Sunday, March 29, 2009

So, about two months ago, SF foodie bloggers were a-twitter with the 7X7 article "The Big SF-Eat: 100 Things to Try Before You Die", and, right about now, I finally decided to get my ass in gear and mark off (or rather bolded in this case) the things among the 100 that I had eaten coupled with my often complimentary but sometimes snarky commentary. From here on, I'm going to write intermittent blog entries cataloging the dishes I do try but hadn't tried when this article came out, two of which have already look for those.

1. Roast chicken and bread salad at Zuni

2. Coffee-rubbed pork shoulder at Range

3. Carnitas taco at La Taqueria

4. Spicy crab and grits at the Front Porch

5. Chasu ramen at Katana-Ya

6. Burger with fries at Slow Club

7. Shaking beef at the Slanted Door

8. Morning bun at Tartine Bakery

9. Tofu soup with kimchi at My Tofu House

10. Baja-style fish tacos at Nick’s Crispy Tacos

11. Pork sugo with pappardelle at Delfina

12. Salt-and-pepper squid at Yuet Lee

13. Soup dumplings at Shanghai House

14. Beef brisket at Memphis Minnie’s

15. Oysters on the half shell at Swan Oyster Depot

16. Katsu curry from Muracci’s Japanese Curry & Grill

17. Tea-leaf salad at Burma Superstar YUMZZZZ!! (always my fav, even if Willi doesn't approve)

18. Salumi misti plate at Perbacco

19. Tuna tartare at Michael Mina

20. Chicken pot pie at Liberty Café

21. Pizza margherita at Pizzeria Delfina

22. Vietnamese roasted pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwich

23. Beer sausage with sauerkraut and grilled onions at Rosamunde Sausage Grill Without the onions and the sauerkraut, me no likey those things...

24. Blue Bell Bitter from the cask at Magnolia Pub

25. Loaf of bread straight out of the oven at Tartine (bonus: sliced while still warm and slathered with Brillat- Savarin cheese from Bi-Rite, down the block) Thank you Katie of kitchensidecar fame

26. A classic gin martini at Bourbon & Branch Maybe I went here to early in the game, but, on my first visit, I found this place snooty and their drinks to sweet, so have never returned.

27. Papaya salad with salty crab at Sai Jai Thai

28. A Gibraltar at Blue Bottle Café I'm actually drinking Blue Bottle french press, as I write...

29. Spaetzle at Suppenküche

30. Laughing Buddha cocktail at Cantina

31. Pan con chocolate with sea salt and olive oil at Laïola

32. Pupusas at Balompie Café #3

33. Prime rib at House of Prime Rib

34. Yellowtail collar at Oyaji

35. Salted-caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery This was my H-Ween costume, circa 2007, for realz, son.

36. Dry-fried chicken wings at San Tung

37. Rotisserie chicken at Limón Rotisserie

38. French fries at Hayes Street Grill

39. Pierna Enchilada torta at La Torta Gorda

40. Cheeseburger at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

41. Pho ga at Turtle Tower

42. Fried-shrimp po’boy at Brenda’s French Soul Food

43. Mint julep at Alembic (Just a hop skip and a jump from my apt, this place has some of the tastiest cocktails in the city and is one of those SF endroits you bring visitors to show off that SF is indeed worth the hype.)

44. Cannelé at Boulangerie Bay Bread

45. Galapagos cocktail at Absinthe

46. Chips and salsa at Papalote

47. Ceviche at La Mar Cebichería Peruana

48. Angels on horseback at Anchor & Hope

49. Ginger snaps at Miette

50. Giant pretzel with mustard at The Monk’s Kettle

51. Maccaronara with ricotta salata at A16

52. Fried brussels sprouts at SPQR

53. Garlic soup at Piperade

54. Spiced-chocolate doughnut at Dynamo Donut with a Four Barrel coffee

55. Milk-roasted pork at L’Osteria del Forno

56. Caponatina with burrata at Beretta

57. Goat stew at Kokkari Estiatorio

Absinthe daiquiri at Jardinière

59. Huarache with cactus salad at El Huarache Loco (Saturdays at the Alemany farmers market)

60. The Brass Monkey at Little Star Pizza (I just don't get the hype around Little Star...thick crust? Please. Go to Delfina. God.

61. Crab soufflé at Café Jacqueline I would say my most favorite is the chocolate souffle...light and fluffy, chocolaty that is something special!

