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

Monday, October 30, 2006

Flower Power (L'Astrance -- Paris, France)

When Jon and I were trying to decide which restaurant would be our big ticket meal in Paris, we asked everyone we knew where to go. We got lots of suggestions, but the one place that kept coming up again and again was L'Astrance. We can take a hint.

L'Astrance is the brainchild of Pascal Barbot, who despite being barely out of diapers is making some of the most interesting food I've wrapped my lips around. Homeboy's got it goin' on. L'Astrance is also the name of a flower, in case you needed to know that for the SAT's or something.

I'm not sure what we were expecting when we arrived at this little gem with two Michelin stars (and they get it right in Paris, so why are they so fucktarded when it comes to SF, huh?), but we weren't expect the Lilliputian dining room that is home to Barbot's glorious presentations. The restaurant is tiny, seating a total of 23 people the night we were there. We were at one of two tables on an upper level, reached by a spiral staircase, that overlooked the main room. The whole space had a more casual and modern feel than I expected -- more say, Myth than French Laundry.

The service was impeccable. The staff had excellent English, although most of our conversations ended up being held in the oh-so-elegant language of Franglais. And while all the service was excellent, the sommelier stole our hearts with the sheer enthusiasm he had for each wine he presented us. I would also like to take this moment to say that NEVER EVER EVER have I had a wine pairing as perfect as the one we had at L'Astrance. Everything just made perfect sense. I believe I even said "Oh. Wow. Now I understand the point of the whole wine pairing thing."

Now, our night was an interesting one, and I'll get to that, but it meant that a) I forgot to ask for a menu on our way out, and b) my memory is now a little foggy about some of our dishes. This was also the night that Jon chose not to bring his camera, which is as sucktacular as it gets since I often rely on his photos to remind me of what we ate. I'll do the best I can...

We started the meal with an amuse bouche of toasted brioche with parmesan and lobster cream. If you had put a trough of them in front of me, I would not have complained. This was followed by a corn veloute that yeilded a surprise of yogurt at the bottom and came crowned with a light orange foam. This creamy liquid love lingered in my mouth before I acquiesced to letting it slide down my throat. I had to contain myself as climaxing this early in the meal would not have been prudent.

Barbot is incredibly unique in that his food draws from cuisine all over the world. You cannot nail this guy down. I loved it. Basically, the dude travels, picks out what he likes best, then translates for his clientele. This meant we received what was my favorite dish of the night: perfectly cooked prawns in a consomme of Thai flavors with kaffir lime leaves, pomelo segments and the exact right balance of chilies. Flawless.

We moved onto poached salmon that I remember was cooked perfectly. What I do not remember is what it came with. To make up for it, I will embarrass my husband. Jon was not feeling so hot that night. Copious sightseeing combined with overzealous intake of unpasteurized cheese was not doing any favors for his digestive system. Mid-way through the salmon, he looked a bit off and excused himself from the table. He descended two narrow spiral staircases to the tiniest bathroom on earth (composed of two stalls), evacuated the contents of his digestive track (I'll let you guess how, although any guess would not be wrong if you follow...), and returned to the table. And finished his salmon. I shit you not. It was that good.

Now, I get a bit rusty in places so I'll just jettison all that rust now and let you know what else I don't remember so well: Our other fish. White, light, bass, I think. Cooked with Chinese five spice powder (Brilliant!). Best part? We got a RED wine with this dish (a nice Burgandy), which was so outside the box and so exactly RIGHT.

I also don't remember our duck, except that it was juicy and I was really full when we got it. I'm not a duck lover in general (like it, don't love it), so it's not surprising that I'm flaking on this one.

Before the duck, we got chorizo and beans. Yeppers. Big, fat cannelini beans with a red pepper/chorizo sauce that just barely covered each bean. The whole shebang was topped with a coin of red pepper that looked like chorizo. Bonus points all around. Besides, it was fucking delicious.

Our cheese course was the best cheese course on the planet. When we were presented with it, the server got a gleeful look and said "now for the surprise -- it is your turn to guess." A bowl of soft white something. With a cold something in the center. OK...fromage blanc -- check. Vanilla ice cream -- check. What is the mystery ingredient? Wait for it....MASHED POTATOES. Yep. Mashed fucking potatoes. Sounds so repulsive, right? It's not. It's bitchin'.

