Without Reservations

The pleasure principle

Cruelty-free gourmet
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Gourmet is a word that almost visibly oozes pretentiousness, but if we are to believe the writer B.R. Myers, it also carries an implication of moral obtuseness. Myers is the contrarian whose 2001 Atlantic piece "A Reader's Manifesto" pointed out that many of our most lauded writers are in fact bad writers and frauds; he is, in other words, a bold debunker of received wisdom, and his current piece, "Hard to Swallow" (in the September 2007 Atlantic), takes a demolitionist's view of our epoch's uncritical celebration of gastronomy. Read more »

Cousin, cuisine

Eat This! 1001 Things to Eat before You Diet
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Given the state of English food, it should not surprise us that English food writers are either embittered and caustic or looking for a way out of their mildewed isles. In the latter group we find Ian Jackman, who hopped the pond hither 15 years ago and has now published a book, Eat This! 1001 Things to Eat before You Diet (Harper, $14.95 paper). Read more »

All the President's polyps

A bumper crop of precancerous growth
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Last week's joke was that while Dick Cheney was in the hospital, having the tires on his pacemaker rotated, he temporarily transferred the powers of the presidency to George W. Bush. This is clever, but Mr. Bigdee's imperial vice presidency is otherwise no laughing matter. Bush himself, meanwhile, having failed as a warlord, seems to be donning the mantle of laughingstock. Recently his intestinal polyps were much in the news. Read more »

Basil rides again

A particular leafy abundance
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Now is the season of our wondering what to do with all the basil. Basil has been particularly abundant this summer and of notably higher quality than the last few years, so we can't say the droughty winter was a complete bust. All the summertime crops, in fact — from stone fruit to melons to tomatoes and beyond — have seemed especially sweet and full lately.

If we are facing a surfeit of basil, this almost certainly means we are facing an associated surfeit of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and eggplant. Read more »

Are you game?

Learning to eat like aboriginals with Where People Feast: An Indigenous People's Cookbook
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› paulr@sfbg.com

Nutritional revelation reaches the public consciousness these days as a kind of fireworks, erratic alternations of bomb blasts and star bursts, terror and jubilation (eggs are bad; no, they're good!) — but amid the flash and smoke, an understanding does grow stronger. The understanding is that a healthy diet for our kind is some version of the hunter-gatherer diet, which we've evolved to thrive on. Read more »

The catch

If we're going to reap globalization's benefits, we also must pay its price
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› paulr@sfbg.com

How shocking, shocking to learn that frozen seafood being imported from China is so likely to be tainted — with pathogens, antibiotics, and even (according to the fastidious New York Times) "filth" — that our very own Food and Drug Administration felt obliged to issue an alert about it at the end of last month. Read more »

Porn in pairs

The best pairings are food, wine, and connections to other people
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paulr@sfbg.com

Although my subscription to Annals of Wine Pornography has lapsed, I still glean the occasional fetishistic detail from other press outlets — in particular, obsessive accounts of how this vintage of that winemaker's reserve pinot noir pairs brilliantly with a particular kind of sheep's milk cheese, left at room temperature for an hour, then smeared over some kind of heirloom fig that's been grilled, cut side up, over a medium applewood fire for six to eight minutes while the grill chef recites poetry.

This sort of elaborately specific pairing remind Read more »

Panisses, chez toi

How to serve SF "summer" stew
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› paulr@sfbg.com

Oh irony: summer — meaning August, fog, cold wind — has arrived weeks ahead of schedule, and the bluster has slammed shut the grilling window. We huddle around the stove instead, warming our hands over bubbling soups and stews. Additional irony: tomatoes are starting to turn up at the farmers market. Luckily, the Provençal seafood-stew recipe I've been using for years calls for tomatoes. Irony overload averted.

What to serve the stew with or over has long been an issue. Rice is an obvious choice, while mashed potatoes are nice and wintry. Read more »

The fix

Emily Luchetti's Classic Stars Desserts
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› paulr@sfbg.com

For a longtime pastry chef, Emily Luchetti holds notably clear-eyed views about dessert. The sweet course, she writes in the introduction to her new cookbook, Classic Stars Desserts (Chronicle, $29.95), "is important for our emotional well-being and tastes better when we don't feel guilty about eating it." To assuage this guilt, we must accept that "we cannot eat desserts all the time" (let alone start meals with them, and yes, you got the memo). Read more »

Why a cherry?

Which wine goes with chili?
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Chili, most of us would probably agree, is beer food rather than wine food — if we are to make such odious distinctions — and that would make a winery an unlikely setting for a chili cook-off. Still, wineries can have their chili-friendly atmospherics on early-summer afternoons; the air is warm and fresh but not hot, and small planes drift through it on their way to and from the Petaluma airport, just a few flat miles away, across the vineyards. Read more »