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

Monday, February 27, 2006

Go Fourth, My Child (Eccolo -- Berkeley, CA)

It used to be that when you paid a visit to the parking hell known as Fourth Street in Berkeley, you had two decent dining options: Cafe Rouge and O Chame. Now this is great if you've got a severe meat jones going on (Cafe Rouge) or if you want Udon that will transport your soul to a plane of bliss (O Chame) but not so great if you're not feeling particularly carnivorous or noodle-ous. That all changed when Eccolo came to town.

Christopher Lee was Alice Waters' bitch for sixteen years before he opened Eccolo. Sixteen years in the Chez Panisse kitchen will make you one damn fine chef. I am so glad CL went and did this because while I love Chez Panisse's virgin food, Eccolo has a finessed playfulness that I can't get enough of. In fact, the aforementioned Cafe Rouge and O Chame have been missing my lovin' due to the fact that Eccolo is the new girl next door.

I've been thrice, with the following people:
  • B. -- my boss from one of my jobs, who made the waiter play musical teapots with her on our visit.
  • Jon -- on two of the visits.
  • J. -- a friend from work who is a pescatarian and was pregnant with gestational diabetes at the time. Mmmm....diabetes.
  • A. -- J's husband, also a pescatarian.
  • D. -- Jon's mom, who has stomach trouble and therefore is particular about her food.
  • A2. -- Jon's sister, who weighs about 2.5 pounds and is also pretty picky about her food.
Tough crowd, right? Every one of us loved it. Let me tell you all about their sexy food...

B had their Salad Nicoise and a billion pots of tea. The salad was gorgeous AND delicious. Let's face it -- Nicoise can be AWFUL and when it's not good, it's just repugnant. This, however, was everything it should be. YUM.

I've had various things, but the first thing I ever had was their fish and chips. It was, in a word, incredible. Not heavy or greasy but light, flaky and flavorful. I've also had two of their egg dishes, which were outstanding. In fact, the fennel sausage and potato hash with poached eggs and cilantro was something I wanted to make out with. I would imagine that to most people in the restaurant that's what it looked like I was doing anyway. Need I remind you how much I love sausage?

D.'s sourdough french toast with orange butter kept luring Jon's fork away from his perfect and juicy steak sandwich. A2's chopped salad with chicken consisted of equal sized chopped bits and chicken breast strips that were as beautiful as any of the chicken I've ever seen at Zuni (P.S. -- Sam, I ate there on Saturday late night and there was no pot de creme so no more hatin' on me). Speaking of Zuni, Eccolo's Tuscan fries are now rivaling the shoestring potatoes as my favorite thing to shove in my mouth by the handful. They come with fried herbs (even that bitch, rosemary, the slut of the herb world. I mean it grows in the fucking parking lot of Safeway for Christ's sake -- don't get me started on that one), which lend a nice culinary color to the whole crisp potato deal.

We've never had room for dessert, nor have they ever looked interesting enough to get us to order one anyway. Another shortcoming is the cocktails -- Jon has had both a bad bloody mary and a bad mojito. The wine list, however, is great, and they make a fantastic bellini. On the non-alcoholic side, they have the best lemonade I've ever tasted, and I drink a fuckload of lemonade.

As for service, it is as inconsistent as your sister's orgasm. On our most recent visit, the hostess was straight out of the special ed. class. She just could not get it together. When she brought us to our table, I waited for D. and A2. to get there so they could choose their seats before Jon and I sat down (hey, I have the best in-laws in the entire universe, the least I can do is be nice every now and again). The hostess looked at me and said "wherever you like." Thanks, jackass, I can see the empty seats but I'm waiting for the rest of my party if you don't mind. She also kept a two top waiting endlessly even though there was plenty of space for them at the communal table.

Also, the server on my visit with B. was just a flat out bitch. Now granted, B. had him fetching her every tea accoutrement on the planet, and then had him switch them out at several intervals, but he didn't even pretend to be accommodating about it. I pulled out all my restaurant whore tricks -- batted my eyelashes, engaged him in conversation, flashed my boobs (OK, not really), and he did warm up. To me. So then we were in a situation where he was sweeter than pie to me and a total psycho vampire bat to my dining companion. Let's just say it was awkward.

On my second two visits, we had servers that were simply amazing. Sweet, genial, cute and great at their jobs. Everything a good server should be. On visit 2, when I waxed poetical about the lemonade and asked what it was they were doing, the server got a full definition of the process AND one of the lemons for me from the kitchen. *Sigh*, *swoon*.

