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Field Notes Issue 29

by Joey Wolosz | Published May 31, 2023

May 2023

Hello from poolside in West Hollywood,

I’m juggling a lot right now!

Jeff and I are in Los Angeles this last week of May. We visited with our good friend and comic, Sarah J Halstead.  If you’ve been following along, she officiated our wedding in 2017.  We saw her Hollywood comedy show, Bottle Shock, at The Improv on Melrose, performing with her financé Rich Chassler. Burns and Allen better watch out.  

While in this star-studded land, we hosted a private tasting at the Magic Castle, recorded a podcast interview at a Silver Lake studio, fitted in some one-on-one magic lessons, met with press, and shared a lot of wine. A. Lot. Of. Wine.

Damn Gina! Jeff and I got in over 100,000 steps in the course of a single Los Angeles week. Who says nobody walks in LA?

Before catching our flight to LA, we swung by to see the construction progress on The Bungalow in Napa, where we are looking forward to hosting lunches, tastings, and salon-style soriées. New walls are up, and floors are down. We are hoping to see you there during this upcoming 2023 harvest season.

Yountville had its town-wide garage sale this month. Rain or shine (it rained), our band became a genuine garage band, performing in our carless garage, door fully open.  Despite the weather, people showed up to tour the 50+ garage sales in town, snatching up treasures only to be found in the humble hamlet of the Yount. We donated the band’s tips, raising $609 for the ACLU Drag Relief Fund.  

The month of May brought a whirlwind tour of lunches, sunny day pourings, galas, press meetings, and recordings, and in this issue, I have the pleasure of getting to know a Los Angeles comic better. He is a gem, funny guy, and wine collector, Rich Chassler.  

Enjoy the read.

Joey Wolosz
Vintner, Cook, Juggler (yep)

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Whew, what a month, what a May! Jeff and I hosted many lunches and met many new friends who I hope are reading this now (hey, new friends!). The Yountville Art Commission hosted Art, Sip, and Stroll, featuring many local artists and wineries. We poured our hearts out, sharing Gentleman Farmer Rosé and Chardonnay. 

The following day we found ourselves pouring at the Gala for Meals on Wheels at Fort Mason in San Francisco, a well-heeled event coordinated by my long-time friend David Miranda. Auction lots raised over $3,500,000 for meal delivery dedicated to area home-bound seniors. Nice job coordinating, David.

During our week in Los Angeles, we met with freelance writers for various food, drink, and travel publications. We zipped off to a recording studio (très LA) to be guests on Sarah J Halstead and Rich Chassler’s popular podcast Drinking During Business Hours. The episode “dropped” (Hollywood lingo) this week. Check it out. Episode 63.

Drinking With Richard Chassler During Business Hours

Actor and stand-up comic, Richard Chassler is a creative talent to follow, @richchassler on Instagram. Jeff and I were fortunate enough to share a 2011 Pomard with him in Los Angeles this week and get the low-down on his down-low.

He grew up in and around entertainment, his uncle being the voice of Howdy Doody, Popeye, and many others. To guild this lily, he has a connection to “Skippy” on Family Ties (throwing you a bone, 80s children).

When he began his comedy career, people didn’t have cell phones, beepers were for doctors and your dealer, and Ronald Regan was still president.  

In addition to his international presence, Rich has performed in 49 of our 50 states, opening for some of comedy’s biggest and brightest: Richard Pryor, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Reno 911’s Nick Swardson.

In the same vein that I am a retired hand model (thanks Pamolive, I’m still soaking in it), Rich is a voice actor and has voiced everything from television commercials, to film, to animation.

Joey Wolosz: What brought you to comedy and acting?

Rich Chassler:  I started acting when I was very young. I think I did my first play when I was in first grade and never stopped. I loved being on stage. I also started playing drums when I was seven and by the time I was ten I was playing out in New York City. Then I would sit in wherever I went. When I was 20 I got a small part on an NBC soap opera that didnt last very long.  When it was finished I got a job at Paramount Studio as a security guard where I met Marc Price.  He was playing Skippy on the TV show Family Ties and he got me into doing stand-up comedy. He was a standup and the son of a catskills comedian named Al Birney.  He thought I was funny and got me on stage doing stand up for the first time.

JW:  When did you first make a connection with wine and food?

RC:  I was always into good food.  As a kid we would eat at nice restaurants so I was exposed to good food at a young age.  When I was 34 I moved back to New York City and that’s when I discovered good wine. I was bartending at a restaurant in Soho and the chef opened a bottle of Bordeaux for us late one night and that was it! I was hooked!

JW:  Aside from entertainment, what are your other creative outlets?

RC:  Oh boy! Well I have been cooking since I was a little kid and I love to be in the kitchen. I also studied writing and journalism in school which led to my love of writing. As I mentioned I also play drums since I was seven and I tought myself to also play guitar and some piano. 

JW:  What do you have a really good time doing?

RC:  Other than performing? I love spending time with my fiancée. Of course wine tasting.  I love to see live music, and rock out to loud music. Playing music brings me great joy and I like to sing and do karaoke. I am also active and love skiing and biking, I love watching movies and TV, I admit it. Watching the NY Giants is a great past time.  I also really love to travel. 

JW:  Friends and family excluded, who are two people you’d like to share a long and lingering meal with?

RC:  Ooooh that’s tough. Living or dead? LOL!! There are a many people I would love to sit down and have a long meal with. Is it okay if I list more that two? if you know me then you would know Jerry Garcia would be on that list.  Lenny Bruce, Martin Scorsese, Paul McCartney, and the wine maker for Lynch Bages in France. This is a long list, believe me. There are lots of people I would like to dine with.

JW:  What would you serve?

RCL  Well, if it was Paul McCartney it would have to be vegan food. Anyone else, I’d have to say at least six courses with a different bottle of wine paired for each. Perhaps a nice poached quail egg with caviar to start. Some sort of greens, maybe grilled scallops with a beurre blanc, or garlic prawns drizzled with clarified truffle butter, a ricotta filled ravioli or malfatti, and perhaps a grilled branzino. For desert maybe cannoli or panna cotta with freshly made mint ice cream on the side. Of course a bottle of Sauternes with dessert. Perhaps a 2005 Chateau Guiraud.

JW:  What is your spirit animal?

RC:  Never gave that any thought. Richard means Kingly, so perhaps the Lion – it being the king of the jungle.

JW:  What is your motto?

RC:  I always say, “In this world, if you don’t ask – you don’t get!”

Warm Corn Tortillas

Before my time on this spinning orb, my mother lived with my older brother and sister in the border town of El Paso, Texas. From her time in El Paso, she grew fond of Mexico, the people, traditions, language, and food.

When I came around, the family lived in a small town on the California coast. There, these cultural influences continued with opportunities to practice her Spanish and enjoy and share the Mexican food she loved.

Tortillas are foundational to so many recipes that it seems natural to start here. Making them is straightforward, masa harina, salt, lard, and water. In Spanish, masa means dough, and harina means flour. You can find masa harina in most grocery stores today in the baking aisle with other flours.

A bit of background, masa harina is made from dried corn that has been treated with an alkali, such as ash. The process is called nixtamalization, and it softens the texture, improves the nutritional value, and changes flavor and aroma. The dried, nixtamalized corn is then ground to make the masa harina. You’re welcome; you now have something to add to your cocktail conversation repertoire.

Although Mom is no longer with us, I would have loved to have made and shared these with her. I think she would approve.

Jeff and I enjoy these heated with some melted cheese and Chardonnay.