On Diane Teitelbaum

dianeteitelbaum                        “So I hear you’ve lost your mind and want to go into the wine business?” Diane remarked as she shifted toward me. A mutual acquaintance had organized a lunch meeting between Diane Teitelbaum and me, thinking she might offer some helpful career advice.

“Pretty much,” I answered.

I had achieved the title of Certified Sommelier almost a year ago, and was preparing for a trip to Perú where I would launch a project for the Dallas-based non-profit Personal Philanthropy. Upon my return stateside, I hoped to land a position in wholesale or restaurant wine sales and establish a network that would eventually allow me to leave Dallas.

I sat back, full of doubt and confusion from many conversations with my parents and then girlfriend about my lack of direction. “You should be proud of your accomplishments,” Diane declared reassuringly. “The last person I saw like you was James Tidwell.” My eyes widened in disbelief at her comparison of me, an upstart working at a tea and coffee shop, to one of Dallas’ two Master Sommeliers at the time. We had not even received our appetizer yet and she saw more in me than anyone in recent memory.

Over the next two years, she took on a mentor role, inviting me to tastings, and answering my many questions with a rare combination of honesty and forthright graciousness.

Upon returning to Dallas in 2010 and getting ready for some job interviews, she sent me an email that read: Advice of the Day, for tomorrow: Be Humble. No applicant or seller should presume, or appear to presume, to be the equal of the potential buyer or employer, even if you are. To achieve a goal promote your gratitude for the potential opportunity to learn from the mentor, company, etc. Try to appear sincere but not sappy…Some mentors might be offended or threatened by any nuance of arrogance. The exception to this rule might be New York

Diane’s name meant nothing to me when we first met, and it was not until her death last month that I began to learn how the impact she had on me was an extension of many whom she knew. The news was surprisingly difficult for me to swallow. Our last correspondence was over two years ago, but so much of her advice and the time I spent with her shaped the direction I tried to take in my career, both directly and indirectly.

I wanted to do something unique, where my desire to know the story and share my knowledge about any given bottle of wine would bring its flavors to life, and make me an unlikely asset to distributors, importers, and restaurants. It surprised me when I found an avenue for this desire through tea rather than wine, with an opportunity that brought me to my current Seattle home. This blog is my remaining outlet to explore my relationship with and curiosity for wine. How fitting that Diane was the first person to whom I sent my inaugural blog post (on Chateau Musar no less, whose winemaker died a few weeks ago), to let her know I had come up with a focused way of showcasing my writing about wine. Thank you, Diane. I will think of you every time I click “submit” on this site.

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Amanda Palmer and Drinking the Full Bottle, Part I

“i remember two years ago when I was supposed to take a week off in bordeaux. i booked a place to stay with no internet.
i brought books and DVDs and blank paper and rented a piano and was all set in my little villa to create and consume art.
i went totally crazy after two days of reading and drinking wine and eating chevre salads and riding my bike around.”
-Amanda Palmer, amandapalmer.net, June 21, 2009

                        April 17, 2012.  I received an email from Good Records that began with a picture of Amanda Palmer, her face pasty either from the flash or sunlight hitting her gaze toward the sky.

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She would be at the store that evening at 6 PM, and the length of her performance would depend on audience interaction.  They would also be selling signed copies of her limited release Amanda Palmer Performs Radiohead (On Her Magical Ukulele).

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                        At 8 PM, I realized I had forgotten about the show, and I phoned Good Records.

 “Hey do you guys still have copies of that Amanda Palmer playing Radiohead cd you were selling?” I asked.

                        “Yeah,” he responded on the other line.

                        “Do you think you’ll still have copies tomorrow?”

                        “Unless a bunch of hardcore Amanda Palmer fans invade the store between now and then…”

                        I picked up a copy the next day, and it sat around my house awhile.  I received a job offer in Seattle, and made arrangements to leave Dallas at the end of May.  Carla and I packed, the house became disorganized, we stuffed every inch of my Subaru for our cross-country trip, and our hearts broke when my seven-year-old dog Phoebe died two and a half weeks before the move.

                        Two months later, we were in temporary housing in our new home, and I put the cd into my computer, and began doing further research about Amanda Palmer.  She had married Neil Gaiman a few years ago, a writer I had admired since devouring his Sandman series toward the end of college.   They had embarked on a project together last year, singing and reading onstage during a road trip, and funded the recording of this project through Kickstarter. I noticed that she would be playing with her band in Seattle soon, but was not sure if I wanted to go, and let that show fall off my radar as well.

