Category Archives: Hospitality

Celebrating FOUR years: Our most popular posts.

Birthday-Wishes-for-a-Four-Year-OldWe at Parker Sanpei can’t believe it’s been four years this week since The Dish went live. Four years! In those four years, we’ve covered everything from the history of Father’s Day and mustards of the world to emergency preparedness and the best music festivals in the west. We’ve also shared personal tastes and memories on everything from our least favorite food trends to how we dropped it all to pursue a love of wine. And speaking of wine, we’ve talked lots, and lots, and lots about wine.

We’ve also met thousands upon thousands of you through a shared passion for food, wine, travel, and hospitality. Thanks for making these four years so delectable!

To celebrate the occasion, we’ll be re-running a few of our most popular posts to date. Enjoy! And happy holidays!



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Gifts that give back guide 2014.

Every holiday season, we at The Dish troll the universe for the most compelling, generous and elegant gifts that give back – everything from nail polish to iPhone cases and toys. This year, we went for simplicity and, as always, lots of heart.

71SXM2R8p-L._SY679_Three Avocados Coffee

Inspired by the gift of three avocados from a poor widow, Three Avocados is a non-profit organization that provides 100% of its net proceeds from the sale of coffee beans to educating and hydrating communities in need of clean water. Sourced from the very same places they serve, Three Avocados sells its rich and robust coffee beans, as well as tumblers, mugs and gifts to bring hope and health to those who need it most.

the-toucan-group-e0040c7e28d2cb536dd67042c37dc2e0Good Mouth

We love first for their awesome (and awesomely affordable) subscription toothbrush program, which delivers BPA-free, high-quality toothbrushes to your door on a monthly basis and then turns around to give two more brushes to someone in need.

good mouth

NADIA Quattro Wine

PRT_BNDQU4SD12_PRTMIDPIC_20140527_103801Our friends at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery released this beautiful wine (perfect for anyone’s holiday table, by the by) as a means for contributing to local charities. Thus, $1 from every bottle purchased will go to two selected non-profits each year. This year, those recipients are Woods Humane Society and Family Care Network, which builds and enriches the lives of families across the Central Coast.

From fruit grown on our Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, NADIA Quattro offers aromas of brambleberry, blackberry and saddle leather, and on the palate, strawberry rhubarb pie and cardamom interweave with black licorice and fine-grained tannin.

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Good reads for food/bev lovers.

While fall isn’t exactly in the air here on California’s Central Coast, it’s definitely on the calendar, and that means we at Parker Sanpei are yearning to cozy up with a good book. Fortunately for those of us obsessed with food and drink there’s no shortage of fascinating reads on the subject. Below, a few of our favorites.

heatHeat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford

We’ve loved Bill Buford since the first time we read him in The New Yorker. But this book, about his (mis)adventures in Italian cooking, is by far our favorite of his works.

PubMan Walks Into A Pub: A Sociable History of Beer, Pete Brown

Called “an extraordinary tale of yeast-obsessed monks and teetotaling prime ministers; of exploding breweries, a bear in a yellow nylon jacket, and a Canadian who changed the drinking habits of a nation,” this book feels like meeting a friend at the pub – an incredibly knowledgeable, interesting, and funny friend who happens to love beer.

ParisThe Judgement of Paris, George M. Taber

California vs. France. And the winner is? We all know the story of the famous Paris tasting of 1976, but this book by the only reporter present brings the whole scene (and the fallout) vibrantly to life.

provenceProvence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, Luke Barr

This book is like our culinary/literary fantasy come true: a table set in the South of France surrounded by iconic figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones. Only this actually happened, and it changed the course of American cuisine forever.

ReichlComfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, Ruth Reichl

If Provence, 1970 was our fist culinary fantasy, Berkeley, 1978 is our second. In Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl details her relationships with Alice Waters, Colman Andrews, and Wolfgang Puck, among others, woven together with personal remembrances and epic meals.

napaNapa: The Story of an American Eden, James Conaway

From our friend Jim Conaway comes the remarkable story of what made Napa the kingdom of American wine that it is today, including stories from the many families who built its foundation (Gallo, Mondavi) to the new aristocracy.

Homemade LifeA Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg

From the author of one of our favorite food/life blogs, Orangette, comes this beautifully crafted collection of stories and recipes from her childhood in Oklahoma, years abroad in Paris, and working-girl-singlehood in Seattle.



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Our favorite “little rascal.”

2013-ArneisOur friends at Burbank Ranch Winery recently received gold medals for their 2013 “Little Rascal” Arneis from two prestigious competitions: the 2014 Orange County Fair Commercial Wine Competition and the 2014 Central Coast Wine Competition, Five County Fairs.

