Food and Drink

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein paste -- now with more salmonella!

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By Robyn Johnson

If you love hydrolyzed vegetable protein paste and/ or powder -- you know, that savory flavoring that is nearly ubiquitous in processed foods -- then you might want to check out this list just put out by the FDA. It's a growing product recall for possible salmonella contamination. 

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Appetite: Fill your Irish self to the gills at the Liberties

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St. Patty's Day draws near -- for more wild Irish events, check out our rundown in the current Guardian.

The Liberties Bar & Restaurant has always been a welcome respite from some Irish bars: a place where you can kick it up with friends but not so rowdy that you can't have conversation or a reflective pint. (I particularly like the room tucked to the side with quotes painted on the walls.) It celebrates St. Patty's all week long with a special Irish menu and long pours of Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwick's and Harp. Oh, there's also plenty of Irish whiskey, like Midleton Rare 21 year, Red Breast 12 year and Black Bush. Irish brunch, beer and whiskey flights round out the week, along with live music on St. Patrick's Day.

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Appetite: Taking vodka to the next level

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On February 22, 42 Below Cocktail Competition at the Regency Center was nicely spread out in two large rooms, plenty of space to taste and view bartenders make New Zealand vodka creations. Some of our best local talent competed to go to nationals, which take place in NYC, then on to finals which happen in 42 Below's native land, New Zealand.

It takes skill to bring layers of flavor out of vodka and this group delivered. Certainly, there were other spirits mixed in and some real creativity set to a rowdy, live rockabilly/punk band. Congrats to the two winners: Michael Callahan of Gitane, created a fresh, aperitif-like concoction using, among other things, lemon and fennel root. Josh Harris, of 15 Romolo, once again pulled a win with his nuanced "Bridge to Terabithia" (loved that book as a kid), which contained everything from his own fennel syrup to 42 Below’s Kiwi Vodka, dusted with masala chai. Read more »

Elmwood emerges

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By Robyn Johnson

After months of restoration, the corner space that used to be Ozzie’s Soda Fountain has finally opened this week to reveal an upscale French-style cafe. While many may lament the closure of Berkeley’s last soda shop in favor of a yet-another coffee joint, Elmwood Cafe does offer something quite unique. According to the little paper pamphlets available on the counter, the shop will donate half of its profits to charities. I’m really excited (and curious) how this business model will work out in the long run.

I was also charmed by the bright, cheery interior—the owner decided to keep as much of the original 1920s architectural details as possible, right down to the red stools that line the counter—and, of course, the food. With quite a few Cafe Fanny veterans at the helm, the conscientious menu reflects that establishment’s renown for the healthful, hearty, and organic. So be prepared for dishes like porridge, paninis, soups, salads, and stews. Read more »

Uproot: Little City Gardens gots to get paid

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By Robyn Johnson

In a manifesto of sorts released by Civil Eats, Brooke Budner of Little City Gardens, co-owned by Caitlyn Galloway, lays out the farm’s intention to create San Francisco’s first for-profit urban micro-farm in that generates a viable income for farmers, thus paving the way for more potential urban farmers follow suit:
       
"Our approach to growing the urban agriculture movement is based upon the premise that urban food production will not reach its full potential unless there are avenues in the local market economy for growers to make a living through the sales of their produce. Currently, San Francisco’s urban agriculture is largely anchored in the realms of education and non-profit work. While a substantial amount of food can be grown […] the quantity pales in comparison to what could be grown if farmers could earn a living wage through the cultivation and sales of food in the city." Read more »

Appetite: Hungry for Oscar coverage

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Food lovers can be film lovers, too. So in an unconventional "Appetite" this week, we go to the Oscars. Despite unworthy nominees and a slew of lackluster films, as a lifelong film fanatic, I still relish the event every year. There's fun in joining with like-minded film buffs and fashion hounds to rave and rant about all the missteps or underdogs who should have won. And I'll take any excuse to dress up.

This year I'm hoping the dynamic duo hosting team of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will add some spark to the hours' long telecast. I'm more skeptical about the first go-round of 10 Best Picture nominees, however. We may not be Hollywood, but SF still gets into the act with events to suit everyone: those who want to enjoy the Oscars in style and those who want to bash the hell out of them. Read more »

Appetite: Hungry for Oscar coverage

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Food lovers can be film lovers, too. So in an unconventional "Appetite" this week, we go to the Oscars. Despite unworthy nominees and a slew of lackluster films, as a lifelong film fanatic, I still relish the event every year. There's fun in joining with like-minded film buffs and fashion hounds to rave and rant about all the missteps or underdogs who should have won. And I'll take any excuse to dress up.

This year I'm hoping the dynamic duo hosting team of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will add some spark to the hours' long telecast. I'm more skeptical about the first go-round of 10 Best Picture nominees, however. We may not be Hollywood, but SF still gets into the act with events to suit everyone: those who want to enjoy the Oscars in style and those who want to bash the hell out of them. Read more »

Fatty Starbucks: Yet another reason to drink indie roasts

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By Robyn Johnson

Last week, Call Me Thirsty, a drink enthusiast blog, released a nutritional chart of the 10 fattiest Starbucks drinks. For those who have plugged their fingers into their ears in response to the consistent media coverage over the years about the caloric excessiveness of the Starbucks menu, the numbers can be quite eye-popping. Read more »

Foam, creams, Commis, and me

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Oh, Commis, why couldn’t you have been holding down your current patch of Piedmont Avenue when I was spending much of my time in a teensy one-bedroom nearby? Then I could have swung by and experienced your wonderful food on a regular basis, that much sooner.

Here in this spare, elegant, moderne space, you get a three-course prix fixe, period -- but what an often fabulous fix to be in. On a recent evening, I got to sample the dishes that earned Oakland native chef James Syhabout -- a veteran of renowned molecular gastro epicenters El Bulli, the Fat Duck, and Mugaritz, as well as Coi and Manresa -- a Michelin star. It’s the only one in the East Bay apart from Chez Panisse’s -- and you can see, and taste, why the inspector was seduced. Read more »

Going Rogue

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By Robyn Johnson

The second decade of the millennium has ushered in some upheavals, and whether they’re for the better or worse it’s hard to say. Tea Partiers are the new Republicans. Doughnuts are the new cupcakes. And now, beer is the new wine.

I recently attended the increasingly popular SF Beer Week, specifically the “A Taste of the Rogue Nation” event at the Rogue Ale Pub House, featuring a delightful cornucopia of their popular brews. Beer sommelier Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection elevated the status of the tasting from a mere beer bust to a frou-frou gourmet gathering with her artfully chosen pairings of artisan cheeses and chocolates. Although a little under a dozen samples were served, the following are the highlights -- and what I could mostly remember to take notes on after several drinks. (Like true beer badasses, we did not expectorate.) Read more »