Carolann Sayle & Larry Butler, Farmers & Owners / Boggy Creek Farm

Nestled in the heart of East Austin, the five acres of Boggy Creek Farm represent one of the most veteran urban farms in the whole country, let alone in Austin. The house on the lot was built in 1840 along with its sister house, The French Legation Museum, which is close by. Both houses were built in 1841 and Carolann stresses the fact that they have to not only take care of their five acres of farmland but also the house itself. 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Carolann Sayle and Larry Butler started their original farm in 1991, about 80 miles away in the Oak Hill area. At the time, Carolann had an art studio right next to Larry's television store. Their landlord introduced the two, they formed a friendship, and found themselves combining their families. Larry's family grew up on 40 acres of farmland in the area, so he knew a thing or two about farming before Boggy Creek. They always loved East Austin and found themselves buying their East Austin land in 1992 so they could farm in town. The grand greenhouse contains the seeds that end up being planted in the field, as Carolann stresses that everything on the farm is started at seed right there. From tomatoes and cauliflower to Romanesco and everything in between, all of the produce is lovingly cared for by the Sayles/Butler Family and their small team.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Since there weren’t any farm stands in the area, they started their own on their property in 1994, with just one table of produce until the word spread. Nowadays, Boggy Creek Farm stand has expanded from that first table to a larger spot next to the house. Boggy Creek’s weekly produce is represented, along with goods from other local purveyors like Pure Luck Farm, Bee Tree Farm, Dos Lunas and Thunder Heart Bison. Also on the shelves are Larry’s Original Smoked Dried Tomatoes and Hot Sauce, both delicious snacks from the man himself. The farm stand is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Kendall & John Antonelli, Owners / Antonelli's Cheese Shop

“It’s a cheesy love story, through and through”, Kendall Antonelli says when she talks about the labor of love that is Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

The two met in college, at Georgetown, and have been inseparable ever since. Kendall, hailing from North Texas, and John, coming from just outside of New York City, decided to move to Austin after college and get married. At the time, John was a CPA while Kendall worked for a local nonprofit in town. During their honeymoon, John turned around to Kendall and expressed his interest in the cheese business. They had no clue what was in store for them in that world but they decided that after the honeymoon, they’d pursue their dream. Two years later, the duo opened their doors to Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin’s Hyde Park Neighborhood.

kendall antonelli, adorably showing us around the cheese shop. photo credit: irvianne torremoro

kendall antonelli, adorably showing us around the cheese shop. photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

At first, the duo started out with themselves along with one other employee and have now expanded to 18 employees and plenty of regulars. Both their cheese shop and house have plenty of smiling faces willing able to help customers out in their selection of cheeses. They do practically everything: from working in wholesale with local restaurants and chefs, to their cheese of the month club, e-commerce, and events. 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

At any given moment, there are about 75-100 cheeses in their store with an additional 100 cheeses at the cheese house, for local suppliers. Antonelli’s are proud members of the local Slow Food Austin chapter along with the Good Food Retailers Collaborative, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Though the cheese world can be very overwhelming, they break it down in seven different categories: fresh, bloomy/soft rind, washed rind, semi-soft, firm, hard, and blue. Feel free to walk into the cheese shop at any given moment and ask their friendly cheesemongers for a Cheese 101 Tutorial, they’re always happy to walk you through ‘em! Though they’re often asked whether they make their own cheeses, they do not, but Kendall’s response is, “We don’t craft cheese, we craft stories.” Their story is one made with an abundance of passion and love, between each other and for what they do.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Tessa Halstead, Chocolatier & Owner / Chocolaterie Tessa

To say that I have a sweet tooth is an understatement. Basically, walking into Chocolaterie Tessa’s space in North Austin is a dream come true. You’re usually greeted by Tessa Halstead, second generation chocolatier and owner, in a bright room which showcases her award-winning confectioneries, accompanied with the sweet smell of chocolates  being made right behind the counter.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Tessa comes from a family of chocolatiers, working with her father since she was fourteen. His chocolate shop started in 1983 and while she put the idea of chocolate making aside during college to pursue a career in corporate America, she found that chocolate has always been her calling. Her father had retired and she decided to pursue chocolate making with the start of her business in 2012. One of the machines she uses in her shop is her dad’s original that was housed in his shop thirty years ago. It made its way back into the family after they found it at an auction in Dallas and is now helping crank out more delicious goodies from Tessa.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

“We stay focused on providing the best ingredients and everything is made fresh, no preservatives and it’s all natural”, Tessa states as she excitedly talks about the farmers and small companies she works with. The shop is filled with chocolate molds, conveyor belts, and smiling employees happily putting together flavors such as her award-winning salted caramel, bourbon pecan, and her Origin line: full of cacao beans from different countries such as the Dominican Republic, Papa New Guinea, Peru, and Ecuador.

