Food & Drink

Grapes of steel

Man can't live on reds alone
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› paulr@sfbg.com

If the wine gods should decree that I must no longer be permitted any whites, I would weep — but survive too. While it may be true, as Deuteronomy instructs, that "man does not live by bread alone," he — or we or I — surely could make do with red wine only. The charms of red wine are considerable and inescapable, from the gracious lean strength of a good pinot noir to the cherry-and-pepper bouquet of a côtes du Rhône or zinfandel in its prime. Red wine is, somehow, gravid with life itself.

And yet ... Read more »

Caffe Bella Venezia

Hostel territory
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paulr@sfbg.com

The world traveler might arrive in some strange foreign city eager to find enlightenment at the table — to suss out the city's most interesting and revealing restaurants and ponder the cultural clues they offer — but first there is the matter of jet lag. The world traveler has an urgent need for a good night's sleep and perhaps a meal that's somehow authentically local but not too difficult: not too expensive or far away or served at a place that's difficult to get into. Read more »

The asterisk

Toast
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk fell down backward on the street. It was the story of her life, she told me, while I shouldered her to my pickup truck, trucked her home, and tucked her in. She was smiling, laughing. Dropped on her head as a baby, she said, and 40 years later ... still falling down all over the place.

The next few days were hard. With surgery and chemo behind her, she now faced a bigger, blurrier challenge: the rest of her sinking-in, falling-down life. And the uncertainty was killing her.

She cried on my shoulder. This felt nice. Read more »

It's the environment, stupid

Slow food is great, but ecopolitics should move fast
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› paulr@sfbg.com

You must be a pretty good orator if you can bewitch a roomful of people who can't understand a word you're saying — except for, perhaps, your incantatory "stupido!"s while discussing America's many foolish agricultural policies — and by this standard Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, is a pretty good orator. He held a media crowd rapt at a lunch recently at Greens, the point of which gathering was to proclaim the advent of Slow Food Nation a year hence at Fort Mason. Read more »

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 »