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Hollywood entertainer Cat Ce On Staying Physically & Mentally Fit In Hollywood

Hollywood entertainer Cat Ce On Staying Physically & Mentally Fit In Hollywood

“It’s all about balance”

All round entertainer and producer Cat Ce is a familiar face and name in Hollywood circles.

Known for Producing sold out comedy shows every month at The Ice House, The World Famous Comedy Store etc. She also is a fan favorite guest star on leading shows at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club Las Vegas.

When not doing stand up comedy, she is a working actress and just celebrated her 50th popular Podcast, which is on spotify and iheart radio.

Cat Ce is definitely productively packing her days with her creativity and manages to stay fit and radiant. She is also a certified Pilates teacher – which explains the body!

Cat Ce regularly does hilarious skits called #Catjaminthecar

Cat Ce regularly does hilarious skits called #Catjaminthecar

Her work out regime is very specific to her needs and she swears by swimming to keep her body toned and mind relaxed.

Anyone who has been backstage at a comedy show or eaten at a comedy club will tell you there are specific comfort foods that may not be the healthiest if eaten on a nightly basis. Who doesn’t love pizza or chicken wings and fries at 11pm?

Well, Cat Ce for one stays away from the temptations as much as she can.

“I try to eat healthy & balanced meals.

Smoothies, fruits, veggies, fish or lean meat with great protein are my main nutrients…”

reveals Cat Ce

“…I try to do everything in moderation. I don’t completely cut out bread, I just try to minimize the intake of carbs, get enough protein, and never deprive myself. I have  a balanced lifestyle. Staying active with daily exercise, and swimming is my daily routine. A solid workout  will obviously help you stay in shape, but  also helps me manage stress.

Cat Ce wears many hats and works out regularly to stay fit

Cat Ce wears many hats and works out regularly to stay fit

I keep physically strong, which leads me to feeling mentally strong, this also guarantees a good night sleep — which is also key.

The simple basic fundamentals of taking care of ourselves is my mantra, this will lead to success. I believe.”

Something tells me Cat Ce is right!

To catch Cat Ce performing check out her upcoming shows in Los Angeles Hollywood Improv Jan 15th and 19th, the Comedy Store Jan 15th and Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club in Las Vegas on Jan 20th!

 

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Food That Seduces: Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities in his newest Project

Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities wants to Give You a Taste at his next dinner party.  Read all about it in his new book.

Thaao Penghlis has starred in some of the biggest TV shows of all time – including playing on daytime TV’s “Days of Our Lives”.

Thaao Penghlis new book Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

Now in Thaao’s new book, Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time he reveals seduction in the dining room by creating incredibly delicious for his famous friends.

Today’s conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit our YouTube channel here

Joe Winger

Congratulations on your new book.  It’s a tasty read and a fast read. 

Thank you for joining us for a conversation today.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Thank you for inviting me.

 

Joe Winger: 

You’ve done a lot of work in your life. We’re going to go to food and books as quickly as possible. 

When you’re at an airport or in public, what is the most common thing people remember you from?

Thaao Penghlis:  

Certainly Days [of our Lives]. There’s a big Armenian contingency out there who always comes at me at the airports, [Days…] was in 152 markets. Especially when you’re in New York and it’s an international port. When Mission [Impossible] was on. I certainly enjoyed that. I think it had a large male audience because of the action and that I liked it was interesting. That kind of prepared me for the masks that I did on Days [of Our Lives]. So it was a real challenge. Working in daytime; I think the biggest challenge is remembering all those lines and giving it some kind of conviction and taking those lines off the page.

And a lot of the time, because there’s too many lines, we’re just on the edge, and so because I have a certain intensity I’m able to cover. I think through all those years people, airports probably are the biggest. I’m going to do a PA [public appearance] at the Grand Canyon in August. 

It’s a very special train ride through the Grand Canyon with just 22 fans.  It’s going to be a very intimate affair. So over the years, you get the older people who are the real followers, because the youth today have different appetites.

Just like they do with food, they’re not always conscious about what they’re eating. Unless they’re educated about it or they’re raised on good food. And I think today food has become a convenience rather than a celebration. 

Joe Winger:  

You use wonderful words in your book. It feels almost like poetry. “Food is the magic of our universe.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Thaao Penghlis: 

We’ve been given such diversity as far as food is concerned, that we have that many choices, especially in countries that can afford food. But to me, once you’ve grown up tasting octopus – we used to hang it on the [clothes] line for three weeks until it dried out. There’s no blood in the octopus, therefore, it doesn’t rot – that was mouthwatering. 

Some of the fruits you have in life, like mangos.  When you can appreciate the way they’re being served.  It’s not like eating an apple. If you eat a mango and you slice it, then cut it up in quarters, there’s a different texture to it.  The flavor.  To the eye it becomes attractive. I think food, when you think about what you can control in your life and you are blessed to have it. I think food is magical because of that. 

Joe Winger: 

One more line of food poetry from your book.  “You discover your body’s secrets by the way you feed it and how it feeds you back. “

Thaao Penghlis: 

When we who are in the Greek Orthodox church, we go through a fast to the last day [of holidays like Easter] before we go to the church and get the bread and the wine.

You start to appreciate the food that you can’t have because of its limitations in the religion. The last day you’ll have olive oil on bread with some sugar, things like that. So when you get to food and understand it, when you stop eating and cleanse your body, sometimes it just juices, you become hungry.

You get to understand what food does to the body by emptying it out. If you don’t eat well, or if you eat late, then the next day, you’re not going to feel great.

So you get to understand what the body can take and what, and when, are the limitations to eating and at what hour, if you drink too much wine.  