Despite being full, the dessert "course" made me so happy. Why? Because all of a sudden, your table is filled with treats. A sorbet (lemongrass and pepper) and an ile flotante (rhubarb if you must know) among them. And once you scarf those down? You get a big ass plate of fruit and nuts and madeleines.

At this point, Jon paid his second visit to the restroom (as did the woman at the table next to us -- as there are only two tiny stalls, she got a very colorful play by play of my husband's gastrointestinal mayhem, which I imagine was unpleasant for her and I know was mortifying for him). Upon his return, we paid our check and got the hell out of there so he wouldn't have to be in close proximity to our table neighbor for another minute.

Verdict? Loved it. Loved every little morsel. Interesting, delicious and masterful, Barbot's cuisine demands nothing but adoration. I had to blow my fine dining wad somewhere in Paris, and I was not disappointed by my choice (nor was Jon, even in his less than perfect state). I can't wait to go back.


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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Friends Are Cooler Than Your Friends

I know I said I was going to write a big ticket post but then I got sick. I even took the day off today (which, if you know me, you know I NEVER do). I did, however, find something else for you bitches to read while you wait.

My bestest friend in the whole entire world is my friend, David, who is a playwright/writer/all around rocktastic guy. We met and became friends in college, and the beginning of our friendship was marked with me carding him. True story. I didn't believe him when he told me his birthday, because, well, it was my birthday. If I had known then what I know now, I would have realized that there was no possible way his birthday could have been any other day. When I like to flatter myself, I say that he is the male version of me. Bitch lives in New York now, and it's probably a good thing for both our fair cities that we are not wreaking havoc in the same place.

David is fucking funny as hell. He just started writing some snarky pop culture commentary that you should read when you get tired reading about food.

And when you are done reading it, think about the poor roommate that had to live in the same house as the two of us during our senior year in college.


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

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What I Do When I'm Not Eating

So for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, I'm an actor.

Yes, I like attention that much.

My lack of blogging, and come to think of it, eating in restaurants, has been due to fact that I have been working really fucking hard on a new show. A good one. And you should come see it. You can figure out how by clicking on the link I just provided you, or by phoning 415.861.8972 and telling them you want tickets for "Convenience." If you want to see a preview (a performance for you but still kind of a rehearsal for us if that makes sense) you can get 2-for-1 tickets by mentioning my name (which you can also find out by visiting that link). Previews are 11/3-11/10, Shows start on 11/11.

It's a musical, but a serious one, so you get singing and swearing, two of my favorite things -- how lucky is that?

Plus, you can go to Zuni after the show because it's close to the theater and open late. How much more persuasion do you need?


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

P.S. I ate at Poleng Lounge, like, four weeks ago and it sure is tasty. I'm guessing I won't ever write about it, though, because it's already been a freakin' month and I have no intention of going back as the service sucked some serious ass.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Restaurant Whore Orgy, or The Best Night Off Ever

These days I get one night off a week. Last week it was Friday, and we spent it at our most favorite of favorites. This week, it was last night, and since my homeboy, Scott, had returned from Mexico, we decided to pay him a visit at Coco500.

We could not have picked a better night.


Because this was the night that Mario Fucking Batali was also dining at Coco500. You may remember how much I adore Mr. Batali.

It gets better.

Traci Des Jardins was there, too. And Elizabeth Falkner. And Frank Langello, the executive chef at Babbo.

And yet, there's more.

Here I was peeing my pants with star-struckness, when Scott points to the end of the bar and says "You have a fan down there." Apparently, she had asked him if it was Elizabeth Falkner next to us, and he replied by telling her "Yes, and that's the Restaurant Whore." Then she began peeing her pants. I'm not sure I've ever felt like more of a rockstar.

On our way out, I told Traci that she should be eligible for sainthood because of her fucking awesome food and her even more awesome commitment to social responsibility. This woman is, without a doubt, a true hero.

Then Loretta (Coco's chef for those of you in the remedial class) was gracious enough to introduce us to Mario and Frank, who could not have been nicer (even going so far as to give us a secret way to secure a Babbo reservation).

I'm not quite sure a high like that can be attained without some hardcore drugs. It was that euphoric an experience.

There could not have been a better way to spend my night off. Then, again, my bastard husband (love you, honey!) got to spend the afternoon strolling around his work campus with Harold McGee so I guess his day trumps mine. Still, I'll take what I can get.

Life is good.


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

P.S. I forgot to mention that prior to the meal, I had coffee (well, iced chai and hot chocolate if we are arguing semantics) at Ritual with the fabulous Kristen. I thought we might spontaneously combust as the probability of there being two actor/acting teacher/food bloggers in the bay area is about 1 in a gazillion. By the way, she fucking rocks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Perfect Paris (L'Entredgeu -- Paris, France)

While I know you are all waiting for El Bulli and L'Astrance, the 4.2 seconds of free time that I have right now do not allow posts of that magnitude. I have a few nights off next week, though, and I give you permission to personally flog me should I not post about one of the two prior to next Thursday, K?

In the meantime, lemme tell you about a little sexy bitch called L'Entredgeu. When Pim told me that this was the bistro in Paris that I *must* visit, I made sure I was listening. So, once we arrived in Paris after our flight had been delayed for THREE FUCKING HOURS (Thanks, for that, Easyjet), we sidled up to the concierge desk at our hotel and asked them to call for a reservation. The advantage of taking out a second mortgage to stay at a nice hotel in Paris? The concierge can get you in anywhere you like on very short notice. Additionally, he was nothing short of impressed that we knew about L'Entredgeu to begin with.

After strolling through the dog shit ridden streets of Paris, we found our spot. L'Entredgeu is tiny. Like if-I-was-any-closer-to-the-table-next-to-me-I-might-catch-an-STD tiny. No matter. This actually enabled us to become buddies with our table neighbors, an American ex-pat living in Paris and a Belgian who owns a home in one of our most favorite spots on earth, Chiang Mai.

L'Entredgeu works like just about every other Paris bistro: first you have aperitifs, then you order your entree, plat and dessert and a bottle of wine all at once.

Let's all just get down on our hands and knees for a moment here and praise Mlle. Cole, my very first French teacher. Had I not been able to pull my once fluent, now proficient French out of my ass, we would have been completely lost at L'Entredgeu. All French, all the time. Jon just sat and looked cute and let me order for him.

I started with Champagne, Jon with Absinthe. We then moved onto a bottle of Syrah that came highly recommended by both the server and our table neighbors. A note about the service -- they could not have been friendlier. I felt this way the whole time I was in Paris. Maybe it was because I could speak French, maybe it was because we knew how to order or maybe it was just because when you don't act like a stupid fucking entitled American, you get treated with respect. In any case, everyone at L'Entredgeu, from the bartender to the owner, was positively charmant.

What's that you say? Get to the food already, bitch! OK, here goes...Jon started with a mackeral done in a ceviche style (not completely raw, but not cooked) with a sweet ass fennel salad on top. This was incredibly delicious and Jon still names it as his favorite dish of the night. Good thing, too, because it kept him out of my cream of lentil soup with lardons. This was my favorite. I could have eaten about 450 bowls of it (but then, of course, I would weigh 450 pounds and then wouldn't fit in their table configuration).

For our main dishes, Jon had a braised beef with an haute mac-n-cheese. The beef was perfectly tender and juicy and Jon was bouncing in his seat over the mac and cheese. Me? I had the tuna with ratatouille style veggies (as did both people at the table next to ours). The tuna was cooked impeccably and the veggies provided a nice complement to the dish.

When we got to dessert, we were full. Too bad, so sad, because we had already ordered dessert and it was coming whether we liked it or not. Might I take this moment to mention that we were still recovering from the previous evening's meal at El Bulli?

Jon had a creme brulee, because if anyone was going to make a good one, it was going to be here. I had a bavaraise of chocolate mousse and coconut pudding. Both were divine, but the real standout were the warm madeleines that Jon got with his choice. I could only finish about half of my dessert and was poked and prodded by the servers who were wondering what was wrong. I honestly have no idea how the Europeans eat so much and stay so thin. Bastards.

And you know what? The whole meal, with wine was under 100 Euro. Without wine, we would have been at around 60 Euro. How fucking rad is that?

