Preview: Collesi Imper Ale, a premium Italian craft beer coming to SF (someday!)

Collesi Imper Ales from Italy: delicious Belgian style ales not yet available on the West Coast. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Collesi Imper Ales from Italy: delicious Belgian style ales not yet available on the West Coast. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

At my friend Melody Lee’s (aka Gourmet Princessa) sublime Italian extra virgin olive oil tasting event last month, I also sampled Collesi Imper Ale, a premium Italian craft beer line not yet available on the West Coast. I’m a passionate, ever-curious/thirsty craft beer aficionado; Melody knew this, and didn’t want me to miss this exclusive preview. I was not disappointed: these unique, delicious farm-to-table Collesi beers will be a welcome addition to the enthusiastic, wildly expanding San Francisco beer scene.

Heirloom Tomato and Basil Antipasti; Collesi Imper Ale: Bionda, a citrusy golden Belgian style ale. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Heirloom Tomato and Basil Antipasti; Collesi Imper Ale: Bionda, a citrusy golden Belgian style ale. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The family-owned Collesi brewery’s backstory is particularly interesting, as we learned from a special slide presentation that night. The Collesi family has been farming since 1870 in Apecchio, a charming medieval mountain town in Italy three hours northeast of Rome by car, in the Marche region. About twenty years ago, young Giuseppe Collesi started making grappa, a strong (70-120 proof), fragrant brandy distilled from the grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over from the winemaking process. Giuseppe’s grappa was such a hit at his Mother’s bed and breakfast that he opened the region’s first distillery on the Collesi property to make more! After creating award-winning grappa for 13 years (and still being produced today), Giuseppe turned his attention to another passion: Belgian style beers. Teaming up with renowned Belgian brewer Marc Knops (who has worked with Belgium’s Achel Trappist brewery and more), Giuseppe brewed his first beer in 2007. Since that time, Collesi has further refined his craft: Collesi Imper Ales are garnering attention in Italy and the world, winning beer awards in Europe and at the World Beer Championships in Chicago.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus; Collesi Imper Ale: Ambrata, an amber ale that pairs well with many non-sweet foods. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus; Collesi Imper Ale: Ambrata, an amber ale that pairs well with many non-sweet foods. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Following traditional Belgian Trappist beer-making methods, Collesi Imper Ales finish their fermentation in the bottle, unfiltered, leaving some yeast sediment at the bottom. These colorful, hazy brews are therefore full of complex flavors, aromas and character. Adding to their uniqueness: the Collesi brewery uses fresh spring water from nearby Mount Nerone, which is high in limestone mineral content. Collesi also grows their own hops and barley on their surrounding farmland; the barley is malted nearby as well, making this a truly locally-sourced farm-to-table beer. Giuseppe has recently expanded his brewery operation, and hopes to welcome guests to his mountain top brewery overlooking the green valleys below. The Collesi brewery’s town is now reinventing itself as Apecchio the Beer Townhoping to attract visitors/connoisseurs/brewers interested in traditional local foods, beer pairings, agriculture, and of course the beautiful natural landscape. I’m so ready: let’s go!

My friend Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) introduces the host for the evening, Giacomo Maggiaro, of Agriland Italia. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

My friend Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) introduces the host for the evening, Giacomo Maggiaro, of Agriland Italia. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Back to the San Francisco preview tasting: the complete Collesi Imper Ale lineup consists of six varieties, spanning the spectrum from light to dark. Throughout the evening, we tasted four of them, which Melody had specially shipped in from Chicago for the event. (Collesi is not yet available in California, and has only made it as far west as Chicago, Dallas, and Las Vegas.) One of the four cases of sleek, wine-sized 750ml bottles actually didn’t make it (crushed in transit, how tragic!), so there was even less of this rare liquid on hand! Luckily, each bottle had a newfangled resealable plastic top that locks the bubbles inside, if we didn’t, you know, finish every precious last drop. None would go to waste, either way. Whew!

