CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

RIP Judy Rodgers

I haven't written here in, quite literally, years.  Two young kids and all that goes with that makes it challenging.  But I could not let today pass without saying a few words about Judy Rodgers, who died last night.  Judy was the chef/owner of Zuni Cafe, a cornerstone of San Francisco.

Judy changed everything for me, and for so many other people.  I loved going there, always, because it was a place that always felt special, but comfortable.  It was what I turned to for impromptu celebrations and afternoon dates with Jon.  Eating there always sort of felt like being on holiday.  I remember the first time I ate there, at 22 years old, and what I thought during the meal: "Holy shit, I am a grown up."  It opened my eyes.

More than that, her influence was felt far and wide, and you could see it in restaurants all over the city, all over the country, all over the world.  When we visited Da Delfina in Italy, the chef told us that one of his sous chefs was staging at "not Zuni, but the other one." He meant Chez Panisse.  Judy's restaurant was the kind of place that chefs went to to learn, because she did what she did so well.

I admired Judy so much for never really changing Zuni.  The perfect Caesar, the oysters, the roast chicken, the burger -- they stayed because they were the best possible versions of what they were and that meant they were timeless.  She stayed true.

Judy, thank you, thank you, thank you for the gifts you gave to this world while you were here.  You were an inspiration to so many. You have left an amazing legacy, and sometime, soon, I know I will find myself at Zuni, raising a glass in your honor.  Rest in Peace.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

If I Had Known The Outcome, I Would Have Posted Sooner

Apparently the fates wanted me to blog again because a mere 5 hours after that last post, I went into labor with Diner #4. She's fucking awesome so far, and is already fitting right into our family in that she is an eater. She is also punctual -- she arrived on her due date.

In the 2.5 weeks that she's been on the outside, she's visited Contigo, Delfina, Sebo, Ton Kiang, Yank Sing, Los Pastores, Just for You, Slow Club and Old Port Lobster Shack. I think she'll do just fine.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sardines and Cocas and Churros, Oh My! -- Contigo (San Francisco, CA)

Oh, hey, how's it going? What's that now? You thought I was dead? Yeah, sorry, no such luck.

So when we last spoke in October, we were getting settled in the new house, I was getting my blogging mojo back (a little) and things were starting to return to normal around here.

A month later, I done got knocked up again. That's right. And man, this kid meant business. I was so fucking sick for 3 months that I was on chemo meds, and even then I was still spending more facetime with my loo than I wanted to. Throw in applying to preschools for Diner #3 (something WAY more stressful than it had any right to be), potty training (for #3, not me) and the general exhaustion that comes with having a bun in the oven and I could barely write my NAME, much less a blog post. Diner #4 (a girl if you must know) is due Friday, but I've pretty much concluded that she's never coming out and I'm going to be pregnant forever. I figured there wasn't much to do now other than sit my fat fucking ass down and write you a little somethin' somethin' before she gets here. (P.S. Once she finally pops out we are done with the babymaking because once you get beyond a four-top, restaurant seating gets problematic. Not to mention the fact that the raging bitch I have become in my final days is not someone I ever want to be reaquainted with.)

So anyway, there's this restaurant that's been open more than a year. You've probably been there and I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but when has that ever stopped me? And if you haven't yet been to Contigo, then you should really get off your ass (I'm pregnant, what's your excuse?) and go NOW.

Full disclosure: I am good friends with the chef/owner from his blogging days. Brett, and his wife Elan are very dear to us and I would even stop swearing for them if they wanted. That's how much I love them. Fortunately they don't require such things. Anyway, because of our relationship, we get free stuff sometimes. There are some newish blogging rules that require me to tell you that. Rest assured, though, that if their restaurant sucked (it doesn't), I simply wouldn't write about it. There is nothing at all about Contigo that contains the suck.

