Food & Drink

Quixote's Mexican Grill

A fire in the blood
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paulr@sfbg.com

Literary nerds will note a slight irony in the naming of a Mexican restaurant after Don Quixote — a.k.a. Alfonso Quixano — the touchingly quixotic unhero of Miguel de Cervantes's novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, first published in Spain in 1605. The novel has nothing to do with Mexico, though Mexico has plenty to do with Spain, beginning with a shared language and faith and including a certain goriness in cultural mythology. Read more »

On death and dining

Phnom Penh
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS When he talks, his whole face participates, but especially his forehead, which snakes into road maps of thought, and I get lost. When he listens, he listens. This guy went to medical school, completed his residency, and then went, Naw, I reckon I'd rather work in publishing. And for this my new friend Maze is a kind of a hero to me.

A hero and a proofreader.

Phenomenon's new favorite restaurant is Phnom Penh, a friendly little Cambodian wonderland on the edge of Oakland's Chinatown. Read more »

Nuts about wine!

Crack a bottle of walnut-infused vin de noix as a delightful digestif
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› paulr@sfbg.com

What sort of birthday present do you get for the wine fancier who already has everything: a cellar full of rare and prized bottles, a kitchen drawer with a full complement of cork pulls, a special refrigerator for chilling wine? You might tell yourself that not every wine fancier has everything — yet — but because oenophilia has become such a conspicuous component of lifestyle pornography, of status-consumption culture, the gap between aspiration and acquisition narrows a little every day. Read more »

Weird Fish

Strange magic
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paulr@sfbg.com

The fishing-out of the oceans, like all disasters, has produced its share of odd delights. Fish that were considered junk a generation ago — monkfish, grouper, skate — suddenly didn't look so shabby when cod and bluefin tuna became scarce. Today's weird fish is tomorrow's lovable fish, mostly because it's still there. But these little discoveries of necessity tend to end up amplifying the problem, as species go from being overlooked to sought after and thus overfished. Read more »

Tattoo you

Pho Clement
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CHEAP EATS She had tattooed knuckles. One hand said PORK and the other said CHOP. I expressed my adoration, and she said, "You should see the other ones."

"Should I?" I asked.

She has a girlfriend in Canada. This was not a date but a business meeting.

Business = new favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Pho Clement, between, I think, Third and Fourth avenues on Clement Street. Read more »

The pyramid

Building up high-end restaurant food
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While fretting a few days ago about the menace of the $40 main dish, I spoke to my neighbor, who on a recent trip to San Diego had a close encounter with a $63 main course, some kind of veal with truffles. San Diego — not Las Vegas, not New York. She ended up with a $40-something main dish (veal, no truffles), and I went to New York to forage on the lower reaches of the city's restaurant pyramid.

High-end restaurant food, whether veal or something else, doesn't just happen: it is built, or cooked, or created, on an infrastructure of more modest restaurants. Read more »

David's Kitchen

The magic pan
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paulr@sfbg.com

In the kitchen of David's Kitchen, a tiny restaurant in the Sunset, you will find David. The kitchen is of the semiexhibition sort, viewable from the snug dining room through a rectangular aperture that looks as if it once might have housed a picture window or maybe a large plasma flat-screen television. Was this space once home to a sports bar? David is David Chang, a native of China who opened the place with his wife, Terri, about four years ago. Read more »

Disorientation

Route 1 Diner
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The closest chicken fried steak to my shack is at the Route 1 Diner in Valley Ford. You probably know it, if you've ever been to Bodega Bay. And if not, what the fuck? The Sonoma coast has the prettiest beaches in the world. Surfers don't like it because they get eaten by sharks, but, other than that ...

Anyway, I'm not a beach reviewer.

Two chickens, like I said. That's all the chickens I have left is two chickens. One lays eggs, and the other one eats them. Or: tough times for a chicken farmer. Read more »

Eyes on the prize

Forking up a Pulitzer
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The recent news that a food writer from Los Angeles won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism puts us on notice that food writing at its best is an art form - also that LA is a serious food town, loath though we may be to admit it. The southland has access to all sorts of local agricultural bounty, a nearby wine country (in Santa Barbara County), and a polyglot population that represents much of the world. It also has something we don't have - an international border just miles away, with a genuinely different culture on the other side. Read more »

Piccino Cafe

Speck and sexy
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> paulr@sfbg.com

Although restaurants can be, and often are described as being, sexy, they aren't really sexy in that way, the people way. So far as we know, and for reasons that I need not get into, they don't actually indulge. Which means that Piccino Cafe, a petite jewel of a restaurant that opened a few months ago on a quiet Dogpatch side street between the furies of I-280 and Third Street, cannot be the love child of, say, Universal Cafe and A16. Read more »