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

She and her husband try to take a chocolate-related trip every year for research and development from France to Belgium and everything in between. Tessa’s face lights up every time she talks about chocolate making and the business. “One of things that’s special about chocolates is that people are happy when they come in. They have this person in mind that they want to buy a gift for, or they’re excited to try something new”, she elaborates with a grin ear to ear.  

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

photo credit: moyo oyelola

Dorsey Barger & Susan Hausmann, Owners / HausBar Urban Farm

“The driving principle here is insane levels of sustainability,” Dorsey Barger says of HausBar Farms.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

A gem hidden off the beaten path in East Austin, Dorsey and her wife Susan Hausmann found the two acres of land in 2009 that would be their beloved farm and garden. Barger owned East Side Cafe for twenty years before realizing she needed a different challenge. The pair turned a lot full of junk into a paradise with a plethora of vegetables, animals, and the ethos of sustainability at its core.  

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Dorsey stresses that everything is completely pesticide and gas-free, all fifty-one vegetable beds were dug by hand and taken care of with as much care for the environment and local community as possible. When you hear Dorsey speak about the farm, you can tell how much she cares about every single millimeter of the farm, from the okra, marigold, bananas (yes, Texas grown bananas!), and her brood of animals (make sure to say hi to Gustavo the Gus for some kisses and his personal tour of the farm).

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

HausBar works directly with restaurants to up the ante on their seasonal menus. Drop the the name to any local chef and they’ll know who you’re talking about, singing the praises of this urban farm. Dorsey has credited “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan as a major inspiration for the open educational tours they provide. The science behind upholding HausBar is fascinating and she's more than willing to further explain the ecosystems that make the farm what it is today.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

SALO Series x Flavor & Bounty Popup dinner, Space Ninety 8

Serendipitous encounters and grit brought Yana Gilbuena of SALO Series and I back together in Brooklyn for a popup dinner at the wonderful Space Ninety 8 venue. Last December, my family and I had just driven from Las Vegas to Los Angeles for Christmas and I excitedly brought them to Lasa, where the Valencia brothers are at the helm of modern Filipino food. I looked over to my left and saw a familiar face and approached a table of two, “Hey this might sound crazy, but were you at a brunch popup back in November in Austin?” Tania Enriquez, looked up at me with a huge grin on her face, and we immediately hit it off. She introduced me to her friend, Diane Chang, of Eating Popos, who has hosted events at the Urban Outfitters/Space Ninety 8 venue, and they suggested a Filipino popup dinner in New York. We started an e-mail thread, wished each other happy holidays and good luck into the new year and were off.

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

Quickly after the new year started, the ball was rolling when Yana jumped on board for the popup dinner. Since the woman is a force all on her own and completely down for most anything, especially when it comes to travel and food, I knew she’d be on board. She booked her tickets, we put the menu together, and February rolled around in no time.

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

The week of the popup was hectic and crazy but definitely worth all the running around we did, from Brooklyn to Queens and back to Brooklyn. Asian markets in Flushing are no joke, if anyone was wondering. We’re so thankful for Neil Syham of Lumpia Shack for rolling through and bringing us plus all of our produce back to Williamsburg.

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

I cannot thank everyone enough for spending their Friday night with us and enjoying the food of our culture. It’s always a pleasant surprise when the nerves wash away and I can breathe a sigh of relief, look at Yana, and proclaim, “Dang girl, we did it, again!” She’s so used to the high energy that it doesn’t even phase her at this point. Thank you to Heidi Lee and Eric Michael Pearson for capturing the night. A huge shout out to the amazing team behind Space Ninety 8 and Urban Outfitters for helping us put this together: Tania Enriquez, Cara Flaherty, Cristina Fisher, and Sheewa Salehi.

