Without Reservations

Fish in the balance

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paulr@sfbg.com
When I write about seafood these days, I cringe a little, wondering whether, by describing the eating of fish, I am in effect abetting the collapse of the world's maritime ecosystem. That I would be doing so in a rather tiny way makes no moral difference; nor does the fact that I personally will not buy or eat any seafood other than what I know to have been taken from sustainably managed (and usually local) populations — and this is a very brief list.
Historians of the future may well regard the 21st century as the interval in which the fate of this planet was decided. Read more »

Don't block the box

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paulr@sfbg.com
In the Thousand Years' War between beer and wine, beer has long enjoyed an advantage on the party battlefield, mostly because of the keg, the bunker buster of party drink delivery. Oh yes, kegs do run dry, they must, but has anyone actually seen it happen?
Wine, on the other hand, comes in bottles, and while some of these bottles are, in theory, party sized — the jeroboams and nebuchadnezzars that hold massive amounts of champagne spring to mind — they are unwieldy, lacking the keg's convenient tap. Could wine's secret weapon in the struggle for party preeminence be the box? Read more »

Our town

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paulr@sfbg.com
A onetime San Franciscan now living in Manhattan recommended that we visit August, in the Village.
"It's our Delfina," he said. Delfina is of course a magic word, but the more interesting term in his little pronouncement was "our," which carried a faintly downcast sheen, the sense of a not-quite-comparable attempt. For he and I had long ago agreed that the food is better in San Francisco than in New York; the former is a food city, the latter a restaurant city, and the difference slight but meaningful.
August was quite nice, if more Mediterranean than Tuscan. Read more »

Daytripper, yeah

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paulr@sfbg.com
Among the many excellent reasons to do some daytripping in the Anderson Valley is to refresh one's sense of hope that the stranglehold of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon on California's oenophilic imagination isn't necessarily eternal. Read more »

The Michelin men

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paulr@sfbg.com
Although the Michelin guide is no worse an offender than Zagat as a distant judge of our restaurants — its offices are farther away, but only because the guide is French and cannot be blamed for the relative remoteness of France — there is nonetheless something galling about the colonialism of outsiders' kiting in to assess us, then trumpeting their findings to the rest of the country and world as authority.
Zagat relies on a vox populi method, actually: its surveys reflect the views of hundreds of locals. Read more »

Small change

Bruised, pitted, and withered leaves
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paulr@sfbg.com
Recently a colleague reminded me — in the course of a brief correspondence heavy on mutual commiseration (for what are writers if not commiserators?) — that while change is often deplorable, it also must be accepted. "Hate change, embrace change" was her pithy, I might even say her writerly, formulation. Read more »

Without Reservations

Earth in the goblet
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paulr@sfbg.com
Many of us have now accepted that the real benefit of sustainable agriculture — whether organic or biodynamic — is, er, sustainability. A globe less beleaguered by pesticides, run-off, and soil exhausted by monoculture is a globe more likely to support life in the future. Read more »

Without Reservations

Backstreet girl
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paulr@sfbg.com
Like all books, cookbooks must pull their weight. This means, for me, offering at least two and possibly three — or more — recipes I can work into my rotating repertoire. Pretty photographs are nice, as is exoticism or a local angle, but it is one of life's eternal verities that shelf space is limited, and a cookbook that hopes to find a home in the puritan kitchen must be useful. (I have noticed over the years, in my reconnoiterings and snoopings in other kitchens, that spattering tells the tale. Read more »

Melons and melancholia

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paulr@sfbg.com
There are those who spend the year passionately awaiting Christmas, and then there are those who spend the year passionately awaiting the arrival of charentais melons.
Although I like Christmas, I belong, in my heart, to the latter group, and I must recuse myself on the question of which is the more bathetic passion. Read more »

The viognier quandary

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paulr@sfbg.com
The evening's menu was to include shrimp, marinated in paprika and lemon and grilled on skewers, and the issue was wine, as in: which one?
"I will bring a viognier," said the imminent guest decisively, as if settling on the prescription to be given for some mysterious ailment.
"Great," I said, "that should be fine." Viognier! It would have my vote as the world's most disappointing white varietal. Read more »