I started with the lightest of the four beers: Bionda, a refreshing golden ale that was perfect for the unusually warm SF summer night. Bionda was mildly hoppy, with nice citrus overtones, and a clean, slightly biscuit-like finish. At 6% abv, it was soft yet satisfying. Collesi suggests pairing Bionda with spicy pasta and/or seafood.

Collesi Imper Ale: Rossa, a intriguing darker, stronger amber ale from Italy. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Collesi Imper Ale: Rossa, a intriguing darker, stronger amber ale from Italy. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Next up: Ambrata, a copper-colored amber ale, was sweeter and maltier (with Amber, Munich and Pilsen malts) than a typical West Coast amber ale. I enjoyed the complex dried fruit flavors coming through, and the 7.5% abv kept the sweetness grounded a bit, balancing the overall taste. Collesi calls this their “all-around” beer, which pairs especially well with foods like grilled meats. During our meal that evening, I sipped Ambrata with our perfectly chewy main dish of Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables, and found it to be a fine match.

Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables and Collesi Imper Ale: Ambrata, an amber ale that pairs well with many non-sweet foods. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables and Collesi Imper Ale: Ambrata, an amber ale that pairs well with many non-sweet foods. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Then things got even more interesting, as the darker, ruby-colored Rossa filled my glass (a third of the way up, since this was, after all, just a tasting). We were now into Belgian strong ale territory at 8% abv, complete with robust caramel flavors and scents, a welcome touch of bitterness, and a lip-smacking long finish reminiscent of cherries and hazelnuts. I wanted to explore these flavors a bit longer, so I went back for another intriguing splash. This is apparently Giuseppe Collesi’s personal favorite Imper Ale. It’s won a gold medal several times at the World Beer Championships in Chicago, including this year. Collesi recommends pairing Rosso with desserts, a cigar, or of course you can simply enjoy it on its own after dinner.

I ended the night with my favorite beer out of the four: Nera, a stout, bursting with tiny creamy bubbles and tons of yummy tastes, from banana to coffee and cocoa and back again. Black velvety smooth and full-bodied (also 8% abv like Rossa), it mirrored flavors found in recent whiskey barrel-aged California porters I’ve tried. The complex tastes shifted over time with each sip, but were all highly enjoyable. I would definitely buy Nera, and um, possibly marry it. OK, maybe I’d share it with friends, served with dark chocolate-covered desserts. Maybe…

Collesi Imper Ale: Nera, a complex stout full of sweet/bittersweet flavors. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Collesi Imper Ale: Nera, a complex stout full of sweet/bittersweet flavors. At Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Collesi also makes Triplo Malto, a Belgian Tripel style ale (9% abv), and Chiara, a lighter, fruitier golden ale than Bionda (but also at 6% abv, like Bionda). These were not on hand for this tasting event, however.

Gourmet PrincessaThe world of alcohol sales and distribution laws in America, and particularly in California it seems, is a complicated one. I know several smaller Bay Area breweries are trying to get our more archaic and restrictive laws changed to allow greater access to their craft beers. Otherwise, the fear is that heavyweights of the American beer industry may push them off the store shelves. I’m hoping that Melody’s friend and client, Giacomo Maggiaro, President of Agriland Italia (USA), an Italian food and wine importing/consulting company based in New York City, can help to bring these excellent Collesi Imper Ales out here. Until then, Melody has limited access to these delicious beers, and is planning future Gourmet Princessa food pairing events with Collesi beer. I recommend following her on Facebook page so you won’t miss out. Hope to see you at the next one!

Ciao,

-Matty

Discovering the wonders of Italian extra virgin olive oil

Bottles of extra virgin olive oil from Calabria, Italy line up for tasting at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Bottles of extra virgin olive oil from Calabria, Italy line up for tasting at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

My friend Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) recently organized an exquisite private food and beverage event in North Beach that showcased time-honored Italian extra virgin olive oil-making traditions. Over the course of the evening I happily consumed more delicious fresh extra virgin olive oil than ever before in one sitting, and also learned a great deal about its wondrous tastes and healthful benefits. (For details on Collesi Imper Ale, the delicious Italian craft beer we also sampled that night, click here.)

Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) preps her Italian olive oil tasting event at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) preps her Italian olive oil tasting event at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Our host for the evening, Mr. Giacomo Maggiaro, is President of Agriland Italia (USA), an Italian food and wine importing/consulting company based in New York City (its parent company is headquartered in Rome, Italy). Agriland uses its extensive importing experience to help Italian food and wine producers export and sell products in the US market. Mr. Maggiaro’s keynote guest speaker, Mr. Massimo Magliocchi, is the President of the Cosentina Olive Tree Growers Association of Italy, from the town of Cosenza in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. Mr. Magliocchi spoke passionately in Italian (and yes, he gestured with his hands, but in a pointed, refined manner) about extra virgin olive oil. His able translator, Antonia Fraser Fujinaga (of the nearby Instituto Italiano di Cultura di San Francisco), relayed the details of his presentation to us in English every few minutes. Their interplay was engaging enough in and of itself, but Mr. Magliocchi’s actual lecture, entitled “The Century-Old Olive Tree: A Vital Support to Agriculture, Environment and Health” was fascinating.

Vibrant flowers and antipasti; Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) introduces Giacomo Maggiaro of Agriland Italia at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Vibrant flowers and antipasti; Melody Lee (aka Gourmet Princessa) introduces Giacomo Maggiaro of Agriland Italia at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Mr. Magliocchi’s Association has recently begun this campaign to educate both Calabrians and the world alike about their olive farming legacy, the benefits of olive oil, and how to properly taste and evaluate extra virgin olive oil. Calabria has been growing olive trees for thousands of years, and is currently the second largest producer of olive oil in Italy. Calabria continually wins national/international tasting awards for its high quality olive oil. Calabrians are proud of their olive oil-driven culture, and extra virgin olive oil, in particular, is a key part of their “Mediterranean diet”.  Mr. Magliocchi explained that studies have shown the Mediterranean diet, which includes seafood, fruits, vegetables, grains, and “healthy fats” such as olive oil (as opposed to butter), to be better for your health, especially heart health. Of course, living here in the Bay Area for nearly two decades, I was no stranger to the Mediterranean diet. However, Mr. Magliocchi expounded so enthusiastically about this golden-green oil as a vital food component that he elevated my perception of it, permanently.

Mr. Massimo Magliocchi, President of the Cosentina Olive Tree Growers Association of Italy, speaks at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Mr. Massimo Magliocchi, President of the Cosentina Olive Tree Growers Association of Italy, speaks at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Mr. Magliocchi then led us through the basic process of a professional Italian olive oil tasting operation. We were given a first round of olive oil samples in small plastic cups, and instructed to cup them in our palms, to warm the oil. Then he asked us to smell the oil, and peruse the scents. After much anticipation, he directed us to take a sip, allowing the oil to spread completely over the tongue. Bringing the tongue to the palate, while narrowing the lips and breathing in is an optional technique called stripping. He encouraged us to do this several times, to be in no rush, and to evaluate the aftertastes: were they pleasant/unpleasant? I thought at first that the sample was very earthy and fresh, but after a few minutes I realized Mr. Magliocchi was telling us that this was the “bad” sample of a non-Italian olive oil, for comparison purposes only. Oh! There was a slight rancid note, he pointed out, from olives that were either heated and/or not stored properly during the oil pressing process. I started to recognize those aspects as I recalibrated my tastebuds.