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: heidi lee

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

photo credit: eric michael pearson

squad goals/fempire: diane chang, cara flaherty, tania enqriuez, yana gilbuena, & yours truly. xoxo, ladies, now let's get in formation. <3 

squad goals/fempire: diane chang, cara flaherty, tania enqriuez, yana gilbuena, & yours truly. xoxo, ladies, now let's get in formation. <3 

Ilbersalle Fallon, Catering Chef / Niella Catering

“It’s just something I did, when I hung out in the kitchen. Or I’d find myself outside, fishing. If you catch it, you clean it and eat it”, Ilbersalle Fallon recalls of his childhood in Nebraska. He’s been cooking since he was young, around 7, and found refuge in fishing and the outdoors while growing up. Cooking has been his main creative outlet for the past ten years, taking him from state to state.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Fallon started his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, Florida and has spent time in the kitchens of Disney and the House of Blues. After graduating in 2007, he stayed in Orlando for another year before moving to Oklahoma to help open a new restaurant concept, an “amalgamation of everything I’ve learned - the House of Blues style with an Italian bistro concept”. He then moved forward in his career to cook for the student body of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which taught him the speed and tenacity to cook for the masses.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

After realizing he needed more in his education, he moved down south to Houston to attend the Art Institute briefly. Houston is where he found solace in another creative outlet, poetry. He began to attend poetry slams and network with other artists, finding time to bring baked goods and treats to events he attended. Niella Catering took two more years to come to fruition and by this time he had moved to Austin, following his wife’s move to attend the University of Texas.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

“You get a sense of home with Niella Catering”, Ilbersalle says when he mentions his work and family. Niella Catering, named after his daughter, is a pursuit of bridging the gap of the creative community, having worked with local artists like Hakeem Adewumi and Moyo Oyelola. Fallon is a self-proclaimed filmophile and has now filled his calendar with catering on film sets along with helping Joi Chevalier with The Cook’s Nook, which is a culinary incubator that provides help and production space for aspiring cooks in the community.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Ilbersalle is one of the several chefs featured in the inaugural Taste of Black Austin event on January 31st. When he speaks of African culture in food he says, “This is so unprecedented and so necessary”. Tickets are still available.

Nate Pearlman & Elana Schiff, Catering Chef & Wedding Cake Decorator

Nate Pearlman and Elana Schiff’s fairytale of a relationship started in the sprawling hills of upstate New York at the Culinary Institute of America. Their stories started on different coasts before intertwining in culinary school and finally landing in Austin, Texas.  

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Elana hails from Orange County, California and has been baking for as long as she can remember. She found herself baking in the kitchen with her mother, who encouraged her to take baking and decorating classes at an early age. Her passion and drive then led to her to attend CIA in the fall of 2012.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Nate started six weeks prior to Elana’s arrival, coming from nearby Washingtonville. A stint at the University of Buffalo while working at the student union led him to culinary school. He was closing down for the night and smelled something that reminded him of his mother’s meat sauce that was so nostalgic that brought him back to his childhood. “All I want to be able to do is help create memories, that’s been my biggest motivation”, Pearlman recalls as he emphasizes that moment that led him to withdraw from his classes and enrolled in nearby Rockland Community College for the culinary management program. Down the path, Nate finally made his way to CIA in Hyde Park.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

The two knew each other through social circles and were finally introduced through Elana’s roommate, who was working in Sarasota, Florida, with Nate working on his externship. The Culinary Institute of America’s program is two years, with an eighteen week externship in between. During this break, Nate spent his time in Sarasota while entertaining his budding romance with Elana as she spent her externship in Austin, Texas, working at Sweetish Hill Bakery.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

After jokingly suggesting he visit her in Austin, Elana agreed and Nate booked a plane ticket four days later. At this point, they hadn’t spent time together one on one until he landed. When they met, “It just clicked. We sat at a crepe food truck off Barton Springs and just talked for two hours. We had a wonderful weekend”, Schiff says. The two began dating in the midst of their externships and finished school, Nate in February 2014 followed by Elana in May 2014.