      More months passed, and at some point I received an email from her newsletter when I had a free moment to open and read it.  The message referenced her TED talk in a passing hyperlink.  I clicked on it, and from her account of posing as a statue on the street at the beginning of the speech, to her final question, “How can we let people pay for music?”, I sat rapt with attention.  It was inspiring to hear this unique and new voice in music and art, and I could mark everything I thought before seeing the talk and everything after.

In spite of having discovered these projects of hers when they were nearing their conclusion, I have no doubt her next project will be monumentally different from any of these albums I have, and any of her other groups prior to those, but it seems likely my love will grow for it just the same, perhaps more quickly than it did for her work over the past year and a half.  I liken it to that first taste of an unfamiliar wine that stimulates new sensations on my taste buds.  I may not immediately crave another taste of the wine, but I think about it more throughout the day, and want to revisit it, and consider whether it is worth buying.  I try to imagine my connection with it as I consume the remainder of the bottle, but all I had was a couple sips that I spit into a cup, a few glances at a label, and the text on a shelf-talker.  Would I want to include it in my personal collection, and perhaps add it to the restaurant wine list or store shelves as my new preferred hand-sell? 

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At the end of “Do You Swear To Tell The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth So Help Your Black Ass, “she sings:

“and iiiii’ve already spent too much time
doing things i didn’t want to
so if i wanna’ sit here alone and drink wine
you can bet your black ass that i’m going to.”

As I wrote the first draft of this entry, on one of my few nights alone, I was not drinking red wine, but instead a Phoenix Mountain Oolong tea from my personal Taiwanese set.  After countless infusions, it still yielded peach blossom undertones, and the first thing that came to mind when I re-read those lyrics is the moment I felt liberated from a long-term, unhealthy relationship, when there were no boundaries to when I went out for a drink, who I came to meet on any given evening, or how loud I played my music as I began writing the first entries in this blog back then, months before discovering Amanda Palmer.

Saul Williams said that each piece of art will speak to us based on the moment in time it enters our lives, much like the Buddhist saying that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’  Amanda Palmer slipped into that specific moment in time, and grew in my consciousness and desire.   I am trying to plan an evening with the new record and a bottle of wine, imagining the ideal pairing.  2004 Domaine Lois Dufouleur comes to mind, a wine my sister and I picked up at the estate in Beaune four years ago.  But we just drank it in celebration of Thanksgiving and my thirtieth birthday, and perhaps its balanced blackberry silk flavors are too soft to accompany Amanda Palmer.

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Perhaps a sophisticated Australian wine such as Molly Dooker’s “The Violinist” better befits her audacious brand of artistry.  “The Violinist” delivers something bold and round yet expansively nuanced and lingering.  She sings of red wine, but if I want a white wine, even in the cold weather, you can bet your black ass that I’m drinking it…

                        And one day, I will write Part II of this post, wherein I will chronicle my love of Neil Gaiman.  But that must happen after I read Anansi Boys and can wax about his wine references in that novel.

When the Trade Trades: Part I

I would not initially characterize myself as a betting man, but a chance encounter on my final night in Dallas yielded an irresistible opportunity.  It was late in the evening, my stomach full of stellar sushi and beef soup from my favorite sushi joint Yutaka, and my girlfriend and I were at Strangeways for a final night-cap with friends.  I sipped my cider, and my friend Kevin Trevino, Sommelier at Oak, walked in the bar unexpectedly.

He joined us with a snifter of barrel-aged beer, the name of which escapes me.  We discussed my departure and his upcoming trip to Oregon, where I would be spending the next month training for my new job.

“When are you leaving?” he asked.

“Tomorrow,” I replied.

“What time?”

“The morning.”

“Yeah, right,” he smirked.

“No.  We won’t leave any later than noon.”

“You’ll be leaving by 2 pm or later.”

“No way.  No way.”

“I will bet you a bottle of my 1993 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

“All right.  Easy bet to win,” I said, clinking my glass of cider to his beer.

He turned to Carla, my girlfriend.  “You make sure he texts me when you actually leave,” he emphasized.

“If we leave after noon and you win, I’ll open something special.  I’m just not sure what yet.”

