Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sleepless in San Anselmo

Pey-Marin's Textbook Label...Yummy!
Well last night at three am, not being able to sleep, I got up and spent at least half an hour writing a new, lengthy post, only to loose it in the split second of a wrong click.  No command Z could fix it.  Urgh.... Back to bed where I should've been all along!

Suffice it to say, it was a very lovely post about wine tastings, and health department frustrations, printers and procrastinating engineers.  A fittingly frustrated post to a frusting couple of days.  I went to bed thinking, Forget it!  You have so much to be grateful for and you're almost there.  Think positive and get some rest.

What I will say now, is that I'm so encouraged and excited!  (What a difference some sleep makes).  We're going to have some awesome wines on the list, thanks to my brilliant brother, Sean Crowley.  Really unique wines from small, passionate, mostly bio-dynamic  producers both locally and from handpicked regions of Italy.   All will all have a charming story to tell, and I'm making new winemaker friends and distributor friends, people who are a pleasure to work with and have the same love for what they do as I do.  That right there is something to be grateful for!

We did get our health department issue worked out.  You've just got to get as creative about circumventing their rules as they are about creating them.  Its absolutely ridiculous how they've got you, and nobody will stand up to them because they all just need to get open!  I'd fight about it because I hate to see hard working people done wrong, but just like them, it costs more to fight than it does to get creative and work around things. 

My architect also dropped off the plan check revisions today to the Town of San Anselmo.  I'm hopping for a quick turn around, and a final go ahead! 

Please God.....

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Graduation cake by Emily Luchetti/Terri Wu
It's been a big week, a reunion week of sorts.  Tuesday was another continuation of the graduation celebrations, this time a reunion of elementary/high school friends and family at Farallon.  A repeat of their high school graduation party.  I'm so blessed to have this circle of friends and family!  As one of the mothers Nancy Culhane said in her speech, "You never know when you'll need someone, cherish these friendships." This group of friends and families have been a great support through my process of starting a restaurant, and I am truly grateful!

Thursday was The Stars Dinner Realigned at Epic Roasthouse.  You can read about it in this link   The hype about the dinner had been building for weeks, and everyone was so excited.  To say it was a memorable evening is an understatement, the food and wine were absolutely stunning!  The room was filled with SF restaurateurs, luminaries, old Stars employees, purveyors, regulars, friends, patrons, press; and you could feel the night pulsing, just as any bustling night at Stars ever did!

I was taking pictures in the kitchen when someone said, "Your food is getting cold."   That being the last thing on my mind, I realized, this is where I'm most comfortable!  This is the excitement!  These are my friends & colleagues!  This is why I'm opening a restaurant!  It was such a moment of affirmation.  I went back to my seat to savor the most incredible course of the night, Mark's sturgeon.  Aged, lobster-stuffed sturgeon, so infused with tender flavor it seemed to have swam onto the plate on its own accord.  To dress it in a simple butter sauce with caviar, is like putting a silk chemise on Sophia Loren.  And then to pair it with Chassagne-Montrachet 1st cru, I'll be thinking of that dish forever!

Every dish was incredible, and the pairings of wines spared no expense to measure up.  Some of the greatest culinary hands in San Francisco lovingly and proudly made this menu come alive.  And with the brilliant and always charming, Jeremiah Tower at the helm, the spirit of Stars past wafted through the dinning room as infectious as it always was.  Being a part of this kind of sophistication in food has been my life and my education, its in my blood. Thank you God of Grace for aligning me with such spectacular people!

On the Pizzalina front, we did get our plan-check comments back from the Town of San Anselmo Building Department last Wednesday.  The architects are all over it and we should be resubmitted by Monday or Tuesday.  I'm praying for a quick approval!  I'm now scrambling to get everything lined up for our green light..... subtitled, put lots of money in the bank......

Nothing ventured, nothing gained......

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My First Born

Well this weekend has been full and wonderful, not of the pursuit of restaurateuring, but of the pursuit of happiness.... joy immeasurable.... my baby graduated this weekend (on my birthday)!  And let me tell you this Momma couldn't be any prouder.  Twenty two years of hard work, devotion and perseverance has awarded him a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Out of that has come an honors award for his senior project, second place in the National AMES Senior Design Awards Competition, an LLC with a patented design and interested VCs, and an excellent job with Union Pacific Railroad!  Ok, I'm sorry, I had to gloat a little......

On to restaurants.  Last Thursday and Friday, we got a little excitement about the building permit, but as of today, still no word!  Thursday Bill calls me and says, "Louise, we've got to meet with the landlord!  I've talked with building, there's just a few simple comments, the fire department has some issues that can be cleared up with an extra exit.  We need approval from the landlord."  So in a flurry of phone calls and meetings with the landlord, his superintendent, and the Fire Marshall, I think, ok we should get this thing wrapped up way sooner than I was expecting after my conversations with two other local restaurateurs with horror stories. 

Here's the catch, the architect's already to redraw it up and resubmit, but we haven't even gotten the official comments back.  I'm afraid they'll all change and we'll have to redraw them again.  That my friends cost more money. Ka-ching!  Now I know I went into this with my eyes wide open, and everyone I chose for the team, architect, kitchen designer, and contractor all have years of restaurant experience, and you get what you pay for.  But, there's no preparation for dealing with the idiosyncrasies of small, local municipalities who'll run you around on a wild goose chase.  There's all these rules, codes, ordinances within each department and they're all open to interpretation and preference as to how they're dealt with.  How can the hand talk to the foot?!  The ABC, CEHD, RVSD1, ADA, SABD, RVFD, please!  And yet, each one of them is charging me some hefty permit fees, what a racket! Please people, let me get open so I can make a living.

