Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Mike Whalen, Director/Writer: THE FARMER AND THE CHEF

Mike Whalen, Documentarian

Mike Whalen is a local filmmaker bringing to Cinequest a documentary about the chef from Manresa Restaurant, and the partnership they have with Love Apple Farms.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE FARMER & THE CHEF, from concept to financing.

I first starting thinking about making a “green” television reality doc series. Back in 2009 I had been approached by a number of production companies that I used to work for and they were looking for documentary reality series with a green-environmental theme. It was the “hot” topic back then. As a result it got me thinking about ideas and one of them that came to mind was the amazing work that David Kinch was doing at Manresa. I’m a huge fan of his and any opportunity to work with him was a dream job. I emailed Chef Kinch and we set up a meeting. At that first meeting he made it crystal clear that if we were going to do anything it had to include Cynthia Sandberg and the partnership he has with her farm, Love Apple Farms. That sounded great to me so we set up another meeting at the farm. Now, at this time the farm was Cynthia’s backyard – about an acre and a half worth. She had a couple of apprentices working with her and a handful of volunteers. As I do on any film I started hanging around my subjects to get to know their daily routine and what makes them tick. A guest chef was coming in from Spain to cook with David at Manresa so I decided to shoot that event – from the guest chef and David walking the farm, choosing the veg for the weekend to the actual cooking of the meal. It was an incredible experience but I realized then that this wasn’t a TV show. David and Cynthia were too “normal.” This wasn’t “Hell’s Kitchen” so no network would really go for it. What I saw was the makings of a great documentary film. A chance to really explore the genius behind both of their artistry because that’s what they are…. artists. They create these amazing masterpieces with food.
I decided it was worth to spend a year filming to capture the essence of their work, their collaboration and their passion. I have access to all the equipment I want at Santa Clara University (where I teach filmmaking) so I could do this for very little money. As is my experience with all documentary films, the story tends to take on a life of its own. After one year of filming Cynthia decided to buy a new, 20+ acre property and sell the old farm. The problem with the new property is that it would take 2 years to get it going at full production. At the same time David decided to remodel the restaurant. I realized then that my little side project was going to take another three years to make but I wasn’t about to stop now because I had a front row seat to an amazing show.
In the end I have spent about $1500 on the entire film. I paid a little to have some aerials shot of the farm and the final music and other than that the expenses went to hiring sound people and the occasional second unit DP. I have shot and edited almost everything in the film.
2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of THE FARMER & THE CHEF.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?
I love Cinequest and couldn’t be happier to be premiering the film in San Jose. It’s such an amazing group of people from Halfdan on down and they really embrace the independent filmmaking spirit.  I also love how the festival is so committed to empowerment – whether that be children, new filmmakers or social justice. It’s a perfect fit for the type of films that I make. I hope people enjoy my film, obviously, but I really want them to walk away with a new found respect for the commitment to their craft that both David and Cynthia have. These are two people who are going way out of their way to grow, cook and serve the best food you could possible think about. It’s so imaginative. It’s so precise. They really are artists working at the top of their field. I want people to be inspired by this. To be inspired to commit that much emotion and energy to something in their life. It’s not easy to do this. It means taking risks, but the rewards are amazing. Oh, and I hope they leave really hungry!
3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making THE FARMER & THE CHEF?
The best is easy… getting to know David, Cynthia and everyone they work with. That’s always the best part of being a documentary filmmaker – getting to know people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. They have become friends. David texts me about US soccer scores all the time and Cynthia constantly invites me and my wife up to farm for special occasions. Another aspect that was awesome was the food. I got to taste a lot of what was being cooked in the kitchen and all I can say is that it’s culinary heaven in there. The worst is the feeling that, as a filmmaker, I haven’t done the story justice. I always worry that I’ll let down my subjects and my film won’t honor their lives as strongly as it should. I hope I have, but until an audience sees it you never know.
4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?  
People should see this film because it gives audiences a front row seat to watch two of the most talented people in the world work their magic. I’m talking one of kind stuff here. Nobody else is doing this in the world and this film lets you get inside the minds of these two geniuses. That and the amazing shots of food. It’s almost like eating at Manresa!!
5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Best Director Oscar for THE FARMER & THE CHEF.  Give us your acceptance speech.  
After picking myself up from the floor because the Academy actually honored non-fiction directing work I’d quickly thank David and Cynthia. We can’t make docs without amazing people letting us into their lives. It’s intrusive and I can’t thank them enough for graciously allowing me into their worlds. I also have to thank my wife – who grabbed a boom pole when I needed it, sat through three years of filming and editing and never let me settle. She pushes me creatively like only a loving spouse can.
The music must be playing now.
“Like” them on Facebook!

