Happy 2012!

Greetings and Happy New Year Everyone!

Usually when I’m getting ready to type my Giornale I have notes, photos and ideas already in place way in advance. I would say for every issue I prepare myself about a month in advance.

Now, since I haven’t done a Giornale in the last few months, then you know the outcome…I have so much to tell you. I’ll try to consolidate this issue down to the very best or to the most important parts of 2011.

So …where to begin?

Let me start out by saying that I am sitting at the desk in my new home office with a cup of espresso and a crazy cold and flu. But I couldn’t let it stop me… I just wanted to let you know in advance in case I misspell something or in my delirious mode I write something bizarre. I don’t deal very well with medicine to begin with, and combined with a shot of espresso….yeah baby….mind goes crazy!!

Speaking of what the mind can do, here’s a little story about sixth sense:

A few years back while visiting during the holidays, my father and I would drive down to Scripps pier where I would surf and my father would walk on the beach admiring the beauty of La Jolla.

At the end of my surf session, we would meet in the parking lot by the Institute of Oceanography. Back then the lot was kind of a mess with a large construction zone which would later become the Scripps Seaside Forum. Just out of curiosity and as good Italians, we managed to cross the fence and start walking through the construction zone. I had absolutely no idea what that building was going to be. We just walked around admiring the architecture and the layout of the space. Then my father pointed out a spot on the upper level (the building was almost fully completed) and said, “See up there…wouldn’t it be great to dedicate that space to a restaurant and have the best view in this city. You should look into it.”

I replied, “Dad, you’re out of your mind. There is no way anyone will get this spot. It must be for some office use or something.” After all, UCSD was in charge of this development, so I was thinking it would be for research more than food. But he insisted, “Son I am telling you right now, just look into it. Do me a favor so I can feel good about this a few years from now.”

My father is for sure no kind of medium or anything like that. He’s actually a very humble man who had an amazing career but had to retire at age 40 due to an illness that almost killed him. But he always had a great sense of business, and I have to be honest that without his wise advice at so many times in my life I wouldn’t be where I am today…who know where I would be.

I am a strong believer in the saying “Things happen for a reason.” I also believe that the best reason for that moment years ago was for me to appreciate being with him, listening to his advice once again. But as most of you know, part of that UCSD construction project turned into our newest venture – Caroline’s Seaside Café – which opened August 8th, 2011 and became one of the hottest spot in town.

So, looking back it was a special kind of intuition, or sixth sense, when my Dad not only had the vision to develop a restaurant in that space, but he saw ME being the person to do so. Being able to share this story means a lot to me, and I hope that you are all lucky enough to have a father like mine.  I am forever grateful to him for what is has contributed to my life.

Man the espresso is working now.

I’m typing as fast as a Ferrari would race at the Grand Prix. Hey wait a minute, speaking of racing… Check this out, back in May one of my good friends kindly invited Salem and I to go stay on his brand new yacht which was being launched in Monaco during the Formula One Grand Prix.

We got to take a private flight, stay a week on the yacht, watch my dream car racing, eat good coastal French food, dance and drink until dawn, and follow it all up with a slice of pizza at 6am. Come on! For sure you didn’t have to twist my arm. For those who’ve never been in that part of the world during that time of year, I suggest you save whatever you need to so one day you can treat yourself to the most amazing time of your life.

On the boat we were fortunate enough to have one of the top chefs in the yacht industry (an Australian dude picked against all the Europeans lined up for the job), and we had some unbelievable meals on board. Lunch, dinner, happy hours….eating all day was definitely the highlight of the trip. But I have to be honest and hopefully not harsh, the food in the restaurants we tried was way below my expectations and in some cases quite bad. I don’t know if that was because that week the town goes crazy and every food establishment is completely packed, but it was not what I expected. They were over priced and over booked. At one restaurant, we had a reservation at 10pm, but weren’t seated until 1am for a “reasonable” price of 2000 euros. NUTS, isn’t it?

To avoid disappointment I suggest, if you happen to go, you opt for fine dining restaurants when possible. And for casual eating, stop at little shops to grab a slice of pizza or a salame baguette and a beer. It’s definitely worth it.

So thank you so much to my dear friend for treating us to such an amazing trip. His boat, one of a kind. The company, best ever. During the trip I was over my head excited, and even now I can’t talk enough about the fun time we had.

Another year of Philanthrophy has gone by…

Yes, once again we were able to make a difference in the charity world. As a company, not only did we have the privilege of catering some of the most amazing charity galas and help worthy organizations raise unbelievable amounts of money, on top of it I personally had the privilege to help create one of the newer galas in town.

The 3rd annual PEERS gala took place last November at a phenomenal private estate in Rancho Santa Fe. The PEERS Network is a professional not-for-profit group founded by local entrepreneurs who want to give back to the San Diego community. The evening was put together to benefit Just In Time (JIT), an volunteer-driven organization that assists former foster youth with the resources needed to ensure school, job and life success.

As a PEERS member, I kind of took charge of the event’s planning and logistics, but of course we worked as a team, and Just in Time helped so much along the way. What I  personally handled was creating the food portion of the evening by inviting some of my chefs/friends to donate their food and their time for this amazing cause.