At 9:44 AM the next day, I texted Kevin:

“Hittin the road Jack.  Looking forward to taking a trip back in time to 1993 with ya soon.  I will open a bottle of Morrison Lane! :-)”

Kevin was flying into Portland a little before 1 AM this past Friday night.  He spent the weekend at Pinot Noir Camp in Newberg, taking seminars and enjoying lavish meals of crab and salmon baked over outdoor fires.  He remembered to bring the wine, a bottle of Chateau La Nerthe, from 2003.

“I thought you were bringing a CDP from 93!” I exclaimed.

“Turns out I forgot that I never had a ’93.  The 2003 just had 93 points from Robert Parker.”

It was about 1:30 by the time we arrived at my apartment.  I pulled out a hunk of Mt. Townsend Red Alder Toma, and removed the cork from the wine bottle.  One side of the wood had a string of wine that had nearly soaked to the edge, confirming the bottle’s passage into adulthood.  I poured short pours into two glasses and held one to my nose.  I recalled a moment of shoveling dirt in front of my second Dallas house, the day I spent laying the foundation for what became my first successful garden.

The wine tasted heavy yet balanced, slightly warming on a late and wet Portland night.  It quieted us as my tongue swam through soft flavors of fresh berry conserve akin to the local marionberries and strawberries I have seen so often in the Pacific Northwest.  At such a late, tired hour, my taste buds felt as if they were genuinely budding and new, just trying to absorb the wise prophecies of an elder who had remained quiet for nine years.

We toasted, and spent the next two hours wandering through conversation.  As I reach this point of the story, I remember the moment Kevin and I first met three years ago at the Texas Sommelier Conference, and how that instance was one of many chance parallels drawn together with wine as their point of intersection.  We both found ourselves on the job market shortly after having lunch with a winemaker a couple years after meeting one another, and it was a wine event that brought him to my new one-month home.  Ultimately, we shared these many bonds through a bottle of wine.

All that said, I have a promise to keep, one we were too tired to pursue at 3:30 AM.  Kevin and I will meet again one day, and I will open a bottle of Morrison Lane, so I can write Part II of this entry…

The Element of Fungi

Sometime after midnight at my ex-girlfriend’s apartment last year, I was about one third of the way through my friend’s copy of Paul Stamets Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms can Save the World.  Stamets described an experiment where he and his team inoculated diesel-contaminated soil with oyster mushroom mycelium and witnessed the soil’s health turn around with striking speed.

I sent my friend an exuberant text message about this powerful tool to eliminate pollution.

“Mycopesticides,” he responded, alluding to an upcoming chapter in the book where Stamets inoculated wood in his house with a cordyceps.  Carpenter ants consumed the wood and became infected, at which point they climbed out of the wood and sacrificed themselves as the cordyceps fruited.

Days later, we were at an undisclosed location hunting for oyster mushrooms.  They always turn up at fallen dead trees.  “It’s like nature’s band-aid,” he said.  “The mushrooms are trying to repair the things that break.”

As I began working for Whole Foods on the Wine Team, these concepts kept turning in my brain.  Could mycelium have any correlation with the earth-like flavors we encounter in certain wines such as Burgundies, Barolos, and Oregon Pinot Noir (all locations marginally known for their available truffles)?  How could mycelium become useful as a fertilizer or natural pesticide in viticulture?

At the beginning of this year, I finished reading Katherine Cole’s book Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers, and the question re-emerged upon reading a statement from Montinore Vineyards proprietor Rudy Marchesi: “we are now through biodynamics introducing beneficial mycorrhizal fungi that are crowding out the pathogenic fungi.  They are making the soil more aerobic.  Pathenogenic fungi like soils that are anaerobic.”

I contacted Stamets’ company, Fungi Perfecti, for answers to my questions, and received the following response:

Hi Adam, thanks for your question.  Mycorhizal fungi can be added to the row of grapes to increase specific microorganisms that attach to the roots of the grape plant.  These can be helpful in soils of various conditions, depending on how they are treated.  They can help improve disease resistance and nutrient uptake for the soil.  It will also increase water uptake.  Here is a link to an article on grapes.