As an actor, I don’t drink very much.  But if I have wine, the next day, my eyes are going to show it. So it tells me something about the kidneys, because the eyes are connected to the kidneys. So it’s understanding how the machine you’ve brought into life carries your soul. How does that express itself in the best way possible?

As actors, we have a responsibility because of that body being presented on camera as a certain responsibility to the producers to the show and to your audience. So you get to understand.  I would go through a four day fast with Bela’s broth, Celsius broth.  I would find that would cleanse me through the days I did like a liver cleanse, which got rid of stones.

You get to understand what the organs are, that you can do things naturally without having to take all those dreadful medicines and those pills. 

The body is all we’ve got. Why have I overcome certain things in my life? It’s always been through nutrition.

Joe Winger: 

Your journey, the things you’ve learned, and you touch upon that in the book a little bit, lessons you learn from different actors and producers and people you’ve worked with, but that’s another great lesson is as far as using it as a medicine.

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time. It is an enormous undertaking: beautiful pictures, recipes, Hollywood stories, your family. There’s a lot going on. 

What inspired you to write the book?

Thaao Penghlis: 

The hardcover has all the colored pictures inside. So it has a different dimension to it when you actually see it, because let’s face it, presentation is very important.

So when you see color, when you see something displayed you want to get into it. If something looks like someone just piled something, it’s not attractive to the appetite. 

My manager called me one day and he said, “You always talk about food. Why don’t you do a cookbook?”

I went, “Oh, I don’t know how to do a cookbook. Everything that I’ve caught has come out of my head.”

I remembered, I learned when I worked at the UN [United Nations] for a year when I was in the diplomatic corps. In my youth I went into kitchens where they had chefs. I saw presentation. I understood the etiquette of arriving there on time.

45 minutes later you’re having the hors d’oeuvres, maybe it’s champagne, maybe it’s some caviar or whatever they presented. 

Then it was time to go into the dining room and sit there. It became a ritual. And so you got to appreciate the time, the presentation that someone put in.

So all these memories came into my head. I said how would you think? How do you think about food? I said it’s really seducing people, isn’t it? 

By the way you create an atmosphere, by the way you look at a dish, and by the aroma. So I said, Let’s call it “Seducing.”

I said who have I seduced? 

How about celebrities that I’ve met and worked with? That’s how it came about seducing celebrities. One meal at a time.   

I always like to serve the first, second and the third course. But usually, I don’t join the guests on the first course, because I’m busy preparing the main course.

So I present the first course to them. Then I’m in the kitchen. The actor, Danny Kaye in the old days.  He used to be an expert of Chinese food and around the counter in his kitchen is where his friends sat and he just fed them.   That was something that was so gratifying for him. 

So I understand if it’s done well, and your friends leave.  They take it for granted.

People don’t cook these days, or they’re intimidated because of the way you’ve presented it.  So therefore let’s take you out instead. So you don’t get that personal touch that I think is so important.

When you sit around your watering hole, as I call it, that “table”, which is something if when I leave this country eventually and go home to Australia, that is one thing I’m going to take with me is that table because it has a huge history to it. 

To me the table and how you decorate it and how you present it is very important to the appetite of the person joining you.

Joe Winger:  

I’m thinking of your table, sometime in the future when you do move, that could be a heck of an auction item. The amount of people who sat around it and heard stories and shared stories. 

Speaking of those stories, you’ve named huge Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson George Clooney, amazing actors, Joanna Cassidy, William Hurt.

Your Hollywood life has been so many decades of work and amazing people.  What was the process like deciding who makes it into the book and deciding who you had to leave out?

Thaao Penghlis: 

You don’t like everybody you’ve worked with and everybody you’ve met, food is very personal

In the old days they serve you poison. In the French 18th century, you’d be sitting there and if you were an enemy, they’d serve you a dish with poison. That’s how they got rid of enemies. But I don’t know. 

Dame Edna, who I was best man at his wedding, which is Barry Humphries. He was very particular. He was also a person who loved art.  So he would walk around my house looking at what kind of a collection and made his judgment on it. 

The same thing with the food, he would taste it. He would give you that quite qualifying look that he approves. 

Omar Sharif was different. When I worked with him,  we had champagne and caviar every day, because that’s the way he lived.

[He would be] telling me stories of Lawrence of Arabia and many of his other films and I think, because I look like his son, he was very taken not in the beginning. In the beginning, he was quite rude and quite distant.  It wasn’t until I was about to start the first scene with him where he comes into the room and when I met him, he was distant, shook my hand and said, “Hello”.

So when he comes into the room, he’s supposed to slug me after something I say.

He says to me, by the way, “Please, when I hit you do not go over this 18th century table and break it. It’s very important that we are respectful about this table.”

And I said, Oh, I’m not going anywhere. And he says, what do you mean?

I said, “Oh, Omar. I said, if you hit me and I go flying off that table, where do you and I go for the next four hours?”

He says “What will you do? 

I said, “I’ll probably adjust my tie.” 

He started to laugh and that’s how it started.  

How do you infiltrate a person’s personality who comes in defensive working with Bill Hurt in “Altered States”.

I had some very difficult dialogue because it was very technical. How do you make it real?  I started to do this sequence and he says to me, “Is that how you’re going to do it? 

And I said, “Why is that how you’re going to do it?”

And from that moment, he goes, “You’re an arrogant son of a…,”

And I said, “So are you.” 

From that moment, we clicked.  When we joined hands in Mexico, away from Warner Brothers, we had a good bond. 

I never stood for his star attitude. You have to call it. So I don’t like it.  When someone brings that, I leave that, I go outside.