Mr. Giacomo Maggiaro, President of Agriland Italia and Melody Lee (Gourmet Princessa) pour olive oil for tasting at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Mr. Giacomo Maggiaro, President of Agriland Italia and Melody Lee (Gourmet Princessa) pour olive oil for tasting at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Next we were given two samples of Italian extra virgin olive oil from Calabria. Olivella, the first oil, a blend of olives from across the Calabria region, was definitely livelier (spicy, even) than our “bad” sample. Viride, the second Calabrian olive oil, made solely from Mr. Magliocchi’s own orchards, had a thicker, smoother viscosity, instantly coating my lips and tongue, and staying there as I tried the breathing technique to further stir up and appreciate the flavors. Each of the Calabrian oils tasted fruitier (meaning more like fresh green olives) than the non-Italian oil. Viride’s olives were greener and higher in antioxidants, seeing as they travelled a shorter distance and were pressed sooner than the olives in Olivella. Mr. Magliocchi mentioned some positive attributes he looks for: fruity, bitter, and spicy (greener olives are spicier). Negative characteristics can include metallic, acidic, moldy, and the aforementioned rancid flavors, all depending on how the olives were stored and processed. The ultimate principal behind professional olive oil tasting is that extra virgin olive oil needs to have the taste and smell of fresh healthy fruit.

Olivella/Viride extra virgin olive oil brochures; heirloom tomato and basil antipasti at at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Olivella/Viride extra virgin olive oil brochures; heirloom tomato and basil antipasti at at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Vegetable oils in America are generally something to be carefully measured, monitored, and/or reduced/avoided. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to see (and taste) the generous splashes of golden green healthy extra virgin olive oil in the two sublime dishes which were served following the presentation/tasting. Renowned Italian celebrity chef Odette Fada (seen recently on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters) planned the course for the evening, which was then prepared by Mr. Maggiaro himself with some assistants in the kitchen. We started with a vibrant multi-colored Organic Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil Antipasti (with Olivella extra virgin olive oil, of course). Next we enjoyed a piquant Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus (and Viride extra virgin olive oil dressing). Finally, we were treated to a lovely Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables, again doused with (but not overwhelmed by) Viride extra virgin olive oil. The chewy texture of the risotto (Royal Red from Tuscany, Italy) was perfect, and the simple dish was instantly addictive. I even had seconds. Delicious! (For more pics of this event, please check out Melody’s Gourmet Princessa Facebook page.)

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus (and Viride extra virgin olive oil dressing) at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus (and Viride extra virgin olive oil dressing) at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The event was held at Cookhouse, a fabulous private rentable space with a complete Food Network-ready professional kitchen, located above the historic Vesvio bar on Columbus Avenue in North Beach.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus; Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables (both with Viride extra virgin olive oil) at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad with Citrus; Gluten-Free Risotto with Mixed Vegetables (both with Viride extra virgin olive oil) at Cookhouse in North Beach, SF on 9/6/13. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Gourmet PrincessaOlivella and Viride extra virgin olive oils are unfortunately not yet available on the West Coast. You can’t get these oils unless you go to Italy and bring them back in your luggage, something Melody has actually done! If you’re not heading to Italy any time soon, please feel free to contact Melody for any limited availability (via Agriland in NYC). Melody is planning more of these special Gourmet Princessa food and beverage events, so I recommend following her on Facebook so you won’t miss out. Hope to see you at the next one!

Ciao,

Matty

 

Now filming in SF: Tim Burton’s Big Eyes!

Classic cars of the 1940s and 50s (with drivers dressed in vintage clothes) sit in the Joe DiMaggio Playground, waiting for today's shooting of Tim Burton's Big Eyes film.  North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Classic cars of the 1940s and 50s (with drivers dressed in vintage clothes) sit in the Joe DiMaggio Playground, waiting for today’s shooting of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes film. North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Director Tim Burton is currently filming a new movie called Big Eyes on the streets of San Francisco, and has set up temporary headquarters at the Joe DiMaggio Playground parking lot (Powell and Greenwich) in North Beach. The movie is set in the 1950s-60s, and is using quaint North Beach streets such as Grant Avenue and numerous classic cars to depict that era.

