Without Reservations

WITHOUT RESERVATIONS

Trust, but verify
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paulr@sfbg.com
We tend to trust what we see, and when what we see is a computer printout, specifying in meticulous detail what we just had for dinner, we tend to trust it all the more. How can such a miracle machine as the computer ever be wrong? Being wrong is a human thing; it is an errant scribble on one of those pale green tablets on which servers write down orders at less technologically advanced establishments (unless they are show-offs working from memory). Or it is bad arithmetic. Read more »

WITHOUT RESERVATIONS

Just desertion
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paulr@sfbg.com
Dear Las Vegas,
It's over. I'm sorry. Well, not sorry, actually — more like glad, ecstatic even: a shot of ecstasy with a chaser of relief, let's say. Not that it was much to begin with, just 48 infernal hours, like a dreadful bout of food poisoning, though your food is surprisingly not bad, considering that you're, well ... Read more »

The revolution will be drunk

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paulr@sfbg.com
We must now ask Rick Bayless, long the prince of high-end Mexican cooking in this country, to make some room at the pinnacle. Bayless is the chef and owner of a pair of Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, that were among the first to give a gloss of elegance to Mexican cuisine; he is also the author of a series of cookbooks that do much the same thing. Read more »

The halftrée

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paulr@sfbg.com
Somewhere in the enchanted realm of West Marin stands the Olema Inn, and in its rustic-chic dining room, at the end of a warm weekend afternoon, a few of us gathered recently for an early dinner. Under the aging sun, the garden glowed a brilliant green, and the dining room, with its many windows, fresh white walls, and wood-plank floors stained a rich coffee color, seemed invitingly cool and uncomplicated. Read more »

Pea play

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paulr@sfbg.com

Last week a friend presented me with a plastic bag full of English peas from her garden. A gift given from someone's garden is a profound gesture, and one should always be grateful; on the other hand, peas were a bugaboo of my childhood, apparently grown in the freezer and heated up from time to time for a mushy soupçon of dinnertime distress. Read more »

Taps for tap

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paulr@sfbg.com
The importance of water can't really be overstated, despite its low sexiness quotient. While we can get by without such voluptuous libations as beer, wine, soda, and single-malt whiskey — however miserably — we can't survive for long without boring old water. But... lucky us, water literally flows from our taps, so we need not worry. Not, at least, if we are named Pollyanna. Read more »

Crème de les crémants

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paulr@sfbg.com
Among the many sobering statistics available to today's Americans, none are more jolting — at least to this American — than the numbers on consumption of sparkling wine vis-à-vis the French. They enjoy bubbly about 47 times a year, on average, or nearly once a week, while we manage just three or four times: Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, somebody's birthday. We tend to pop the cork only on special occasions, in other words; the French make a habit of it. Of course, they also make a good deal of the world's stock of sparkling wines, so this must help boost their tally. Read more »

Fantasia: range

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paulr@sfbg.com
If fantasies are about transcending limits, then it's no wonder the la Cornue range is the dream love of so many kitchen fantasists, yours truly among them. Here we have a line of stoves whose cheapest model costs about $17,000, and I do not know what the upper limit is or even if there is an upper limit. Buying a la Cornue is, one supposes, a little bit like buying a Rolls-Royce or a Maybach. Read more »

The un-pork

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paulr@sfbg.com

The imminence of a determined pork eater raises certain questions in the porkless kitchen. The largest of these is, Can pork be faked? Meat fakery has come a long way in the past few years, as anyone who's eaten a Boca burger knows — but if some entrepreneur has come up with a porkless pork roast that would nonetheless convince a pork connoisseur, I have not heard of it.
In my everyday cooking, I have found that turkey, in its various forms, nicely fills in the gaps left by the pork we more or less stopped eating when Bill Clinton was still president. Read more »

Rice makes nice

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> paulr@sfbg.com

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then paella is a dish best served ... not in a restaurant. Yes, if it's good paella you seek, you are well advised to start inquiring among your friends as to which of them has a paella pan and might be prevailed upon to use it, perhaps at a summertime party. Read more »