 

Joe Winger: 

Doris Roberts, after dinner once wrote you a note. I took that idea as an incredibly loving gesture.

if you could talk a little bit about that note, and then any other amazing gifts from you dinner parties?

Thaao Penghlis: 

When I approached Doris and she would write the introduction, her comment was, “Oh, darling, why don’t you do that?” 

I said, Doris, you’ve been coming here for dinner for years. So why can’t you just get in touch with your heart and write something pleasant?

And that’s what she wrote. 

Because every time she came, it’s like my friends who come over always know they’re going to get a good meal. I never go cheap on the thing. I’ve seen people come in the house with daisies in their hand. I said, “Does this house look like it collects daisies?” 

Or they’ll bring me Two Buck Chuck.

I said, are you bringing that so I can put it as a wine for the food, because it’s certainly not going on the table and things like that.

Where people are not experiencing you or contributing and also shows you how cheap it is. And even when Doris, who used to get crates of champagne from Dom Perignon for free, because she was connected to somebody who worked there, she would come in.

She would say “Darling, here’s some Dom Perignon, put it in the fridge.” 

I said, “Oh, okay. Thank you.” I think, Oh, this is a person who understands quality. 

Then five minutes later, she’s sitting at a chair. She says open the champagne for me, will ya?. So I realized it wasn’t for the house.  It was for her.  So she didn’t bring anything. 

Here’s this woman who makes an enormous amount of money. I’ve studied with her for over 20 years with Katsalis, the director, and then she would come in and sit at the table and she would look at the flowers and then she would look at the presentation of everything and then she would smell the food and so through that experience –  you don’t always get respect, you have to earn it.

With her, because of my work as an actor, and because of my success as an actor, and also now writing some people will say to you, “Are you writing another book? 

But they say it in such a derogatory way.

Whereas Doris said, “I’m so proud of you.“

I went out with Doris, just the two of us went to movies because she always had to have company.  She was like Joan Rivers. She had to have every night filled. She couldn’t stand just being on her own. So when she was invited to my home, she always remembered the presentation and the flavors of that evening. 

Joe Winger: 

Let’s talk a little bit about what was the process of writing the book like this time?

Thaao Penghlis: 

Recipes are in my head.

So I had to cook in my head. For six months I started to think, Oh,I never wrote anything down. 

I would call friends and say, “What was your favorite meal I cooked?”

Then I would say, Oh, okay, that’s good; and then I would just test my friends and they would tell me what they like the best.

So I got all these recipes that were still in my head. And I somehow remember what I put in it. My sister in law in Australia says to me, the difference between you and I as chefs is that I have to have a cookbook in front of me. You open the fridge and say, what are we going to eat?

I spent six months going through recipes. 

Then finally I said, what did my mother cook? The Greek traditional foods or the Greek desserts. And my sisters are very good at cooking desserts. 

Then slowly I collected the foods and started to make them. 

Joe Winger: 

That’s an incredible journey. 

We’ve pushed toward the idea of an impolite or a bad dinner guest.  How do we find an appropriate dinner gift? And then what would be a definite no?

Thaao Penghlis: 

People will ask me, what can we bring?

It’s a silly question because you can’t bring food. So you, what do you bring wine?  Or flowers? Or whatever enhances the atmosphere?

But something that’s not here, but sometimes when they keep asking me that, I say, bring cash. And that always throws them because they take it seriously.

So sometimes I won’t answer that question. I said, “Surprise me. But make it expensive.”

So I like to play with them.  

I said to a friend of mine once, your hands are always empty.  They never spoke to me for three years after that. They turned around and left. 

There’d been guests who arrived when you had a seven o’clock dinner and arrived at 9:30. I’ll open the door and say to them, “I’m sorry, we’ve already had dinner. We’ll talk another time.” And then I closed the door because I find it disrespectful.

It tells you who people are and their consciousness. I don’t like unconscious people, but we’re  going through a very difficult time in the world. 

And it’s all because people are not conscious of others. It’s always about them. And so to me, the wonderful thing about serving food and expecting something in return, something.

Even if it’s – we used to write notes in the old days, a phone call – but texts now have become such a convenience.

Why don’t you just call me and tell me where I spent two days preparing this, that you can’t afford a five minute phone call, but you’ll text me in one sentence and that’s it. 

Things like that I don’t approve of. 

I think that kind of communication short changes [the memory of the experience].  I want to be at times where you want to cook again. If you’re not gonna share something about yourselves, call me the next day and say, I had such a wonderful evening. Some people think it’s enough when they leave, or they got here, 

But they don’t understand how you complete things.  Completion is very important. Just as an actor, you have an arc in your character, it’s complete. 

The same thing with food. 

When I serve food, it’s complete. I have an order: I have hors d’oeuvres. I have a first course. I have the main course. And then I have dessert and maybe some Greek coffee or tea or whatever people need and the wines.

But I just find people are unbelievable. They don’t understand what it takes to put an evening together. 

If you don’t know how to treat me, I’m going to show you. So that’s what I said there.

Joe Winger:

Have you ever played with the idea of a cooking show? Is that something you see at all for yourself?

Thaao Penghlis: 

It’s a lot of work.  All that preparation. I’ve done it as a guest here and there. 

Joan Rivers used to join guests and everything, she always made some wonderful jokes.

Dame Edna would make wonderful jokes. 

I’m doing a book signing May 22nd at the Grove in Los Angeles at a Barnes and Noble.  I’ve got to do a cooking show. I thought what are we going to cook?  Something that’s not difficult. 