 

It has been awhile since my last oyster mushroom hunt, and my girlfriend and I have kept busy with an oyster-mushroom growing kit from Back to the Roots.  They have the same mineral-driven raw flavor that becomes nicely rich when sautéed, as I did this morning with the most recent flush.  Their bounty and beauty, however, is unmatched in comparison to their wild brethren.  It is this strange enigma that fuels my incessant curiosity for every possible benefit mycelium can offer us, and how the protection they offer wine grapes translates into what we taste in our stemware.

Our homegrown oyster mushrooms

I ran into my old friend David Anthony Temple at yesterday’s Chefs for Farmers event, and he had prepared morels stuffed with goat cheese and jalapeño over Mexican-style elote, a celebration of the ending morel season.  As I prepare for relocation to the Pacific Northwest, a land known for all kinds of wild mushrooms, I am filled with a longing desire to throw a morel-stuffing party when the season begins next spring.  I am imagining a bounty of Washington and Oregon wines and mushrooms stuffed with game and locally foraged greens, a moment of rejoicing over the flavor of all elements coming together.

Chef DAT’s Goat Cheese and Jalapeño Stuffed Morel over Mexican Elote at Chefs for Farmers

Drinking Wine out of a Highball

Ever since starting this blog I had intended to visit Scardello Artisan Cheese Shop during one of their late nights that occur the first Friday of each month.  I first dropped by the shop about two years ago, and was struck by their use of highball glasses for wines they served by the glass.  It seemed to promote an image free of pretension, a place where anyone could feel relaxed.  I could only recall stemware as the preferred medium since I began drinking wine regularly.  Businesses such as Scardello that serve wine and charge money for it often invest an inordinate amount of time and capital for what they consider the ideal glassware.  But in this small cheese shop, wine is a best friend that their cheese needs to keep around, even though it may have a life of its own outside of Scardello.

Foregoing expensive stemware, the preferred wine consumption vessel at Scardello is a basic highball

I finally had some spare time this past Friday evening, and I drove straight from work to the shop.  I approached the live jazz trio, when Ali Morgan, a short brunette employee with a bright demeanor, approached me.  “Hey Adam!” she said with gusto, hugging me.  “How are you?”

“I’ve been doing well,” I remarked.

“It’s Rich’s birthday.  Come sit with us.”

Cheesemongers Rich Rogers and Ali Morgan relaxing with a bottle of wine

Rich Rogers had left a career in the film industry to open this unique and personal vision of a cheese shop years ago.  It represents what he wants to share with the community, with a sense of enthusiasm that filters into the friendly smiles of his employees, some of whom were relaxing with him for their night off.

Rich poured me a glass of 2008 Teira Zinfandel from Sonoma, basic, big, and expansive, and a great partner for the piece of creamy Jersey Blue cheese he let me taste.  Someone mentioned that the winemaker, Dan Donahoe, was a friend of Rich’s.  “He’s a cool guy and he makes great wines,” Rich said.

I began fiddling with my new camera, snapping pictures in between sips of Corino Nebbiolo Rich let me taste.  Having just arrived from work, a couple glasses of wine were causing my memory of the familiar jazz tunes to elude me of their exact titles, but they were nonetheless relaxing to my pleasant state of revelry.

Teira Zinfandel and Colino Nebbiolo, with some special cheeses

I had invited an old friend’s current girlfriend, Gretchen, who had just moved to town.  In spite of her lactose intolerance, the mention of half-price wines by the glass and live jazz convinced her to join us.  I bought us each a glass of Malbec and told her about my week full of mishaps before Thanksgiving.

As the jazz trio packed up their instruments, Rich gave me and Gretchen a taste of the Iron Horse 2007 Wedding Cuvee Blanc de Noirs.  He explained how they were among those who had petitioned for Green Valley’s American Viticultural Area status in Sonoma back in 1983.  I inhaled the cherry blossom aroma percolating out of my highball, and sipped it as I browsed Rich’s small yet eclectic wall of wines.  On the bottom shelf in the center, I noticed an Italian Carménère-based blend.  The grape almost always originates from Chile, and this was the second time I had seen it from elsewhere, (the first time was from one of my favorite Walla Walla wineries, Morrison Lane,) so I was no doubt curious about the bottle in front of me by Inama.  Surely it’s not approved for us to sell at Whole Foods, I thought.

