I once had the sublime opportunity to play hookie from work to pick grapes with Angelo Garro. It was a memorable day. At dawn we gathered at The Renaissance Forge, Angelo’s blacksmithing studio-and-gourmet-kitchen housed in an historic industrial space in San Francisco’s SOMA district, for a coffee before our caravans left for Napa. Angelo had arranged for us to glean the vines where the winery had already finished harvesting. Fifteen or so of us picked grapes with gardening clippers for a few hours, picnicked on a hill with blankets spread out while Angelo passed around plates of pasta and home-made wine that he’d had brought along. A simple, heavenly meal – paired perfectly with our sweaty brows from the grape-picking and buzz from the midday vino. Then we drove back to the Forge to crush the grapes in a giant contraption he’d set up out in the alley. I thought I’d died and had landed in a Gourmet Magazine photo shoot. But no, this is just how Angelo takes advantage of a typical autumn day: with friends, outside celebrating nature’s gifts, and then preparing and eating these gifts. In his native Sicily, which he left behind as a teen, these traditions are based on seasonal customs. Nature informs your annual habits; but it is Angelo himself who is a Vigilante for keeping these traditions alive here in the USA.
The Forge. Photograph by Laurie Frankel
Angelo in his kitchen at The Forge.
You may have heard of Angelo – he was the badass Italian who Michael Pollan featured prominently in the New York Times bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, referring to him his “foraging Virgil.” If you recall from the book, Angelo invited Pollan on a wild boar hunt (an exhausting, laborious sport.) What sets Angelo apart from a typical hunter is that he is also an expert in what to do after you kill the animal. Angelo can outline exactly how to butcher and prepare the entirety of the pig to turn it into many varieties of sumptuous dishes. It’s all part of his repertoire. And naturally, no part of the animal was wasted. He is master of the hunt, the kill, the butchering, the curing, and finally the cooking and celebrating. Not to mention the community-creating.
Perhaps what strikes me as most Vigilante about Angelo is how much of his life is genuinely cinematic by virtue of it’s gusto — he blasts his opera at dangerous decibels, he offers big bear hugs for “Hello”, he stands on a hillside picking grapes in his straw hat, he is a sure shot with a wild boar… One might think, “God, if only a documentarian could capture this original man” — BUT WAIT, one did. Angelo’s buddy Werner Herzog (of Fitzcarraldo and Grizzly Man fame) has recently done so. Herzog filmed a movie about Angelo, The Story of Omnivore Salt in celebration of Angelo’s most recent project — a gourmet salt company. With Omnivore Salt, Angelo attempts to bring to people inspiration for cooking with his same sense of passion and connectedness to the earth.
“I have been making my Omnivore Salt for many years”, Angelo explains. “My grandmother taught me the family recipe when I was a young boy in Sicily. This salt blend works on everything – meat, vegetables and fish; just a pinch unlocks the deepest flavors of your food. Many of my friends are chefs, restauranteurs, and artists, and for years I have been giving my salt to them. They loved it and urged me to share it with the community and with food lovers everywhere.”
Is there not an aura about this man that makes you want to slow down, put away your iPhone, pour youself and your friends a glass of wine, converse, and enjoy your sweet existence? Sign me UP! Angelo is a poster child for Vigilante Living: his life itself is a work of art. There is no artificial separation between his work and his play. It’s all one cohesive project called Living Well. Signore, please pass me some of that salt.
Courtesy of The Selby
Courtesy of The Daily Meal
Meat bring cured neatly in the back of the Forge.
The blacksmithing studio is adjacent to his open kitchen.
Angelo Garro’s newest endeavour, Omnivore Salt.