So I’m going to do a vegetarian dish, which is not in the book, but it’s with shiitake mushroom, truffle oils, mint, basil heirloom tomato, raw peas and pine nuts. Then I will mix that in with the pasta and some olive oil and then some truffle oil and with some herbs and that’s about it. 

That’s so convenient and it’s such a delicious dish with Parmesan cheese over it. 

Joe Winger: 

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One meal at a time 

You breezed over Joan Rivers for a moment and I wanted to touch upon it because In that chapter, you help us see her in a different way than what we always think of her as, especially being in the car with her daughter, Melissa as a young girl.

When I think of Joan Rivers, the stereotype, I think of outrageous, and you have one or two moments beyond her, Barbra Streisand, there’s a little bit of outrageousness there, are there any outrageous moments that you didn’t include that you thought about including?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I don’t I don’t mind telling stories, or privately telling stories.

There’s got to be a borderline, just like etiquette.  If I’m expecting for people to behave a certain way.

One time, there was a famous guest, which I won’t mention, who was having problems with their daughter, and they were sitting around the table. The phone rang in the middle of dinner, and he answered it, he starts screaming on the phone, and telling his daughter off.

I just lost it, I got up and I said, “If you don’t mind, take your bloody phone call outside, we’re not interested in your private business and how rude of you.”

Because I don’t like people bringing phones into the house.

The inner chatter that goes on with people’s minds, where they’re so distracted with life instead of just being there.  Being present. 

With Telly Savalas as well. There have been times also with people with Days [of Our Lives] and I couldn’t tell those stories because firstly, I have to work with him again. Secondly, I don’t think it’s everybody’s business.

There was a book that Hustler put out all the stories about those magnificent stars of the [1940s] and talked about their sexual proclivities. 

Someone said, “Why would you do that?”  Why would you betray your friends that way? 

You smash the myth. They spent years creating a myth.  But when you start getting into the nitty gritty, you make those people ordinary. And show business is not about being ordinary.

So I try to refrain from telling things that go beyond the norm. I want to be able to see these people later in some time, even though they’re gone,

I still believe we’ll see them on the other side that they did more good for me. Otherwise it’s a matter of respect and keeping someone’s dignity there.

Joe Winger: 

Your book starts almost like a love note or a Valentine to growing up with your family. Your mother, your father, their first trip to L. A., to your grandfather George’s herrings and olive oil tin.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Yeah, that was something to watch growing up.  

To see my grandfather bringing his knowledge of food from the islands of Greece. 

What I remember the most, even my grandmother, you’ve come down in the mornings and you can smell the cinnamon toast. She would be dipping wicks into wax and creating candles for the church.

Joe Winger: 

Seducing celebrities one meal at a time. 

Can you give us a tease about what you’re looking forward to in the future?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I just finished exploring the Holy Families. 

I did a two week trek up and down the Nile to these sacred places. So I’ve written a story because most of the things we see about religion are postcards or lovely paintings. What do we do when we explore it within ourselves and follow those routes? Something else happened.

I’ve written a teleplay. It’s very interesting the way it begins and where it begins and how it follows through into The Great Escape. 

Find Thaao Penghlis’ new book on Amazon at  Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

 

Perfect Passover Wines for 2024, Revealed by Kosher Wine Expert

Perfect Passover wines for 2024, Revealed by Kosher Wine Expert for Passover 2024

Passover starts Monday April 22 at sundown and ends April 30th. But today’s conversation is about the flavors of Seder dinner.  

Jay Buchsbaum

Royal Wine and Kosher.com’s Jay Buchsbaum visits to talk about flavor, tradition, tastes for every family member and what’s exciting in the wine world for 2024.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

Joe Winger: Jay, welcome back.  I appreciate that you’re returning.  Last time was great and we learned alot.

Jay Buchsbaum: Thank you for having me. Wow. This is great. So getting invited back for a second date, that’s really cool.

Joe Winger: Passover is just around the corner and we want to talk about different over wines to enjoy during the celebration and some great wine pairings.

I wanted to start off with what might be one of the popular new bottles – Carmel Black Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Buchsbaum:  It’s very hot and the reason it’s very hot is because people want something that’s rich and flavorful, especially the American palate, what we call the New World style.  

Opulence, fruit forward, but they don’t want to spend a fortune like you’d have to from some fancy vineyard in Napa or from Judean Hills. When it comes to Israel or the Golan Heights, and this is one of those wines where they’ve put together this at the beginning of opulence, lots of fruit forwardness, 14 months in oak and about $25.

So it’s really one of those really wonderful wines. What I noticed, and they say they forgot to do it, but I noticed that it does not have an appellation specific, except for Israel.  The reason I believe the winemaker did that –  I don’t know for sure – he talks about it on the back [of the bottle] that they brought the grapes from some of the finest vineyards.  He chose small amounts [of grapes] from the best vineyards from different places and put them all together, carefully crafting it so that it’s big and rich and flavorful and still under $30 bucks.

Joe Winger: That sounds amazing. What are some good food pairings that you’d recommend with it?

Jay Buchsbaum: A roast would be great. On the first and second night of Passover, we don’t officially roast anything because we don’t want people to think that it was a sacrificial lamb that was done in Egypt because we don’t have it today yet.

Until the reestablishment of the temple on the Temple Mount at some future time. 

So people cook a roast in the oven, it’s not barbecued. That’s what they’re talking about from a historical, spiritual sense –  but a delicious roast, maybe chicken marsala, where you have mushrooms and caramelized onions, you have a really rich flavor to go with that.

A lot of the Sephardic foods are like that too. We talked about traditional foods. Traditional foods from where? Sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s Middle Eastern, and sometimes it’s Sephardic.

