The San Francisco Diet

How Sommelier and Budding Winemaker Rajat Parr Eats and Drinks His Way Through Harvest

Photo: Courtesy of Rajat Parr

For this week’s edition of The San Francisco Diet, we round out our tour of the diets of food industry pros with Rajat Parr, wine director for the Michael Mina Group and in particular, sommelier at RN74. Rajat is coming out with a book, The Secrets of Sommeliers, and has also been making his own wines since 2005 — this year expanding with 4000 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under the label Sandhi Wines. He was in the middle of harvest last week when he put together his food journal for us, bouncing back and forth between S.F. and Lompoc. Below, the blow-by-blow of where and what he ate in between picking and harvesting grapes.

Wednesday, September 15
During harvest, I stay with my good friend and uber winemaker Sashi Moorman and his wonderful wife Melissa Sorongon at their home. There really aren’t any set times that we eat. There’s a lot of grazing during the day and finally a home-cooked meal at night (whenever we get home). FYI- Sashi is a tremendous cook.

I woke up with a had a cappuccino (Blue Bottle Three Africans) with Melissa, and by 8:30 a.m. was eating the breakfast of champions for a somm: Pinot Noir grapes off the vine. We had just picked four tons. I was at the vineyard checking it out and eating a bunch of grapes: sweet, sour, and somewhat tannic.

At one o’clock had a Nicoise salad from Sissy’s Uptown Cafe in Lompoc. Lompoc is like this town trapped in the 1960s, and there’s almost nothing to eat except Sissy’s and a few Mexican joints so it’s tough to eat healthy.

Had a double cappuccino from Starbucks (best you can find here) at about 5:30, and then at 8:45, after a long day at the winery, I was famished. We started with a little proscuitto Cotto from Boccalone. To quench our thirst we popped a bottle of Roulot Meursault Tillets 2002.

Since we didn’t have much time to cook, with the next day being a long one, Sashi put together a beautiful salad of thinly sliced duck breast- green beans, shredded carrots, roasted fennel, eggplant, shallots, hard boiled eggs and a light vinaigrette.
To finish, a little Andante Dairy cheese- Cheddar (raw milk, Aged 12 months). It has to be one of the most delicious cheddar EVER!! We drank a ‘96 Jamet Cote Rotie. One of my favorite Syrah producers. Rich, spicy and exotic (at 12.5% alcohol).

Thursday, September 16
The morning started with another cappuccino at Starbucks, and granola with yogurt and strawberries. Then the usual snack of Pinot grapes while sorting.

Had a wonderful chicken burrito from Floriana in Lompoc. I figured we needed an inspiring wine so I opened a beautiful Pinot from Santa Cruz Mountains, Rhys “Family Farm” 2007. Truly a magical wine. Quote delicious with the burrito.

After a long day, at 10 p.m., we decided to make some Indian food. So of course, I was on the stove. I made ginger chicken (my mom’s recipe), mixed vegetables and roasted potatoes spiced with coriander (seeds and fresh), cumin and red chilis. And some rice flavored with black cardamom.

As an aperitif we had Louis Michel Chablis Montee de Tonerre 08 and Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin “Cherbaudes” ‘06. With dinner we had Clusel Roche Cote Rotie ‘98 and Clape Cornas ‘98. Both are earthy and full of minerality and complexity. Wow.

Friday, September 17

Started with a cappuccino at Quackenbusch in Los Alamos. Then later had lunch at Au Bon Climat made by master winemaker Jim Clendenen: barley and okra, chicken tikka masala, squash in coconut milk and curry, lentils & kidney beans flavored with black cardamom, chickpeas with tomatoes and potatoes, yogurt with cucumber, spicy pickle. We tasted at least 20 wines from Au Bon Climat. The most memorable one was the 1982 Pinot Noir. it was the first vintage produced by Jim Clendenen and Adam Tolmach at Au Bon Climat.

That night it was back at dinner with Sashi Moorman. We started with a yellow tomato salad with Monterey anchovies. The wine with that was Sauvignon Blanc of all Edmond Vatan Sancerre 2008. Next came the parsnip and guanciale risotto with Arlot Romanee St. Vivant 1996. The wine was firm and lean. It needed the richness of the guanciale to make the wine shine. The main course was rack of lamb grilled in Sashi’s fireplace with braised celery hearts with walnut oil. The Produttori del Barbaresco “Ovello” 1979 was perfect with it. As usual we finished with Andante cheese. A sweet and delicate “Reblochon style” cheese made with raw cow’s milk.

