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

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

He's Gonna Owe Me Big Time

So, life isn't fair. Big deal, right?

Tomorrow I head up north to what I hear are 90 degree temperatures to go camping for three days with my demonic fire breathing cherubic students. And while it involves me playing mom to fourteen seventh grade girls, and no cell phone reception, it also involves s'mores. So, really, I can deal.


Jon heads somewhere, too, tomorrow. And that would be the U.S. Fucking Open. Bitch don't even like tennis (in all fairness, neither do I). And he's going for FREE. For work. Invited by one of his clients. So there will be a tent and free everything. All of which I can deal with.

Until this afternoon when he told me that while he's in NYC, the clients will be taking him to Nobu for lunch on Thursday. On their dime. While I eat Kosher vegetarian camp food. I am in my own personal hell right now.


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

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bo Coup (Bo's Barbeque -- Lafayette, CA)

I'm in the process of writing the Cyrus post, but with these meals of a thousand courses it takes me awhile. Thought I'd give you a tidbit to hold you over.

The first time Jon and I went to Bo's Barbecue was in the summer of 2002. It was tiny, with an ordering counter, and, if I remember correctly only one indoor table. There were about three more tables outside. We walked in and ordered. From Bo. Our food was prepared. By Bo. Our money was taken. By Bo. One man show it was back in the day.

So on our way to some outdoor theater, we decided to grab some Bo's so we could do it picnic style. It was 7:20. The show was at 8:00 about 8 minutes away. No problem.

When we arrived at Bo's, however, we were shocked. There was a line out the door. And the restaurant and patio were both HUGE. The restaurant itself looked to be about eight times as big as before. There were folks playing blues in the back, tables filled with people and a waiting area with couches for to-go orders. Clearly Bo has done well for himself.

Shit. I don't know if we'll make this show. Oh, well, let's get in line anyway (side note: I just typed "wine" instead of "line." I need some help). So we got in the long ass line and waited. And waited. And waited. We watched little children hop around and elderly folks help each other out the door.

Once we were in the door, Bo's cooler was visible. This cooler has the best beer selection I've ever seen ANYWHERE. From all over the world. It was fascinating. And then there is the wine. Dozens of bottles lined up on the counters -- everything you could want or need to go with your barbecue. In fact, we spotted a few bottles of Opus One at the EDGE of the counter. As in one-toddler-swipe-away-from-a-very-expensive-disaster.

And then there's Bo. An enormous, bearded, jolly, LOVELY man. You see him and you smile. His good spirit permeates the space he's in. And the moment he enters your line of vision, you are overcome with an overwhelming urge to hug him. This man has the best of hearts.

This is evident when he sees the line and begins pouring wine for the people waiting. I was confused at first, thinking he wanted to hand it to someone who had actually PAID. He said, "Go on, sweetheart, don't be scared. I won't poison you." So I drank it. And then he poured me more.

When we congratulated him on his success and told him how long it had been since our last visit he said "Thank you, thank you so much. You guys demanded it so we made it happen. And it's good to see you're still together." Which was funny, charming and touching all at the same time.

The food is simple and great. The ribs are where it's at, served with tangy BBQ sauce. You can get the short end or the long end and I think the short end is worth the extra buck. There's also links and chicken. You can also do it combo style. Everything comes with really great corn on the cob, potato salad and bread. All meats are Niman Ranch, bread is Acme. Local, organic, and fucking tasty -- what more can you ask for? My only complaint? Not enough bread or corn comes with the whole deal. But you can order extra if you want. The ribs are so irresistible that Jon and I must have looked like we had never seen food before as we gnawed on the bones. We got a few stares. Fuck 'em -- it's great.

And for dessert? Little sweet potato pies, pecan pies and nectarine cobblers (seasonal). On our recent visit, we went with the sweet potato and I ate so much of it that I felt sick. It was so good, though, and reminded me so much of childhood that I kept picking the fork up.

We made it to the show (barely) and enjoyed our barbecue for the entire duration (3.5 hours, much to Jon's chagrin).

Bo's got great barbecue, no question, but he's just as much a reason for going there as the food. Sometimes I ask myself what it is that appeals to me so much about restaurants -- is it that I'm lazy? Curious? Who really knows? But one thing I recently realized is that part of what appeals to me so much is that a lot of really good restaurants have a lot of love behind them. And getting to spend a few minutes with someone like Bo, who is so dedicated to making people happy, makes an impact on me that stays there for a good long while. And I would never have had that chance unless I had a hankering for a little barbecue. Thanks, Bo.


