You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘food’ tag.
Remember this documentary I raved about a few months ago? It’s a low budget thing this young woman did.
Well, it’s much more than an anti-Starbucks rant. It also documents the emergence of the “third wave coffee movement.” The first wave was Folgers and the like. The second wave was coffee houses and Starbucks capitalizing on the idea to spread it well beyond the borders of bohemianism. The third wave is represented by efforts like Blue Bottle Coffee, and Ritual Coffee Roasters, the latter of which was started by
former Blue Bottle employees who may have pushed the standard even higher.
They have several coffee houses. I got to visit the one on Valencia Street in SF this morning. After their owners’ interview in the movie, and a subsequent interview on NPR, I thought there was no way that the product could match the hype.
As I drove through my old neighborhood on Valencia, noticing a plethora of coffee houses, each with a few customers, I could see as I approached Liberty Street a line coming out onto the sidwalk half a block up. I figured that I’d found the place, and I was right. By some miracle, I found a parking spot just around the corner of 21st Street – right up the block from the place. I walked back around and got into line.
The first thing I noticed was the smell wafting out through the door – the richest coffee smell I’ve encountered. They have a brewing operation in place, with funnels right up by the cash register, and the barristas hard at work constantly refilling the espresso machines – one drink at a time – although with the line in place I think they just keep loading them up rather than wait for orders.
I noticed something when I was waiting. It’s still very much a bohemian neighborhood – all the same artists and politicos taking in their java with deep conversations and all. But unlike the early 90s, some of them have reproduced. There was one couple, and two mothers each with kids. Smart kids too – infant to toddler, all expressing themselves with accute awareness of everything around them. Maybe it’s the coffee.
It was only a few minutes I had to wait in line, and there were actually open tables in the back section. I took my cappuchinno to the table and sat down. Yes, it was the best cappuchinno I’ve ever taken in. Actually, that doesn’t quite cut it. It was the only true cappuchinno I’ve taken in. Two years shy of 50 and I”ve just had my first cappuchinno.
It made me happy!
Seriously, next time you’re down there – give it a try! And then come back up here and demand from our local coffee houses that they contact this business and learn! The first one to do so will probably make a fortune.
On to food. Let me say that I do not post negative restaurant reviews online. Not here. Not on Yelp. Nowhere.
The reason? I don’t want to be a mechanism that costs someone his/her livelihood. Period. If the food is bad, the market will deal with it. I don’t want to take a chance that my taste is merely different. I don’t want to take the chance that I was there on a bad day.
And today, I’m especially grateful for my policy.
After the coffee experience, I walked back to 17th and Valencia. El Toro’s is there on the corner. It’s one of the few good notions I kept from my high school days’ membership of the Socialist Workers Party, when I was introduced to the restaraunt. It’s a burrito bar, and they used to make them the size of footballs, almost literally. And it was delicious.
Most people don’t realize that the burrito as we know it is actually not from Mexico. It first appeared in the Mission District – marketed as a meal in a single tortilla. When you order them in Mexico you get something smaller and different. There are about four or five establishments which argue that they made the first big burrito, and perhaps there was some synchronicity involved (Kind of like Newton and Leibniz coming up with the calculus theorem simultaneously).
This place was my favorite for a couple of decades. Lots of filling options, and just good, with a line all day so that everything is fresh.
Now, I haven’t been to El Toro’s (or either of its sister establishments) for a few years now, because the last time I was there I was disappointed. The burrito I bought was very thin, and the flavor just wasn’t what I had remembered. It seemed like they had made all the ingredients early on, and the asada chicken seemed dried out like it had been sitting. The magic seemed gone.
So with great trepidation I walked there for another try. I was still giddy from my coffee experience, and didn’t want to experience a downer. But El Toro’s had been faithful to me for so many years. I had to give her another chance.
I wasn’t disappointed. The burrito wasn’t quite football sized, but bigger than the last time – and I only ate half of it as I’m into portion control these days. The food was cooking fresh, the lines were back, and they’ve upgraded with a salsa bar that includes about 8 different salsas both cooked and raw-chopped, and some fresh vegetables including radishes and peppers. Limes. And flame-roasted jalapenos!
And it was delicious. El Toro’s and I are an item once again!
