren reveled in revealing a treasure trove of great stories he’d amassed during his adventurous, drinking-related travels. Needless to say, the mezcal and ensuing conversation were a perfect pairing with the rest of my steak.

As I sipped, I remember gazing past his shoulder to a well-stocked, very inviting bar, filled with the usual array of different colored bottles. And for whatever reason, the image shifted slightly, and it made me think of having just opened a large box of crayons for the first time. Each one a different color, with hues both familiar and new, sharp and ready, just waiting to be plucked and drawn out. A spontaneous observation of something familiar, but never seen through mezcal eyes before. This was a magical elixir.

I’ve since read, mezcal is a spirit made from the fire-roasted heart (piña) of the maguey, an agave plant native to Mexico. By roasting them underground, the Piñas give mezcal its distinctive smoky properties. As my one and only experience with mezcal, all I can say was Ron Cooper’s Del Maguey Chichicapa was spectacular and must be sipped again soon.

My curiosity has been peaked by this, new to me spirit, and I look forward to buying a bottle to try with barbecue. In viewing Ron’s site, I learned of his passion for highlighting specific and single village varieties of mezcal, and that like wine, the terroir imparts its stamp. Same is true for mole, as each region of Mexico is known for its own specialized recipe; the flavors and characteristics reflecting the area where they are produced.

His Chichicapa, produced in the village of Chichicapa, is about two hours south of Oaxaca and the resulting mezcal has elements of smoke enhanced by definitive notes of chocolate on the finish. Which then got me thinking about similar notes of chocolate found in SFQ, and how much fun it would be to pair different mezcals with smoky barbecued meats. Similarities further overlapping in that barbecue also has distinctive regional varieties, so the possibilities are endless.

I’m pulling a quote from Ron’s site, “You don’t find mezcal, mezcal finds you.” And because of that chance meeting, I may find myself seated across from a certain someone, eating a certain smoky piece of meat, and I’ll be the one leaning over and whispering, “have you ever tried mezcal?”

For more of Warren’s writing, check out “Buffalo Trace and Ribs | On Whiskey” in OKRA, the online magazine of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. His post recounts his pairing of SFQ sauced ribs with a smoky bourbon, among other things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Being in the Right Place at the Bi-Rite Time

Photo by p200Eric via Flickr
Imagine you just started producing a brand new artisan barbecue sauce. You have no customers, let alone any stores that carry it. What would be your ultimate fantasy scenario for being “discovered?” Maybe it would go a little something like this…

You get invited by a friend to sell your sauce at something called the New Taste Market. It’s held once a month in a church on Potrero Hill, and features a collection of local food producers.

A buyer named Alli from Bi-Rite Market, considered San Francisco’s premier neighborhood grocery store, happens to be there and tries your sauce. She loves it, and invites you to bring some by the store for the rest of the staff to taste. You do. They love it.

Before you know it, it’s not only on the shelves, but they’ve put a sign next to it to promote it for you! Yep, that sure would be like the dream scenario. Well, that’s what happened! That’s exactly how SFQ made it into it’s first store, and we’ve been riding that wave of good fortune ever since.

One of the great things about Bi-Rite, besides the amazing selection, is the incredibly knowledgeable and passionate staff. They really take pride in learning about each product, how it’s made, as well as how it’s best enjoyed.

It’s been a great relationship, and one that continues to flourish to this day. So, thanks again to Alli, Sam the owner, and the rest of their incredible staff. Remember, dreams do come true…sometimes literally.

Please enjoy this beautiful video, which was shot to promote Bi-Rite’s cookbook, Eat Good Food. It does a way better job than I ever could of explaining why Bi-Rite is such a unique and special place. Enjoy!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Fresh Meat! SFQ Now Available at San Francisco’s Salumeria

We are proud to announce that SFQ will now be available at Salumeria, a new deli and specialty food shop in the Mission. Salumeria was opened by the same team that operates Flour + Water and Central Kitchen, and features a wide array of take-out/eat-in gourmet goodness.

Chef Thomas McNaughton's newest venture is quickly gaining a loyal following by serving some impressive sandwiches, as well as housemade pates, cheese plates, and salads. For more info on this exciting new addition to San Francisco’s food scene, please check out their website here, or better yet, stop in and pick up something delicious, and of course, a jar or two of SFQ. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Salumeria