Friday, October 26, 2012

A vermouth above all others

A couple years ago, while sitting at the bar of a small restaurant called Rocker Oysterfeller’s in the tiny town of Valley Ford about forty five minutes’ drive north of San Francisco, I drank what at the time was the best Negroni I’d ever had. It had a smokiness, complexity, depth and hint of burnt orange that just took things to a whole other level.

To ensure that it wasn’t a fluke, a few months later I went back to Rocker Oysterfeller’s and ordered another one, and sure enough it was spectacular.

Now a Negroni is just not that complicated – equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. OK, some people prefer a little more gin and a little less Campari and vermouth, but this is the basic recipe. Wait, I forgot, you need to add your choice of orange slice or strip orange peel. But here’s my point, this means the only real big variables here are the gin and the vermouth, because there’s only one Campari. And what was different here was not the gin.

So, I asked the barmaid, who also happened to be the owner of the restaurant, which by the way is surprisingly good for being in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, what made her Negroni so good. She smiled, as knowing barmaids are wont to do, and said “It’s the vermouth. I use the best there is.” And proceeded to show me a slightly over sized,  kind of fat bottle with an old fashion looking label. Stuff was called “Antica Formula.” I had a 3 second glimpse, and it was gone.

Shortly after that life got in the way. Homes were packed and unpacked. Jobs were changed. Latitudes shifted. You get the idea.

Then, while looking at some bottles of wine at a Whole Foods, what do I see but that slightly over sized,  kind of fat bottle with the old fashion label. Oh yes, this was coming home with me!

Antica Formula is now my house standard. It is, hands down, the best vermouth I've ever had and a spectacular mixer.

Antica Formula’s distributor describes it as follows:
Antica Formula is a red vermouth made from an original recipe by Antonio Benedetto Carpano, the man credited with creating modern vermouth in Turin in 1786. Carpano originally developed vermouth by mixing herbs with a base wine and then sweetening it by adding spirit. His new drink proved so popular that soon his shop had to stay open 24 hours a day to satisfy demand.
Carpano had been inspired by a German aromatised wine and was a fan of German poetry. As a result, he named his new product after the German word for wormwood, wermut, which was frequently used to flavour wine at the time.
Antica Formula is richer and more complex than most red vermouths and will make an excellent Bronx, Manhattan or Negroni.

And there you have it.

Le Capitaine

Friday, September 14, 2012

Part 2

And here's Part 2 of the Author Showcase interview.

Le Capitaine

Friday, September 7, 2012

Part 1 - Author Showcase interview

Last week I did an Author Showcase interview with host Jacob Morris. Part 1 was just released. Can you tell we had fun?

Very best,
Le Capitaine

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez

Phoebus II, a 3 tonner built in 1903 sailing in the Voile de Saint-Tropez event.

The Spirit of Yesteryear Comes to Saint-Tropez

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, aspires to maintain the spirit of yesteryear. Mixing vessels from the past with those from the present is a key feature of their approach. It has proved highly successful, as participants throughout the fleet share a genuine camaraderie and esprit de corps that is rarely found in modern competitive sports. Rolex has been part of this landscape since 2006, supporting the Rolex Trophy: a competition within the Tradition division for classic yachts over 16 metres in length “on deck”.

The 2012 Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez will be held between 29 September and 7 October. It is open to both modern and traditional yachts over 9 metres in length, with a limit of 300 entries. Racing, usually in the form of coastal courses the length of which depends upon the prevailing wind conditions, takes place on the bay of Saint-Tropez. To watch the bay during this event is to see a magical canvas of sails and classic sailboats painted on the blue of the bay.
Mariska, a 15 meter built in 1908 
Modern yachts race over five days, while the classics race over four days. In the middle of the competition, a day is reserved for private challenges, where enthusiastic owners remember the origins of the regatta.

