Road Skoal: San Francisco

posted by Nastassia Lopez

(Hey, what is this Skål Project anyway?)

Flying across the country to skoal Merle Haggard gave us a good excuse to have some San Francisco chefs, writers, and culinary friends pose for a skoal shot. Dave, Nastassia, Harold McGee, Flo McGee (Harold’s daughter) and the official Road Skoal Photographer, Travis Huggett, gassed up, fed parking meters, and drove circles around San Francisco with a cooler of cold Aquavit in pursuit of one thing: spreading the skoal to the Bay Area.

The Road Skoal Team with Chef Patterson in the Coi alley.
The Road Skoal Team with Chef Daniel Patterson in the alley next to his restaurant, Coi.

We set up our first Skoal Station at the Ferry Building Marketplace, home of San Fransisco’s famed farmer’s market, where local farmers and artisan producers sell fresh goods to chefs and locals:

The PR force who helped us set up our Ferry skoals:

Eleanor Bertino: President of her eponymous public relations firm that specializes in San Francisco Bay Area and national media for acclaimed restaurants, artisan food products, and sustainable initiatives. On the Board of Slow Food USA.

A famous NorCal Farmer:

Farmer Al Corchesne: Co-owns the 133-acre Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood, California, with his wife Rebecca. Famed for his glorious peaches and his signature overalls.

(9 am is the middle of the day for Farmer Al –he had two shots. Seriously though, his fruit is delicious.)

A purveyor of some of the best rarer-than-rare Chinese teas:

Roy Fong: Founder and proprietor of Imperial Tea Court - the first traditional Chinese teahouse in America; an ordained daoist priest; helped restore one of the oldest Tang Dynasty tea sites in Zhejiang, China.

He specializes in aged pu-erh tea.  He has a warehouse in Oakland where he ages teas for up to 20 years.

A cook and expert on India’s rapidly dwindling Parsi population:

Niloufer King: Anthropologist, food scholar, teacher and cook; author of My Bombay Kitchen; oversees the preparation of a Parsi New Year’s dinner at Chez Panisse.

From the Ferry Building we drove to Noe Valley, where we met husband and wife team of Sardinian restaurant, La Ciccia:

Massimiliano Conti: Chef of La Ciccia; native Sardinian; former sommelier; forgot to tell his wife that he signed her up for a skoal.
Loretta Degan: wife of Chef Massimiliano; front-of-house at La Ciccia; former concierge at the Mandarin Oriental.


Massimiliano and Loretta: Salute!

We drove back and forth between Bar Baretta, Coi and Incanto several times to track these next guys down (New Yorkers+driving+scheduling in the most laid back state in the country=disaster).

Dinner night one:

Daniel Patterson: multisensory chef at Coi; obsessed with the interplay of taste and smell; writes for the New York Times. Don't write an article about him and mention the strip club next door. He hates that.
The neighbors.

And desserts:

Bill Corbett: Pastry chef at Coi; worked with Wylie at WD-50; native Canadian. Wants to make kick-ass vegan food someday.

Dinner night two:

Chris Cosentino: Chef at Incanto, Food Network star, and owner of Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts; lover of all things offal; part-time professional bicyclist.

And the bartender who saved the Road Skoal crew from thirst on multiple occasions:

Ryan Fitzgerald. Mixologist extraordinaire at Bar Baretta. He is wearing his signature I Hate Cocktails T-shirt signed by Dave Wondrich. The skoal was so intense it knocked his pony-tail out of its holder.

From San Francisco we drove two hours east for the Merle skoal in Modesto. As soon as Merle left the stage, we high-tailed it 3 hours north to Sonoma to skoal Paula Wolfert and her husband Bill Bayer:

This lady owns more than 100 clay pots (she’s been collecting for 50 years):

Paula Wolfert: author (and James Beard Award winner) of five cookbooks on Eastern Mediterranean cooking; self-professed clay pot junkie.

This man thinks of ways to kill people with clay pots:

Bill Bayer: author of crime and sexual psychopath novels; native Shakerite (an oxymoron?); after graduating Harvard made propaganda movies for the United States Information Agency in Vietnam.


Bill and Paula: clay pots and murder.
Paula and Bill: we let them keep the bottle.

9 thoughts on “Road Skoal: San Francisco

  1. Ok, I know it’s a dumb question – but what kind of Aquavit are you guys using? The Oregon liquor stores only carry a single (unimpressive) brand, and I’m looking to do some mail-ordering here soon…


    (Oh, and Merle? Best Skoal Ever.)

    1. Hi Chris,
      We make our own aquavit. We add 32 grams of toasted and 32 grams untoasted caraway to a liter of vodka, blend in a vita-prep, and distill using a rotary evaporator. What brand do you get out there?

  2. Dave,
    We get Aalborg, and it’s not exactly a bad brand – it’s just not what I remember having in Europe. All cardamom and fennel, with a more subdued caraway than I’d prefer. Gonna’ have to try spiking with caraway and redistilling over here. How’s the do-it-yourself-rotovap coming?

    1. Chris,
      Sadly, I haven’t had a lot of time to work on the new rotovap. Had Tony Conigliaro in this week. He’s been doing some non-vacuum soxhlet extractions. We looked into getting a buchi soxhlet adapter for the rotovap. $2700!!!!!! Holy crap. Ace glass sells a soxhlet extractor for 250 plus a 50 adapter to fit the rotovaps 50-45 joint.

  3. After your head has had enough Skoals and are in need of some morning help, try subbing Aquavit in a bloody Mary…that and a few freshly shucked Kushis and I’m usually good to go!

  4. Very cool, love the reaction after the shot, time to get California grappa rolling…….

  5. Love the Skoal! I married into a big Swedish family and have been practicing the Skoal for 18 years now…I think I have it down so if you come to Los Angeles or anywhere near give a call. I can set up quite a few chefs that would love to join in!

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