There is soap, and then there is the best soap in the world. Santa Maria Novella soaps are capable of transporting you to another world, another place in time — and are really in their own category of perfume meets soap. Santa Maria Novella soaps come from an ancient Florentine pharmacy founded in 1612 by Franciscan friars associated with an infirmary for the monks, and was later supported by the Medicis. While I have never been to the pharmacy, by all accounts it is a magical, historic complex. My absolute favorite soap scent is “Sapone Per Uomo,” which is expensive and hard to find in the United States. The beautiful paper from inside the soap packaging looks as if were printed in 1900 and works nicely in lieu of scented lingerie drawer sachet to make you want to bury your head in your sock drawer. If you’re in San Francisco, the place to buy Santa Maria Novella soap is Bell’occhio. Located on a little alley off Market Street, this jewel-box of a European-style general store not only sells Santa Maria Novella, but uses the Sapone Per Uomo as a room scent; there is nothing more heavenly than swimming in a room saturated with notes of this sandalwood blend. It’s entirely unisex and pleasurable in a non-floral way. Whenever I order things from Bell’occhio, the tissue paper in the package releases subtle hints of this heavenly scent. If you have a summer guest coming to stay at your house, order some Santa Maria Novella soap for their bathroom, and make them feel special and welcome.
Photo of Bell’occhio courtesy of Paperpastries
I am a die-hard enthusiast of vinyl. There are so many reasons why. Let me count the ways: (1) because of the record jacket, and all the cool design real estate that it provides. (2) Because the sound of a record is more tactile and scratchy than digital recordings. Whether it’s Chopin, or an old Pixies album, vinyl sounds real and imperfect — the way life really is. (3) I also appreciate the display of records. There is nostalgia in a big bookshelf lined with records. Whether its a record nook tucked inside a closet, or a repurposed bar cart for your turntable, or just a stack piled high in your living room — having records is unconventional in this increasingly digital world where folks hide their music collection on private iPods never to be exposed. Records are for public consumption on display in your house, like books. Here are some examples from over the years. Crosley makes a super affordable portable record player around $130 if you’re not wanting to invest in a vintage one, or a fancy DJ’s variety. Jack White’s label, Third Man Records also offers a portable turntable for just a little more at $165.
Crosley makes a very simple and affordable record player with retro luggage lines.
Third Man Records, Jack White’s record label, offers this sharp yellow accented Crosley portable record player.
From Terence Conran’s House Book (1970) a fabulous record and wet bar nook.
No need to be fancy. A simple metal bookshelf makes a lovely record nook.
Also from Conran’s book, a record storage area at left; and with cabinets open, at right, hiding all the hifi equipment.
For those of us planning creative summer activities, this photograph, called “Innertubing Party on the Canals, Seattle, Washington, 1953” by Burt Glinn is excellent inspiration. This is how I would like to be spending my summer. I love everything about this photo. The trees, the glassy water, the hats, the parasol, the Olympia beer can, the man in the back with a top hat and glasses…everything. Summer slips through your fingers and a person wants some solid memories as a reminder that it happened. How would you like to be spending your summer?
Photo by Burt Glinn, 1953
When heading off to a dinner party, I invariably tuck a bottle of Veuve Clicquot under my arm — not because it’s amazing champagne, but because I am simply weak for the brand’s magnificent yellow-orange color. When something is elegantly packaged, it seems I could care less about what is inside. Like many designers, I gravitate to the pretty object in the grocery store that I’d just want around my kitchen or dressing table, tantalizing the eyes. (Is it just me, or does it seem the Europeans are best at product design & packaging?) Below are groceries I purchased this month, just for the great use of labeling, color, and unique type. Don’t ask me what the Galeffi is for!
My earliest childhood memories of my father involve him standing behind the wet bar, serving drinks. As a child it seemed like a fun mini-kitchen environment (sink, glasses, small fridge) that was activated for entertaining. Wet bars are not often feasible in smaller houses or apartments, as they require a sink and ideally, a refrigerator and ice-maker. Bar trays, however, are an excellent, and perhaps more welcoming solution for those in small quarters — they are out in the open and the bar contents take on a tableau of their own. What I love about home bars is the suggestion that a party is about to erupt at any moment. Even the smallest studio apartment can fit a pocket-sized bar. A studio apartment with a bookshelf, record player and a bar tray is, in my book, infinitely more complete than something bigger and less welcoming.
The quintessential David Hicks bar table.
Miles Redd’s symmetry and color wins the welcoming bar table game.
Bunny Williams’ wet bar.
Miles Redd is the contemporary designer responsible for the most luscious bar trays and wet bars.
Terence Conran’s 1974 edition of The House Book features a bar hidden inside a bookshelf panel.
The English designer David Hicks perfected the welcoming bar table ensemble.
Rita Konig’s sweet, unfussy wet bar, as featured on The Selby.