Lots of seders have a mix of all [cuisines] because you have melded families.

 

Joe Winger: Royal Wine currently has a wide roster of wine suggestions for Passover  Something for every adult at the table, from Grandpa to 25 year old Grand-daughter and her boyfriend.

 

Jay Buchsbaum: That’s a great point.  I’m going to give you the last one first only because I thought this was so much fun when I thought about it and I actually might do it. 

Let’s say the boyfriend is coming over. He wants to bring you something and he doesn’t know what to get you because, he’s not that observant..

So I thought, why don’t you end the meal with something Sparkling. The Momentous Rosé. That might be fun. You go out with a pop, so to speak. There’s Vera Wang’s  Prosecco Rose that’s also wonderful.   Both around $20.

But if you want to go really high end, why not go with the Rothschild Brut Rosé from Champagne, which is magnificent.  It’s 100% Pinot Noir, and about $100 a bottle.

So you have great diversity and  accessible and quite delicious sparkling wines.

Grandpa, or if you have a real fine wine guy. You have beautiful wines from the Rothschild vineyards, the Haute Medoc. which is in the upper $30s, and then you even have Grand Cru’s LesCombes, Grand Cru Margaux as an example, and some amazing wines from the Herzog Winery in California like the Alexander Valley Herzog Reserve, or the Napa Valley Herzog Reserve.  

We have a beautiful Lake County Reserve Cabernet from California. Big, opulent, delicious, mouth filling. 

I start my Seder usually with a rosé.  The reason for that is because you’re starting your Seder, having eaten nothing pretty much since the morning. So you’re on an empty stomach and the tradition is to finish at least the first glass. So I try to start with a rosé.  It’s a little lighter, a little lower in alcohol, a little lighter in texture and, and I like to start with an Israeli wine first.

Joe Winger: Iis there a hidden gem as far as just high quality with amazing value?

Jay Buchsbaum: There’s a really wonderful wine from New Zealand.

It’s a white wine, not a red wine. It’s made by the Rothschild family, but it’s made in New Zealand, called Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc. Less than $30 for sure.  Fresh, sweet lemons, but with enough acidity and structure, almost like a palette cleanser.

Joe Winger:  Anything that you’re looking forward to in the next few  months that wine lovers should be getting excited for?

Jay Buchsbaum: We were missing rosés from Israel for a whole year because of the sabbatical year. We skipped that vintage of roses, and so they’re back for the first time in 24 months for this Passover.

I love some of the new Italian wines. One of them to take a look at is Cantina Giuliano.  it’s a boutique winery. They make 3,000 – 4,000 cases maximum. It’s run by a young couple and I just had them over at my house for Sabbath Shabbat.  His wines blew people away.

I think the most exciting thing is our new winemaker and what our new winemakers is doing with our grapes. His selection and his final product over at the Herzog Wine Cellars. And that could be

Our new winemaker, his name is David Galzignato. He’s with us about three years and he has a background that is with some of the finest and smallest, medium sized boutiques. 

He was going to be moving to France, going to go for his MW [masters of wine] and they asked him if he’d come and consider working with us and he did. He has been making literally blow your brains out wonderful wines so our Napa Cabernet, our Alexander Valley Cabernet are just up and down the line, the wines, especially the reds are just rich and opulent.

He got Joseph Herzog to buy a visual sorter, they range in cost between a $100,000 – 1 million dollar machine.

What they do is when the grapes come in [during harvest] and there’s something called sorting tables.

Done by hand [vineyard workers literally sorting through the harvested grape bunches, looking for]  damaged or a little beat up or whatever, and they only allow the perfect grapes to go through. 

This visual sorter does this electronically by computer, so nothing is missed, zero. As a result, the grape quality is much higher

Famously said in The New Yorker Years ago, “There’s only three things that matter in good winemaking. Good grapes. Good grapes. Good grapes.”

So, the fruit that we get and the fruit that we end up making wine out of is literally the most important thing.

By using these kinds of methods, which are not inexpensive. But the quality is through the roof. We’re looking to make a 100 point wine one of these days and I think it might we might get close this year. 

Cocktails on the Vegas Strip! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Cocktails on the Vegas Strip! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Today’s conversation is with Ryan Fleming from Madre Mezcal.  The LA nightlife veteran reveals his time working behind the bar in some of Southern California’s hottest spots, as well as the inspiration that got him to travel to Mexico, discovering Mezcal. 

The aroma, flavors, science and food pairings for Mezcal.

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal's Ryan Fleming

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal’s Ryan Fleming

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our YouTube Channel.

 

“…I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever sold it…”

Joe Winger:  Can you share the behind the scenes or how the brand itself was created? 

Ryan Fleming: I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever even sold it or made a dollar doing that. So I got to actually meet Ron Cooper, who is the legend that started the Del Maguey label back in 2011.

I got to drink rabbit Pachuca with him and all these other amazing things. The reason I bring him up is he’s a kind of one of the people that we look up to, how to sustainably bring a brand and how to create culture that crosses boundaries in a sense. 

He has a beautiful book that I recommend anyone to read if you haven’t read Ron Cooper’s book.

But we share a similar story. One of our founding partners, Tony Farfalla and one of my good friends, Stefan Tony’s an artist and he was literally traveling through Oaxaca doing documentaries and embracing the art and culture. He happened to meet Jose Morales, which is the first family we ever worked with.

If you have original bottles of Madre [Mezcal] before the labels have changed, it used to say Jose’s name on the bottle. 

