Food & Drink

Spam reconsidered

Eva's Hawaiian Cafe
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paulr@sfbg.com

We can't quite say that spam has become a blight, since it was widely unloved (except for the Monty Python bit) even before the word's great shift in meaning. Everyone hates the new spam — except, I suppose, the spammers themselves, forever importuning the e-mail world on behalf of the mysterious Fifth Third Bank — but the old spam had a good deal to say, much of it unpretty, about America. Read more »

Taking the heat

Papolote Mexican Grill
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk lost her mouth on account of the chemo. We were sitting around wondering about lunch, which is one of my three favorite things to wonder about, and she said (and I quote): "I wonder if I have my mouth back."

I looked up from my prayer book, or food journal, and asked, "Excuse me?"

"I wonder if I can handle the salsa at Papalote," she said. She's been off the sauce for a couple months and off chemo now for maybe one month. Read more »

It's the chalk

Soil makes the wine
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When we think of white wine, we think of many things — Brie, student-faculty mixers, summer picnics sur l'herbe, grilled fish — but chalk is generally not among them. Chalk would not seem to have much to do with food and drink at all, except as a means to write the day's specials on those little blackboards restaurants sometimes hang on the wall or prop up outside the front door. Read more »

Mythic pizza

Gialina
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paulr@sfbg.com

The perfect pizza, like its near relations the perfect golf shot, the perfect holiday, and the perfect sentence, is an apparition of memory. We all have some recollection of a pie (or three-wood from the rough to within 10 feet of the pin) that achieved sublimity. We might have eaten this pie in Rome or Naples, on Chestnut Street or Columbus Avenue, or even in our own kitchen. Read more »

Such a woman

Boudin Bakery
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Cousin Raym is a doctor and works at Kent State. He gets to come to San Francisco for conferences, and I get to take him around for sushi, and clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, and all the things he loves that you can't get in Ohio. Good sushi, I mean. This has happened two years in a row, and that means he has seen me more than anyone else in my family who doesn't live here.

Raym is 50 years old and still plays tackle football. We tried his hand — or feet — at soccer, and he didn't get a lot done but did have fun. Read more »

On grappka

Grape vodka?
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A small peeve of mine is grappa served at or near room temperature, as if it's cough syrup. Perhaps I am churlish to complain about tepid grappa when having the chance to order grappa at all is a rare treat; even many Italian restaurants don't offer it. On the other hand, ice-cold grappa is simply sublime — at least for those of us who find it so — and keeping the bottle stashed in the freezer under the bar doesn't seem like a terrible burden. Read more »

Golden nugget

Ziryab
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paulr@sfbg.com

New restaurants, like trees and kings, have a way of rising from the remains of fallen ones: the restaurant is dead, long live the restaurant. This only makes sense. In the typical hermit-crab situation, a kitchen of some kind is already in place, there might also be some serviceable tables and chairs, and the permit jabberwocky will be slightly less daunting. Easier all the way around.

But this is not the only means of passing fortune's baton. Read more »

Of blood and blintzes

Saul's
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The hawks are looking hungry. My chickens are scared. Me too. We spend a lot of time in the bushes, plucking and preening and trying to act casual. And while they're scratching for bugs, I'm collecting dandelion greens for my salad. The price of lettuce has literally brought me to my knees.

You're thinking: Lettuce? The price of lettuce?

Yeah, well, maybe you don't know how much salad I eat. (A: a lot.) My favorite statistic says that when they have unlimited access to grass, chickens will eat it more than anything. Read more »

Currant affairs

The nether reaches of the pantry
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The backs and bin bottoms of refrigerators are known hazmat zones: difficult-to-reach, easy-to-ignore regions where spontaneous composting occurs. Most of us, I suspect, have at one time or another fished a plastic bag from these sepulchral depths and wondered what once fresh but long neglected foodstuff could have produced the black-green goo inside.

The far reaches of kitchen cabinetry don't generally host this sort of putrefaction, but they are venues for the forgotten bottle of this and overlooked box of that all the same. Read more »

Upside Woodside

Bella Vista Continental Restaurant
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paulr@sfbg.com

"Are we on the San Andreas Fault?" my companion asked uneasily as we stepped from the car and stood looking at the Bella Vista Continental Restaurant, lit up like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale in the soft winter gloaming. "No," I said. Read more »