The American Version

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"Wine Therapy" (September 2006)
What makes the wines of San Patrignano so distinctive? It's not just the grapes. By Corby Kummer

The closest American analogue to San Patrignano is the Delancey Street Foundation, close by the Bay Bridge along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Ever since the two communities discovered each other, like long-lost twins, through an international conference, they have developed links, including an exchange program. Delancey Street is right in the middle of the city, on what is now prime property but wasn’t when residents took out contractor licenses and taught themselves construction to build a new home. Like San Patrignano, the complex is very beautiful—400,000 square feet of buildings that look like a fantasy of Italian villas. Its 500 residents, most of them repeat criminals facing long sentences and given this last chance by state courts, stay at least two years.

Mimi Silbert, Delancey Street’s charismatic, mouthy, mountain- moving founder, has for thirty-five years won over neighbors, judges, banks, zoning bureaus, and licensing agencies to create what she calls the “Harvard of the underclass,” with vocational training and education required for all residents. Numerous affiliated businesses (moving, chauffeuring) pay much of the budget. Silbert told me that, like Muccioli, she must daily turn down more requests to enter the community than she can accept. “How do they know about us? How do the people next door to us know about BMWs and goat cheese? It’s word on the street.”

Delancey Street may not make wine, but it does operate an airy and lovely café/bookshop and a very popular restaurant. Word has brought many neighbors to the restaurant, which serves comfort food from, as Silbert says, everyone’s grandmother. So aside from her own grandmother’s matzo ball soup, options include homestyle Greek food and admired burgers and sweet-potato pie. The outdoor dining and the stunning views of the bay help too.

Delancey Street Restaurant
600 Embarcadero (at Brannan)
San Francisco, Calif.
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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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