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Field Notes Issue 30

by Joey Wolosz | Published June 29, 2023

June 2023

Welcome to the end of June and Pride month. My birthday was a couple of days ago (I share it with Ross Perot and Hellen Keller if anyone follows that stuff). Jeff and I are now the same age for the next six months; although, he is still older. 

We poured at the AGBO diversity event in the Art’s District of Los Angeles. AGBO is a movie studio created by the Russo brothers that produced the films Everything Everywhere All At Once, and Extraction 2, among many others. Gentleman Farmer had its claim to fame as the only featured winery at the event of about 200 guests. It was a fun evening of drag, bingo, wine, and dancing.

Meridith May with the magazine Somm Journal invited me to interview Shelley Lindgren, founder and owner of A16 restaurant in San Francisco. They usually have a sommelier interview a winemaker. This time they flipped the concept and the magazine is calling it Turning the Tables. They had me interview a sommelier. Shelley, being the consummate host and restraunteur had plenty of food for the interview and photo shoot. Look for it in their August print issue. Photo courtesy of Kent Luetzen.

We are packing our bags and leaving today to participate in the Equality Wine Fest in Palm Springs. The event features minority-owned wineries. I believe there will be about 25 wineries participating.

Jeff and I are donating a portion of wine sales to the global organization It Gets Better Project, originally created to prevent LGBTQ suicide and now to uplift and empower youth. Additionally, through our friend Juanita MORE!, we are supporting Queer LifeSpace, a local Bay Area organization investing in LGBTQ youth’s mental health.


In addition to the ongoing mayhem at The Bungalow, this month has brought many new projects to our plate. The universe spoke and told me it was time to improve my Polish. I have a guy now in Poland that I meet with twice a week (I don’t really go to Poland, it is all Zoom and Skype now).

I’m also going to introduce you to a longtime friend, David Groff. If you like to cook, he is your guy. Check out the interview that follows. He is also the inspiration for sharing a roast chicken recipe with a storied San Francisco past.

Joey Wolosz
Vintner, Cook, Proud

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Proper Polish

Three things happened over three consecutive days about a month ago that brought me to intensive Polish language lessons.

I tried to get my Polish citizenship in the early aughts, complete with Polish attorneys, many visits to the consulate in Los Angeles, and documentation. I dug deep with the family to find bacia and dziadzio’s baptism certificates from Poland, ship records, Ellis Island records, naturalization certificates, social security cards, and more.  In the end, my application was denied because my grandparents came to America in 1907 and 1913, before Poland became an independent country. So they were technically not Polish citizens when they arrived. Poland became an independent country again in 1918 at the end of World War 1.

Fast forward to May 2023 and Jeff and I host a lunch. One guest is a Polish citizen and said things may be a bit different and she’d help with my application. The very next day I am pouring at Yountville’s Art, Sip, and Stroll and meet another young Polish woman who lives in Napa. The following day a wine tour company reached out about doing a wine tour in Poland.  

OK, universe, I get it. I need to learn proper Polish.So, I now find myself in a sea of long words made up of many consonants: mężczyzna, dziewczyna, zwierzę, cześć, etc. I have hour-long lessons a couple of times weekly with my guy Jan in Europe. Give me three months, and I’ll report back. Nothing says wine country like a mouthful of źcz and sz.

Heat In The Kitchen with David Groff

David Groff is someone that can get you a little heated, often in the kitchen. Apart from his handsome mug, he is one talented chef instructor. David and I have known each other since the early 90s.

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy and Tante Marie’s Cooking School, David cooked at the famed Zuni Cafe and Gioia in San Francisco. He has worked as a personal chef, caterer, and with the Bay Area’s largest fish supplier before managing all of the public classes at San Francisco Cooking School, instructing a majority of them. Currently, he is a ‘traveling chef’ instructing at various Bay Area venues, including The Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa and through his own company, Meal Ticket.

You can follow and find him @mealticketsf on Instagram. I caught up with David on a recent visit to Tiburon, California.

Joey Wolosz: Your company is Meal Ticket. Please share with me what you’ve created.

