Liam and Clay McLachlan

Liam and Clay McLachlan (Photo credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)

Foodie Chap Delves Into The Food And Wine Capital That Is... Piemonte, Italy

Liam Mayclem
April 10, 2018 - 12:00 am

(KCBS RADIO) - Meet Clay McLachlan a true renaissance man - a guy best known as an award winning photographer who is also a baker, cyclist, travel guide, winemaker & more. Clay McLachlan was born in Vancouver, Canada, and was raised in San Francisco.

Clay is a photojournalist based in Sausalito and Piedmont, Italy.  His work has taken him to more than 45 countries and his images have appeared in countless publications including: Food and Wine, Gourmet, Wine Spectator, Saveur, Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, National Geographic Traveler (Cover Feature on Piedmont, Italy, October 2012), Departures, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post.  Given his passion for food, wine (he planted his own three-acre nebbiolo vineyard at Villa San Lorenzo in 2015), and travel, Clay brings exceptional depth and sensitivity to his subjects.

Clay McLachlan

Clay is currently at work writing a memoir about his experiences living in Italy since 2005.  He has published a dozen cookbooks with noted publishers, Clarkson Potter, Ten Speed Press, and Flammarion.  His book Cooking with Chocolate produced with the Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona with preface by Pierre Herme was nominated for a James Beard award and garnered the best cookbook of the year, Chocolate, by the World Cookbook Awards in Paris.  Clay won Best Seafood Cookbook in 2013 for a book he photographed entitled Seafoodpedia with a world renowned restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel.  He photographed many of France's Michelin 3-star Chef's for a previous title for Flammarion, French Cooking, a 512 page tome.

In San Francisco, Clay has worked with Blue Bottle Coffee and published their successful book with Ten Speed Press entitled The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee.  In addition Clay's work has been featured in numerous wine and travel related books, including Les Plus Grands Vins du Monde, Fodor's, and Framers.  Commercial Clients have included Apple, Diageo Chateau and Estates, Allied Domeq, Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Bionaturae, Jovial Foods, Blue Bottle Coffee, Chateau Haut Bailly, and Microsoft.  Clay is fluent in English, French, and Italian.

I ventured to Piedmont, Italy this past year with my partner & photographer Rick Camargo to take a deep delve into the food and wine of the region with Clay as our host & guide.  It was an opportunity to experience authentic living through a local lens (Clay) in the Langhe, Piedmont, Italy.   You can enjoy this experience too through Grand Cru Tours, and share "bucket list" experiences such as white truffle hunting, Piedmontese cooking classes, and barrel tastings in the world famous UNESCO wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. 

This trip was "foodie heaven" - every day experiencing another amazing meal, world class wines, eating and drinking with families behind the food & wine we enjoyed.

On the first day of our trip we stopped at a simple restaurant Osteria Giro Di Vite in a blink and you'll miss it village. I was served a bowl of Tajarin pasta; authentic & simple pasta perfection. A few minutes into the meal the server showed up with a warm little bowl of butter to pour onto my pasta. She was worried that my dish might be losing heat and she wanted to ensure I tasted the pasta at it's best. It was that thoughtfulness and consideration  that continued to be a theme on our trip. There is a reason this part of Italy is known as "slow food" country and to us it is also "thoughtful" country because they care about what you eat and drink and always take extra care so you enjoy food at its best.

Back to Clay - an amazing host in Piedmont because he lives there, knows the people there and has a sense of pride as he shows off and shares his culinary world there.

His love of food and Italian food in particular may have stemmed from regular visits as a teen to a restaurant "Little Italy" (now LUPA) in Noe Valley, San Francisco. 

His travels around the world as a sports photographer also introduced him to all manner of cuisine. The food in France & Italy struck a chord but it was Italy where he would ultimately settle.

We stayed at Clay's two properties in Piedmont: Villa San Lorenzo and Villa Bracch.  Each one captures the essence of Piedmont life but also equipped to host seasoned travelers from all corners of the world with creature comforts and more: swimming pool, pizza oven, gourmet kitchen, vineyard & more.

There were so many highlights on our trip to Piedmont:

  • Barrolo wine barrel tastings,
  • Chocolate making class,
  • Pasta & pizza making classes,
  • Winemaker pizza party and so much more .
  • The hospitality from the warm hearted and welcoming locals was above and beyond. Then the food the food the food - among the freshest & best I have ever enjoyed.

Enjoy my conversation with Clay McLachlan a true renaissance man who shares his passion for food and wine and a region of Italy he calls home - the Langhe, Italy.  Join him for a bucket list trip to Italy, you will not be disappointed.

CIAO, Liam!

Clay McLachlan's Pesto Pizza
Clay McLachlan's Pesto Pizza (Photo credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)

Pesto Pizza Recipe 
by Clay McLachlan

Dough - in making dough for pizza there are a million variables. I use my 'pasta madre' or sourdough starter that I made years ago and I keep alive in the refrigerator. For a sure thing dough, I use organic grano tenero (soft wheat) typo 0 flour (bread flour) and use 65-70% hydration and 2.5% salt. I use the absolute amount of starter or yeast (approximately 1g of dry yeast for 2.2 lbs of flour) and l let the do them rise slowly for between 24-48 hours with a couple of punch downs.  Alternatively you can buy pre made dough in your local supermarket or ask your favorite bakery if you can buy fresh dough from them. 

For the pesto: heaps of fresh basil, lots of fresh grated parmigiano (preferably 24 -36 month aged), a pinch of Maldon salt, and Ligurian EVOO. I then blend and taste frequently to adjust the flavor until it is how I like it. I toast Italian pine nuts to sprinkle on the pie after the pizza has been cooked.

To cook the pizza:  Stretch out your dough, cover it with thin slices of caciocavallo (aged provolone), drizze a small amount of EVOO, and bake. When the pie is finished, pull from the oven, spread freshly made pesto, sprinkle pine nuts, and grate parmigiano.  Slice and eat immediately!

WINE NOTES: San Ferola "Valdiba" 2014
The 2014 Dolcetto 'valdiba' San Fereolo is made by Nicoletta Bocca and is a beautiful expression in a complicated vintage of this often misunderstood grape that is most well adapted to the hills surrounding the quintessential Langhe town of Dogliani, Italy.
Ms. Bocca shows her talent in making a beautiful wine that well represents the best that the terroir of Dogliani has to offer. The wine has fresh and bright fruit flavor with a confident backbone of tannins.  This is a wine that pairs perfectly with salumi. 

Grand Cru Tours

Villas in Langhe, Italy