So Tony was bringing bottles back to Brooklyn in plastic water bottles and it snowballed. His friends in Brooklyn were like, this stuff’s great. Started out in plastic water bottles in 2014. I think it was 2016 when our first glass bottles actually came by and we became like of a more legit brand and company.  But it started with Tony and Stefan; and they brought on our CEO and COO, Chris and Davide.

Chris actually is one of the founding driving forces in the electronic scene in the 90s in Europe. Chris comes from a very artistic, music based background. Then he went on to work for some bigger alcohol brands in the vodka world. 

Davide, who is our COO, my direct boss, who I love, is Italian and his whole family built furniture and he got his big break by importing and bringing furniture over [to the United States]. He also works with a beautiful high end apparel line. 

“…everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label…”

So everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label. Just not wanting to make a quick buck and actually make something we can stand behind and believe in.

As the families now blossom into four, we use three: the Vasquez family, the Blas family and the Morales family are our three main producers for our red and black label, which most people are familiar with. 

We just brought in Moises and he’s actually from Santa Catarina Minas.  That’s a little town where all they really make is their production. It’s a town known for nothing but clay pot distillation. So if you actually use a copper pot in, in Manera and Santa Caterina Minas, you’re looked at as what are you doing? That’s not what we do here. 

He’s our last and newest producer and he may be the most cowboy of them all, and he’s my favorite.

When you get to Tlaxcala, you have to walk over like a little rope bridge over like a river and stuff into the hills of Minas to see his production, and he’s got his grandfather’s old still, and he’s got his mom’s little kitchen that he wants to reopen, and it’s like a restaurant. But if you and I were to look at it, it just looks like a backyard set of tables and chairs with a cooking center.

No, this is a restaurant for the village. It’s really beautiful down in Minas. I recommend everyone, if you get a chance to go down there, it felt like the jungles in Costa Rica, cause it’s up near the hills and it’s just so green and lush up there.

 

“…I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years …”

Joe Winger:  What got you down there? Was it for a vacation or for Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

So I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years and I worked for the Houston Hospitality Group for over a decade, helping run programs and menus. I worked for a couple other restaurants, but I used to work for Stillhouse Whiskey, which many people remember the terrible flavored moonshine in a gas can.

Yeah I actually sold that. I did pretty well, there was always one flavor that someone loved. I had the mint chocolate chip and I would keep it in the freezer to take care of my sweet tooth when I didn’t have ice cream. So that’s how it started.

My buddy, Stefan, who’s one of the founding partners goes, “Hey, we got this Mezcal company.”  I was just basically consulting for free lunches. 

One day he goes, do you want to go to Oaxaca? And I went, absolutely. 

I familiar with going down to Mexico city, but I’d never been as far South as Oaxaca. So I jumped at the chance.

[Meanwhile] we all got an email from Stillhouse saying “Hey, I know things are being shaken up right now, but trust me, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” 

That weekend, apparently the whole team got laid off, but I didn’t get the email untll I came home Monday. They’re saying, “Ryan, are you going to be okay? Do you need help finding work?”

So I went down to Oaxaca, met the families, broke bread with Jose Morales, got to meet his mother who blessed the roast and cooked us dinner.  They offered me a job.

That was started my journey about six years ago with Madre [Mezcal ]and I’ve been with him since.

Fleming motions to tattoos on his arms and hands.

Discovering Madre Mezcal

I have it tattooed on my hand right here. I have it tattooed on my palm right here. And I think I have another one on the inside of my leg too. We do tasting events and we’ll have pop up tattoo artists all the time.

 

Tequila vs Madre Mezcal

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned the tastings and the education.  Are there quick lessons that you teach the most often?

Ryan Fleming: 

Basic production, culture, financial, environmental and economic sustainability. 

I don’t think people understand that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.  Everyone thinks the Mezcal boom must be bringing so many jobs, but it really only affects about 20 – 40,000 people that live in Oaxaca for the production, 

Mezcal is great because it does bring some financial sustainability to the families. Jose started off driving a taxi to pay his bills and now he’s making Mezcal in his family’s tradition.  His whole family, his cousin, his uncles, they all make Mezcal for a living now.

There’s so much culture behind it. Even the old argument of did the Spanish bring over copper stills and that started distillation or does it go back to the Aztecs and Mayans? Because they found distillate and pottery from 3000 years ago. It’s those little nuances.

People really like to talk about the environmental, but giving back to the people down there by not just buying product, but giving them some ownership, which Madre does do, so that everyone has a little bit of skin in the game.

So I think Sustainability, whether it’s environmental, economical, cultural, and production. Those are the things I really like to talk about.

Joe Winger:  What is the basic difference between mezcal and tequila? Or is it more complicated?

Ryan Fleming: 

You could say production techniques, additives, mass production are probably the three biggest differences. 

Tequila can only be made with one agave. It’s a blue weber.  Mezcal can be made with the other 47-ish varietals, and that number is always fluctuating, based on classification and family genius.

Production is the big one. Tequila is made in massive factories and made with either chemicals or steam for the most part. 

Whereas mezcal is actually made by hand, roasted in an earthen oven. The biggest thing that separates Tequila and Mezcal is the 1% additive rule.

Tequila can have up to 1% by volume additives, and they don’t have to tell you. That’s why certain large brands will say 100% Agave, but it’s full of additives, because it doesn’t take much  with modern chemistry. Just a couple drops of glycerin or vanilla extract to change the flavor and hide  all the nuances.

Mezcal can’t have any additives by law. 

Joe Winger: Can we walk through the roles and responsibilities between the families that produce Madre Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah, the four families. Let’s start with Jose Morales. Him and his brother both make mezcal. Now they produce for us in the US exclusively. We encourage all of our families to continue making mezcal to trade. They use it for a local economy.