David Groff: I realized that what I enjoyed the most in the food industry was teaching. Long gone are the days when chefs hide away their treasured recipes. I mean, really? We’ve been eating food for a long time. The more you cook, you recognize that once you know a few basic cooking methods, sauces, and even desserts, you can really make it your own and be more comfortable in the kitchen. These are the type of classes I designed for ten years at San Francisco Cooking School. Not recipes, but technique.

I started designing virtual classes in January 2020, before it became trendy.  My classes are a quick and fast 90 minutes for folks to connect with their co-workers, clients, friends, or family that may not live nearby. You can “see” your relatives without having to “see’ your relatives. You know who I mean.

Lately, my classes have been in person. While my office is my kitchen, today people would prefer not to spend any more time in front of their laptops. I call myself a traveling chef with a garage full of equipment. I’ve taught in tiny SF kitchens, large apartment clubhouses, boardrooms, and even in parks. I am the MacGyver of designing a space into a workable kitchen.

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

DG: Well, first of all, if you aren’t pouring yourself a glass when you start cooking, you are doing it wrong! It’s a required part of your mise en place. This W.C. Fields quote is even on my website “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to my food.” Joking aside, while I am a big proponent of drinking what you like, wine makes food taste better, and food makes wine taste better. I live in the middle of the Green Valley AVA where Pinot Noir is king, so as soon as the weather is nice – and often when it is not – I am outdoors at the wood oven. Mushroom pizza and my duck confit are in heavy rotation. But I’m grabbing that bottle of Gentleman Farmer Cabernet Sauvignon that I hid away – yes, I have to hide it at my house – when a tomahawk steak and roasted potatoes are on the grill.

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

DG: Juggling, magic, riding my unicycle, training my parrot, accordion playing… Oh wait, that’s you Joey. I’ve known you a loooong time, my friend. I am desperately trying to learn Italian, but I’m afraid quella nave è salpata (yes, I even had to Google translate that) ugg.

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

DG: Traveling and eating other people’s food.

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

DG: Only two? Dead or alive? Oh, god so hard. Ina Garten (because she would giggle and tell dirty jokes, oh and her house is fabulous), Winston Churchill (because I’m a history nerd and think his country gets a bad rap for food), Michael Cunningham (because his words are perfection. Also, he owns a nice house in Provincetown. See a theme here?), and Jacques Pépin (legend). Ok, I can’t count. That was more than two. Chef Pépin actually came into Zuni Cafe one day and the kitchen went crazy. We had famous musicians, actors, comedians, and politicians dine there all the time, but he was our rockstar. He came into the kitchen and stuck his finger in all the sauces to taste (don’t tell the health department), and posed for pictures. Amazing.

JW:  What would you serve?

DG: Obviously, I would take my traveling circus on the road and be in Ina’s or Michael’s house. Crudo of whatever is in season; Vitello Tonnato – veal in tuna sauce. Yeah, I know, sounds weird, but OMG so good, and meets an important part of dinner parties – ‘make ahead’ and ‘served at room temperature’; Roast Chicken – while I don’t know how many chefs are on death row, it is often their most requested last meal and well, my Zuni days; Salad/Vegetable – same rule as crudo (see above); Chocolate Chip Cookies because if you don’t like them, you aren’t invited. Cigars for Winston.

JW: What is your spirit animal?

DG: Maybe a Giant Pacific Octopus. They are curious, resourceful, and they get to eat seafood all day long.

JW: What is your motto?

DG: Stretch and floss daily.

Zuni-ish Roasted Chicken

The aforementioned David Groff did his tour of duty at the famed San Francisco neighborhood café, Zuni.  Zuni is well known for its roast chicken with bread and arugula salad.

Now, I’ve roasted thousands of chickens (turn away my Polish ladies).

When Jeff and I first met in 1999, I roasted a chicken every day for 30 days in a row to master the art of French roast chicken. The Zuni Café in San Francisco is well known for its roast chicken.  David shared with me the overall concept, I have done a bit of Internet digging, and I have given some of my own spins on this dish.  This treat has become a tradition for our first day of any vacation in Tahoe.

There are two parts to this recipe, the roast chicken and the bread salad.

David was kind enough to walk me through the steps.  This chicken is salted generously and early. The earlier, the better.

As far as wine, the sky’s the limit. Fitting for June, this pairs with a rainbow of our wines: our rosé, Chardonnay, or any of our red wines.