Within the first six months of dating, they finished school at CIA and decided to leave for Austin and move in together. Elana continued to work at Sweetish Hill Bakery followed  by her working at Loved Birds Sweets, which led to starting her own business, Iced Cakes & Confections last June. She’s been featured in Wedding Wire and has made a name for herself by word of mouth. Nate has spent time in kitchens across the board: Foreign & Domestic, Lox Box & Barrel, Second Bar and Kitchen, and Boiler Nine. He's now in the process of starting his own catering company, Seasoned Catering, along with good friend and partner, Keith Thornton.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Elana recalls when she almost gave up on dating chefs. She swore them off right before Nate and after a rocky relationship ended. “I’m over chefs, I’m never dating them again!”, she told a girlfriend. Luckily enough, Nate came around and changed her mind. Together, the two speak lovingly of each other’s endeavors and plans, especially of their upcoming wedding in November. The two have the rest of their lives to make memories over their love of food together.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Jane Sumita & Melissa Carroll / Pastry Chefs & Bloggers, Lemongrass & Thyme

One of my last positions in Las Vegas kitchens was as a pastry cook at Michael Mina’s Stripsteak. I moved my way from garde manger (French fancy words for the cold station), to sides, and finally made it to the coveted pastry position.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

I went to culinary school with my main hobby as baking and focused on gaining a position in pastry. Goodness, I sure did learn a lot when I finally made it there. There, I trained under the amazing Chef Lincoln Carson, learned the pastry ropes from some pretty badass women, and realized that I could execute a recipe but I’d never be able to temper chocolate without it blooming (that’s when chocolate develops a certain whitish color since the temperature of properly melting it was off). I’ve ruined countless batches of fiddle faddle (our caramel popcorn topped with dark chocolate and Maldon salt) by incorrectly tempering chocolate. There’s a precise science that pastry and baking has versus savory cooking that I’ll never be able to fully understand.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

Jane Sumita and Melissa Carroll are two ridiculously talented women that have mastered the science of baking and pastry. I met Jane first, while working at Central Standard at South Congress Hotel. I was immediately drawn to her, plus she gave me snacks on my first day of training, which always wins my heart. Give me all the snacks and you’re immediately my new best friend. 

Hailing from Indonesia, Jane’s journey to Austin and into pastry has been a long time coming. By her aunt’s suggestion, she and her brother applied for their green cards in 1999 and didn’t think about it until ten years late in 2009, when they received a letter indicating that they’d been approved. She then spent time in two months in Sydney, Australia, learning English while staying with her cousin. After processing her papers, she found herself in Seattle, earning her CNA and began a career in the medical field, followed by the pursuit being an RN. Four years of working as a certified nursing assistant along with going to school to become an RN wore her down and she realized that she’d rather pursue something else. This led to her move to Houston in 2012 as she contemplated what she should do besides nursing.

photo credit: nicolai  mccrary

photo credit: nicolai  mccrary

Baking and pastry was always an interest since high school and after much research, Jane moved to Austin to attend Le Cordon Bleu’s pastry program. With a brief stint at Better Bites Bakery under her belt, she became one of the opening team at the South Congress Hotel, which is where she met her partner in crime, Melissa.

photo credit:  nicolai mccrary

photo credit:  nicolai mccrary

“I was always drawn to more creative fields”, Melissa says as she emphasizes this as her focus right after high school,  specifically on fine arts and graphic design. She attended community college in St. Louis until she decided to pursue a career in the culinary field. She left the mid-west to attend the International Culinary Center, formerly the French Culinary Institute in Campbell, California. After the intensive six month pastry program, Carroll moved back to St. Louis and accepted the pastry chef position at local London Tea Room. In the midst of her pastry chef duties, she went back to community college to finish her degree in fine arts. A change was needed and she made her way to Austin in the summer of 2015. Melissa splits her time between South Congress Hotel and Dolce Neve. The ability to be creative in both of her jobs has helped her bring more ideas to Lemongrass & Thyme. After Jane approached Melissa with the idea of starting a blog earlier this year, the two launched Lemongrass & Thyme in March, with the focus of bringing their diverse backgrounds to their project. 

Though Jane has since moved back to Indonesia to be at the helm of a new hotel as head pastry chef, she and Melissa still make time for Lemongrass & Thyme between their busy schedules. Before her move home, Jane invited me into her kitchen to help her and Melissa with an idea for the her new venture. I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for these two and especially for Jane to visit again, so we can catch up over more sweet news.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

Paul Ozbirn / Sommelier & Beverage Director, Parkside Projects

You know that feeling after you’ve bought a new car and suddenly you see it everywhere you go? After meeting Paul Ozbirn, sommelier and beverage/wine director of Parkside Projects, I run into him all around town and I’m definitely not complaining about it. He’s a self-proclaimed former skater kid with full tattoo sleeves that hide under his button up and slacks. It’s such a sight to see the man outside of work clothes, to be honest.