Every time I go down there, [their operation is growing].  When they started, they had three stills. Now there’s 12 up and running and they have solar power.  It’s just so crazy to see how much the transformation has happened. 

The original recipe, the blend of cuishe and espadine at 90 proof, that’s his family’s recipe. So we expanded that and we brought on Carlos Blas and the Vasquez family. Unfortunately, Natalio the father passed away a couple of years ago.

His daughters are now producing in the family’s tradition and we take whatever we can from them. 

But what we do, that’s a little bit different is, we started out when it was just Jose, he was making the blend himself. Now we have them make the espadine and the cuishe separately.

All three families are part of the process. Sometimes we just get cuiche from Jose. Sometimes Carlos makes all the espadine, but Carlos is like a master blender. 

We blend a cold style like Scotch does. Even though it’s not the most traditional way, all the distillation and process is as true as it can be.

But by blending post distillation allows us to keep consistency, which was a huge problem because every batch with your wild fermentation, your wild yeast and all these beautiful nuances, it’ll be inconsistent as you grow as a brand.  It was hard for us to keep consistency.

But by blending multiple terroirs and three different families’ production, we can keep a consistent product that tastes the same as well as expanding and bringing on more families to help instead of just going to a large factory house and not making what I would call “traditional Mezcal.”

Joe Winger: So focusing on your background, you mentioned that you’ve been a bartender in the LA nightlife.  Any memorable adventures or lessons you can share?

Ryan Fleming:

There are some stories I could tell that I probably don’t want to share publicly. But there are some amazing stories I can tell.

One of the oddest experiences I’ve ever had, I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, which is one of the most famous bars in the Hollywood nightlife in the past decade. 

Paul McCartney showed up at our door. 

But because our staff is younger and our door guys are a little bit younger, they thought it was an old weird British man that just showed up and they turned Paul McCartney away from the door.

‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’?

He was like, do you know who I am? The guys [were like] ”We don’t care.” Like straight up, blowing Paul McCartney off. One of our managers came out and was like, ‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’? And they’re like, wait, the guy from the Beatles?! 

My manager ran out, “Please come back,” and Paul had a great time at the bar. We got him a special little area to sit down. It was a packed Saturday.  It’s not a nightclub where we have gated off [areas]. Even if you reserve a table, people are inches away from you where you’re sitting at your table. 

Justin Bieber showed up one time and everyone went nuts.  He comes in, walks around, does a loop, comes out and goes, “I thought this was a hip hop club.” and just left.

It was a 1970s themed bar and we played nothing but 70s music. 

The dichotomy between the two different generations and to see them all melt into one location was one of the coolest things about working at that bar. 

 

Joe Winger:It’s so crowded because it’s so popular.  The Houston Brothers always do such a good job.

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah.  The cocktails are still really good too. For as much volume as we used to do there, the biggest thing is how can I make a really beautiful cocktail that’s still cost effective and doesn’t take 12 steps. We got really good at batching stuff and figuring out how to infuse things.  Luckily our back of house was just the most amazing.  Mariano is the best barback I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s still there. 

He is just a workhorse that got all the infusions. He would cook, he would infuse all of our products and he was just great. Even if we just did a jalapeno infusion on our tequila, if it got too spicy, he could break down the ratio and water it down with more products so that we could keep the spice level approachable.

Joe Winger:

What is the secret to high quantity yet high value cocktails? 

Ryan Fleming:

Batching is definitely the way to do it. Any of your alcohols that are shelf stable, you want to put all of those in the proper ratios in a bottle.

Instead of grabbing a modifier and your base spirit and another modifier, you’re grabbing one bottle with a special tape at the bottom, so you know which cocktail it goes to and then all your fresh stuff. 

You can’t batch the fresh stuff. It has to be separated because you put citrus in something and it goes bad in three days.  Now the whole batch is bad. So keeping your fresh stuff separated.

Joe Winger: Back to Madre Mezcal.  Obviously the bottles themselves are where all the power is.  So let’s talk about labels and taste profiles.

Ryan Fleming:

People love our labels. Our branding is top notch. It’s one of the first compliments we always get. “Oh my God, I love your branding.” 

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Looked at Oaxacan culture and some other like medieval culture and combined the art from the two.

As far as the red label it’s the woman on the bull. It’s a really beautiful message of Mother Earth coming down and starting to share humanity and move across the world to plants and spread love.  That’s why she’s on the bull.  It’s the combination of animal, Mother Earth, and humans. 

Madre Mezcal Espandin

Madre Mezcal Espandin

The black label is a beautiful logo of a woman on the ground.  She’s planting and spreading the seed of life that gives us agave and flowers and fruit and vegetables and everything else.

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

The ancestral is this beautiful clay bottle with old clay vessels from Greece that carried wine with the fluid coming out and it’s supposed to celebrate the ancestral way of making mezcal and clay pots and clay distillation.

I always love telling the story of people who say mezcal is not supposed to be aged, which is a true-ish statement in my opinion. But back in the day, everything got transferred in barrels. So Mezcal would accidentally get aged in barrels because it would travel from town to town on horseback after the product was made.

So the idea that Mezcal was never aged is it wasn’t aged on purpose. 

Mezcal was accidentally aged in wood. The traditional way that people would age Mezcal is in glass and they would hide it underground. 

I always tell people, if you have a beautiful bottle of Mezcal, you should open it and take it out and put a wine cork in it, or at least crack the bottle and get some air because it really lets alcohol open up and aerate.