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

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rachael Ray, Minion of Satan (Dine and Dish #4)

When Sam threw down the gauntlet and called for all to attempt being Rachael Ray for a day, I couldn't resist. I watch her show, "$40 a day," cursing with each meal she eats. You see, something about Ms. Ray just makes my blood curdle. Maybe it's the orgasmic face she makes with EVERY fucking thing she eats (come on, it's not all that good). Maybe it's her poor attempts at being cool. Maybe it's her stupid way of buying a "snack" that ends up being the most expensive thing in her entire day's worth of meals. Maybe it's because some of her choices are just dumb. Maybe I'm just jealous that her job is traveling around the world to eat. In any case, she bugs me. But despite all this, I still watch the friggin' show. It's like the whole staring at a car accident thing -- I just can't look away.

And, I thought, I can eat on $40 a day easily. Especially here in sweet l'il San Francisco. So here's what I'd do with a $40 budget in SF, if I had to dine out all day. Because Lord knows, I would never dine out all day unless a challenge like this were in place. I'll continue writing when the laughter subsides.

BREAKFAST: Tartine. No brainer there. Where else (outside Paris) can you get a delicious, flaky, buttery (but not greasy) croissant? I'll take the pain au chocolat made with Scharfen Berger chocolate for $2.65 please, Alex. Add a cappucino and tip to that and you're looking at about $6.00. Hot damn!

LUNCH: Saigon Sandwich. Make mine a BBQ chicken banh mi, please, with some extra chilis. No charge for the labyrinth-like line. And how about a coke? All this will set you back a whopping $3. That's right, $3. Almost enough for a night with your mama, but not quite.

SNACK: Mitchell's Ice Cream. I'm not going to blow my wad on a snack, and at Mitchell's, I don't need to. Single cone with buko ice cream and chocolate jimmies (that would be sprinkles for those of you who did not have the privelege of growing up east coast style), plus a 50 cent tip for the scoopers who put up with a hell of a lot every day = only $3. Yes, same cost as lunch, but still balls cheap.

DINNER: Pizzeria Delfina. Salsiccia pizza with peppers and onions -- $13.25. And of course, one needs some wine, especially one who had a harrowing experience with the retardo Sprint lady on the phone today, so grab a glass of Montepulciano for a hefty $4. With tax and tip you are looking at $25. That's right, none of this Rachael Ray giving shit for tips bullcrap, I do right by my servers.

So my grand total comes out to $37. Leaving me enough money to grab another croissant at Tartine on my way home so I can eat it for breakfast tomorrow. Mmmm...gluttony.

Stand aside, Ms. Ray, I'm gunnin' for your job.


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

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lay Me Down Mr. Burrito Man

Dear Mr. Burrito Man at El Farolito,

Thank you for making me such a kick ass burrito. Thank you for filling it with perfectly ripe and creamy avocado, and for shaking the water out of the black beans before you lovingly placed them in my wrap of delight. Thank you for making it spicy. Thank you for smiling when I said "Muchas Gracias."

Most of all, thank you for having patience that I don't possess. I don't know where you get the self control required to not hurl carnitas at the dumb teenage bitches who interrupt your cooking with the following:

THEM: How many shrimps you get?

YOU: Five. You can get them in a burrito.

THEM: But I want them shrimps by themselves! How much for them?

YOU: You can't order them by themselves.

THEM: Well that's fucking stupid.

You displayed a level of control that I simply do not have. I love you. You're my hero.


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

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I Am Two Bites Away From Needing a Twelve Step Program

We've established that I have a problem. Sometimes, however, that problem smacks you square in the face.

Here is the evidence; important bits are in bold:

Wednesday, August 10th: In the afternoon, I meet some lovely ladies I know for a glass of wine and bites at Cesar. We are waited on by Kate, who I know because she works at The Slanted Door. Then onto rehearsal that evening for my show, where I find out that my fellow actor, Scott, bartends at both Cesar and Coco500 (whose bar was designed by Thad, our pal at The Slanted Door).

Thursday, August 11th (actual anniversary): Dinner at Delfina, where we see all my favorite people in the culinary world.

Friday, August 12th (observed anniversary): Lunch at Fish. in Sausalito. Dinner at Cyrus, where we meet all kinds of great staff, including super cutie sommelier Jason Alexander (no relation to George Costanza). We also recall that when Chef Doug Keane was at Market, he told us his graham cracker recipe came from Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake.

Saturday, August 13th: Stop by Cyrus with a thank you note (full story to come). Lunch at Barndiva in Healdsburg, Dinner at Taiwan on Clement Street.

Sunday, August 14th: Time for a restaurant breather as today is the food blogger's picnic (see post below).