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

Ozbirn has always found himself in food & beverage, starting at 15 while working at a sandwich shop in Hunstville, Alabama. After college, he made the move to Austin in 2006 with a finance degree under his belt. Realizing that finance wasn’t his calling, he found himself back in the service industry, working at Vin Bistro and Botticelli’s. He worked his way up from various serving and bartending gigs, learning that wine could potentially turn into a career. After accepting a wine buyer position at wink, he became a certified sommelier in 2011. 

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

A quick stint at now defunct Paggi House was followed by accepting a job at Parkside Projects in 2013. Paul spent a year managing Olive & June before becoming their beverage director in June 2014. He’s now at the helm of the wine and beverage programs for some of the most recognizable restaurants in Austin, including Bullfight, backspace, & parkside. In 2015, he passed the Advanced Sommelier Exam, which is a feat in of itself since only 18 people passed this rigorous test at the time. 

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

“I latched on to Amarone”, Paul explained as he began to tell me of when he first started to fall in love with wine. On a recent trip to New Orleans, he came to mind when I stood in the middle of Bacchanal Wine (best spot for a bottle and live music, by the way!), staring at a lovely bottle of the same wine he told me about. The man is so knowledgeable in an industry that can be overwhelmingly intimidating. It’s fascinating hearing him talk about the different nuances in one glass of wine. He was gracious enough to give me a quick tasting of a couple wines on parkside’s wine list and I was intrigued with his ability to thoroughly explain the distinctions between grapes, regions, and the science behind it all."Doesn't that have a puke-y kind smell? It should and that's how you'll recognize a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc", he told me as I sniffed. Surprisingly, I agreed. Wine can smell like puke (I know it sounds absurd but I promise it's the case!) along with so many different aromas that Paul can easily delve into. Even in a short tasting with the man, I've learned volumes than I would have on my own. 

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

photo credit: nicolai mccrary

San Francisco & Redwoods, CA

The West Coast was calling my name after visiting Maine. These recent travels have made me realize that I’m surrounded by some of the best people, most I’ve met in the food & beverage industry. Maine was spent with good friends that I’d met at my time working at Four Seasons, and San Francisco wouldn’t be any different, except sprinkled in are more amazing creative friends I’ve made over the years.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

I was excited to make my way back to San Francisco. It’s exhilarating to be in that city, in all aspects of the word. Creatively speaking, no other city has it beat (besides maybe New York) and I feel refreshed every time I go back. This was a very special trip, to be honest. Some of my very best friends (once again, Four Seasons alums), Rebecca Borrelli and Olivia Clark, met in San Francisco and took a trip up the the Redwoods to honor a very special person that passed away last year.

<3

<3

Winston Shipman was a staple at Trio in the Four Seasons Austin. He had plenty of people that requested his presence when dining at the restaurant and everyone loved him. His childhood was in Indiana, went to Purdue (acquired two degrees swimmingly), and ended up being a career waiter (he always joked about his degrees versus profession but he was held in such high regard and the industry folks all adored him). He gave it to you straight, which I always admired and needed. Winston took me under his wing, as well as Olivia and Rebecca, and the four of us could be found walking Town Lake every Sunday.

photo credit: wesley verhoeve 

photo credit: wesley verhoeve 

When he passed away last September, I found out while in Los Angeles, at dinner. I was devastated and drank my feelings away in Malbec and bourbon on the rocks (yes, I know, worst combination ever). I woke up early the next day to a call from Olivia (she’s since moved from Austin back to Los Angeles) and comforted me as I cried in the bathroom of my Airbnb. Rebecca and I had a tearful, practically incoherent conversation, of how I should still make the trek to Joshua Tree to honor Winnie (one of his favorite spots in California besides the Redwoods). The day of of the blood moon, after exploring Joshua Tree in all of its beauty, I penned an emotional note to my friend and mourned his loss. After arriving back home, the three of us made a promise amongst ourselves to scatter his ashes in his second favorite place in California and thus our journey to the Redwoods was in the making.

We left Tuesday morning, after breakfast and tea, in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, at Hazel’s Kitchen and Farley’s. There’s an air to San Francisco coffee shops, with a mix of hipsters and older intellectuals, that is unlike any other city. At one window, two older men conversed over pourover coffee while millenials checked their e-mails on the other side of the shop. We ate outside (admiring hipster families with kids dressed better than I’ll ever be in my life) while discussing our plan for the drive up to Crescent City. At one point, Olivia emerged from Hazel’s with tags and pens, explained that we write what we’re grateful for, and hang them on the “Gratitude Tree” on the sidewalk. It was a great-ful way to start our trip (see what I did there?).