This interview originally published at

Great new sandwich shop on The Alameda

Ike's Love and Sandwiches

I was away from my office at lunchtime the other day, so I decided do something different for lunch. I wanted to see if anything new had moved in to the old Mission City Coffee location, and if not I thought I’d get some tacos at the Chalateco Mexican/Salvadoran place near there. What I found instead was a great new sandwich shop.

Ike’s Love & Sandwiches is part of a small local chain, and located on The Alameda at Chapman Ct in Santa Clara (the shop opened last month, and the Ike’s web page still doesn’t list it as a location). It’s right near where El Camino splits off from The Alameda and The Alameda becomes a tiny little spur leading to the “SCU” Safeway.

Everything about the place shows incredible enthusiasm. The walls are painted in bright “flower-power” colors and decorated with retro school lunch boxes from the 1970’s and ’80’s. There’s loud music playing and the place is crowded with customers, mostly college-age, even when I was there at 1 pm on a rainy day. The clerks are incredibly friendly and helpful, not just trying to get through their shifts so they can spend their paychecks on beer and textbooks.

The sandwiches are mostly named for local celebrities and landmarks. The “Andrew Luck” is halal chicken, bacon, garlic & herb sauce, and cheddar cheese, for example, and the “Steve Jobs” is breaded egglplant, ranch dressing, green pesto, and provolone. There’s a huge selection of vegetarian sandwiches. All sandwiches are served hot (unless you want it cold).

I got the “Patrick Marleau”. Roast beef, bacon, jack cheese, horseradish sauce, and sriracha. I thought about asking for it with no sriracha to get something less risky, but then figured, they must have tried it and think it’s good, so why not go for it? It was the right decision. The horseradish dominates the flavor of the sauce, but the sriracha adds just a note of something different to a classic combination.

Try this place now, and go early or late, because once the whole town catches on to it, it’s going to be one of those places where the line runs out the door.

New Sweet Treats in JTown

Since early August, there’s a new place to satisfy your sweet tooth in Japantown. Jimbo’s is selling Marianne’s ice cream in cups and cones, as well as Bubbie’s mochi ice cream from Hawaii. On one visit I tried Marianne’s “10-20” ice cream, with caramel ice cream, fudge swirl, and oreos, and it was fantastic.

In addition to ice cream, they have several bakery items including cookies and rice krispie treats (the matcha rice krispie treat is intriguing, but I haven’t tried it yet).

Or, if you’re not ready for sweets, they have hot dogs, or rice bowls topped with hot dogs in several flavors. And you can wash it down with a beer or a soda. Today I tried the teri rice bowl, with a teriyaki hot dog and cucumber and radish pickles, and it was a great light lunch.

Welcome to Japantown, Jimbo’s!

Psycho Donuts Bakes Americas Freedom of Choice

Gay Bar

Psycho Donuts is not taking sides (Chick-fil-A). Psycho Donuts has what they call their Psycho Moral System or for short – PMS. They want ALL donut loving Americans to eat what and wherever they wish.

Today Psycho Donuts has baked up a new choice: The Gay Bar – Read All About It!

When: Starting today, August 1st.

Where: Psycho Donuts Campbell – 2006 Winchester Blvd. or Psycho Donuts San Jose – 288 S. 2nd Street.

Call (408) 533-1023 for hours etc.


face it: Campbell or San Jose

KraftBrew: Successful suds on Post Street

Yesterday’s KraftBrew Beer Fest at Post Street was a fantastic way to taste some new beers and hear some local bands. The event featured 9 booths serving beers from what seemed like dozens of breweries. The beers included American craft brews and traditional beers from Belgium and Germany. The American offerings were mostly from California, but included a few choices from Oregon, Utah, and points farther afield.

The venue on Post Street and Lightston Alley was perfectly sized for the crowd, mostly eliminating the long lines that were a problem at the prior location at the San Jose Woman’s Club, but still keeping the servers busy pouring out their brews. And the event was a bargain, with entry priced at only $5, which included a take-home commemorative tasting glass.

The standout beers for me started with the Rhinoceros Rye Wine from Telegraph Brewing Company in Santa Barbara. It’s a unique creation using rye malt in a barleywine-strength concoction with a clean flavor that’s not a dry as most rye brews. Another discovery for me was Liefmans’ Godenband, a Flanders oud bruin, meaning another high-strength, malty brew, but in this case with very little hops and a strong carmel sweetness.

The music was also great, but somewhat under-appreciated by the crowd. Local ska band Monkey played to a modest crowd, but created enough energy of their own to get their fans jumping. Ben Henderson and Good Hustle did pull in a sizable crowd, and performed a fine set to justify it. The most disappointing reaction was for Will Sprott (of the Mumlers), who lead a simple 3-piece group through a set of country-angst-tinged tunes (somewhat in the mode of Wilco) that deserved a larger audience than they got.

