Taste3 2008

Having just completed its third year, Taste3 remains a dynamite event high on the list of food and wine professionals with an interest in the arts. Founded by the dynamic Margrit Mondavi, above, and underwritten by the Robert Mondavi Winery, Taste3 is a three-day conference in line with the invitation-only TED conferences that sparkle the lives of such lucky thinkers as the Google staff.

Having just returned from this two-day glut of wonder (I had to regretfully cancel the July 17 “insider” guide of three Napa artist’s studios with Margrit followed by lunch at Redd due to editorial demands for the Arcadia issue, publishing this year on July 23, and that’s a real wah), it’s difficult to know where to begin.Michael Amsler

Taste3 is designed to create a community among its 400 or so attendees, fomenting a culture about culture. As close readers of the Bohemian know, we’re not too hepped about just sticking things in your mouth. “Yum” generally sums it up. It’s sticking things in your mouth while sticking things in your brain that turns us on. Taste3, therefore, is one hell of a turn-on.

It’s also a leveling event like no other. On the first full day of sessions, the lunch break found me mildly sitting at an empty table outside on the veranda by the Napa river at COPIA, the host venue founded by the Mondavi’s, trying to eat like a lay-day and not the greedy wolf I truly am. A diminutive woman approached. “May I sit here?” she asked politely. Of course it was Margrit. “I would be honored,” I said quickly, straightening up in my seat and brushing some stray lettuce from my chin. She nodded sweetly and arranged her belongings on a chair. And then Margrit Mondavi, without whom none of this would be possible, went off to stand in line at the buffet like everyone else to collect her lunch.

Twenty-four presenters spend 20 minutes each giving conference attendees a brisk run-down on their particular line of interest and expertise. They ranged from scientists to restaurant professionals to eonologists to photographers to writers.Urban farmer Novella Carpenter, who for three years contributed her “Rev” column to our paper before giving up the rigors of a weekly gig for better-paid work (her book was just accepted), labeled the first hive of bees she brought to her urban backyard just 10 blocks from downtown Oakland a “gateway” animal, prompting her eventually procure—and butcher—chickens, ducks, turkeys, cute little goats, bunnies and yes, two enormous hogs, whose severed heads floating in buckets she mischeviously featured to the audience’s palpable shock. But she ate every bit of it all and meat—remember?—doesn’t grow in the Safeway.Culinarycorps founder Christine Carroll talked about organizing her new “culanthropy” effort, started just in March 2007, to help those still so destitute in New Orleans and along the Gulf. Culinary Corps brings professional chefs to those who most need some succor and training and cheer and a dose of kindness in their lives. (Crazy-great sponsor prizes are awarded at the end of each Taste3 session and the fortunate soul who won a brand new stainless steel barbecue immediately donated it to Carroll’s effort.) I have pages of notes and no energy to energize them tonight. Check back for something actually written next week when I can again write. . . .

Sonoma County Library