Formerly known as La Nioulargue, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez was born of a challenge between two passionate sailors. In 1981, Jean Laurain, the owner of the 12-Metre design Ikra, and American Dick Jason, the owner of a Swan 44, Pride, agreed to race between Saint-Tropez and the restaurant Club 55 at Pampelonne, using as a turning mark La Nioulargue, a buoy marking the Nioulargo shallows some five nautical miles east-north-east off Cap Camarat. Ikra beat Pride, and following the enthusiastic embrace of Patrice de Colmont, the restaurant’s owner, the Club 55 Cup and La Nioulargue regatta were born. In 1995, a tragic accident led to a cessation of the event. The regatta returned in 1999 with a new name and revitalized spirit.
The Lady Anne, 15 meter built in 1912

Les Voiles is a popular end to the Mediterranean inshore yacht-racing season. The harbor of Saint-Tropez fills with yachts, carbon-fibre sitting happily alongside varnished wood. The town brims with people, as crews and spectators mix together. The bay is a sea of sails, as synthetic fibres contrast with more natural materials.

The week of competition closes, appropriately, with a prize-giving at the 16th-century Citadelle overlooking the old port.

As Rolex is the sponsor, among the many prizes presented, the winner of the Rolex trophy will be awarded a Rolex timepiece. Nice.

Fair winds,
Le Capitaine

P.S. Here's a fantastic video of the 2010 VOiles de Saint-Tropez. I recommend playing it full screen.

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez from kaaps || spaako on Vimeo.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pamplemousse Rosé

(This has come up twice in the last 2 days, so decided I’d drop a note here and share.)

Here’s a simple and very refreshing after lunch summer dessert.

Take a pamplemousse (grapefruit), peel and chop into 1 inch cubes. Freeze or chill. Place 3-5 cubes in class then fill glass with chilled rosé.

Makes for a wonderfully refreshing after lunch treat on a hot day.

I picked this up in Provence at some point but don’t remember exactly where.

Le Capitaine

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cheating at homemade pizzas

I make a lot of pizzas, and often post about them on my facebook page. Recently a friend asked me how I make my dough as she was not satisfied with hers.

My homemade pizza sauce: tomato paste, harissa, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Hmmm!

And I had to admit that I cheat. Well, sort of. 

In an attempt to stay health I actually do not make pizza dough but instead use an organic "Ezekiel" sprouted grain tortilla. This type of tortilla is high in protein and fiber and much lower in carbs than traditional dough. 

Ezekiel tortilla ingredients: Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Unhulled Sesame Seeds, Organic Sprouted Whole Soybeans, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Lentils, Organic Sprouted Whole Spelt, Sea Salt. 

Hey, that’s all good stuff!

I toast the tortilla in the oven first until it is a golden color. This makes it stiff. You could skip this step, but I've found the stiffness and accompanying crunchiness to be a better experience. After toasting I layer on my toppings and put it back in the preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 6-8 minutes. The result is all the goodness of pizza without the heavy carbs of traditional pizza dough. 

The Ezekiel tortillas are available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Two small pizzas ready for the oven!

By not having to make the dough I save time, which I spend on fresh pesto or on my amazing pizza sauce or on preparing inventive toppings!

Bon appetit!
Le Capitaine

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Tavern’s Vault serves up the Bards of Mystic

The Tavern’s Vault, a magazine of fantasy literature, did a nice review of Traveler’s Tales, the first CD by the Bards of Mystic. 

"You will be left in awe
as this modern show of minstrels
entertains your soul and provides a threshold for a listener to enter, temporarily leaving the stresses of our own realities."

- The Tavern's Vault

Do you like to sit back and listen to somebody tell you a good story? Then give this review a read. You might find yourself on the road to a new reality.

Bon voyage,
Le Capitaine

P.S. You can pick up a copy of Traveler's Tales on iTunes or at

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Madame Chou Chou - petits délices gastronomiques éclectiques

The main dinning room. Oui, c'est petit.

Madame Chou Chou is a very special place.

It is, in so many ways, very French. For Americans unused to the way things can be in a small French café, this can be both good and bad.

Le service: I’ve been several times now and Madame was there every time and either served us or checked in on us to make sure things were going well. She is a character, but in the best of ways. She is the heart and soul of this small resto. Now, the flip side is, things do not necessarily move at a rapid pace. Do not come here if you are in a hurry. And the atmosphere is small casual French, so the service from the one waiter I’ve ever seen is,well, casual. Quite pleasant mind you, and the wine he recommended was fantastic while very reasonably priced (the white Entre Deux Mer), but he may forget an order or if you complain show a hint of that French bad boy attitude.So, just be willing to just go with the flow. Think of it as authentic French.

