20 years of talking story

Boccalone Charcuterie at the Ferry Plaza Wine Bar. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Here in the 50th, when acquaintances engage in idle chit chat to pass the time, we call it “talk story.” It may be with a relative that you haven’t seen for a while at a family gathering, it may be with a friend on a weekend over a can or two of beer. Or it may simply be with your regular letter carrier during their usual delivery during their water break. Or in other cases, it may be with someone from the 50th every four weeks chit-chatting about food, wine or nutrition. And yes, it’s been for the past 20 years.

Back in 2003
When I started in 2003, this publication was known as the Nichi Bei Times and was still primarily published in Japanese. Because the population of readers who could read Japanese was diminishing, English Section Editor Kenji G. Taguma wanted to expand the English version, so my brother, Kyle Tatsumoto who penned the Two Japanee Bruddahs column (along with Keith Kamisugi), suggested that Kenji contact me since I previously wrote “Ryan’s Restaurant Reviews” in our pharmacy school newsletter. And the rest is history.

The Rebirth
In late 2009, the Nichi Bei Times board decided to cease operations of the publication, though a plan to launch the nonprofit Nichi Bei Foundation was already in place. At this time, I had already switched my day job (again) and started working for the federal government as a clinical pharmacist at the Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic (it was called the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic at the time). When I look back at the past 20 years, it’s remarkable that the Gochiso Gourmet has outlived my time as a retail pharmacy manager at Times Supermarket Pharmacy, a clinical pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente (there is no Hawai‘i region anymore as Hawai‘i was absorbed by the Southern California region) and a clinical pharmacist at the Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic. I guess the day job was really just to pay the bills and the real passion was for food, wine and nutrition.

What has happened since 2003?
Ferry Building Marketplace

Boccalone Charcuterie at the Ferry Plaza Wine Bar. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

The biggest food news in the Bay Area in 2003 was likely the opening of the Ferry Building Marketplace. Once it opened, we always paid homage to the foodies’ ultimate food shrine. A visit always required a first stop at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, which opened years ago at 9 a.m. (they now open at 11 a.m. or noon) and it mainly served as the “appetizer” until Hog Island Oyster Co. opened at 11 a.m. This was the one requisite stop that Ms. S dreaded because we usually were the only visitors at the wine bar at 9 a.m. — my response was always, “I’m on vacation and it’s always 5 p.m. somewhere in the world.” She would always insist on facing the back of the wine shop so other shoppers couldn’t see her face — I proudly faced those shoppers with the “Yes, I’m sippin’ wine at 9 a.m. and life is good” face. Back then, the wine bar encouraged you to bring food from other Ferry Building Marketplace vendors — I would have brought a bento from Delica but walking to Delica would have infringed on precious wine sippin’ time. So we usually just enjoyed the cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, charcuterie from Boccalone and epi from the Acme Bread Company, though sadly only Acme Bread Company remains.

Then after two dozen oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Co., the last requisite stop was at Ciao Bella Gelato for their triple espresso gelato — like a good cup-o-joe and dessert in one fell swoop!

Though they opened two years earlier, Chef Mourad Lahlou made a stir when he opened Aziza as he had no classical culinary training, yet fused classical Moroccan flavors with fresh California ingredients. We  were hooked not just with the flavors, but also that his cocktail list was meant to pair with the meal — it wasn’t just something to sip on before the meal. I still remember his Pear and Ginger Martini (highlighted in the December 2004 column). Though we haven’t sampled the food at Mourad, we do get to sample some of his culinary influence as he’s besties with local Hawai‘i Chef Chris Kajioka and they have partnered in a couple of restaurants in the 50th.

Dry Creek Kitchen

Dry Creek Kitchen’s Smoked Duroc Pork Chop photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer opened Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, Calif. about a year before my stint with the Nichi Bei Times started and it transformed the sleepy Healdsburg Square into a dining destination. By the time we sampled the food at Dry Creek Kitchen, we already were familiar with Palmer as we had previously visited Aureole at the Mandalay Resort in Las Vegas. And since then, we’ve been back on several occasions,  including just this past Thanksgiving for the great food, cocktails and excellent service — the service we’ve received at Dry Creek Kitchen rivals that of the French Laundry.

Incanto opened a year before I started writing for the Nichi Bei Times, though it didn’t receive acclaim until Chef Chris Cosentino joined a year later. The High Priest of Offal usually offered several menu selections based on these less-desired cuts but in his hands, makes them taste like they should be the star of everyone’s table. We first dined there in 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed our meal (briefly highlighted in the November 2009 column) but sadly weren’t able to experience any of Incanto’s annual pure offal meals as they closed five years later. Cosentino did go on to open Cockscomb, which we also thoroughly enjoyed in 2019, but they sadly closed a year later.

The French Laundry
By the time I first penned the Gochiso Gourmet column, The French Laundry had already been a dining mecca in Yountville, Calif. for 10 years. However, we were fortunate to secure a table — exactly on our 10th  anniversary no less — so our experience there was highlighted (November 2004 column) in my first restaurant article in the Bay Area (OK, Yountville is a major extrapolation of the Bay Area proper). And to this day, I still remember most of the meal from the superlative Oysters and Pearls featuring two neatly trimmed poached oysters atop pearl tapioca with sabayon aside a dollop of osetra caviar to the White Truffle Risotto with mounds of sliced fresh white truffle to the Snake River Farms Wagyu Ribeye Cap to the Savoy “slaw” served with the Forsterkase cheese course. And service like the wind… always felt but never seen.

The Next 20 Years
If I’m still writing in 20 years, the content of the columns may change quite a bit as I may only be talking about foods that prevent constipation. Or my restaurant reviews may be limited to McDonalds and Burger King. Or where to get discounted food on Senior Day. Or I may finally toss health concerns aside and extol the virtues of having Eggs Benedict and Champagne every morning, charcuterie and cheese every lunch and steak tartare and red wine daily for dinner… followed of course by a cocktail… viewed on YouTube…

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/ recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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