Monday, August 15th (payday -- woo hoo!): Decide to check out Coco500 and pay Scott a visit. We sit at the bar. Gordon Ramsay is behind us in the dining room. Elizabeth Falkner is at the other end of bar. I say, "hey, we dig your restaurant, we know Bruce (their chef until recently, who we knew when he was the lunch chef at the Slow Club and we worked next door)." She says, "Thanks, come in now that he's gone, too." As we tuck into our squid with black rice, a voice from behind says "Thank you for your nice note." I turn around and almost pass out. It's Jason Alexander, my boyfriend from Cyrus. We send him some dessert.

Tuesday, August 16th: Boss takes a bunch of us to Chez Panisse for lunch as a thank you (nice, right?). After stuffing myself fuller than I have any right to, we head outside. Who walks out of Cesar to grab some boxes of oranges? Scott.

I am living in the incestuous twilight zone of dining. Somebody please stop me before I hurt myself.


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

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Top Three Reasons Why This Weekend Totally Kicked Ass

1. Dinner at Cyrus on Friday night. Absolutely fucking phenomenal (more to come on that).

2. Costco is now carrying Vitamin Water. The heavens opened up and the angels sang.

3. The Food Blogger picnic at Meathenge's house where I got to eat amazing treats, geek out about food and meet all kinds of fabulously wonderful people who live to get their grub on. I still smell like barbeque. Plus, there was some kick ass sausage.

I am the luckiest girl in the food lovin' world.


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

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Love Letter

***We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this sappy tidbit***

I have always been a restaurant whore, but during my childhood the restaurants I frequented were more along the lines of The Ground Round rather than Boulette's Larder. I could identify great food if it was a Northeastern specialty, or if it was Americanized Chinese food (I was a hostess in a Chinese restaurant as a teenager) -- otherwise, I was lost.

When I reached college in the enlightened town of Ithaca, NY, I had access to a lot more of the good stuff. And my palate expanded. But the single most defining thing that made me a restaurant whore was meeting my husband, Jon.

Jon has always loved great food, and had had more access to it as a child than I did. He introduced me to things I had only heard about, and wined and dined me in a way that I had not previously experienced (Ah, what a young man will do to get into a girl's pants). During visits to his family, they'd take us to restaurants with things that sounded good, but I had never tried before (such as dim sum). It wasn't long before I became a full on whore.

Jon is always right by my side, matching me bite for bite, giving me fodder for my next dining tidbit. He's as, if not more, excited about food as I am.

Today is our wedding anniversary. Five delicious years. We're hitting Delfina tonight, and Cyrus tomorrow night to celebrate. Life is fucking great, isn't it?

Happy Anniversary, baby. There's no one I'd rather share my fork with than you.


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

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mea Culpa (Or, Who's the Weenie Now?)

So a few days ago I wrote a post about an article in SF Magazine written by Josh Sens, which I suggested beared some similarities to some of my own bon mots. I also mentioned that the article is good and that I enjoyed it.

I'd like you all to know that I don't *actually* believe that Mr.Sens used any of my words as inspiration as I am but a tiny speck in the food writing community. He seems like a lovely, honest writer and I didn't mean to imply that he was sketchy in any way.

I received a nice e-mail from Mr. Sens letting me know that he hadn't heard of me until this morning. In fact, he informed me that the portions of his story where the similarities appeared (the title and the headline) were written by his editor. Oops.

My sincere apologies, Mr.Sens.


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

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Precious Gem (Pearl Oyster Bar -- Oakland, CA)

The most difficult thing about going to Pearl is resisting the temptation to go to Oliveto, which is right across the street. Using our superhuman strength, Jon and I managed to turn our backs on that saucy temptress, and boy, were we glad we did.

I had made a reservation for Pearl because we were going to be seeing a play in the east bay later in the evening. I made it for the ass early time of 5:30 so we'd have time to get to the show without feeling rushed at dinner. When we parked around 5:15, we noticed a line was already forming outside the still locked gate to the restaurant. Good sign.

Once we got in, we decided to give our table up so we could sit at the bar. I wanted to watch them make the raw dishes. The space is really well designed; They manage to use all possible seating areas without it feeling cramped (it's a relatively small space).

Ordering was difficult because everything looked so damn good. We went first with the easy choice -- a dozen oysters. Which we ate in a dozen milliseconds. Even the bartender was surprised. Oh, honey, you don't know what you are dealing with here. The oyster selection was great, and they present them on a little bed of stones. The mignonette was clean and perfect and I daresay that they were the best shucked oysters I've ever had; no shell, no grit, perfectly detached. There's nothing worse than a bad shuck. So I was pleased to see that we had one great mother shucker.

A little Gruner Vetliner from Austria for me, a little mojito (soju style) for Jon. Wine was great but Jon says skip the cocktails. Pearl is looking to get a full liquor license but it seems a neighbor has blocked it. So go now before they get real drinks because once they do, there will be no moving around at all in there.