Addendum: Eileen Hassi, owner of Ritual Coffee Roasters, contacted me by email to thank me for the compliments, but also to correct me. She nor the others on her team were ever Blue Bottle employees. I had bad information.
Also, Lucca’s is still open at 22nd. Sorry Robie.
And also, someone else informed me that El Toro is spelled with one “r” not two.
Is anybody heartbroken over the demise of Hostess? Yes, some jobs will be lost. But maybe youth obesity will be mitigated just a little bit. Probably not. Plenty of crap being cranked out by other companies.
Still, I do have fond memories of Twinkies in the Sixth Grade when I was reading The Lord of the Rings and imagined that my Twinkie was actually the golden Elven cake Lembas.
I also remember when my mother switched over from white bread to wheat bread. I wasn’t happy with the switch at first, and one of the annoying kids at school would tease me about my “dirty bread” sandwiches. But it wasn’t long before I couldn’t go back. Seeing that nutritionist on TV squeeze a loaf of Wonder Bread into the size of a softball probably helped.
I was watching television last night and noticed writing at the bottom of a McDonald’s commercial saying, “Owned and operated locally in Humboldt County.” Is economic localism having an actual impact that large companies feel compelled to explain their franchizing systems?
Addendum: I haven’t verified whether the information is accurate, but if so, then blaming the unions for the company’s demise would seem erroneous at minimum.
If you were to ask my opinion of the second greatest scientist of all time, I would have a hard time responding. There are so many choices and I would probably have to spend an hour clarifying the criteria with you before coming up with any kind of response. But my first choice is easy, and I’ve already written a post about him. Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and what he did specifically for the field of astronomy and the way we view the universe are great achievements. But his most profound gift to science was his willingness and ability to abandon a theory in which he was intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually invested – having spent his entire life trying to prove it. In the face of conclusive and contradictory evidence, and with a heavy heart – he changed his mind. He gave up his quest for mathematical proof of the existence of a Godly order in the universe. He didn’t abandon his belief in God. He simply abandoned a tenet he had cherished. He thought critically and acted with intellectual integrity unmatched by even many of those arguably more brilliant than he. He had to be open to the evidence. He had to be willing to let go.
In my brief stint as a substitute teacher in between undergrad and law school I had the pleasure of subbing a civics class of high school seniors for a couple of weeks due to the teacher’s serious illness. Kids love to debate, but they don’t necessarily enjoy the learning involved in debating effectively. Most everyone of every age believes he or she debates effectively. They state their positions, by which they impress themselves, and they assume that anyone reasonable should be equally impressed. Their positions are most powerful, because they believe them. If they weren’t so powerful, they wouldn’t believe them.
After a couple of days discussing some topic of government or policy, I became a little frustrated. (probably if I had been blogging for any length of time beforehand, my level of expectations would have been much lower). At one point I asked everyone to take out a piece of paper and fill the page with their argument. Most of the kids had no problem. A few had a problem limiting the argument to one page, but I insisted. Five minutes or so later everyone was finished. Other than grammar or spelling, my later review of the papers generated little disappointment. These were bright and articulate students.
Then I asked them to turn the paper over. Their next assignment was to write an argument just as compelling, but for the opposite side of the issue. I didn’t want irony. I didn’t want qualifications. I wanted them to write their position as if it was their own. I wanted them to convince me of that argument. I got resistance. Some were frustrated and said they didn’t know what to write. Others were unable to fill the page. A few couldn’t bear to turn in the paper without reassuring me at the end that they didn’t really believe that position. One asked why she had to do it. (I didn’t realize at the time that some Christian fundamentalists object to such exercises as “values clarification” curriculum which undermines their faith). Only three or four in a class of about twenty were really able to do it, and only after some prodding.
It’s not easy to see another view. It runs against human nature. We have the capacity for it, but we do not have the drive to compel it. We don’t want to change our minds. Not even a little.
About eleven or twelve years ago I participated on an early Internet forum. Some of you may remember those ancient times before blogs where the forum was set up like a flow chart where you could track a discussion on the main page (those forums are probably virtual collector’s items now). I had an encounter with a conservative participant very well versed on the NRA talking points about gun control. My views on the Second Amendment differ significantly from those of most of the gun control advocates. The short version is that while I agree that the Second Amendment contains a qualifying dependent clause which suggest an intent to regulate the right of possession with a little more scrutiny than the other rights named in the Bill of Rights, the framers left few clues as to their intent and therefor the text should be construed in favor of the individual and against the state. The longer version is in an old post. And I elaborated a bit more in a later post.