It costs a lot of money to be a small business owner.  Shop local and support the businesses you love, especially those that give back to the communities you live in. 

Still no comments back from building and/or fire......

Ah, but I have faith!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eureka, I've Found It!

Yesterday was a great day!  Lot's accomplished.  And even though its nothing tangible right now, I found some resources I've been looking for for some time.  One is a great antique store in the city called Big Daddy......GO!  They're where Restoration Hardward shops and then knocks it off!  They have a store in LA and one here.  I found some beautiful accent pieces, chairs and custom tables made from recycled woods and antique bases from old industrial findings, very cool!  Beau was my sales person who helped me and while he was trying on a new chain mail piece in the store I clicked a photo.  Now his name is Sir Beauregard Lance-O-Lot.  He made my shopping day way fun!  Don't you love this wall of baskets!  I'm thinking a wall of old pizza peels.....

Then it was on to Charyn Restaurant Auction House.  They sell used, recycled, refurbished equipment of all kinds.  I think I'll be able to find some really great deals there when I'm ready to start buying.

A quick stop for lunch at Salumeria, the new hot spot from the folks at Flour & Water.  Great salumi, great sandwiches, great space.  I was totally inspired.  It would be the perfect place to go in next to Pizzalina; a little charcuterie/cheese/wine/sandwich place.  They had some very nice touches that didn't escape my ever increasing sponge brain.

Then I went by the soon to be open, Lincoln Park by my friends Stephen Simmons and wife Jennifer.  They filled me in on all the horrors of the local powers that be, gave me some coaching and forewarnings, a tour, menu tidbits and a wonderful glass of, I think reisling (ah, should'a got the info).  It was great to reconnect with Stephen, its been years, and finally meet Jennifer.  I wish them great success and I know they're going to knock it out of the park!  The place is cozy and beautifully designed and Stephen is an amazing chef.  So don't delay, the minute you see them open, please support them.  San Anselmo needs to re-establish itself as a vibrant, destination town with great food and night life.  We've lost it and we need to get it back!

amen little sister........

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take A Break, Enjoy Your Life

No earth shattering news this week.  Met with more vendors and sellers of "stuff".   Friday was my fun day.  Starting with my nieces graduation in San Francisco and moving on up to Napa to meet my brother for an educational meeting with Tim at the Kitchen Door in Oxbow Market.  He so kindly showed us the wine on tap system they have there.  He explained some of the pitfalls and problems they've had to learn the hard way, gave us some tips as to wineries that do their own program and numerous other, helpful little things you never find out until you're working with the system and what you've got is all wrong!

 From there it was on to the Annual Paradigm Wine Buyers Club Party, where I got to be my brothers guest.  Amazing!  What a beautiful evening.  Plenty of incredible Paradigm wines, Hog Island Oysters, yummy food, dancing and all around merriment.  Just what the doctor ordered, a night of fun!  I was starting to get bogged down and overwhelmed.  Now I feel so much better, I can face this week more productively.

The Harris' are the most wonderful people!  I don't know of any other wine clubs that host such an incredible event for their members for free, at their own home.  I should've taken more photos, but I was too busy having a good time.  So many nice people.  I adore my brother, Sean Crowley who really has become such a integral part of the Paradigm family.  Go Team Paradigm!  Great job and thank you!

This has really stuck with me, and I'm thinking of implementing the idea at Pizzalina.  If we have some kind of dinner club, then every year we can throw a thank you party for all the members.  Maybe not at my dinky house, but somewhere cool.  Hmmmmmm..... Want to be a member?  I'll have to think that one through a bit.  It's in my thinking cap for now.

Just sold off my glass studio. And I'm a bit sad about it.   It wasn't an easy choice to make.  I've been putting it off for months, but its time.   I need the money for Pizzalina and that will have to be my art form for now.

Remember, take a break... enjoy your life!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wine Tasting

So...... Last week ended on a good note, we got our Building Permit application in and I got a tentative approval for my beer & wine license, dependent on the final build out.... Woo-Hoo!

This week started off with a bang!  Had our first wine tasting last night to start building the wine list with my brother, wine extraordinaire, Sean Crowley and Elizabeth Downing owner of Springboard Wine Company in San Rafael.  Chef Douglas accompanied, and my friends, Kate and Barry Rose came over to help critique all the food and wine!  It was a great evening and wonderful kick-off to building a phenomenal wine list.

We tasted some incredible wines that will really compliment our menu!  Springboard has a unique and passionate catalog of wines.  Almost all of the selections are organic and/or sustainable, small vineyards produced by vintners who love, love, love what they do.  I got a huge education and can't wait to taste more, and be witness to the design of a well balanced list of local, Italian, unique, well priced, yummy, drinkable wines that go great with our food!

Mark's Amazing Salumi!
Some of the stand-outs and must haves that we tasted were a very elegant Prosecco, from a single vineyard, sustainable winery from Northern Italy.  A strikingly luscious, Ceago Sauvignon Blanc from one of the leaders of bio-dynamic vineyards.  An exceptionally, pizza friendly, Uvaggio Vermentino Italian varietal, grown in Lodi by the man who started the Cal/Ital fad.  Another Italian pizza stand out, Giovanni Rosso 2009 Barbera d'Alba, too easy to drink!  And a Hendry 2009 Estate Zinfandel, where stony soils and a moderate climate produce a most curvaceous food wine. Of course there were many other wonderful wines we tasted, but a well designed wine list is a gracious mix, like a good dinner party, or so says my darling brother, who I am forever indebted to!

Coming soon......

Kale, red onion, Mark's smoked bacon & egg
Douglas' Fennel Mussels