I am also fully convinced that Eccolo has magical powers. Here is your evidence:
  • There are things I don't eat. One of them is mayonnaise, and, therefore, coleslaw. When I asked Mr. Bitchy Pants if it would be easier for the kitchen to leave it off since I wouldn't eat it and it would be wasted, or if it would be simpler for the them to plate it, he said it was easier to plate. It came with my fish and chips and lo and behold! Their coleslaw has NO mayo! Instead it had a lovely lime vinaigrette and I was completely seduced by it.

  • Another one of those things I don't eat? Beef. You might remember that I haven't eaten cows for FOURTEEN YEARS (save for a taste of the sweetbreads at Manresa that were placed in front of me. I would have felt like a complete ass had I not at least tried, but really, based on the info. I gave them, they shouldn't have served them to me anyway). FOURTEEN YEARS. And when Jon said, "Does anyone want a bite of my steak sandwich?" I looked at him and said, "I do." He fell out of his seat and I took a bite and I LOVED it. Eccolo may have changed my life, boys and girls. (And if my would-be lover, E., is reading this, don't you dare start spouting your mad cow bullshit here. Eccolo uses only the finest, organic, grass-fed, free range beef massaged by virgins. Sounds a little bit like you, now that I think about it).
  • The magical power I like best about Eccolo, though, is the power it has over Jon. Both times he's joined me for an Eccolo repast, I've ended up with a gorgeous piece of jewelry while shopping afterwards. I'm seriously considering only eating at Eccolo from now on. A girl could do worse.
For a good time, call (510)644-0444. Then call me so I can join you.


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

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Nine to Go...

And by that I mean nine restaurants on the Chronicle's list of top 100 restaurants. Now I believe I've already mentioned that this is a sort of checklist for us. Every year, though, we run into the same damn problem. It's like losing those last ten pounds -- we just can't get through the last 5-10 places no matter how we try.

But this year, I'm buckling down. I will eat at House of Prime Rib if it kills me. I will make those long overdue visits to Aziza and Kokkari. And I will drag Jon's cute little ass to Mecca whether he likes it or not. I'm on a mission.

The new list is usually published the first weekend in April (which, coincidentally, seems like when my show is now going to close), so I don't have a lot of time. But I do have faith, and that's what really matters, right? How's about an "Amen?"

If I make it this year, you can bet your gorgeous gullets that I'll throw a big ass party, with an acceptance speech and all.

Consider this the Restaurant Whore Olympics.


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

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tag I'm It

So a reader of mine (Debbie over at, tagged me for this meme. I couldn't think of anything better to do than bore you with the sordid details of my life, so here goes:

Four Jobs In My Life
  • Working in a beauty supply store in the mall while in high school. We got about 3 customers a day. I mostly spent the time painting my nails and then having sex with my boyfriend in the back room after the store closed. And, yet, somehow, I was still their best employee.
  • A nanny. In total, I worked for five families, during summers and as my first "day job" upon moving west. This is what has kept me childless all this time.
  • Touring the country doing children's theatre. With a budget of $45 a night to spend on lodging, it's a wonder I didn't return with crabs.
  • Working as the office manager for Jon's office. This kicked ass because I barely had to do anything. I mostly planned our wedding and went on auditions during this time. Of course, I wouldn't go back to it even if I could because I ADORE my current "day job" of teaching acting and can't imagine not working with my little cherubs.

Four Films I Could Watch Over and Over
  • The Wizard of Oz. I still run screaming and crying from the room when the flying monkeys come on, but I'm a sucker for that yellow brick road.
  • Austin Powers. Jon and I watched this EVERY NIGHT during our first two months in SF. We'd make milkshakes, unpack and watch this movie. In fact, I cannot hear the music that accompanies the New Line Cinema intro. without saying "it sounds like home."
  • The Apostle. One of the finest pieces of acting. Ever.
  • Finding Nemo. Every film, animated or not, should be as well written as this one.

Four Places I Have Lived
  • Boston, Massachusetts for the first three years of my life.
  • After that we moved to the very conservative suburbs of Boston. Hence my need to fight back with the aforementioned sex.
  • Ithaca, New York. For college. Easily the most progressive and interesting place I've lived.
  • San Francisco, CA. My current home, and the place I'd like to remain. Why, you ask? Isn't it obvious? The food.

