Most Powerful Foodies

The 39th annual Winter Fancy Food Show wrapped up its an annual three-day edible expo at San Francisco?s Moscone Center this week. The movable feast was comprised of more than 80,000 specialty foods and beverages proffered by 1,350 exhibitors from across the U.S. and 35 countries and regions. And, of course, Sonoma was among them.

Now, we newspaper types are protective of our beats (when a certain music columnist so much as mentions a drumstick he stands a chance of waking up with a chicken head in his bed courtesy of a certain food columnist), so I will tread lightly with my commentary about the event, which (a) I did not attend and (b) wouldn?t have enjoyed anyway, since I?m on some kind of caveman diet (it?s not Paleo so much as Jurassic Park ? everything I want to eat is encased in amber).

There were apparently some local luminaries present ? among them, of course, was our own culinary columnist Kathleen Hill. Also from under the same roof as the Sonoma Index-Tribune (for whom I write these columns) were the gentleman jerky-makers behind Krave Jerky. And If my source is to be trusted (and she?s not), there might also have been a local maker of wine-flavored lozenges, which give you all the benefit of failing a breathalyzer test but with none of the fun.

America?s 50 Most Powerful People in Food and No Sonomans Among Them

I mention all this because, on the heels of this event, The Daily Meal just released its fourth yearly list of America?s 50 Most Powerful People in Food, which purports to ?determine who the REAL architects of the food world are.? Not one Sonoman is on it. Not even Kathleen. Wha..?

Colman Andrews, the editorial director of the uber foodie website The Daily Meal (and eight-time James Beard award-winner to boot), explained why this might be a good thing to me via email:

?Why no Sonomans? Well, first of all, that might be a good thing for Sonoma since by no means all of our ?most powerful? are admirable people; a more apposite answer, though, might be that we perceive the power in Sonoma to derive more from the world of wine than that of food ? and when we do our Most Powerful People in Drink, which we will one of these days, I?m sure Sonoma will figure,? Andrews wrote.

Dude, you had me at ?apposite.? So, this is how Andrews and his team do it:

?Throughout the year, The Daily Meal?s editors track stories about key figures in the food world. We also consult ?most powerful? lists in business magazines and solicit the opinions of trusted advisors,? says Andrews. ?We then compile a basic list and do updated research to see how all the candidates have ?changed the conversation? or otherwise affected the culinary landscape.?

The conversation, it seems, was dominated by honchos at government agencies, a big retailer and two chemical companies.

The top five listees accordingly are:

1. Thomas Vilsack, secretary, USDA

2. Hugh Grant, chairman, president, and CEO, the Monsanto Company

3. Doug McMillion, president and CEO, Walmart

4. Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for Food, Federal Drug Administration

5. Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO, Pepsi

If you did the math in your head, you might be asking ?What, you don?t think Pepsi is a chemical?? Read the ingredients on a can and then we?ll talk.

There are also some of the usual suspects, including number 39, Alice Waters, the chef-restaurateur of landmark eatery Chez Panisse ? the cornerstone of Berkeley?s lauded ?Gourmet Ghetto.?

I?ve eaten there but my memory of the experience was fogged by my fascination with filmmaker Werner Herzog sticking to his word to ?eat his shoe? if a fellow filmmaker, documentarian Errol Morris, finished a particular project. Morris did and Herzog turned to Waters to make his footwear ?edible.?

This brings me to the notion that when Kathleen Hill is included on the next list of the most powerful foodies, I?ll eat my shoe, too. Hear that Colman? The game, as they say, is afoot ?

Via SonomaNews

Sonoma County: The State Of

Not to be outdone by the upcoming State of the Union and State of the State addresses, Sonoma County has its own State of the County address. Next Friday, Economic Development Board director Ben Stone and his team will talk shop about the economic bounty of the county at Rohnert Park?s DoubleTree Hotel (full disclosure: the EDB is a client of CMedia for which I?m executive director).

All bodes well as Sonoma County seems to be continuing its decade of unprecedented change. But then, all change is unprecedented otherwise it wouldn?t be change. Remember when Sonoma?County used to be branded the ?Redwood Empire?? I?m presuming this was because of trees or something. Or maybe that was just its?color. According to paint store Kelley Moore, which proffers a redwood-hued paint, we could just as easily have been the Sierra Brown or Driftwood Empire. We chose well. But now, the woodsy name?hasn?t the same cachet.

Sonoma County?equals wine country. Unless you?re in Napa County, then?it?s Wine Country and the further east one goes the more capital letters it picks up. In Virginia, I believe, it?s WINE COUNTRY,?only because they have to shout it to get anyone to believe it. (Incidentally, some of their terroir is a distinctly redwood color ? go figure).

But, Sonoma isn?t merely wine country, it?s also an?epicurean epicenter. I hear there?s a movement afoot to have gustatory great and erstwhile Glen Ellen resident M.F.K. Fisher?sainted. We could at least get our epicurean empress a statue and?perhaps replace some of Charlie Brown statuary that dots the county?seat like an invading cartoon army.

