Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 2

Episode 211: Locavore in Napa Valley with Joey Altman

Yours truly with Matthew Glynn, the senior wine maker for Acacia Vineyards

Yours truly with Matthew Glynn, the senior wine maker for Acacia Vineyards

The first time I ever went to California was on my honeymoon. We visited Napa among other places and I found it completely enchanting. I have been back many times since with and without the husband, and I am always newly impressed by the beauty of the place, the light, the relaxed lifestyle, the amazing farm to table restaurants, and of course the abundance of good wine.

However, I had never visited the Carneros region of Napa until we shot this episode. WOW! That breeze off the bay that makes the wine taste so good, also adds an extra element of mysterious beauty to the countryside.

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About Joey Altman

Yours truly, Lizzie Moore from Boca Farm, Joey Altman

Yours truly, Lizzie Moore from Boca Farm, Joey Altman

I believe you can find at least the olive oils in specialty food shops in the rest of the country. Joey Altman is a San Francisco based Chef who wears many hats: television host, cookbook author, restaurant consultant, food & wine educator, and public speaker.

In 1998 Altman launched Bay Café, a food-magazine television show. Bay Cafe provides food and wine enthusiasts with an insider’s look at the Bay Area’s rich and diverse culinary scene. While it quickly became a Bay Area favorite food show, after its first season Bay Cafe has been recognized 3 times by the prestigious James Beard Foundation with the food-world’s equivalent to The Oscar’s, The James Beard Award for Best Local Cooking Series in 2000. It went on to win the award again in 2001 and 2006.

Since 2005 Chef Joey Altman has been the chef Spokesperson for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, home of BV, Sterling, Acacia, Chalone among others. “Joey’s energy and charisma makes it fun and easy to learn about food and wine. Whether conducting cooking demonstrations, entertaining guests at winery events like Merlot in May at Sterling Vineyards or hosting Crush Camp for Weekend Winemakers®, he never fails to impress and educate.”-TOM SCOTT, V.P. of P.R. Diageo Chateau & Estates

In addition to local television, Altman also hosted two series for the Television Food Network, “Appetite for Adventure,” a show where gourmet cooking meets the great outdoors and “Tasting Napa” a culinary travelogue through Northern California’s wine country.

Joey’s Background
Cooking and show business both came early to Joey Altman. He grew up in a resort town in New York’s Catskill Mountains where his mother worked at Grossinger’s Hotel, one of the top venues on the Borscht Belt entertainment circuit. Mel Brooks, Bill Cosby, Lionel Hampton, and other entertainers were early inspirations, and Altman’s culinary skills were developed at a young age by cooking at family parties and celebrations. By the time he was in high school, Altman was an aspiring magician (“Altman the Magnificent”), was playing guitar in a local rock band, and was working as a short-order cook in a local diner. After graduating from the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program at Sullivan County Community College, Altman left for France to train under some of France’s finest chefs, including Lyon’s Bernard Constantin and Jean Brouilly, following the rigorous apprenticeship program of French kitchens. He left France with a thorough grounding in the principles and techniques of classical French cuisine and an appreciation of the importance of balance and harmony in cooking.

Altman returned to America to work at Harvest restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Bob Kinkead, one of the creative forces behind the 80′s new American cuisine. At the Harvest, he gained an appreciation of the exciting developments in American cooking that emphasized the freshest seasonal and regional ingredients in creative and exciting combinations. Following his stint at Harvest, Altman traveled to New Orleans where he learned the principles of Creole and Cajun cooking under Emeril Lagasse at Commander’s Palace. He also continued his travels and culinary adventures in the American South and Southwest, the Caribbean, and Mexico – all sources of his lively and eclectic style of cooking.

Upon arriving in the San Francisco Bay Area, Altman worked at Stars and other trend-setting San Francisco restaurants. He also worked for legendary rock concert impresario Bill Graham cooking backstage for people like Sting, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead.

But it was the Caribbean and African inspired dishes that he created at Miss Pearl’s Jam House, which he opened with SOMA pioneer restaurateur Julie Ring and Jeff Gradinger in 1989 that catapulted Altman to the forefront of the highly competitive Bay Area restaurant scene. The restaurant was wildly popular and caught the attention of food writers nationwide with its bright flavors and exciting and spicy combinations of exotic and colorful foods.

In addition to his Bay Café on KRON-TV, Altman appears at many benefits and food-related events in the Bay Area and nationwide. He also plays guitar in the Backburner’s Blues Band, a blues-rock group composed of other prominent Bay Area chefs and food professionals. The group plays at local benefits and can be found jamming occasionally at San Francisco rock clubs.

Altman lives in San Francisco with his wife and three children.


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Acacia is a small winery, open by appointment only, located in the heart of the Carneros district of Napa. Founded in 1979, Acacia was one of the first wineries in the area to establish a reputation for vineyard-designated Pinot Noir. The winemaking staff is dedicated to its singular focus on Burgundian-style varietals. Acacia has taken advantage of its years of experience in determining the best vineyard stock suited to its unique soil conditions and exposure both to the sun and winds from nearby San Pablo Bay. Winemaker Matthew Glynn’s Pinot Noir style combines traditional and modern techniques to achieve ideal balance, complexity and flavor. The hand crafted artisan wine style of Acacia produces food friendly wines perfect for today’s farm-to-table food trend.

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