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: olivia clark 

photo credit: olivia clark 

As we drove out of San Francisco and into Northern California, the girls indulged me in my obsession of oysters, by making a pit stop at Hog Island Oyster Company. I’m basically a professional oyster shucker at this point, y’all. If you invite me over to an oyster party at your house, I’ll bring my own shucker (just ask my good friend, Nicolai, since mine is still at his house from the last one). Two dozen oysters later (Kumamoto and Sweetwater, yes please!), we were shucking fresh bivalves, enjoying local Cowgirl Creamery and Cypress Grove Chevre, along with bubbles.

photo credit: olivia clark 

photo credit: olivia clark 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Food & beverage has introduced me to such a variety of wonderful people down the road. Winston, having been a career waiter at the Four Seasons, helped me tweak my approach to people and coworkers over the years. He helped shape the way I looked at service industry and how it is a noble profession. Had I not worked in Trio, I wouldn’t have met these amazing people. Rebecca is an artist but finds herself grounded in the industry. We met at Four Seasons while she was receiving her Master’s in Art Education at University of Texas and we re-connected during our time at VOX Table. She found the service industry organically, supporting herself through college and couldn’t wait until she left it. ‘I lost energy. I became lonely behind a studio table all day long. I felt stagnant. And most importantly when I was serving- even part time- I would come home positively energized to make art. When I left serving, my creative energy was funneled totally into my art job, and I stopped making art at home, almost all together. That was my "aha" moment. I realized F&B was a necessary ingredient for my art career’, Borrelli explained as she told me of the importance of food & beverage to her. Nowadays you can find Rebecca, busy as ever, at VOX Table as well as supporting her business along with her wildly popular project, Austin Coloring Book. Bigger and better things are on the horizon for her and I can’t wait to witness it.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Our trip back to San Francisco was a bit rushed, trying to make it back to the city in time for dinner plans and drinks with friends that had been waiting to see us. I was dropped off at the Airbnb offices to spend time with Shawn Sprockett, principal designer and all around inspiration, while we chatted about creativity and goals over drinks and a tour of their breathtaking offices.  We met in Austin years ago (we had to think long and hard about this since it was so brief, over a drunken Halloween party), reconnected in New York last June (over cocktails in Chelsea and rainy nights in Williamsburg), and I was so very excited to see him in San Francisco. While studying International Relations at Florida International University, he realized he was interested in design. He then went to the the School of Visual Arts in NYC for grad school, honing his skills under the likes of Milton Glaser and Stefan Sagmeister. Shawn also teaches for General Assembly saying, ‘Teaching is a great way to share the craft and to help students in a career transition that life doesn't always go the way you expect it—and that's ok. By repeating the basics in my classes, I get better and I learn how to explain things to people better. It makes my work better and makes my collaboration with others better. Watching people get excited about design and go on to fascinating projects is a pretty amazing side gig.’ He hopes to start hosting design dinners (a concept we’ve both discussed in depth over for quite some time) in order for creatives to connect and enjoy meaningful conversation. Believe me, he's lovely company and hours of conversation can go by before you even realize with this gem.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

<3 

<3 

A quick walk from Airbnb is Oddjob, where we met more friends for quick libations before dinner. Patrick Lu, former Austinite, has raved about this cocktail bar for quite some time. He’s finding his niche in the city as well and it’s a pleasure seeing him grow in his endeavors, especially photography and most recently, his recent zine, Loaf Life. He took me to SRO, introduced me to the bartender, who asked what my choice of poison is and what kind of cocktail I usually drink. Standing Room Only is to the left when you first walk into Oddjob and it can maybe fit up to sixteen people (SO tiny!) but worth it. I responded with, “I like bourbon, scotch, and rye. I want a boozy cocktail, it’s my last night in town, and I’m in the service industry.” Let’ just say that cocktail knocked me off my feet and was probably one of the biggest deciding factors that led me to extend my trip.

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: olivia clark

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

<3

<3

Dinner at Zuni Cafe was a drunken dream I wish I could remember more clearly. Wine flowed, between good friends that hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, followed by plenty of appetizers (I clearly remember the burrata, I always remember burrata, ask anyone that’s dined out with me), and the world famous roasted chicken (we ordered two, which was overly indulgent at this point).