Charlie Brown Army

It would certainly?help the county be taken seriously and contribute to its concerted?effort to take the ?So?? out of Sonoma and the ?Cow? out of?Country. Excepting, naturally, artisanal meats and dairy products ??then we definitely want to keep the cow but squeeze in a sheep and?a goat or two as well. Sonoma could Cowsheepgoa-nty.?As they say in?action flicks, ?It?s crazy but it just might work.?

In my?occasional conversations with Stone, I?ve become acquainted with his desire to help cultivate the county?s burgeoning creative industries. Of course, someone forgot to inform him that most creative types, at least the ones I know, bristle at the notion of
being anywhere but bed at 7 a.m. when the breakfast address occurs.

I?m going myself to A) prove that I can actually wake up that early and B) to get the lowdown for my colleagues who will be sleeping off the inspiration from the night before. With a little bit of effort, Sonoma County ? so the thinking goes ? could be Ashland South, Hollywood North and Austin West. I suppose we could also become Guam East ? I hear they have quite an arts scene. However, I suggest you start your Guamanian collection now before the rising sea level reduces the island nation to a floating art barge.

That said, all boats rise right? Perhaps Sonoma County?s art scene will be buoyed by a tide of wine beneath it. It?ll either be its salvation or its destruction. Art is immortal, livers not so much ? just ask our foie gras industry.

As M.F.K Fisher?s grand-nephew Luke Barr writes in Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, ?Sonoma County is saturated with sophisticated flavors and ambitious cooking and, more than that, with an unmistakable sense of craftsmanship and idealism.? If you replace ?flavors? and ?cooking? with ?arts? and ?artists? in the quote above, the ?craftsmanship and idealism? still pertains. In fact, then our artists could afford some of the local cuisine about?which Barr rhapsodizes. Then our State of the County could also be state of the art.

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board, 2014 State of the County event, commences 7 a.m., Friday, Jan. 24 at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1 Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park.?For tickets and information, visit?



Gratitude: Ungrateful Bastards Edition

January is National Thank You Month – created, no doubt, by those with a vested interest in “thank you” card companies. Yes, I’ve grown cynical enough to believe that even expressing gratitude is a racket. Why wouldn’t it be? This is America, land of the freebooters, home of the brazen. If I could get away selling two words on a page, I would. Thank you. Mental note: Start a secondary market in “You’re Welcome” cards. Buy yacht.
Given the politeness of some gift recipients, it stands to reason that the “Thank You” lobby would claim January as their month, coming off the holiday season and all. But have they considered extending National Thank You Month into February, when the most conspicuous displays of gratitude spew like a Roman vomitorium on Bulimics Night? I’m talking about the Oscars.

You know, when contenders race to thank all creatures great and small before the music plays and they’re forced to stop. It’s like reverse musical chairs but without chairs. Or a point.

Oscar Gratitude

Last year, Georgia Tech master’s student Rebecca Rolfe led a research study concerned with gratitude. She analyzed more than 200 Academy Award speeches and learned more people thank producer Harvey Weinstein than God. This stands to reason, because God has never produced a film.

Rolfe also found that 84 percent of speeches end with a “Thank You.” I could only imagine how the other 16 percent end – middle finger? Mic drop? Flag burning followed by urination to quell the flames? All three? We can only hope Nic Cage gets nominated again to wait and see.

I suppose the problem with National Thank You Month is the fact that it’s not simply National Gratitude Month, because that’s the underlying concept, right? What, too on the nose? Of course, the branding of “gratitude” may have been compromised. Those who’ve had the pleasure of buying me lunch might’ve heard me grouse about a Cafe Gratitude, a chain of raw food restaurants. The staff have this insidious mandate to ask you, “What are you grateful for?” at the end of your “meal.” Ugh.

First off, I abhor sentences that end in a preposition. Secondly, how dare some twenty-something ask me to inventory my privileged First World life for their approval? Yes, I’m aware that my reaction is telling in ways that reveal deep pools of angst and darkness within a withered soul, but, hey, that’s how I make my living.

My initial thought (which Malcolm Gladwell thinks is one’s best thought and this is why he’s a genius) was to say, “I’m grateful this is the only job your liberal arts degree will get you so I don’t have see you in real life.”

But the fact is, Gladwell is not a genius and I’m not actually that rude. If memory serves, I mumbled my stock answer, something akin to, “I’m grateful to be here with my wife.”

But that came off as totally disingenuous because I wasn’t grateful to be there and my luncheon companion was not my wife. It was a publicist trying to sell me on a crap ebook. And he was a dude. This made everyone uncomfortable. Including the ebook author who wasn’t even there.

Incidentally, Cafe Gratitude is an anagram of Actuated Grief – just say’n. If the waitress had asked, “What are you ungrateful for?” now, that would’ve been a delicious side of raw existentialism, which would taste exactly like crow. Tallying all that one can take for granted in this life would take an eternity. Might be easier to just start “National No Thank You Month” and decline the invitation entirely. Feel free to use that as needed. You’re welcome.

Via SonomaNews