Then we had the tuna poke. The tuna cubes sit on top of cucumber cubes. Not a bad combo. And the tuna was gloriously pink and gorgeous. It just melted in our mouths. The cucumber was a nice complement but the cubes were too large, making the texture balance a bit off. The tuna, however, just melted as soon as it hit my tongue. I again used my superhuman strength to prevent myself from sticking my face into the lovely martini glass that it came in.

Next was the sashimi. We were trying to choose between that and the ceviche and the tartare. The bartender sold us on the sashimi, which was incredible. The fish that was feautured that night was tombo (I know, more tuna). We watched the chef cut beautiful little slices and drizzle them with shiso. Yummy.

We then had the crabcakes. Unlike the crabcake at Cortez, Pearl's crabcakes were something to write home about. These are stuffed to max with some tasty crabmeat, and there is more than one crabcake so sharing isn't an Olympic sport. The sides of the plate have sauces you can drag your bites through. One of these sauces is Siracha, our condiment of choice. Mmmmm...Siracha...

We also thought we'd give two of their sides a try. First, their spicy fries, because if you haven't changed the channel, you know I can't pass up french fries. We also had the corn with chili lime butter.

Both were excellent. The fries were barbeque-ish and I could find no faults. The corn was fresh, and still on the cob, and since I finally got over my corn coma from 2004, I was able to enjoy it (Corn was so good and abundant in 2004 that you couldn't go to a restaurant without encountering it at some point in your meal. This pushed me over the edge, where I did not fully recover until recently). The only issue with the corn was that there was not enough chili in the chili lime butter. Otherwise, it was great.

Jon was still hungry, but I was pretty satisfied. We both wanted dessert, Jon had picked out two, I one. Jon was having trouble giving up one of his choices, since I wouldn't budge on my choice. The bartender suggested we get all three. Riiiiight. No thanks, I like not having diabetes. The bartender was knowledgeable and helpful, but he wasn't good enough to get me to buy three desserts.

So Jon settled. He got a mixed berry trifle, and I got bourbon butter pecan gelato with caramel sauce and toasted oat cookie. Now you tell me, which would you choose?

Jon's trifle was very good. The berries were fresh and juicy, the cake-y bits were delish and the whipped cream was a force to be reckoned with. But mine, oh sweet Jesus, mine was the most enjoyable dessert I've had all year. Cross my heart and swear to James Beard.

First, though, don't call it gelato. It's not gelato, it's fucking ice cream. Since when did it become considered common to have ice cream on your menu? Come clean, bitches! It's good ice cream so just call it ice cream.

OK. So this ice cream of mine, was fucking phenomenal. The buttery taste mixed with the roasted pecans was perfect enough, but the caramel added a depth that brought tears to my eyes. I am not kidding. The flavors worked perfectly. I then stood on the bar and did a little dance. Plus, there was whipped cream, and whipped cream on anything just adds to the sexiness. The major coup in this was that Jon, who had fought so diligently to NOT have this dessert, liked it better than his own and was very contrite that he had almost prevented us from ordering.

We finished with coffee so that we wouldn't pass out at our three-hour-play, and when we left, we were lamenting the fact that we weren't able to try more items due to our gastrointestinal limits (damn you, stomach!). Everything we saw looked so good that we spent a lot of the meal torn between what we had ordered and the other things we saw passing by us (such as the tartare trio that looked like piles of little crystals).

So what are you waiting for, bitches? Go fish.


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

Stealing is Wrong

Yesterday, after enjoying a lovely brunch at The Slow Club with Jon (Man, I love that fried egg sandwich), we were bound for the east bay.

We were kickin' it in the Barnes and Noble, and since I already have too many books staring sadly at me from the coffee table, I decided to hit the magazine section in search of something that wouldn't require a huge commitment.

It was there that I saw San Francisco magazine and realized I had forgotten that August is their 50 best restaurants issue. So I gleefully snatched it up.

Thumbing through it, I saw the good (Shelley Lindgren from A16 being named best wine director), the bad (Michael Mina being named best chef) and the ugly, which I will tell you about now.

Behind the 50 best restaurants was an article entitled: "Confessions of a Food Weenie." "Hmmm," I thought. Then I read the first line of the article and saw that it was almost verbatim the first line I ever wrote on this blog. And then I pouted for the rest of the afternoon.

See, this is a lose-lose situation. If I'm being ripped off (which, I admit, is unlikely BUT anything is possible), that sucks. If I'm not, it means originality might not be my strong suit.

The article, written by Joshua Sens, is actually very entertaining and the similarities (basically) end with that first line. But it still really chapped my ass.


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