Portable dressing room trailers (with film characters' names on the doors) line Greenwich Street, part of Tim Burton's film shoot Big Eyes. North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Portable dressing room trailers (with film characters’ names on the doors) line Greenwich Street, part of Tim Burton’s film shoot Big Eyes. North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The movie is based on the true story of artists Walter and Margaret Keane, (in)famous for their instantly-recognizable kitschy wide-eyed paintings of children. Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz is playing Walter and Amy Adams is his wife Margaret. What’s notable about their story is that Mr. Keane took credit for the paintings, and later denied his wife’s claim that in fact she was the artist responsible for their work. The film apparently focuses on their divorce and court proceedings around who in fact was the real artist. Mrs. Keane won her case, but it appears Mr. Keane never acknowledged defeat.

The movie must span into the 1960s, because this crop of classic 60s cars (above right) arrived after several 50s cars departed. Tim Burton's Big Eyes film shoot, North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The movie must span into the 1960s, because this crop of classic 60s cars (above right) arrived after several 50s cars departed. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes film shoot, North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

I got wind of this movie set last night from a friend who had seen the story on SFist. Yesterday these cars were filmed over on Grant & Green. I’m not sure exactly where they’re shooting today, but if you look for No Parking signs like the one below marked “13SF193″ that will be for Big Eyes. A truck just left with dozens of such signs in back, so this film set is on the move and live on the streets!

No Parking signs like this one below marked "13SF193" are for Tim Burton's Big Eyes film shoot. North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

No Parking signs like this one below marked “13SF193″ are for Tim Burton’s Big Eyes film shoot. North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

I’ve got today off, so I biked over here to North Beach to find them. If you’re interested, I would suggest you come down here and take a look. As usual, look to Twitter for the latest (search for Big Eyes or Tim Burton). If I see anything new, I’ll post on my @MattySF handle.

Classic 1940s and 50s cars plus a vintage BMW motorcycle with sidecar await their closeups in Tim Burton's Big Eyes film shoot, North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Classic 1940s and 50s cars plus a vintage BMW motorcycle with sidecar await their closeups in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes film shoot, North Beach, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Update (11:06am 8/30/13): via @MattySF: Heads up! The Tim Burton film set #BigEyes w/classic cars & all is heading over to Treasure Island #SF now! Limited access for public.

The Keane Eyes Gallery on Larkin at Beach Street features Margaret Keane's artwork spanning decades. She and her husband's story is the basis for Tim Burton's new film Big Eyes. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The Keane Eyes Gallery on Larkin at Beach Street features Margaret Keane’s artwork spanning decades. She and her husband’s story is the basis for Tim Burton’s new film Big Eyes. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

After I left the movie set area, I biked on over to Ghirardelli Square, where I remembered there was a Keane art gallery. Sure enough, it’s still there, although they weren’t open. The Keane Eyes Gallery is on Larkin Street (at Beach). In the window is a New York Times article from 1992 highlighting Mrs. Keane’s return to the Bay Area, and recapping her long career and triumph in court over her husband as the true creator of their work. Fascinating.

Cheers,

Matty

Morning treat: Jane on Fillmore’s warm frosted cinnamon rolls!

Jane on Fillmore's warm cinnamon rolls appear on their countertop display around 8am. Pacific Heights, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Jane on Fillmore’s warm cinnamon rolls appear on their countertop display around 8am. Pacific Heights, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

One of my favorite things to do early on the weekend is to head two blocks down to the cozy bakery café known as Jane on Fillmore, on Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, for one of their fantastic warm frosted cinnamon rolls. It’s not just a neighborhood convenience: I would cross the city for these yummy treats! (I, um, cross the city for several other fantastic baked goods, trust me. Heck, I actually bike across the Golden Gate Bridge for Beth’s cronuts!)

A freshly baked warm cinnamon roll at Jane on Fillmore pairs well with Jane's Stumptown coffee. Pacific Heights, SF.

A freshly baked warm cinnamon roll at Jane on Fillmore pairs well with Jane’s Stumptown coffee. Pacific Heights, SF.

