Without Reservations

The king of cheap

King Corn examines what health is worth
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>paulr@sfbg.com

While PBS-hallowed filmmaker Ken Burns ladles treacle over the American past like hot fudge on the world's biggest sundae, younger and less sepia-tinted filmmakers are beginning to take a more searching view of the national taste for sweet syrupiness. Read more »

The red and the white

These colors might run
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› paulr@sfbg.com

In the pot-hazed precincts of bohemia, anything seems possible — and is that furtive person in the corner actually pouring the remains of a bottle of red wine into a half-empty bottle of white? Could someone please phone the wine police? (Wine-1-1?)

Bohemian life has ebbed in this city, no question, but living splinters of it remain, mostly in rambling flats in the Mission. Read more »

Autumn's flowers

Roastables need not be meat
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Most people rate summer more highly than autumn, and the reason is simple: summer means no school, autumn means back to school, and most people don't like school. Therefore: summer over autumn. This straightforward syllogism manages to invert what is to me an elemental truth: that autumn is the most wonderful time of year, especially around here. Read more »

A pizza bust?

How bad could it be?
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If the NFL's powers that be conclude that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, recently busted for unauthorized reconnaissance of other teams' signals, needs a more stinging punishment than a large fine, might I respectfully suggest that he be sentenced to eat a pizza at Figs, the Todd English restaurant on Boston's posh Beacon Hill?

I mean no calumny against Boston, a jewel of urban sophistication and civility and a city full of all sorts of interesting restaurants and farmers markets, including a big one in the Back Bay's Copley Square. Read more »

Cecilia's story

Mandarin drama
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In an age of assembly-line careers and endless credentialing, it's good to be reminded that life itself is a credential. Cecilia Chiang didn't go to cooking school or restaurateur school; she didn't even reach these shores until she was 40 years old and didn't open her famous restaurant, The Mandarin, until she was 44, in 1964. These facts do not mean she was a slacker or late bloomer. Read more »

The long day closes

A carnivorous friend passes on
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While, over the years, I privately deplored the food-obsessive practice of giving dogs such names as Mocha, Latte, and Basil — even Matzoh — I was hardly in a position to deplore, for we had named one of our dogs after a pizzeria. The pizzeria, Due, was in Chicago, where we once lived, but the dog Due knew nothing of Chicago, having been born near Petaluma in the summer of 1991, nor of pizza, beyond enjoying leftover crust. She preferred the white corn kernels that sometimes fell to the floor when I cut them from cobs. Read more »

My kingdom for a legume!

The heartland doesn't know beans
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› paulr@sfbg.com

Today's homeland traveler must run a gauntlet of tribulation, beginning with the holy sacraments of shoe doffing and toothpaste Ziplocking and continuing to flight delays and $10 for an airborne box of chicken salad, but at the end of all the woe and insult is the comfort of knowing that there's more where that came from, generally in the form of superfluous starch.

I noticed, in the course of several days spent recently in the heart of the heart of the country, that a broad no-legume policy seemed to be both unstated and strictly observed. Read more »

Let bison be bison

The other beef
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Arguments for choosing bison over beef include the likelihood that bison is, on balance, better for you and is a meat from a once nearly extinct North American species whose prospects for survival are, perhaps ironically, enhanced by its homecoming as a food animal. Arguments against include cost (I paid about $29 per pound recently for some bison strip steaks) and, perhaps ironically, leanness, which complicates cooking. Read more »

The magic number

A better use for "43"
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The magic number

"Forty-three" — as in Bush 43, as distinguished from Bush 41, a.k.a. Poppy — is a number that will live in infamy, for reasons I need hardly mention. And 41, father of disastrous 43, isn't likely to do much better. On the other hand, 41 can't claim to be part of the name of a fabulous liqueur, while 43 can. Read more »

Heaven's kitchen

A Mendocino idyll --minus the scorpions
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As an unreconstructed autocrat of the kitchen, I was surprised to discover recently that two cooks working in the same space need not sting each other to death, like scorpions in a bottle — even if one of them is me. It helps, of course, if the space is adequate and the cooks have agreed beforehand as to who is making what. Read more »