Mezcal benefits from a resting period. Pouring it in a nice open glass, like a snifter or a wine glass, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes will really open it up.

Madre Mezcal tasting notes 

Madre is designed to be less smoky. I really hate the term smoky. I like the word roasted because what you’re tasting is like barbeque.

You’re tasting the roasting of the agave and the charcoaling and the burning of the outside agave which will affect the sugars, the caramelization.

Madre really was designed to be a more approachable mezcal. We call ourselves ”The gateway to the category.” 

We want to bring people from tequila over to Mezcal so you can explore what agave spirits also have to offer. 

It’s bright, clean, and smooth. I always compare it to a really nice, made tequila.

Our Espadine is actually a close cousin of [tequila’s] Blue Weber. It tastes really bright, clean and smooth.  But you’re going to get some of that minerality and smoke in the end. 

Like easy drinking with some earthy aromas. 

Joe Winger:  That night when I met you, what you handed me was my first taste of the night. I love that it was so pure and smooth.  It didn’t clog up my mouth for the rest of the night.

Ryan Fleming: 

I’m like you. I want to have 2-3 cocktails a night. Not just one and my palette’s done. 

Our Espadine to me is a 2-3 second palette.  It clears up and you get like a breath and it’s fading.  Our Ensemble goes on for 10- 12 seconds.  From sweet vanilla to chocolate to mineral and then to smoke.  Then the smoke fades and you get just a really beautiful, crisp.  It’s viscous. You can feel the oil in your mouth when you swirl it around and it makes the best Negroni.

Joe Winger:  Let’s talk about food pairings.

Ryan Fleming: 

I want to know if this caught you off guard, but it’s Italian food.

Very rich foods. These beautiful Mezcals are light and almost floral and fragrant, It cuts through the richness and creaminess of food.

That’s why mezcal and chocolate are consistently paired together, but that was just way too easy. There’s always mezcal chocolate pairings, but like a really nice Italian dish, something creamy and rich, like an Alfredo or a really well done piece of pizza, like a margarita or a white sauce pizza.

“…I want to know if this caught you off guard, but…”

We are working on doing some [pizza] pairings with some places in LA.   Do a different slice of pizza with three different cocktails of Madre and then have a tasting at the end.

Chocolate has a big part of Oaxaca too. You can’t not have some chocolate and mezcal at the end of the night. 

Espresso martinis are so hot again right now. Try making one with mezcal instead of vodka and just [see] how coffee helps open up the agave and the notes, and you’re going to get so much more going on in your cocktail.

If you pair a nice espresso martini with  beautiful, dark chocolate from Oaxaca.  That is your final cocktail at the end of the night, it won’t let you down.

Joe Winger:  You mentioned replacing Mezcal with vodka in a martini, are there any traditional or more common cocktails we should also try replacing Mezcal in?

Ryan Fleming: 

When I tell you this, it may blow your mind. Most gin cocktails are a little bit better with Mezcal.

There are certain times you need botanicals, but a lot of really good classic gin cocktails, if you sub them for Mezcal, are absolutely fantastic. 

Joe Winger:  I’m shocked because most gins have such unique aromatics.

Ryan Fleming: 

Which Mezcal has so many of those same unique terpenes going on that it changes the cocktail, but it works.

So instead of having botanicals, you have all these beautiful vegetal and mineral notes that just come from agaves. 

Joe Winger:  What are the biggest misconceptions in the world of Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

A lot of people have a misconception, especially on the trade side, that we have grown exponentially. It’s been a lot of hard work. People think we have this massive team behind us.  There’s less than 20 of us on the whole team. That includes our team down in Oaxaca, who  watches over manufacturing and production for us down there. 

We don’t have an office.  We have a little tiny apartment in Venice for meetings.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating a small brand. It’s just a lot of people working hard to create beautiful Mezcal, especially the families. 

People [unfairly comparing it to] tequila.  What do you mean, we can’t get more? Why is it so expensive? We have people going out hand collecting wild agaves and harvesting espadine.  All of that is hand cut, hand chopped.   I’ve hand cut agaves with the families.

None of this is industrialized or mechanized like tequila. 

Appreciate every drop of mezcal you have, because someone put a lot of love and labor into it.

Joe Winger:  Ryan, as we wrap up, let’s talk about where can learn more about Madre Mezcal? 

Ryan Fleming: 

We have a beautiful Instagram.  Madremezcal.com is our website. 

We also have this Instagram called mezcal. Learning and it’s a little short videos and little blurbs to talk about production, families, history, and culture. It is focused on Madre, but it’s not just Madre, it’s Mezcal as a whole.

If you want to know more about our families who produce, where it’s made, you can find all that information on madremezgal. com. 

Our bottles are in most of your nicer bottle shops, liquor stores. In California, we’re lucky enough to be in Trader Joe’s for the Espadine and Whole Foods has our Ensemble.

If you can’t find it,  go to madremezcal.com and we ship bottles to almost every state in the U S.

We’re in nine countries, too. Australia. All over Europe, Costa Rica.  We’re working on Japan and South Korea as well. So I’m just excited to see the culture of mezcal just expand beyond just America and see how excited because I, when I talk to people that are in London or, people in Australia, and they’re so excited about the idea of being able to get mezcal.

Joe Winger: What is the future for Madre?

Ryan Fleming: I can’t tell you about the big one.

But, [exciting things for] our Ancestral, which is pretty new and every batch of that’s going to be hand numbered and labeled.

We’re going to start doing small batch productions that will be very limited. Then the desert waters, which we have ready for summer. 

To learn more about MadreMezcal, visit MadreMezcal.com. Find them on Instagram at MadreMezcal

 

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