62. Shrimp-and-chive dumplings at Ton Kiang

63. Meatballs with grapes at Aziza

64. Paper masala dosa at Dosa I don't get the hype nor the reason for the long wait about/at this place

65. Crispy eggplant at Jai Yun

66. Pig parts at Incanto Does Bocalone count?

67. Sand dabs at Tadich Grill

68. Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe

69. Licorice parfait at South

70. Omakase menu at Sebo

71. A Fernet at R Bar

72. Arancini at Ducca

73. Popovers with strawberry butterat the Rotunda

74. Corned-beef sandwich with Gruyère at the Sentinel

75. Fried green beans at Coco500 I heart Peter Duyan

76. Chicken hash at Ella’s

77. Eggs benedict on the back patio at Zazie Um, if not, I challenge your SF foodie-hood.

78. Chilaquiles with a fried egg at Pastores

79. Onion strings at Alfred’s Steakhouse

80. Apple fritter at Bob’s Donuts

81. Chicken curry at Punjab Kabab House

82. Fried chickpeas at Piqueo’s

83. Sweet-potato fries with banana catsup at Poleng Lounge

84. A margarita at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant

85. Pulled-pork sandwich at Roadside BBQ

86. A cheese slice at Arinell Pizza; I mean, who hasn't?

87. Fresh spring rolls at Out the Door

88. Buckwheat crepe and a French cider at Ti Couz The only crepe in SF worth it's weight in flour

89. Lamb schawerma at Truly Mediterranean

90. Slow-cooked egg at Coi

91. Albondigas soup at Mijita

92. Bacon-wrapped hot dog from a cart in the Mission (preferably when you’re drunk)

93. Seven courses of beef at Pagolac

94. Mango with chile, lemon and salt at Doña Tere’s cart (At the corner of 21 and Treat Streets, no phone)

95. 3 a.m. bowl of caldo verde soup at Grubstake

96. Baby-coconut ice cream from Mitchell’s

97. Sesame balls at Yank Sing

98. Basil gimlet at Rye

99. Clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co. I don't eat Clam Chowder outside of New England.

100. Cheese course at Gary Danko

Friday, March 27, 2009

VICTORY!!!! (garden)

So, as of now, this might not be news to everyone, but I wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge Michelle Obama's breaking ground on the White House Victory Garden, or the White House vegetable garden last Friday, March 20. It was a pretty exciting moment for the Food Movement as we were not only getting a victory garden on the White House lawn, or as close as we're going to get, but it seems we finally have an administration that is in support of reforming our food system. From Tom Vilsack proposing cuts in corn susidies as well breaking ground last month on the the people's garden to the appointment of Kathleen Merrigan, a long supporter of reform of our food system, as the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, it seems, a food revolution is indeed in the air, as the New York Times apply said last weekend.

In the New York Times article Michael Pollan is quoted as saying that the food movement might not be ready to go "prime time". While I do agree, that it seems that in only a few short months, a movement that was once seen, by both itself and the nation, as an underground constituency is taking the hot seat. I would like to remind Pollan, however, that books such as his very own Omnivore's Dilema have educated Americans about what is wrong with our food system, and with rising energy costs and health problems nationally, I believe our nation is in fact ready to reform. To me, it seems that it not just the food activists that are powering this movement, but rather the government and the people themselves.

Also, the layout of White House vegetable garden is pretty amazing; I was sort of drooling over just the picture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alice Waters on 60 Minutes

So, next week my dad is in town, and, as per his suggestion, we're going to Chez Panisse; I couldn't be more excited! I've been once before, about three and half years ago, but after living in California for almost three years (GASP, has it been that long), and know a lot more about Alice's Water's movement as well as having socially met some of the people that work at Chez Panisse, it's going to be a much more special occasion. Over the years, I've also learned a lot about Alice's mission that has made me question some of her dreamy ideals. Is it actually realistic to expect the United States to be fed on natural organic food? While her statement of "Good food is a right, not a privilege" is certainly inspiring, and in some ways true--why doesn't our government subsidize organic permaculture rather than genetically modified corn?--it's a bit unrealistic considering our economic times: People who are loosing their homes, jobs, and life savings aren't really going to care if they are eating cheetos or organic apples, nor, sorry to say, should they. I mean, if my day really sucks, I don't think an organic pink lady apple is going make it all better...maybe some Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby might, but I guess, even that is a bit towards to whole food side of things.

Anyways, this dialogue around Alice Waters is, I'm sure, pretty familiar to us all. 60 minutes, however, recently did a piece on her (I think it aired last week) that did show some changing of opinion about Alice, if not a glossing over of some details--that "San Francisco food stall" was in fact Primevera (local SF provider) at the Slow Food nation "Slow Food Served Fast" event, not a "friend of Alice's" who is always in that location...anyways, the excerpt is interesting, so what, and maybe get a little bit jealous of her fireplace right inside her kitchen--did she just poach/fry that egg in a spoon? WANT.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Foraging, Permaculture, and Dumpster Diving have in common

So I realize: I've been very, very bad blogger. I'm sorry. But, I have a good reason.
My job has changed (as in my 9-5 one), as many of you know, and I'm now working on a social networking site for professional chefs and other individuals in the cooking industry, which is called Chef's Blade. I'll write more on it later, but the transition has been a twee bit of worky work, and well, it's exciting, but it's made me a bad food blogger.