The interior of Scardello late night

I told my colleague about it at work the next day, and arrived yesterday to an open bottle to taste and a full case to stock our shelves.   I love being wrong at moments like these, because I had the opportunity to taste something new.  Soft, lush, relaxing, the wine was welcoming me into its home, a place with no frills where I could unwind amongst company.  In that spirit, I made sure my coworkers tasted it, and told them how the grape was nearly lost to the industry and is mostly only available in Chile.  Now we have something familiar that will allow me to introduce more people to Italian wine, and therein lies the most exciting part of what I do: the possibility of relishing my taste with others.

If You Could Have Dinner with One Winemaker…

We walked toward the entrance of Victor Tango’s, concerned for a moment that we were running late.  As we neared the door, our hosts for the evening appeared, Chuck Weintraub (Owner and Broker for Wineright Inc.) and Randal Grahm (Owner and Winemaker for Bonny Doon Vineyards).

Randal smiled as he introduced himself to me.  “Nice hat,” he said, pointing to a large black beret I was wearing with the name of his red wine “CONTRA” written on it.

“I knew he’d wear the hat,” Chuck remarked.

Weeks into my position as Associate Wine Specialist for Whole Foods, Chuck visits the store with wines from Bonny Doon Vineyard.

“I just can’t quite tell you how great it feels to be selling these wines again,” he proclaims.

There are few California wines I regard as beyond the crowd-pleaser category, so my eyebrows go up with intrigue upon tasting these wholly original wines for the first time.

“Adam, you seem quiet,” says Chuck.  “I’m wondering what you think.”

“I’m really impressed by this rosé,” I respond, referring to the Vin Gris de Cigare.  It has a surprisingly dry and crisp flavor profile I have not experienced since my first tasting room job.  Vin Gris is the pink version of Bonny Doon’s flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant, a reference to a 1954 decree that no flying saucers can fly above Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Here was the alien Californian cleverly concocting a Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend and a rosé version of the wine.

I dive into these wines head first, with a chance encounter days later of Randal Grahm’s collection of newsletters Been Doon So Long at Half Price Books.  I had kept an empty bottle of their European Syrah Domaine des Blaguers in my house, not recalling it as a Bonny Doon wine but more interested in the label drawn by Ralph Steadman, the focus of a previous Why Wine? post.  As I read the book, Randal Grahm sounds like a kindred spirit, someone outside the norm in his home of California and its wine business.

Six of us sat at a table toward the back of the restaurant and the night began with two different bubbling beverages.

“Randal has brought a bunch of wines that are not available in Texas,” Chuck began, “so this should be fun.”

He poured glasses of sparkling cider made from apple, pear, and quince, and finished it with a splash of dessert wine to add sweetness.  The cider tasted like dry champagne without heavy-handed yeastiness.

“Are you growing the fruit for this cider yourself?” I asked him.

“Not yet but we’re hoping to grow the pears and quince.”

Then came sparkling riesling.  I took my glass and smelled, and immediately turned to Bianca, my superior and the buyer at our store.

“Bianca I could sleep in this glass,” I said.  In retrospect, a glass of liquid lends itself more to swimming rather than sleeping.

“Yeah, we need this wine,” she responded.  “New Year’s resolution for the store.”

Food began arriving, and kept arriving throughout the night as the restaurant manager and wine buyer joined our table.  We tasted an Albariño, Dry Muscat, Syrahs, a Nebbiolo, and many more.

At one point the topic of stelvins came up.  Most people I know refer to “stelvins” as “screw-tops,” but the simplistic designation of this term bothers me as much as the term “foodie,” for which I prefer to say “epicurean” as I prefer the word “stelvin.”

“Wine ages better with stelvins,” Randal declared.

“Really?” I asked, my eyes widening.  “Because I have always told customers the exact opposite.”

“Oh no.  We have done experiments.”

After dinner, Bianca asks if I am not too tired for a nightcap at the Libertine Bar.  We sit at a stool as she drinks a digestif, me with a Deschuttes Stoic Ale in front of me.

“So what about the whole cork versus stelvin thing?” I ask.  

“There’s a lot of information coming to light about it,” Bianca notes.

“Because I have seriously told customers a stelvin means the wine is ready to drink and a cork means it should be aged.  But tonight Randal told me the exact opposite.”

“Well what we want with wine is controlled spoilage.  There’s a book called To Cork or Not to Cork that tells the whole story of each closure method.”

Toward the end of dinner, my boss Casie asked Randal how he went from sweeping the floors of a winery to the owner and winemaker for one of California’s most respected vineyards.