The whole meal was beyond exceptional, and I would return in a heartbeat (or a whorebeat, whichever you prefer). In fact, the only meals we ate in all of Europe that topped it were El Bulli and L'Astrance (and perhaps De Kas in Amsterdam). L'Entredgeu, in short, kicked a lot of ass.

Plus, it's given me a great reason not to turn into a total lard ass -- I need to be able to squeeze into those tiny tables. Time to hit the gym.


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

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Super Suppin'

I know, I know. I haven't written about Europe yet and you've all got your panties in a bunch about it. And I have to make you wait just a bit longer, because I *really* have had zero time to see my husband, see my lover, eat at a restaurant (the shock! the horror!) or do anything even resembling a social activity. In fact, due to my schedule, I am even missing the launch party this evening (side note: I recently wrote an article for them, so all you haters that bash me by saying I don't know how to write, all my writhing around nekkid with the check they write me will be just for you).

Since I have not yet posted about the fun house that is El Bulli, or the revelation that is L'Astrance (or the incredible value and deliciousness of L'Entredgeu), I want to tell you about the coolest event the bay area has. That, my friends, would be CUESA's Sunday Supper.

First of all, Jon and I believe strongly in sustainable agriculture. I actually cannot pick up a non-organic item in a grocery store without feeling fire and brimstone nipping at my heels (especially if I'm resorting to a grocery store rather than the farmer's market -- which you should support because the farmers are losing money since the majority of the people at the market are tourists). We also try to support restaurants that feel the same way. So imagine how thrilled we were when we discovered that they, along with Jon's workplace, would be donating their talents to put on this yummerific event. On top of that, one of my favorite people would be lending some pastry magic to the event. There was no way were were going to miss this.

I dragged my ass home from rehearsal, swiped on some deoderant, changed my clothes and headed right back out for some CUESA lovin'.

And it was beautiful. Amazing appetizers and copius wine got us started off in the Ferry Building's main hall. This, in my opinion, was worth the price of the ticket alone -- I mean, it doesn't get any better than Fra'Mani, right? Somehow, in a move that would surely score a 10.0 in any Olympic event, they got everyone upstairs and seated without anyone feeling like cattle.

Each table has a different team of chefs. We weren't thrilled with our first table, but fortunately for us, the people next to us had friends at another table that wanted to trade. Serendipitously, we ended up at the table where Shuna was the dessert chef. I cried tears of joy.

We sat with some dope people, were served by the most bad ass catering company around (you should hire them if you need caterers because those bitches are on point) and treated to a breathtaking atmosphere on the second floor of the Ferry Building.

Our appetizer of breasola was prepared by ACME Chophouse (I got a beet, jicama and goat cheese substitution, which was ultra nice of them), our perfectly seared halibut was prepared for us by Market Bar and, of course, our Anson Mills buckwheat French butter cake was Shuna's delight. It goes without saying that Shuna's dish was my favorite thing of the night. Lighter than it looked, as salty as my tongue (which is how I like it) and not at all cloying, this was the big hit at our table.

Jon traded his dishes with colleagues seated at another table so we got a little more of the tasties.

We had purchased raffle tickets and watched in horror as someone ELSE at our table (how dare they?) won the year of free dinners with gift certificates to, among others, Zuni, Delfina, Manresa and A16. I have never been so close to shanking someone in my life.

Our night ended with hugs, kisses and much praise for our beloved chefs, and we returned home with full hearts, full bellies and a promise to return next year. You better fucking go next year, too (we needed a fuck in here somewhere, right?).


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

Friday, October 06, 2006

2091 (and then some) Meals Later...

I am so fucking lame. I missed my own friggin' birthday. OK, not *my* birthday, but this blog's birthday. Let me explain. On September 27th I arrived home from Europe after 24 hours of traveling (10 of which were spent next to the craziest bitch you ever did meet. Besides me, I mean). I went straight to bed, and got up and went to work on Thursday and Friday. Saturday I started rehearsal for my new show. It was Wednesday before I had a second to realized that Tuesday was my blog anniversary, and it was only today (my day off from rehearsal, but not from teaching) that I found a moment to actually write about it. How sucktacular is that?