But, anyways, back to the task at hand: Foraging.

Forage SF has been organizing the Wild Kitchen, which, so far, has been a mini series of foraged meals; the first one they had was Valentine's Day and the last one they had was this past Saturday. Both were amazing amazing and delicious. Foraged food, boiled down to the essentials, is food that has been gathered from naturally-occurring places instead of, say, farms.

Forage SF is a foraged food co-operative, whose goal is to collect foraged foods both from the urban environment – for example, from fruit trees in backyards and sidewalks – but also from the surrounding Bay Area and distribute it to its members. The foraged food movement has grown out of a desire to challenge our dependence on industrial agriculture and to begin using the foods naturally available to us again. For me, what is most interesting about foraged foods is the dialogue it creates with our agricultural system, not to mention the questions it raises concerning what classifies as “foraged”.

During the first dinner I attended, Forage SF gathered the food from a variety of sources. Some of the greens – such as miner’s lettuce, mustard greens, and wild nettles – were growing naturally in the Presidio while other ingredients, like the acorns used in the acorn ice cream, were foraged by local foragers, such as FeralKevin. All of these ingredients were noticeably fresher and more flavorful than anything from the Ferry Terminal farmer’s markets. Sad. But maybe I should just "shop" at the park at the end of my block?

Personally, the most exciting aspect of these ingredients is that they grow naturally and without the interference of human cultivation. In addition, foraged foods grow sustainably in that they are part of the natural ecosystem already in place; foraging and consuming wild foods is thus part of the ecosystem itself as long as the consumption is not greater than the wild food supply.Herein, however, lies the catch: It is not possible to feed the world’s population on foraged food. Enter: Agriculture.

Currently, most of our food comes from monocultures, in which farms produce one type of crop over large areas of farmland. While agriculture’s use of monoculture has enabled us to feed our ballooning population, it has also led us to eat only a few food types. In addition, monoculture has caused massive crop failures, such as the Irish Potato famine, due to a crop becoming susceptible to a specific pathogen during a growing season. Permaculture, in comparison, seeks to design man-made systems after nature ecological systems. Polyculture, for example, grows multiple crops on the same agricultural space, mimicking plant ecosystems. While foraging wild foods will never be able to feed our large population, it does remind us of the importance of respecting the rules of the natural ecosystem.

Back to the first foraged dinner: The main course of last weekend’s meal was elk, wild boar, and venison. What I find interesting about foraged meat, besides being totally tasty, is the dialogue around foraged meat. For some foragers, foraged meat must be found already dead, while for others, foraged meat is wild game that has been killed by the forager in its natural habitat, the sum total of hunted animals never offsetting the natural balance of the ecosystem. Thankfully, the meat at this dinner was not found dead, as I’m not sure my almost-always stomach of steel could handle the extra “gaminess” (read: bacteria) that could be found in the prior type of foraged meat.

I want to take a bit of a tangent at this point to talk about freeganism, a new food movement that has arisen in New York out of a desire to “forage” for free food within the urban environment. Freegans “reclaim waste” left by the “capitalist society” from dumpsters outside supermarkets and restaurants (also known as Dumpster Diving), as well as forage for wild foods like mushrooms in city parks. The movement is centered in New York City but, with the recession, it has become more and more popular in other urban areas. To me, eating food out of a Dumpster is strange. It’s not something I would ever do; I like to know where my food comes from and diving into a Dumpster for almost expired milk and eggs doesn’t exactly fulfill my desire to know if the chicken and cows producing my food are treated well. Still, freeganism has a core value I do understand: We, as a population, are wasteful and we don’t always take advantage of the foods that are readily and freely available to us.

For me, the foraged food movement, coupled with permaculture and freeganism, teaches a lot of lessons. As I said at the beginning of this article, the world’s population could not be fed entirely on foraged foods. This does not mean, however, that the population shouldn’t be fed partially on these foods. As our food system has become increasingly complex, it appears we have forgotten that we can grow edible plants in our backyards, our fire escapes, and flower boxes and that food sources such as wild mushrooms, greens, nettles, and other edible wild plants grow naturally in our parks and are there for the free taking.

Foraging, permaculture, and feeganism produce very different food but all challenge us to consume the foods that are available to us and not to waste the foods we have. In addition, wild foods as well as foods grown in polyculture are certainly tastier than our average food source.

I find it hard to fathom, however, that freegan food has anything on wild boar.

PS. Was this post worth the wait?