As the recycling truck hauls away the last of the year's emptied wine bottles, we pause briefly to reflect. Winter is supposed to be the season of red wine, and this year's red wines were good from a fine St. Emilion with the New Year's Eve rack of lamb to an excellent Groth cabernet with the New Year's night cassoulet but the whites, I thought, were at least as distinguished. A Hafner Reserve chardonnay held up to the cassoulet as well as the cab did and maybe, with its clarifying acid, was even a little better as a strong but cooperative accompanist. Read more »
Although the holiday orgy of gift giving includes the giving of many pointless gifts, I was pleased to score yet more coffee-brewing equipment: a matched set of implements from Vietnam, like little tin cups with filter bottoms. Read more »
New years, like wars, tend to begin with high hopes and well-laid plans. We vow to lose weight, drink less, stop smoking, and secure Baghdad. Then the starting flag drops, the leftover cheesecake has to be eaten for breakfast, you develop an aversion to your fancy new digital bathroom scale, it's raining, and you learn you have been impeached.
Breakfast cheesecake is probably not the utmost in depravity, since it does have the virtue of sticking with you. It also helps relieve holiday refrigerator clutter. Read more »
Although I would love to sit on Santa's lap a year hence and give assurances that I had spent the previous 12 months being good all right, being nice I am fundamentally a realist. This means, among other things, that I no longer believe in Santa, and so there will be no lap sittings and no wish lists and probably not much nice either. Still, there are a few things I wouldn't mind seeing in the new year.
How about more split or half-size main courses? Too many big-bruiser plates seem to be huge mainly to justify their prices or to look imposing. Read more »
The age of the independent grocer might be deep in its twilight season, but that doesn't mean a fresh gleam or two can't occasionally appear in the gathering Wal-Mart-Target-chain darkness. One such gleam is Falletti Foods, resurrected in a handsome new complex next to the DMV just east of Golden Gate Park's Panhandle. Falletti had operated for years in the old Petrini's space at Masonic and Fulton. But that building was demolished in 1999 to make way for housing. Well, I thought at the time, so much for Falletti, RIP. Read more »
These days it is hard to be sure if the American way is war or plastic. Probably both, and since plastic is a petroleum product, and petroleum is a perennial occasion for war, we are probably not talking about a meaningful difference. Kevin Phillips describes the United States as the petroleum hegemon in his recent book American Theocracy (Viking, 2006), and the proof that he's right is all around us. To the extent that we make anything at all anymore, we make it out of plastic: dashboards, lawn furniture, coffee mugs, picnic knives, even clothes. Read more »
While we wait to be instructed on the lessons of Iraq by James A. Baker III — the Bush family consigliere assigned the Mosaic task of leading us forth from the Mesopotamian desert — let us consider the lessons of the Thanksgiving meal just past.
The bane of all holiday cooking is starch, and the Thanksgiving meal is the apotheosis of holiday cooking. Therefore: Thanksgiving = starch. You have your mashed potatoes, your bread stuffing, your bread, your pie crusts. Read more »
Changing public consciousness is an inglorious task that seems to involve a great deal of repetition. There is an art to repetition, to saying the same thing over and over without boring or infuriating people or losing one's patience at their benightedness and resorting to jeremiads. Read more »
Doctrines of infallibility are for popes and neocons, and need I say more? The rest of us lowly humans must make do with the doctrine of fallibility, a splendid coat of many colors. If you screw up in the kitchen, you add some mustard or vinegar — pancake makeup for defaced or deformed dishes — and hope for the best. Or phone out for emergency pizza. If you screw up in print ... well, there it is, as the tin-eared Emperor Joseph was wont to say in Amadeus. Errata have a way of accumuutf8g, like spatters on a chef's apron, until finally a laundering is in order. Read more »