Jane’s cinnamon rolls are not like the mushy/shiny/oily square monstrosities you see under heat lamps at airport/mall Cinnabons, oh no. About the size of a large round burger bun, Jane’s cinnamon rolls are freshly baked, frosted, and put out on display starting around 8am on weekend mornings. They are still warm inside at that time, which adds to their appeal. The rolls are ever-so-slightly firm and golden brown on the outside (a barely-there thin soft crust); inside, it’s a cinnamon-coated swirl of soft pull-apart lightly sweet/chewy bread! The copious creamy, smooth frosting, despite it’s fluffy sugar-white appearance, isn’t overly sweet. Don’t get me wrong: it’s sweet, but not sickly/sticky, and it won’t give you an instant toothache! I usually remove some of it, to get that perfect balance of roll and frosting in each bite. (Tip: I actually love to put a dollop of frosting into a cup of Jane’s rich Stumptown coffee or cappuccino!)

A perfect Stumptown Coffee cappuccino at Jane on Fillmore. Pacific Heights, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

A perfect Stumptown Coffee cappuccino at Jane on Fillmore. Pacific Heights, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

I recently introduced my buddy Chris to his first warm Jane’s cinnamon roll. We were a bit early, and had to wait 5-10 minutes until they were cool enough to be frosted; hey, no problem! Now he’s hooked on them, too. Our visit was on a Friday morning, but please note: Jane’s cinnamon rolls are not currently available on a daily basis; they’re usually a weekend-only treat. So please do call ahead to make sure they’re being served, if you’re going on a weekday.

Go ahead, treat yourself!

Jane on Fillmore, 2123 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA. 415-931-5263

-Matty

Dancers on stilts in SF: Carpetbag Brigade & Nemcatacoa Teatro!

My first Carpetbag Brigade experience at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF; Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

My first Carpetbag Brigade experience at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF; Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on performed 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

We are lucky to have not one but TWO fantastic dance companies performing on stilts in San Francisco this month: Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro & SF-based Carpetbag Brigade! The two groups are also friends and collaborators, and just performed together at a summer arts program at Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona. I just saw Nemcatacoa Teatro’s amazing free outdoor performance of Landscape Reinvention Society last night at 24th and Mission Streets. I highly recommend it! I’m going back there tonight to the Dance Mission Theater to see Carpetbag Brigade’s indoor ticketed performance ($20) of Callings. (A related multimedia performance, Sonoran Strange, follows both dance shows: see below.)

Carpetbag Brigade performed at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Carpetbag Brigade performed at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

I first encountered Carpetbag Brigade when they stole the show at the annual Trolley Dances last October. (Trolley Dances is a free outdoor dance program held in several locations in San Francisco, easily accessed by MUNI trains or bikes.) I was mesmerized by their performance: the dancers were like playful, mythical creatures from another world! They seemed to drop out of the trees lining 3rd Street in Bayview, and they silently summoned us to follow them to another location nearby, dancing and performing acrobatic stunts along the way. It was totally surreal, and exceedingly entertaining! (Note: I also discovered the fabulous Cello Joe at Trolley Dances later that same day!)

Carpetbag Brigade performed at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Carpetbag Brigade performed at Trolley Dances 10/12/12 in Bayview, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Founded in Prescott, Arizona in 1997 by Jay Ruby, Carpetbag Brigade has since moved its home base to San Francisco (2003). Jay and company produce original dance pieces (and music) and perform them around the world. Carpetbag’s work draws from acrobatic stilts, physical theater, modern dance, Butoh and Contact Improvisation. Their spectacles are experimental yet accessible, due to the wordless, physical, fantastical interactions between the dancers. It was during a US Embassy-sponsored tour of Callings in Colombia when the Carpetbag crew first met Nemcatacoa Teatro in 2011. They have since collaborated in performances, lectures and workshops, highlighting the art of stilt-walking, which is apparently a cultural tradition in Colombia. Members of each troupe will present a slideshow lecture on that topic at the Mission Cultural Center on Monday, 8/12/13 at 7:30pm, as part of their joint Bi-Cultural Road Show Tour (note: the date on that site is currently incorrect, says Tuesday 8/13; I’ve alerted them, confirmed the correct date).

Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro perform outside Dance Mission Theater at 24th Street on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro performed outside Dance Mission Theater at 24th Street on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Last night, Nemcatacoa Teatro started their equally otherworldly performance in the alley next to Dance Mission Theater (3316 24th Street at Mission), and then led the audience into each of the four corners of Mission Street and 24th. According to the program, the dancers use their own bodies to explore architectural details on the street, and then reinvent and extract meaning from them. As with last year’s Carpetbag Brigade piece, the Teatro dancers performed silently, beckoning us with hand gestures and facial expressions. Their thrilling performance was enhanced by Hojarasca Música Andina, a Colombian trio also dressed in white costumes and makeup, playing simple traditional pan flutes. Hojarasca is playing their own show at Mission Cultural Center on Friday, 8/16/13.

Crossing the street with Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Crossing the street with Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

The dancers and musicians created a surreal, somewhat haunting spectacle, at times similar to a sacred religious procession. Yet there were also comical moments, especially when the dancers engaged with their street environment. At one point, the dancers descended on a #49 MUNI bus which had just arrived and opened its doors!

Hojarasca Música Andina plays haunting pan flutes; Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Hojarasca Música Andina played haunting pan flutes; Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro performed at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

For better or worse, the “normal” nightly SF street scene interacted back at the dancers: on more than one occasion, inebriated/high folks wandered into the show, and/or were frightened/startled/amused/perplexed, and loudly voiced their opinions accordingly (but harmlessly).

Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro performed at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Nemcatacoa Teatro’s dancers displayed outstanding acrobatic skills, moving quickly and effortlessly on their stilts, as if they were actual limbs. Their expressive faces and contorted bodies conveyed strong emotions, like when they pretended to suffer “death” from eating at the McDonald’s on the corner.

Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro says hello to MUNI at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro said “hello” to MUNI bus #49 at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Their diminutive female leader was one of the most visually striking, her face in white makeup, expressionless, like a porcelain mask. During one highlight of the show, she was lifted up in the middle of a circle, as if she were a goddess.

Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Later, clinging to the 24th Street BART station fence, the dancers’ movements ran the gamut from Christ-like impaling to punk rock fashion poseurs. They seemed to be struggling to fit into this modern world, but ultimately their childlike fascination catapulted them on to continue exploring and interpreting their urban surroundings. We were led back to Dance Mission Theater for the finale of this excellent dance adventure.

Colombia's Nemcatacoa Teatro at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Colombia’s Nemcatacoa Teatro struck poses at the 24th Street BART station on 8/2/13 in the Mission, SF. (photo: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Sonoran Strange. Following the Teatro performance, were all then invited to come upstairs for a performance of Arizona-based experimental multimedia artists Verbo•bala‘s spoken word piece, Sonoran Strange, which celebrates and critiques the varied cultural histories of Arizona. The petite female lead from Nemcatacoa Teatro again led us up to a large, very tall dance studio with a glowing orb (covered by scrolling video projections) in the middle of the floor. A masked figure (Borderlands poet Logan Philips, aka Logan Dirtyverbs) appeared in an androgynous blend of Mexican-themed outfits, like a skirted, ominous bandito. Over the course of the next hour, he delivered a monologue which was at times hard to follow, but, when combined with the intensely beautiful video imagery and sounds/music, was quite moving.

Verbo•bala's spoken word multimedia performance Sonora Strange at Dance  Mission Theater, Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

Verbo•bala’s spoken word multimedia performance Sonora Strange at Dance Mission Theater, Mission, SF. (photos: Matty Gilreath aka MattySF.com)

I highly recommend you get out to the Mission tonight or tomorrow for any/all of the above. However, if you miss these performances, please note that Carpetbag Brigade & Nemcatacoa Teatro will be performing again later this month for free at Yerba Buena Gardens and Union Square as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival. I encourage you to see them!

Cheers,

-Matty