The evening started a bit rocky. No joke, we planned an outdoor event for 300 people and two days beforehand, the worst rain storm ever hits San Diego. So PLAN B kicked in and we rented a huge tent, and with the help of Janelle, our PEERS event coordinator, we managed to get lighting, cover every corner, and make room for everything outdoors. With that taken care of we thought, “Yeah, we’re good to go…right?”

The rain was so hard that it started dripping right into the tent! Panic…frantic moments…despite months of planning and thousands of dollars later, we are going to fail…but NO WAY…things happen for a reason… trust me…

We get there on party site early and start running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to cover everything, getting soaked with the water leaks in the tent. Then one of our PEERS has a great idea. “Let’s go get sand bags!” Sure let’s do it…only thing is, we didn’t account for the tent having to hold 300 guest, which would require not just a few but a few hundred sand bags… wow…go figure how to get them!

Long story short, we managed to get some sand bags, we did start right on time, the rain kept pouring all night, trees were falling on the street, people were delayed, the “F” word was the main word of the moment…people start arriving, one after another…the space got pretty full. It was like a reality show, but worse because I wasn’t just watching.

Fortunately, the outcome of the evening was that our 300+ guest raised a record (at least for us) of $175k.

Did I have to share all this with you…heck yeah!!!

After all we did, I think it’s a good lesson. Everyone can help, and through any circumstance and any challenge, you can make a difference in people’s life. So for this coming year, look in to helping others. You can always ask me for the names of any charity organizations that need help since I work with a boat load of them. Roll up your sleeves, get your check book ready and let’s do it.

DISH OF THE MONTH: Anello di Zucca Con Burrata e Bieta Saltata

No Giornale has ever been done without the recipe of the month….

Come on, after all my blog is called “Culinary Confessions” so I must talk about food at some point right?

Everyone wonders what is in season and what’s not. There is a perception that winter doesn’t offer much of a selection of good produce since it’s cold. But cold weather helps in growing specific things, and cold weather makes people think of comfort food. So the recipe I’m about to share with you is the perfect reflection of that.

You can use this recipe for your small dinners at home, or when you have some people over. Think gourmet, and spend some time creating something unique. Get away from those baby greens, dried cranberries and blue cheese salads and try something new as a starter.

You know that all my recipes are pretty easy and I call it “Dummy Proof,” which means they’re super easy to execute. On a recent visit to the Little Italy Mercato (Farmer’s Market every Saturday), I was walking around the produce stands looking for something that would be perfectly in season and could be served as a starter. I saw squash. I saw chards. I smelled the farm fresh garlic. Down the street I saw a cheese stand…blink…an idea came up in my head right away.

So I bought all of the ingredients, went back to our Museum Café in La Jolla and started playing with it. Here is the outcome:

Anello di Zucca Con Burrata e Bieta Saltata
Butternut Squash Ring with Burrata & Sauteed Swiss Chards

Download recipe for Butternut Squash Ring with Burrata and Sauteed Swiss Chards

Try it out…and enjoy with a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc.

Ok, we are getting close to the end. My espresso is gone and my cold keeps bothering me, so I guess going back to bed is my only option for the day.

Just some quick updates about our company before I wrap up:

  • Of course most of you already know about Caroline’s Seaside Café. If you haven’t been there, you should go on a beautiful sunny day. It’s priceless.
  • Museum Café in La Jolla celebrated our 10th year, and as a gift MCASD and ourselves decided to give it a little lift as far as colors, menu items and ambience. So look out for some new things coming up in the next few weeks and then share with me your thoughts…I love feedback.
  • Sculpture Court Café was still going strong last year. Finally the awning issue over the Sculpture Court was resolved, and we had our best year ever. In addition to the new awning the Café will also get a little lift in the next few months, hopefully before the summer comes.
  • And last but not least, we don’t talk about so much about this part of our business, but do you know that we have a fully licensed and insured bar services department? Well, I guess alcohol in this country means $$, because that was the most profitable part of our year. We now have three exclusive beverage contracts: Museum Of Contemporary Art, San Diego Museum Of Art and Scripps Seaside Forum. Looks like there are more to come, thanks to our beverage services team who did an extraordinary job last year earning the trust of many institutions and organizations during the busy season.

click for larger view

And to finish…I promise you I am done after this…

I am so excited about this I have to let you know. You know my other passion is sports. Finally after so many years of racing triathlons I decided to become one of the team sponsors for our Triathlon team Breakaway Training.

From now on when you see those bright orange uniforms at local or national races, look above the bib (yes, right at the athlete’s butt) you can see our name as the co-main sponsor.

I am so excited and so honored that in addition to that, I decided to go back racing longer distance. Therefore my training journey will start hopefully soon (once I feel better) and I will share that with you in the next few issues.

The first race of the year is Half Ironman Oceanside. For those of you who need a life change, talk to me about it. I’m a good listener, and I know I can help you and direct you to the right sources so you can be one of us.

Triathlon is not only a sport but a lifestyle and I embrace that every day…

That’s all people….talk to you soon!

Until then,

Mangia Bene e vivi meglio

Giuseppe Ciuffa

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    Giuseppe - thank you so much for a beautifully prepared dinner. You exceeded my expectations! I thought the food was excellent and served hot! Great work!

    I have only heard good things but if I do hear any constructive suggestions, I'll pass them on. Thank you again for making the evening so special!

    Old Globe Gala