Despite its floral aromatics and appealingly full body, Arneis is a white wine that is too rarely found in New World winemaking. In fact, Burbank Ranch is one of only two known producers of Arneis in the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area (AVA).

“Arneis is called a ‘little rascal’ in Italy’s Piedmont region for being challenging to grow,” says Fred Burbank, proprietor of Burbank Ranch. “In Paso Robles, however, Arneis grows like a weed. It’s surprising that we don’t see more of it here, considering how well it does in this climate and what a terrific wine it produces.”

Typically a medium- to full-bodied white wine, Arneis is upstaged by Piedmont’s more famous red wines, namely Barolo. But many consumers don’t realize that a small portion of Arneis has historically been used to soften the tannins and concentration of Nebbiolo grapes in Barolo, much like Viognier seasons Syrah in traditional Côte-Rôtie wines from the Northern Rhône. Since the 1990s, varietal Arneis has gained a following for its often gregarious aromas of ripe pear and white blossoms, plush texture and generous weight.

PiedmontGrapes for the 2013 Burbank Ranch Arneis were harvested from the estate early, in September, and fermented in stainless steel to preserve focus and acidity. The result is a dry, full-bodied white wine with aromas and flavors of bright pear, apple, honeysuckle, and white peach, with a structured, mineral finish.

A perfect transition wine between seasons, Arneis pairs well with a wide variety of dishes, including, notably, the cheese plate at Burbank Ranch Bistro in downtown Paso Robles. The “Little Rascal” Arneis would also beautifully complement a simple pasta with butter and fine white truffle shavings or any number of delicate seafood dishes.

For more information about Burbank Ranch Winery and Bistro, please visit

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THO_HR-157Our friends over at Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar are taking their commitment to vibrantly original farm-to-table cuisine behind the bar with a new cocktail menu featuring alternatives to spirits like sake and sherry. We were lucky enough to attend their recent cocktail kick-off party to taste the lineup, and let’s just say Thomas Hill Organics is the place to be this summer.

Developed by innovative mixologist, Matthew Hanson, the new cocktail menu puts a twist on classic cocktails like The Margarita and The Old Fashioned using fresh produce from Thomas Hill Organics’ diverse network of local farms. And, just as THO dishes offer a “melting pot” of global inspiration, each cocktail boasts flavors from across the world that complement one another for a taste experience unlike any on the Central Coast.

Debbie Thomas

Debbie Thomas

“We had been experimenting with creative mixology by offering Mimosas and Bellinis made with Cava and fresh squeezed juices, and the response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Debbie Thomas, proprietor. “The new cocktails blend seamlessly with our approach to food: fresh, seasonal, local, and inventive. We can’t wait to share them.”

The star ingredient of the new THO cocktail menu is definitely sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. “Sake is an amazingly versatile medium with as rich and diverse a history as wine,” said Hanson, who enjoys anchoring cocktails in sake for its pleasant brothy or savory qualities.

“While sake, and the cocktails we have derived from its use, pair well with many foods, specifically those high in acidity that benefit from the rounding capabilities of its umami characteristics, sake itself does not have the same tradition of food pairing in Japan that wine enjoys in the Western world,” said Hanson. “In many instances, the best sakes are those which don’t interfere with the food. What I’ve done is attempt to bring it to the foreground, both in the cocktail itself, and what those cocktails complement on the Thomas Hill Organics menu.”

Examples of fresh sake cocktails at THO include The Lemon Drop, The Margarita, The Mojito and The Ginger Grant, an elegant concoction of Momokawa Diamond Sake, fresh ginger, lychee purée, Cava, and candied ginger.

Pouring shot-sized samples of sake and sherry cocktails for the kick-off party

Pouring shot-sized samples of sake and sherry cocktails for the kick-off party

Sherry, Spain’s dry fortified wine, has enjoyed periods of extreme popularity in the United States, and is trending high in eateries and bars across the country. “Sherry shares a bit of that umami with sake,” said Hanson, “but carries with it a subtle salinity and nuttiness and the benefit of oak barrel-ageing, making it an excellent lower-alcohol substitution for whiskey in many circumstances.” The current THO sherry cocktail offerings include The Sherry Julep, made with Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso sherry, fresh mint, orange bitters, raw sugar, and topped up with a splash of Cava.

For more information about the new cocktail menu or to make a reservation, please visit

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Favorite Wine Country Wedding Caterers

We at Parker Sanpei have noticed a trend in wedding catering over the past several years. With the nation’s heightened interest in all things culinary, many caterers have stepped up their game to turn weddings into mini food and wine festivals. Whether it’s the wild blackberry and elder flower signature cocktail, the candy bar, or the freshest sushi you’ve ever tasted, caterers are pushing the limits of what we understand as wedding fare. Here, we present a few California wine country wedding caterers who are changing the game.