Contigo is a place that our whole family adores. Some of our best family memories are from there, as Diner #3 has discovered some of his very favorite foods in their dining room. He had his first clams there (14 months) and sopped them up in all their sherry goodness. Jon and I had to order a 2nd order for ourselves. These days, he clamors for the sardines. Three orders worth at a time. Like most 2 year olds, he's gotten more picky in his 2nd year. Except my son's pickiness manifests in him ordering the grilled sardines plain, because God forbid he ruin his palate with the avocado toasts or pickled onions that come with them. Freak.

The staff is rockstar. I love them. They are always smiling, which I think says a lot about the kind of restaurant Brett and Elan are running. They bring us extra napkins, chit chat with Diner #3 and refill our (free, house filtrated) sparkling water before the carafe even dares to get low. I've often wanted to take several of them home with me, but I don't think Brett and Elan would like that. Come to think of it, Jon might not either.

Oh you want to hear about the food?

Holy fucking deliciousness. The food. First, Contigo has filled such a void in this city. Authentic Catalan food is a difficult thing to find in this cold ass city (seriously, I'm so beyond over this freezing summer). If you do find it, it's usually not so great. Never fear, Contigo is here.

I've told you about the sardines and clams, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I loves me some squid, and there is almost always a dish of calamares on the menu. Lately it's been grilled with padron peppers and romesco, which is rub-your-face-in-it-good, but last fall they were stuffed with lobster mushrooms and I loved that dish so much that I still have wet dreams about it.

My most recent favorite tasty plate is the cazuela. This is a ramekin filled with all of my favorite things in the world. Big fat white beans, pimenton breadcrumbs, chard and a fried Soul Food Farms egg on top. Jon's comment was "I could be vegetarian if I could eat like this all the time." This, from a man who eats lamb brains.

Speaking of meat, Tigo (as Diner #3 likes to call it), has a selection of Spanish hams that melt in your mouth (but not in your hand, just so we're clear). The most glorious of these is the Jamon Iberico "pata negra." You have never tasted anything like this in your life. It is smooth, it is silky, you can taste the acorns that these sweet little piggies fed on before giving up their lives to this noble cause. It is also fucking expensive. And fucking worth it.

The menu changes every day, but the patatas bravas are always there (the best I've had), and you can almost always find the pork albondigas studded with Iberico that our family orders on every single visit. Here are some other highlights, when they have them:

  • Oxtail croquetas -- I mean, really, need I say more?
  • A different "coca" every night -- Catalan flatbread/pizza that is always covered in something delish, and always has the option to add an egg, anchovies, bacon or txistorra sausage. We almost always order one.
  • Fried Soul Food Farms chicken -- DO NOT pass go. Order this if you see it.
  • Seasonal salads with sherry vinaigrette -- Contigo uses the freshest, finest ingredients so it's worth ordering whatever salad you see on whatever night you are there.
For getting your drink on, there is a most excellent wine list which includes several Cavas. I'm a Cava girl, so I rarely go beyond the top of the list. There are also usually two tasty non-alcoholic housemade sodas and/or teas, which I've become well acquainted with while gestating Diner #4.

I will personally come down and punch you in the nuts if you don't order dessert. Candace, the pastry chef, knows her shit. We can never escape a visit to Contigo without the chocolate and churros, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thick, European hot chocolate with crunchy churros. If you only have room for one dessert, though, and the caramel flam happens to be on the menu, screw the churros. This is one of the most delicious custard based desserts I've ever had. Because Diner #3 also has a tendency to bogart the churros, Jon and I usually order whatever fruit based dessert is on the menu that evening. These almost always include a flaky, buttery crust of some sort and I don't know about you, but I find fruit to be much more fun when it includes shitloads of butter.

While I may be friends with the Contigo folk, I swear I ain't tellin' you no lies. If you haven't been, go. If you have, keep going. And if you don't? Oh well -- just means more for me.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Thursday, October 08, 2009

5475 meals later

So I know it's overreaching to even claim to have a blog anymore but since I still stop in from time to time, I'm still pretending it exists.

Anyway, this Saturday, 10/3, I was thinking "Why does this date seem important?" But between touring a preschool, playing with my kid, cleaning up my house and (miraculously) going to see a movie, I just didn't have the brain space to figure out what the fuck it was that I was forgetting.