Let’s just talk about dinner in San Francisco. There are so many restaurants to geek out on and it was very difficult to narrow down where to indulge while there for a week. I spent Friday night walking from Ritual Coffee Roasters in The Mission to Petit Crenn in Hayes Valley, putting my name down for the Chef’s Counter, for dinner with Shawn. It was almost an hour wait, so I walked down the street to Two Sisters Bar and Books for a quick chamomile old fashioned until he arrived. Do yourself a favor, if you don’t know Dominique Crenn, look her up (watch second season of Chef’s Table on Netflix, even) and now prep yourself for dreams of French food for quite some time. I saved the menu from this dinner because I’m a geek and if I can save a coaster/menu/postcard/anything, I will. The heirloom tomato salad with savory granola, local Tomales Farmstead Creamery Teleeka, and succuclent greens is a dish that will be forever ingrained in my memory. There’s just something about California produce that makes such a simple dish absolutely outstanding. Shawn and I took a couple deep breaths to really take in what was happening before us. Looking back on it now, from the heirloom tomato salad to the gnocchi with summer vegetables, pan-seared Dorade, and coconut custard (this isn’t even half of what we ordered, by the way), I don’t think I’ve had a meal better than this in a long while. Crenn’s use of memory in the kitchen, bringing forth dishes that spark recollections that you didn’t even think existed, is fascinating in and of itself.  

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

The next morning was spent over coffee and London Fog lattes at Trouble Coffee Company (theirs is called the Girlfriend, with lavender syrup and soy milk, it’s a dream!) in the Outer Sunset and lunch at Kingdom of Dumpling. San Francisco beats any other city for Asian food, especially dim sum and Chinese. I find myself craving soup dumplings as soon as I land and couldn’t believe it took me a whole week before I made it here. It’s a total hole in the wall with the best selection of traditional Asian fare. Two dozen soup dumplings were ordered along with an array of veggies, green onion pancakes, noodles, and green tea. The authenticity of this restaurant has regulars and tourists coming back for me (I almost opted to come back a second time because it’s just that damn good).

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

I’d been introduced to Kingdom of Dumpling by a good friend of mine, Katrina Muñez, who currently works at Airbnb, formerly of Real HQ. This girl and I go waaaaay back, like way back. Like, her mother is my godmother kind of way back. We spent our young lives running around South Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, until her family moved to Austin and mine to Las Vegas. We reconnected when I moved to Austin and since then, we’ve taken trips to Los Angeles as well as her hosting me in her lovely Outer Sunset home full of some of the best roommates I’ve encountered. Muñez went to University of Texas for a BA in Psychology, spent some time in Austin working at Apple, then moved to San Francisco with Real HQ. She elaborates on finding her passion saying, ‘I'm still trying to figure out what my calling is! I know that's a very typical, "millennial" answer, but I think it's also true for a LOT of people, regardless of age. That said, I do think my current work is a great combination of things I love - interacting with people, creating positive experiences, contributing to companies or products that just make life more enjoyable.’ She also works with the Creative Mornings San Francisco team as their volunteer coordinator (Yay Creative Mornings, I’m a huge proponent for this breakfast lecture series that’s available to everyone. Austin’s always has breakfast tacos and coffee, y’all!) and runs her style blog, Hello Neighbor (this woman is effortlessly stylish, I always go to her for tips). San Francisco’s creative community has several motivating factors as Katrina perfectly puts it, ‘Given the current circumstances, I think it's even more important to remember that "creatives" span all mediums, ages, and backgrounds... That said, I think there are so many talented, purposeful, weird people that occupy this 7x7-mile space, which has made SF's creative community so incredibly diverse. And if it doesn't seem like it to you, you're not looking hard enough.’

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: tiffani broyles <3

photo credit: tiffani broyles <3

After lunch, we made our way to Noe Valley and found the best treasure I could have ever imagined. Omnivore Books on Food in Noe Valley is a food lover’s dream. Housed in a former butcher shop, this bookstore focuses only on food & beverage (HELLO! The foodie geek in me was freaking out!) Celia Sack is a San Franciscan through and through, having been a rare book specialist with her collecting interest on cook books. Both her parents were collectors (her mother being a handbook binder) and always loved food when growing up. Sack spent seven years at San Francisco auction house, PBA Galleries as the head of Modern Literature, before opening up Omnivore in 2008, which has housed an array of modern cookbooks as well as books dating back to the 1600s. She and her partner also own the pet store around the corner, Noe Valley Pet Company. Imagine my face when I discovered this, puppies around the corner and books on food right next door, I was in heaven. Celia’s stories of Ruth Reichl acquiring some of her antique books along with being able to taste the first harvest of Mas Masumoto peaches is so captivating. Tourists and locals alike flock to her store to build their libraries, attend meet and greets with food authors, and browse the phenomenal collection that her store holds. Make your way here, you won’t be disappointed.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

The rest of the weekend was a blur of eating and drinking everything I could, from lunch at Mission Chinese Food (their fried chicken is insane and that cucumber salad is to die for!) drinks at awesome dive bars in walking distance from SF MOMA, like Tempest (they have an industry special which is a Coors stubby and shot of Fernet!), to Dogpatch Saloon (where I proceeded to have probably four more shots of Fernet to end the night, yes I know I’m a trooper), and everything in between.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro (my sf bay bae, miko being a great model/host)

photo credit: irvianne torremoro (my sf bay bae, miko being a great model/host)

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

Slowing it down on Sunday, a trip for the night in Berkeley was needed. We watched the sunset at Indian Rock Park, drinking wine straight out of the bottle while enjoying local cheeses (had to get Cypress Grove's Purple Haze one more time!). The next morning was spent walking to famed Chez Pannise and staring at it from the outside in, thinking about all my readings in culinary school of miss Alice Waters, and why I love food & beverage so very much. A quick coffee at Berkeley’s campus was a delightful way to end my short-lived trip to the other side of the Bay Bridge. Making my way back to San Francisco by the BART was surprisingly easy and I made it a priority to eat some pasta in North Beach, peruse the book collection at City Lights Bookstore, grab a drink at Vesuvio Cafe (pretending I was a beatnik and wondering why I was born in the wrong era, of course) and people watch in such a funky part of San Francisco.

photo credit: tiffani broyles <3

photo credit: tiffani broyles <3

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro 

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

My last dinner was spent at a venue called The Lab and was a pop-up dinner by Chef Eric Pascual, a friend that was made through my good friend, Yana Gilbuena of Salo Series! Yes, life is seriously that awesome that things fall into place like that. Eric’s biggest influence, his grandfather, migrated from the Philippines to Hawaii, finding work on a sugar plantation. He followed him in the kitchen, every summer in Hawaii, falling in love with Hawaiian/Filipino cooking. As soon as I stepped in, the aromas of dinner filled the space and I knew it’d be an experience, to say the least. He playfully tweaks dishes like poke, loco moco, and lumpia, making them his own. Along with his charismatic friend, Alex (who’s at the helm of The Lumpia Company, a cool concept with a modern take on the classic dish), they pulled off a superb dinner. San Francisco’s hub of pop-up dinners has immensely grown compared to the likes of cities such as Austin, and I only wish that there will be more in my town. The Feastly team was present at dinner, and it was so lovely to connect with them as well as Eric and Alex after dinner. I hope to see more of them the next time I’m back in their city. 

photo credit: wesley verhoeve

photo credit: wesley verhoeve

photo credit: wesley verhoeve 

photo credit: wesley verhoeve 


Tuesday, my last morning, was spent having breakfast at Bernal Heights and taking the trek up to that point to take in some last views of the wonderful city. The fog hadn’t quite lifted yet and I didn’t feel like my time was up. After packing my bags and determining that all I needed before heading to the airport was a Sushirrito in SOMA (yes, that’s ALL I really wanted before leaving), I rushed in an Uber back downtown. In my haste (don’t ever take Uberpool if you’re in a hurry because you won’t make it, lesson learned), I forgot my luggage in my Uber as I jumped out downtown to try and run out before they closed. I didn’t make it unfortunately and scrambled to meet my driver in front of Blue Bottle Coffee to retrieve my luggage. Hungry and disappointed that my quest for a Sushirrito had failed, I sought refuge in a last espresso at Blue Bottle. Deciding to sit in front of the window for a bit of people watching before leaving for the airport, I took a deep breath, and looked out of the window to take one last look at the wild characters that San Francisco had to offer. I was exhausted, waiting for the espresso to kick in, and called my good friend Moyo for advice and a pick me up. “Come home now, you know better than this”, he said. Until next time San Francisco, I’ll be back for that Sushirrito soon enough.

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro

photo credit: irvianne torremoro