Healthy and Delicious: Culinary Eye, San Francisco

This Bay Area caterer is known for going above and beyond the call of duty with cuisine that’s not only delicious, but nutritious as well. Founded by Chefs Collins Anderson and John Silva, Culinary Eye has made a point of seeking out the most sumptuous ways to make health a priority in their menus, with options for all-organic menus and food sensitivities. Sample menu items include

  • Pepper-Whipped Goat Cheese Tartlets
  • Yuzu-Dressed Microgreens
  • Chili-Ginger Glazed Scallops

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Wild and Free: Thomas Hill Organics, Paso Robles

Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar is known for crafting incredible, inventive dishes from primarily organic, local ingredients, and that philosophy certainly carries over into their catering department. Owner Debbie Thomas is known for encouraging her chefs’ imaginations to run wild, with creative, flavorful dishes like

  • Jerk Pork Slider, Fried Banana and Onion, Citrus-Ale Barbecue Sauce, Chive Crème Fraiche
  • Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut, Roasted Baby Beets, Macerated Strawberries, Pickled Watermelon, Coconut Cream

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Fun and Interactive: OMNI Catering and Events, Santa Barbara

OMNI takes wedding catering to the -enth degree with its signature stations, which provide guests with a fun and interactive way to “build your own” pho, grilled cheese, schwarma, or quesadilla. Or, for the ultimate culinary experience (provided while the wedding party takes photos, perhaps?) opt for OMNI’s fresh mozzarella bar, in which OMNI chefs make fresh mozzarella in front of guests to pair with a buffet of gourmet oils, vinegars and salt, or craft their own caprese salad. Can you say YUM?!?

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Our favorite food/bev projects right now.

The food and beverage industry is growing, changing, and trend-setting in ways none of us could have imagined even a few years ago. Below, a few of Parker Sanpei’s favorite new endeavors.

Neighborhood Vineyards Project

alemany-1Neighborhood Vineyards is a project to revive San Francisco’s wine-making past by sprinkling the city with community vineyards. In the late 1800’s, San Francisco’s citizen’s began a bold experiment to find grape varieties suited to the state’s many micro-climates. They planted large swaths of vines around the city, kept loving records of their yields and began a journey in wine-making that was cut short by the earthquake and subsequent fire of the early 20th century.

We have humbly taken it upon ourselves to continue this voyage by creating a patchwork of vineyards in small spaces around the city. Our first 1/2 acre vineyard was planted in July of 2013 at Alemany Farm off Highway 280, thanks to the dedication and generosity of many dear friends and cheerleaders.

We must wait together for another three years to sample our city’s terroir. But despair not, dear wine-o-naut, for we journey together. Anticipation of our first vintage need not be agony. We have thoughtfully prepared a flight of wines to comfort you while you wait for the first truly San Franciscan wine in 100 years.


Ember Restaurant, Arroyo Grande, California

Building progress on Ember Restaurant

Building progress on Ember Restaurant

Brian Collins grew up in Arroyo Grande, but would later go on to work at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos and Lido in Shell Beach. Oh yeah, and he also worked for five years at a little place you may have heard of in Berkeley: Chez Panisse. But now he’s back in Arroyo Grande with his very own Ember Restaurant at the corner of Brisco Road and Grand Avenue (in the old Lemos Feed and Pet Supply building), a gorgeous space that serves up Mediterranean cuisine with casual California charm. 1200 East Grand Avenue, Arroyo Grande, California, 93420.


Giorgio Pelissero, Barbaresco producer and partner with VinConnect

Giorgio Pelissero, Barbaresco producer and partner with VinConnect

VinConnect works closely with many leading European wineries to create and manage mailing list and club programs that enable U.S. customers like you to buy wine directly from them (through us).

Each winery has its own mailing list, and offers the wines it selects at the frequency it chooses.  Following your order, your wine is then transferred to the U.S., forwarded along to our warehouse and shipped on to you.

Our mission at VinConnect is to enable American consumers with a passion for Old World wines to connect with and purchase directly from many of Europe’s best estates. This pursuit has received an incredibly positive response from both wineries and consumers alike, and VinConnect has rapidly gone from a flash of an idea into an international business, with dozens of winery partners connected to more than 1000 passionate consumers. The press has noticed as well, with recent profiles in publications such as Bloomberg, The Washington Post and the Huffington Post driving growth on a daily basis.


Dinner Lab

dinnerlabDinner Lab is a membership-based social dining experiment that unites undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners who are looking for something different from the traditional restaurant experience. Whether it happens on the roof of an abandoned building, the floor of a paper mill, or inside a motorcycle dealership, we believe that good people, good food and good drink are the only elements paramount to a memorable meal.


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