It was this blog's 5th anniversary. And holy christcakes, a whole lot has occurred, and changed, in those 5 years.

Though I don't post very often (if you can believe it, there are 1/2 written posts about both Anchor and Hope and Per Se just waiting for me to get off my ass and finish them), I don't ever for a second discount what this blog has meant for my life. I have made amazing friends and I have had incredible opportunities because of this little corner of the web.

If you still stop in to read, thank you. I hope that someday (soon), I can again make it worth your while.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Friday, August 14, 2009

He's Clearly My Kid

Diner #3 is 21 months now. It's obvious he's my kid.

Exhibit A: I came into his room after naptime, to find him reading "Hola, Jalapeno" in his crib and saying "Nobwito*."

Exhibit B: We take him to dim sum every weekend. He eats more than we do. And whenever I drive the route we take to dim sum, whether that's our actual destination or not, he sits in the backseat exclaiming "Sum! Buns! Soup Dump**!" He also pulls out a teapot and our bamboo steamers and regularly throws dim sum parties on the coffee table.

Exhibit C: After a visit to Bi-Rite, we got in the car. As we drove by Delfina, he shouted "Home!" and as we drove by Tartine, I heard "Tine? Sant?***"

Exhibit D: We were in the car, on our way to the Fillmore and the following took place:

Jon: Diner #3, do you want to go to SPQR or Pizzeria Delfina?

Diner #3: R

Me: SPQR, honey? Is that what you meant?

Diner #3: K

Jon (not believing Diner #3 has any idea what we're talking about): OK, Diner #3, do you want pizza or pasta?

Diner #3: Pasta

Jon: Pizzeria Delfina or SPQR

Diner #3: R

Jon: OK, well, I guess he knows what he wants.

We then went on to eat dinner at SPQR, where I had to ask the kitchen to fire me another set of clams for my linguine con vongole because my kid ate all the ones that came in the pasta. We said we'd pay, and apologized. They said if our toddler eats clams, they were free.

I fucking love my life.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

* Nopalito
** Soup Dumplings, or Shanghai Dumplings

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Intentions Are Good

I started a post about Anchor & Hope and never finished it. Honestly, I've reached a new level of suckitude. I'll get to it. Not before you've grown grey pubes and accidentally flushed your teeth, but I'll get to it.

I'm racing against the nap clock, so here's where I think you should eat RIGHT NOW: Contigo. I know I've said it before but that's because I REALLY MEAN IT. I will write about it for reals at some point but if you haven't been yet, just go. I don't know anyone who doesn't love it.

Heading to NYC at the end of the month, and spending most of Diner #3's sleeping hours figuring out where to eat there because he will be staying with the grandparents. Fuck yeah, that's 3 days of New York gluttony without any responsibility to wake up to in the morning. The only reservation I have on the books is Per Se. I'm working on the rest.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

For Anonymous, Who Misses Me Even Though I Continue to Suck

Sweet, sweet Anonymous, I know I suck. I know. Really I do. But you see since that last post my entire world has exploded into a clusterfuck of real estate transactions. Not complaining -- I waited a long time for this shit.

We are buying a house. After a year of looking. I spent a motherfucking YEAR looking for a house in this city because I would not leave my restaurants. 6 offers later, we are in escrow.

Also. We are selling our condo. Again -- in escrow. Let's all say a silent prayer that the wheels don't come off on this one, shall we?

Additionally. Moving. With a 17 month old. There is not enough liquor in the world.

So, you see, the problem is really that I have no fucking time (or money) to eat out. Trust me, this leaves a much bigger void in my soul than lack of my writing could ever possibly leave in yours. (Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah my pain is worse than yours! I mean, honestly, why do you even put up with this crap?)

The best I can do right now is this: I got to hang out in the kitchen with my boy Scott during the re-opening of his bar, 15 Romolo. They have food now, and it is dee-lish. Even if it wasn't, the drinks (and the movie nights and gong show karaoke) are worth the trek over there.

And scene.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld