And That’s Pizzazz

By Kathleen Mailliard Solmssen



And That’s PIZZAZZ

Star Wars, Silicone Valley, Haight Ashbury – these six words spark a plethora of thoughts and images birthed in the San Francisco Bay area.  This little slice of heaven is a compact cornucopia of creativity.  Because of its year-round, 65-degree, fog-infused weather, Northern California is also the perfect spot to make wine, salami, cheese and sourdough bread.  “X” marks the spot in this perfect longitude/latitude area where wild yeast combines with moist salt sea air to become a ginormous Petri dish that sets these delicious balls rolling.  Hundreds of years ago, before it was labeled penicillin, blue mold found on stale bread was used to cure wounds.  Today, other fungi enhance the complex natural flavors of these gastronomic delights.  During the forty-niners’ Gold Rush, “sourdoughs”, as they were called, carried starter dough in saddle bags, stored it in caves, and made bread over camp fires.  Just as in the Olympics, year after year, international gold medals are awarded to competing bakeries that pride themselves in using treasured starter culture and fermentation.


During the aging process in this food lovers’ paradise, artisan cheese and Italian salami grow a white, velvet-like casing.  This extremely desirable characteristic imparts complexity and flavor to these products.  Like the “sourdoughs”, grape growers ferment and age wine in caves.  Who would have thought that a constant cool temperature would be a primary element of this sumptuous launching pad?  Tours of wine cellars, sourdough bakeries, cheese farms and salami kitchens are number one “go to” tourist attractions and the sampling is beyond the beyond.


World renown chefs, from Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to Thomas Keller at French Laundry in the Napa Valley, pride themselves in working with food and wine that remains excellent due in great part to fungi and fermentation.  In France, a similar kind of wild magic is found in moist ground where pigs hunt truffles.  San Francisco’s magic – this wild yeast – is in the air and therefore it is available to all.  “Man cannot live by bread alone”.  Californians believe that man must also have cheese, salami and of course the liquid of the Gods, wine.  There isn’t any “acquiring a taste” for these simple pleasures.  One sip.  One bite.  And the addiction begins.


For over 100 years, from black-tie party hors d’oeuvres to backyard party snacks, the places and ways to serve these fermented and fungi-infused wonders have been endless.  One that always charms and romances is a picnic basket, overflowing with San Francisco treats on an evening ride in a local, authentic Venetian gondola – complete with a singing oarsman wearing his traditional striped shirt and straw hat.


Now that’s PIZZAZZ!

One Response to “And That’s Pizzazz”

  1. nonpareil | 12.01.14 at 10:35 PM said…

    dear jo lee
    pizzazz nonpareil
    thankful to have discoverd you via john kremer’s “ten million eyeballs”
    cheers to you and your fascinating perspective: “one that always charms and romances, overflowing with San Francisco treats on an evening ride in a local, authentic venetian gondola” – would that come complete with some BARIANI OLIVE OIL?
    -nichole for nonpareil99