Four TV Series I Like
  • Lost because it keeps me on the edge of my seat
  • Scrubs because I always laugh out loud and cry during every episode
  • The Amazing Race because it's my travel porn (I actually applied with my best friend -- they must not know good TV when they see it).
  • Law and Order, Special Victims Unit because Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay are hot.

Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation
  • Bangkok, Thailand where I left a piece of my soul.
  • Florence, Italy where I ate myself sick.
  • London, England where, at the age of 13, I ate every possible candy bar that existed in their country and not mine.
  • Maui and Kaua'i, Hawaii because, well, it's Hawaii for fuck's sake.

Four Foods I Love

Are you fucking kidding me? I have to pick only four? OK, fine.
  • Caviar
  • Lobster
  • S'mores
  • French fries
Preferably all at once.

Four Websites I Visit Daily

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now
  • In bed
  • In a restaurant
  • Doing my show
  • In the ocean

Four Bloggers Who Should Play
  • Fatemeh, because she's my girl.
  • Shuna, because she'll have way better answers than me.
  • Catherine, because she could use a little fun these days.
  • Jennifer, because she's just super.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Living Up to My Name

So this time, I'm whoring myself out to you all, rather than to my beloved restaurants. Let me explain...

I've worked as a teaching artist for the California Shakespeare Theater for four years. It's an incredible organization that provides amazing programs for youth in addition to putting on a totally fucking fantastic season every year.

Now in order to do this, they need to be raising the funds. The arts, unfortunately, are usually the last thing people start digging into their pockets for when they are feeling charitable. So sometimes you need to do things that encourage people to part with their hard earned cash.

Every year, Cal Shakes has a gala. This gala involves a silent auction. And -- get this -- this year they've asked me to be an auction item (I said yes once I believed they were serious). There will also be an online auction beginning on 2/22, should you wish to bid on me, but not spring for the $185 gala ticket.

What do you get? Well, my friends, you get my sweet ass in a chair across from you during a FREE lunch at one of my most favorite tricks, The Slow Club (actually just ate breakfast there this morning). Doesn't get much better than that, right?

So bookmark it for the 22nd and then pull out those wallets and bid away...I promise to make it worth your while.


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

P.S. Head over to Tana's site and snatch up her $100 gift certificates to Manresa for only $90 (that's a 10% savings for those of you in the remedial class). It will be one of the best meals of your life and will help send her to a farming conference. It's a great cause and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside without the aid of a battery operated device. Do it now!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Am So Fucking Lame

Wanna know what I ate yesterday?

A hot chocolate (no whipped cream).

An odwalla orange juice.

A half a piece of crappy birthday cake at work(someone else's -- I'm not still milking mine, although I don't blame you for suspecting it).

Green tea.

A 6 inch length of baguette with butter and raspberry preserves.

2 organic mini bananas.

My show opens tomorrow night. Eating in restaurants (and eating at all for that matter), sleeping, seeing Jon (or anyone I don't teach or act with) and speaking in coherent sentences are activities that have ceased completely. On top of it all, last night I forgot how to act. Funny, that.

So please forgive me for the mini-posts and the lack of restaurant fodder. We hope to have your regular programming up and running again next week.


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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Taste of the Tropics

I get two weeks off from work every April. That's right -- Passover represent, bitches! And usually by the time I reach that point in April, I'm about ready to claw my own eyeballs out and I need that vacation like yo' mama needs an STD test.

This year, we'll be taking that vacation in Tahiti (Moorea and Bora Bora, actually). This is a vacation that's been a loooong time in the works (we wanted to go for our honeymoon but had negative money in the bank at the time).

Now this is a great vacation for any water related activity (great for the tropical fish obsessed Jon), and for soaking up the rays and for a good deal of romance/sex. Not too shabby if you ask me.

But the real question I have, and it's a tough one because I don't think Tahiti is known for it's culinary prowess (kick ass vanilla beans excepted), is where the fuck am I going to eat?


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

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Power Trip

So every once in a while, I use the fabulous technology that my hubby's employer provides (and, let's face it, enables me to eat at all these restaurants 'cause actors don't make shit), and I do a search for "restaurant whore." Because I'm that self absorbed.

In the beginning the results didn't even include me. It was mostly things referring to the awesome author, Bret Easton Ellis (who named one of his characters "Restaurant Whore"), and things like "" and such. Then slowly I appeared and rose to the top of the search page as I got more and more readers.

I continued searching because I like to know what folks are saying about me. Before long there was me, the porn, and a bunch of places that mentioned this blog. And I got all peacock and shit about that.

