Friday, September 30, 2005
We also had a fantastic lunch cooked by Rachael Levine, chef at R.H. Phillips Winery. It's worth a trek out to the Dunnigan Hills just to try her wine pairing dinners.
We're off to Point Reyes this weekend to celebrate our first anniversary. I'm so excited that I'll start gushing, so I'll just stop here.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
Furthermore, I'm under the impression that, with the exception of Manresa in Los Gatos, the Peninsula isn't really a restaurant Mecca. There are some very good places, like Jessie Cool's restaurants, Flea Street Café and jZcool Eats in Menlo. But with most of the others, you're grading on a curve.
Then we went to Tamarine in Palo Alto. Now here's a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant that gives The Slanted Door a run for its money. Executive chef Tammy Huynh has a serious talent for mixing big flavors that run the entire spectrum of sweet, salty, aromatic, bitter, and sour. Like a finely tuned stereo equalizer, she can turn up the volume without losing the balance.
Menu highlights: Papaya salad with dried sesame beef and basil; hoi an beef (lemongrass beef, mint, cilantro, and lettuce stuffed into a rice noodle roll); Tamarine prawns; and, to complete the beef troika, a perfect shaking beef that even surpasses the version served up at Slanted Door.
Tamarine falls short on service, and its sleek, pleasant dining room can't compete with the Door's dramatic bayside space. But it's also a lot easier to get a reservation.
Monday, September 19, 2005
San Francisco is resting on its laurels.
Now, a little history lesson is fine. And everything they say about the food out here is true. It's better--or, at least, the raw ingredients are better--than just about anywhere else in the country. As I said before, San Franciscans are blessed with the expectation that they shouldn't have to settle for anything less than fresh, ripe, healthy, delicious food. It'll take me years to hit all the fantastic restaurants I hope to visit here. And I'm finally feeling like I have a big old crush on this city.
But I don't feel the raw energy that you find in other American towns. In Denver and Boston and Minneapolis they're redefining the regional cuisine and discovering all their local treasures. Even Portland, Maine feels more ambitious right now.
But how could it be otherwise? Much of the work has already been done here. It started here. So San Francsico's restaurants have been trumpeting "fresh, local, seasonal (and organic whenever possible)" for a couple of decades. And what's next? And does there need to be a "next"? Perhaps we have reached a glorious plateau.
Or, maybe the next step is to make this food available to people who can't afford Chez Panisse and the Ferry Building Marketplace. Maybe the next generation of innovators will work in restaurants that charge $10 or less. Maybe one day you won't have to be rich to eat well.
And if we can't have that anytime soon, then I'll look to the next wave of fusion cuisine. Tallula in the Castro marries Indian flavors and French technique. You can buy Indian ice cream at the Bombay Ice Creamery, and Indian pizza at Zante and Pauline's. Vancouver, B.C. seems to be bubbling over with Asian-Latin-European hybrids. So perhaps the next step is to shed our French-dominated food heirarchies, finally ban the term "ethnic food," and embrace a new vision of a global food culture.
For now, I'd just like to see the conversation take a less self-satisfied turn.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The full set of recipes is here, but you may need a password to get in. Just in case, here's the chicken recipe for your enjoyment:
Spice-Rubbed Smoke-Roasted Chicken
1 cup (about 3 oz.) hickory, mesquite, or applewood chips (optional)
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh-ground pepper
1 chicken (4 to 5 lb.)
1. In a medium bowl, cover wood chips (if using) in water. Let soak at least 30 minutes; drain just before using.
2. In a food processor, combine garlic, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until mixture forms a paste.
3. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Press down on the breastbone of the chicken to flatten the bird slightly; rub the paste evenly over all the skin.
4. Prepare your grill for indirect heat. The temperature inside your grill should be between 350° and 400° (insert a long-stemmed thermometer through lid vent to measure temperature). If using a gas grill, place all the chips in the metal smoking box or in a foil pan directly on the heat in a corner. If using a charcoal grill, scatter half of the wood chips over the coals.
5. Place the chicken over the drip pan, breast side down. Cover barbecue with lid. If using a charcoal grill, adjust vents so that they're open halfway. Cook 40 minutes, then turn the chicken over (if using charcoal, scatter another 20 briquets over coals, along with the remaining wood chips). Cover barbecue again.
6. Continue cooking chicken until a thermometer inserted through the thickest part of breast to bone reaches 170°, about 40 minutes longer. Transfer to a board or platter and let rest 10 minutes under a tent of foil. Carve to serve.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Well, for a food writer.
This morning, at the Association of Food Journalists conference in San Francisco, I sampled a cheese that hasn't yet hit the market. And it's made by Cowgirl Creamery. And it's really, really good. In Northern California, that qualifies as news, man.
It's called Farallon (after the Farallon Islands), and it's a very soft, bloomy-rind cheese. Starting with fromage blanc, they stir in some crème fraîche, form it into little patty cakes, and then innoculate the cakes with candida and some other flora I didn't manage to transcribe. They bloom and ripen for about a week and Voilà! A delicate, fresh, creamy, perfect little button. With some fresh berries, or honey and figs, this would be your new favorite cheese. Look for it in stores by the end of the month.
You heard it here first, folks.
Speaking of cheese, I also got to meet Laura Chenel today. My new hero.