“Well, I came from a very privileged background…”

Casie brings up his comment afterward, and points out the perception that people think those with Trust Funds never need to worry about money.

“I distinguish between someone with a privileged background versus someone with a trust fund,” I say.

“What’s the difference for you?” Casie asks.

“I’ve been privileged growing up,” I explain, “but once I became an adult, there was not much money to my name.  Someone with a trust fund has that luxury.  It was also hard doing things my parents didn’t understand when they were financing my education.  Strangely they’ve been most supportive of my career in the wine industry.”

“I think your parents realize you’re serious about what you’re doing,” Bianca says, “and they see their persistence and work ethic reflected in your struggle, so they respect you more for it.”

“Interesting,” I respond.  “I can see how that may be the case.”  I think about how our conversations have made tonight’s main event seem more significant for all of us.

Garden Café, a Case of Wine Controversy in Dallas

“Whenever we had a photographer,” explained Dale Wootten, owner of Dallas’ Garden Café, “we’d offer complimentary wine and cheese and promote their art.  We had a lot of birthday parties or anniversary parties or whatever and we just can’t do it anymore.”

Wootten refers to the recent rejection of a proposal that would have allowed his small café to continue hosting private events where guests could bring their own alcohol, and potentially begin selling and serving beer and wine.  “We filed the application because a lot the neighbors kept saying ‘why don’t you have wine with dinner?’ ” he said.

In the midst of my conversations with Dale and his son Mark, the café’s General Manager and lead cook, I became more curious about how the presence of wine (or lack thereof) could impact a business.  Questions from various angles formed in my head, as I tried to sort through why wine represented a restaurant’s ticket to growth, and the implications a surrounding community saw with that privilege.

Dale purchased the space that is now Garden Café in 1991, at which point he used it as an office.  Rather than pursue the completion of plans considered the highest and best use of land, Dale saw the potential of catering to his pastime of gardening in the building’s back lot.  He decided to expand his vision into a café because, he remarked, “I have always liked little places like this.”  It has evolved into a Junius Heights institution with its picturesque patio by a garden that takes up half the space.

A photo of the original building purchased by Dale Wootten in 1991

Garden Café in its current state

The limitation of offering beer and wine stems from a zoning ordinance that deemed the space a dry overlay.  Though properties can no longer receive this designation, any overlays made before 1987 still stand, and Garden Café falls into this category.

In spite of the overlay, they had been serving beer and wine at private functions and allowing guests to bring their own for nearly nine years.  The city suddenly took notice of these activities as illegal “because we had the application,” said Dale, and “the city attorney explained that what we’d been doing was illegal.”

After a vote defeated their bid for offering beer and wine, Garden Café is reassessing how they will make up for what they believe helped their business remain economically viable.  “We were going to do dinner service,” Mark Wootten began, but “it was going to be more pop-up dinners with other chefs, and we were going to do some of our own with poetry dinners.”  Mark continued that these dinners were a long tradition for the café, and he felt skeptical they could retain the same spirit they evoked, and fill up such events without the ability to bring or purchase alcohol.

A vision unfulfilled

I recently attended a pop-up dinner at a different location, hosted by My Private Chef and cooked by Nicole Van Camp.  It was a rare opportunity for me to open one of my bottles of wine in the intimate company of friends with a meal cooked by a full-time chef.  Something about this opportunity is unusually gratifying for the cook and the diners, an opportunity for everyone to literally bring something to the table and spark conversation about the different flavors around the room.

I have difficulty relating specifically to how this intimacy and curiosity manifests itself at Garden Café’s events, since I have not attended any, but I gather Mark felt similarly about such events: “the spirit of these dinners is really beautiful,” he remarked.  “In the beginning you’ve got thirty near strangers and by the end you have thirty people hanging out.”

I still find myself struggling with the role wine and beer play in fostering this unique sense of curiosity and camaraderie.  Something intangible makes us feel relieved or intrigued by a glass of rotten grape juice, so much so that it puts the economic viability of an event in question.  At the same time, however, the mere presence of alcohol in a beverage sparks controversy over our desire for intoxication.  And while beer and wine often fall under a separate category, more geared toward a food-loving, controlled crowd, they still end up privy to controversies such as the one I have described.  Would you attend an alcohol-free pop-up dinner?