Congratulations to the Naglee Park Garage for organizing the event, and to the other local bars and restaurants and the brewers who supported it. I’ll definitely look forward to this event again next year.

Happy 85th Birthday 7 ELEVEN

7-Eleven has more than 46,000 stores operating in 16 countries.

The company got its start in 1927 in Dallas Texas when Joe Thompson (an employee of Southland Ice Company) began selling milk, eggs and bread from an ice house.

To make a long story short the company was saved from bankruptcy in the 80s by a Japanese company.

The 7.11 oz. Slurpee drinks is FREE today July 11th – 11am to 7pm


New farm-fresh option for the valley

The San Jose area now has a new way to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. My neighbor, Paige Bayer (the local organizer of the wildly successful Bakesale for Japan last year), launched an “online farmer’s market” called SV Local Market just a few weeks ago.

SV Local Market operates somewhat like a community supported agriculture (CSA) co-op, with different pre-selected baskets of fruits and vegetables available by subscription. But they also offer the option to select exactly the items you’re interested in. Choices include the basic fruits and vegetables as well as extras like “sweet treats”, jams and jellies, and loose leaf tea. All of the source farms appear to be located in the Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Juan Batista counties, and many are certified organic.

SV Local Market has 5 pick-up locations, two near downtown San Jose, two in south San Jose, and one each in Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara. Pick-ups are available on Wednesday afternoons.

House of Thunder Harley BBQ and Bubba Blackwell Show

The last time I was on a motorcycle was back in my high school days, and that was on my then boyfriends little Honda!

To me motorcycles are a naughty – wicked living on the edge thrill. I love the way they look and sound. I enjoy talking to the riders and snapping a photo… Ms. Valley Vixen on hers and Vince on his big red bike.

The FX hit drama “Sons of Anarchy” is teaming up with Harley-Davidson to make a custom SOA bike.

The award winning (2011 Silver Bar and Shield Award) House of Thunder Harley-Davidson store in Morgan Hill is hosting a BBQ this Saturday.
– talk to them about the SOA bike…

American Daredevil Bubba Blackwell will preform amazing stunts on Harleys! He will do two shows: 12:30 and 3:30 PM.

Also, enjoy the live bands and much more. The show is free but do bring a bit of cash for the BBQ

Where: House of Thunder Harley-Davidson
16175 Condit Road – Hwy101 and Tennant Ave. Morgan Hill.

When: Saturday, June 16

House of Thunder


The Battle for Foie Gras in San Jose

foie battleOn Monday I joined another Dishcrawl event in downtown San Jose. Unlike previous events which rove from restaurant to rrestaurant, this one stayed at one venue, namely Myth Taverna and Lounge. The event is part of a series of dinners Dishcrawl is producing around the theme of Foie Gras.

You may or may not know this, but pretty soon Foie Gras will be unavailable in California. A statewide ban begins on July 1 via California Senate Bill No.1520 and chefs are all up in arms about it and creating farewell menus left and right.

I know, I know, protesters who promoted the law say the tradition of gravage is wrong, and that’s how the law got passed, but we’re not here to talk about that. Indeed 5% of the proceeds of the Discrawl Foie Battle goes to CHEFS the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards.

Personally I adore well prepared foie gras and it takes a deft hand to not over cook it or melt it away to sad nothingness in the pan. We were treated at this dinner to an eclectic menu of 5 courses, each with foie gras prepared in unique ways. Here’s the menu.

  • Gunkan Foie Gras Sushi with demi “soy”, horseradish “wasabe”, jicama and flower petal salad
  • Foie Street Tacos with vadalia sweet onion, banana peppers, and French sauce vert “salsa verde
  • Foie Mousse in pepper smoked bacon cups with demi glace and micro broccoli
  • Skirt Steak and Foie Pate Roulade with chili oil, french fingerlings, and lascanitos kale
  • Foie Panna Cotta Pearls with vanilla drizzle and berry compote

Four local chefs collaborated on the menu, David Ramsay, Drew Gaither, Ron Afortunado and Andrew Doberstein.

Each item was paired with wine as well and the wines were perfectly matched.

If you are a foie gras fan too, visit the website for upcoming foie battles, each with a theme, the next one is on May 24 “Filipino Foie-Down“.

DeAndre San Jose’s American Idol

I stopped in at Dick’s Bakery because I just needed a square of Burnt Almond cake.

While there I noticed a now familiar face. Posted on the glass refrigerator door above the sign reading, ‘Please Do Not Slam Door! I Am 53 Years Young” was a picture of American Idol contestant DeAndre.

The picture reading: Good Luck DeAndre!

Don’t forget to watch and vote for DeAndre
On American Idol !
Wednesday at 8pm

Phillip Phillips is my favorite, but it will be hard not to cast my vote for our local Oak Grove High School student.

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