Où s'asseoir (where to sit): Personally I like to sit in the main room. There’s a very cute patio in back, which is where most patrons like to sit, but for me the quieter, more traditional space, though a bit gothic,inside works better. Outside is livelier & noisier, inside; darker and more intimate… that is if it isn’t too crowded.

Le repas: I’ve tried multiple menu items at this point and have not had anything bad. The fish was not to my liking, but it wasn’t bad. It just was a style of preparation that didn’t suit me, but suited my companion quite well. Now the lamb shank, that was good, and one night they had a duck confit special that was astounding. Slightly off the traditional path in that the chef made a confit from a smoked duck, but oh my, did it work well. We practically licked our plates. Everything is reasonably priced, too. If I had a complaint it would be that the menu is a little too limited and the classic French staple of Steak Frite is missing. Please Madame Chou Chou, add a nice steak frite. Please.

Les desserts: OMG. Everything is good, and the fig and goat cheese tart is fantastic – alone worth the trip.

Bottom line: For a mini trip to France, an eclectic off the beaten path France that is, one full of characters, a bit of adventure, and plenty of good tastes, you can’t beat Madame Chou Chou.

Bon apetit!
Le Capitaine


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

La Cachette Bistro: Great food but a generic upscale environment

I’ve been to La Cachette Bistro a few times now. 

The food is quite good. The chef, J.F. Meteigner definitely knows what he is doing in the kitchen. On one of my visits I had the homemade fromage de tete with a gribiche sause and it was as good as you get in France. In fact, many of his appetizers are exceptional.

The dishes run from California-French to traditional French, and the prices are in the $30 to $50 per person for a multi-course meal, not including wine or cocktails.

I hear the lunch menu is more forgiving on your pocketbook, but have yet to try it.

The service was of quality as well. Unfortunately not a French waiter, but still one who knew his business well enough.

My only complaint, and it is one that many may brush aside, is that while the decor is quite nice, it is generic. It's as if the owners asked the decorators for a generic upscale restaurant. And while that may be fine for many, I would guess that the discerning dinner will be put off by the lack of personality.

I would love to see this excellent chef in a kitchen of a restaurant that looked like it has been serving to the literary greats of Paris for the last 150 years - a place where when you step in you are immediately transported, putting you in the frame of mind for the excellent French meal that follows. Now that would create a memorable experience with a strong desire to return again!

Bottom line: Go for the food.

P.S. Go ahead and valet - resistance is futile. What street parking there is, is limited and fought over.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Paullette Faucoup, known to many simply as “Mémé”, a longtime resident of St Tropez, will be buried Monday, January 23rd at 3pm in le Cimetière marin de St. Tropez.

Mme Faucoup moved to St Tropez in the 1930’s after getting married to naval engineer Louis Faucoup. A fixture and friend to all the old-time families of St Tropez, she also came to be known and loved by many around the world who read of her in the St Tropez based novel A Feast at the Beach.

She is survived by a sister, 1 son, 3 daughters,  6 grandchildren, multiple great grandchildren, cousins, and many friends.

~ ~ ~

Paullette Faucoup, que beaucoup appelaient simplement "Mémé", une résident de longue date de St Tropez, sera enterré Lundi, Janvier 23 à 15 heures dans le Cimetière Marin de Saint-Tropez.

Mme Faucoup déménagé à Saint-Tropez dans les années 1930 après avoir épousé ingénieur naval Louis Faucoup. Un montage et un ami detoutes les familles d'autrefois de St Tropez elle a également venu pour être connu et aimé par beaucoup à travers le monde qui ont lu d'elle dans le roman acclamé Une Festin à la Plage, qui prend place a St Tropez.

Elle laisse dans le deuil une soeur, 1 fils, 3 filles, 6 petits-enfants, plusieurs petits-petis-enfants, cousins, cousines, et de nombreux amis.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One of the stars of St Tropez passed away yesterday.

Paullette Foucoup, known to so many simply as Mémé, was a longtime resident, having moved to St Tropez in the 1930’s after getting married to naval engineer Louis Faucoup. 

While she was a fixture and friend to all the old time families of St Tropez, Mémé also came to be known and loved by many around the world who read of her in the St Tropez based novel A Feast at the Beach.

Today, St Tropez is crying at the loss of one of their own. 

Rest in peace Mémé, you are in our hearts forever.