Saturday, September 18
I flew back to S.F. in the afternoon and had lunch at home with Mom & Dad, who are visiting me for a couple of months from Calcutta. For me, my mom is the best cook in the world. We had family-style Indian food. Chicken curry, spicy potatoes (Grandma’s recipe), cauliflower with turmeric and cumin and black lentils. Randy Lewis brought over a bottle of ‘90 Chave Hermitage. Perfect lunch after a long day of travel.

I had a late dinner at RN74 with Jamie Kutch. There is a new menu so I thought I should check out the new dishes. Jamie brought two sick bottles of wine — D’auvenay Chevalier Montrachet 2004 and 1961 Pierre Ponelle Musigny. Both were as great as wine gets.

The first courses were great too — hamachi crudo with cucumber, watermelon, green peppercorn & shiso; agnolotti with cranberry beans, castelvetrano olives, arugula, and grilled lemon; whole roasted Gulf prawns with fried green tomato, sweet corn, ginger, and celery leaf.

The main courses: Alaskan halibut with house-made chorizo, heirloom squash, preserved lemon, roasted tomato; roasted chicken with Belgian endive, caramelized onion, black olive, plum, watercress; grilled center-cut beef rib eye with chanterelles, potatoes, spinach, cauliflower. and sauce béarnaise.

Sunday, September 19
Sunday lunch at home with my parents and Jim Clendenen, who came up from Au Bon Climat. We had chicken with spinach and turmeric, spicy cauliflower, lentils and paneer with green peppers. These were served with fenugreek flat bread and spiced rice pilaf. I picked the best wines to work with this food: Selbach Oster Riesling “Zeltinger Himmelriech” Spatlese 2008 and Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynards 2006. Both of these wines added freshness to the spicy food.

After that I was stuffed, and I had a early morning flight to Santa Barbara, so I skipped dinner.

Monday, September 20
I flew into Santa Barbara at 8 a.m. and had a turkey and egg white sandwich and a cappuccino.

For lunch: a bowl of Pho with roasted duck from Suvan restaurant in Lompoc. Quite satisfying for this cold day. We pressed ten tons of Chardonnay that day.

Afterwards, at about 8:45 p.m., we had a tri-tip sandwich with a bowl of chili and a cold Spaten beer at D’vine wine bar in Lompoc.

Tuesday, September 21
Had a cappuccino at 10 a.m. and then hopped a flight back to S.F. That afternoon, even though I was too tired to eat, I had a bowl of yellow lentils flavored with toasted cumin and cilantro.

I had another 7 a.m. flight the next morning, so had to have a light dinner. I sat at the bar at RN74 with a friend and shared a few appetizers: tomato salad, chicken croquettes, and hamachi collar. With it we drank a vibrant glass of Jacky Blot Montlouis ‘08, and Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Cherbaudes Premier Cru 2006.

Wednesday, September 22
Flew into Santa Barbara and drove to Lompoc and had a cappuccino. Got straight to work and then at noon had another chicken burrito at Floriano which almost had no chicken in it this time, but I was so hungry that I ate it. Then I started to drive back to S.F., looking forward to eating real food!

At 11 p.m., it was Nombe. Hands down the best Japanese in S.F. We had albacore with tonnata and fennel; the best chicken wings with honey, herbs, and serrano chili sauce; Shishito peppers with lemon; rice with wild nori and scallion; chicken yakitori – skin, thigh and heart. With this we had a lot of Trumer Pilsner (my favorite beer) and a selection of sakes from the master Gill.

After dinner we ended up at Beretta. Ryan (great bartender) made us the best cocktail – the Esmeralda. And that, everyone, was my week in food and drink.

Earlier SF Diets: Bar Star Brian MacGregor Likes a Good Slider, and Occasionally a Cocktail With Lunch [Grub Street]
The Cooking Channel’s Aida Mollenkamp Is a Girl Who Can Really Eat [Grub Street]
Timothy Hollingsworth Ate Some *Really* Spicy Sh*t in Sydney [Grub Street]
Chris Kronner Loves Sebo Almost as Much as Ryan Farr’s Burgers [Grub Street]
Where Didn’t Michael Bauer Eat This Week? [Grub Street]

How Sommelier and Budding Winemaker Rajat Parr Eats and Drinks His Way Through