But an interesting thing has happened in the past six months. When I do this search, I find the usual suspects, but I also find several people now referring to THEMSELVES as restaurant whores. At first, I was all "wait, that's MY shit, bitches!" But now...oh, but now...I've learned to look at it differently:

I've influenced the lexicon.

Fuck yeah.

It's not long before world domination, really. Bwahahahahahahahaha.


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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When I'm Not in a Restaurant... can generally find me on a stage. And that's pretty much what I've been doing for the past month, hence the Buckeye review drawn from the archives of my mind since I haven't had the time to eat anywhere new. I did manage to hit Zuni twice last week, but a) I live around the corner and b) they are open late. I also squeezed in a trip to Pizzeria Delfina with my soul sista. Otherwise, I have not been doing my name justice as of late.

And now, in a bit of shameless self promotion, I present you with the vital info. you would need should you decide to see how I've been spending that time. See the flyer above for the deets, provided you're willing to drive to the Creek. You won't see me eating, but you will see me acting like a tart, singing, dancing and kissing a man who is not my husband. Blackmail material if there ever was some.

And if you do make it to the show, please stay and say hello. And bring me some take-out if you can.


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

***Update 2/10/06: Tickets are now more than 50% sold for every night of the run, so if you haven't bought any yet, buy them NOW!***

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Everybody Likes a Good Buck (Buckeye Roadhouse -- Mill Valley, CA)

"You guys ever go back to the roadhouse?" That is the question, without fail, that my father-in-law, R, asks us each and EVERY time the subject of restaurants comes up. What he is referring to, of course, is the Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley.

You see back when Jon first spent a summer here in the lovely bay area, he took his dad to the BR. And he hasn't stopped talking about it since. I finally got thoughtful enough to make a reservation on his last trip out here. Yeah, we're jackasses.

Whenever we're hitting Muir Woods, we can often be heard saying: "Hey, you want to go to Fuckeye after this?" Did I mention that we're still in 5th grade? Or did you figure that out on your own already?

Anyway, Buckeye is one of those places that just feels comfortable and warm. And the food's not half bad either. Here are some of my favorite things (if one of you starts singing about whiskers on kittens someone's going to lose a vital reproductive organ):

  • I can almost never go there without ordering the slow smoked spicy pork sandwich. This is just all kinds of good. The roll is good, the pork is good, it's all good. It's spicy and smoky just like a good pork sammich should be. I luuuurve it. The pork is smoked for a loooong time in their outdoor smoker. I totally dig it, and when I get a jones for it (like now), there's almost nothing that can cure it until I get that sammich in my belly. The juices dribble on down and you don't even care because it's so good. And before long I'm lickin' my fingers and moaning with pleasure while the waiter quietly asks me to get a room. Jon loves the cole slaw that comes with it (I don't, but I don't like slaw anyway), because he says it reminds him of "Good east coast slaw." Whatever you say honey. The chipotle chips that come with it are great, but I usually sub in fries instead because I'm a slut for fries.
  • The "Brutus" salad. A Caesar with chile flakes -- you can see why I love it.
  • Thin and crispy and piled high. These are the onion equivalent to Zuni's shoestring potatoes. Just shove 'em in by the fistful. You can use the fork as a weapon to fend off the other folks at the table as they try to grab some.
  • Madras curried mussels. This was the dish that brings Jon back again and again. For once, an innovative mussel preparation. The mussels are typically very good quality, and the grilled garlic bread that comes with is a good tool for cleaning out the bowl.
  • S'mores pie. Must I remind you of how I loves the s'mores? What's that you say? I'm nothin' but a two bit white trash ho for diggin' the s'mo love? Why, thank you. Buckeye's pie is a graham cracker crust with chocolate puddin' and some meringue style marshmallows. Shit yeah.
  • The drinks and wine list ain't half bad neither, although the vino selections are heavy on California wines, which are hardly ever my boozing preference.
Those are by far my faves, and I pretty much stick to them. But the thing that brings my pops-in-law back and jonesin' for more are their ribs. You can get yourself a good rib or forty there at the roadhouse. I like 'em, too, but if it's all the same to you, I'll stick with my sammich.

Service is very good but not super memorable on any particular visit. Friendly, but not like I-want-to-be-your-best-friend-forever kind of friendly. They're nice enough, though.

There is lots of other stuff that looks good, sounds good, tastes good, but I just really like my staples. And not everything actually IS good. Most of it is, but I really think anything from the smoker is where your buck should stop.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a date with a pork sandwich.


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