In any case, I thought in honor of the (belated) blog birthday, I'd post the same round-up that I did last year, with some new answers. Here goes:

Highest Number of Visitors in a Single Day: 631

Highest Number of Visitors in a Month: 11,681

Number of Visitors All Year: As of this moment, 113,090ish

Total Number of Posts: 218, including this one (115 this year)

Total Number of Mesh Articles: 5 or 6 or something

Most Disturbing Search Term: "treat me like a whore" (I also get a lot of traffic for "bangkok whores" and I recently got some for "coco the french slut).

Most Unexpected and Welcome Bonus: Same as last year: my dear, dear friends, who keep me smiling and who showed their mettle at the most crucial times.

Biggest "You've Got to be Kidding Me" Bonus: asking me to write for them.

Most Unlikely Reader Demographic:
People who are easily offended. Seriously, assholes, find something else to read if you don't like it -- otherwise, you can bite me.

Best Meal(s):
French Laundry (3rd visit), Alinea (1st visit), El Bulli (1st visit), L'Astrance (1st visit), Delfina (every visit).

Best Food I Ate Outside of the County this Year:
L'Astrance in Paris. Worst food definitely was the ball sucking food of French Polynesia.

Pieces of Hate Mail for the Michael Mina Post:
5 (we're going down from last year)

Pieces of Fan Mail for the Michael Mina Post:
11 (THAT'S what I'm talking about!)

Number of Chefs/Restaurant Owners Who Have Posted On the Blog/E-mailed Me:
12 (5 from other countries)

Number of Oysters Eaten: Not so many as last year:
about 84, I think.

Number of Burritos Eaten:

Number of Times My Grandma Has Asked Why I Have to Swear So Much In the Blog:
4 (she's giving up on me, it seems)

Thing That Makes Me Happiest:
Same as last year, plus, always having someone to go eat with.

Thing I'm Most Proud Of:
Again, same as last year, so I'll say it again -- Staying true to myself and not compromising my style or ethics to please anyone else. I still don't write anything down, I still make friends with my servers, bussers, chefs and bartenders and I still own my opinions, popular or not. Fuck, yeah!

And, finally, my blog birthday wish for this year: To get commissioned to write "The Restaurant Whore's Guide to Paris" so I can go back there on someone else's dime. Hey -- my wish from last year came true so I figured I'd aim high this time...

Thanks for putting up with me, even when I don't put out like I should. I fucking love you guys.


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

P.S. After two years, I *finally* just added the word "fucking" to my blogger spellchecker. What a lazy twat I am.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oy Vey, Michelin!

The title of this post is brought to you courtesy of Yom Kippur.

So I just got the list of which restaurants received Michelin stars here in the bay area.

All I can say is: What the fuck?

I have been waiting for this announcement with the anticipation of a virgin on prom night. Sadly, like the aforementioned, I have ended up with nothing but the disappointing knowledge that the real thing can never live up to the fantasy.

Range, an excellent restaurant, is totally worthy of it's one star, but why then why no Delfina? Why no Zuni? And how do you put Range and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in the same category? The Ritz should have two at least, in my opinion. They are making some bad ass yums over there. And Bushi-tei? Really? Because I just don't see it, folks.

Don't even get me started on Michael Mina's two stars. I just about puked on my keyboard reading that shit.

Cyrus, Manresa, French Laundry -- nailed it (although the first two could have three stars if you ask me). Otherwise, I'm scratching my head.

Of the starred restaurants, there are 5 I have not been to, so I can't vouch for their worthiness. Still, I can't help but feel like Michelin really screwed the pooch here.

Here's the list:





Fleur de Lys

San Francisco


San Francisco


San Francisco


San Francisco


San Francisco


San Francisco

La Folie

San Francisco


San Francisco

Ritz-Carlton Dining Room

San Francisco

Gary Danko

San Francisco


San Francisco

Fifth Floor

San Francisco

Chez Panisse




Chez TJ

Mountain View

Auberge du Soleil


Bistro Jeanty




La Toque



St. Helena

Dry Creek Kitchen


Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant


K & L Bistro






San Francisco

Michael Mina

San Francisco


Los Gatos






The French Laundry


What do YOU think?


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