Well, in my encounter with the NRA member, the fact that my ultimate conclusions on the issue matched his was not good enough. He was invested in not merely the conclusion, but on the whole structure of the narrative. That I attributed any intent of the glorious “Fathers” to limit gun rights in any way was simply unacceptable, and he surmised that I wasn’t truly in favor of the Second Amendment or gun rights. He didn’t call me a liar. He simply repeated his customary rant rhetoric, as if I was a gun control advocate (I am actually – as are some NRA members – it’s a question of degree). He could not leave the box of his dogma long enough to realize the ridiculousness of the rant. It reminded me of a scene on L.A. Law where a young attorney had spent so much time preparing her arguments that when the Judge dismissed the case against her client within seconds of calling the case she continued to argue. The Judge said, “how not guilty do you want me to find your client?”
Before he could accept me into the fold, whatever it may have been, I had to recite the full catechism. I had to agree that the Second Amendment is clear and concise, and that “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” was always intended to be the equivalent of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The first portion of the sentence was merely philosophy, intended for no legal effect. He wouldn’t say it that way, because it sounds ridiculous. But anything less was caving to the liberal narrative.
You can listen to my last radio show, aired this last Thursday, at the archives. The 7:00 p.m. slot for those who don’t know about it. I confess I transgressed. Although I support GMO labeling (purely from a consumer rights perspective) I remain agnostic as to whether there is absolutely no positive value to GMO biotechnology. Unlike some of my callers, I am not an expert on what I know nothing about.
Innocently I raised some of the arguments against GMO’s, one being the potential for genetic strains of organisms loose in the wild with no ecological context. I cited the salmon farming as an example of such a biological contamination – the fact that salmon which have been selected for certain characteristic have gotten loose to contaminate the wild gene pool is a serious concern of some biologists, as explained to me during one of my trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I suggested that the biotechnological genetic modification could potentially be as dangerous as the selective breading genetic manipulation. Bad move on my part. Apparently the anti-gmo narrative is that selective breeding is not genetic modification, the main reason being because so many industry hacks have said that it is. That discussion dominated much of the show, as I was accused of “spreading the corporate line.”
In the beginning I asked listeners for information of balanced discussions of the topic, but all I really got were sources to convince me of the anti-gmo line, some of which sounded interesting, but none of which I was really looking for. One book was recommended. Otherwise, it was all films and websites. But that’s fine. A couple of women called me up afterward, laughing at some of the callers, and suggested some leads. Either way, that’s not really the topic of this thread. The topic is the investment not just in the conclusion – they were willing to forgive my agnosticism on the subject. They were not willing to concede that selective breeding is genetic manipulation.
Afterwards I remembered arguments made on behalf of the nuclear industry during the early 80s when they were on the defensive following Three Mile Island and the timely release of The China Syndrome, along with mass demonstrations against nuclear power. One industry advocate said, “all we do is boil water.” It became a mantra. “We boil water.” Sounds benign.
So boiling water must be inherently destructive. We can’t boil water on our stoves. Or we can’t admit it, because that’s what nuclear power does. We merely raise the temperature of water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit to render it into a gaseous form. But we do not boil water. To acknowledge that we boil water should require a Kepler moment. Apparently it will be required of some activists who cannot accept that genetic manipulation takes place outside of the biotechnological realm.
Yes on Proposition 37. I realize that’s not good enough for some of you.
Not by Bread and Marg Alone – about the complexities of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade against the sale of large containers of soda pop and the impact of processed foods on the working class.
Good Food for the Hungry – About a multi-faceted program trying to make nutritious food available to the low income.
Naked Children and Tomatoes: WWOOfing in Louisiana - about WWOOfing.
The end of the week is near, and I have a slow moment. Time for another top 10 movie list.
Each film need not be about cooks or cooking per se. Food simply must be integral to the central theme, and make you hungry watching it.
1. Babette’s Feast (also one of my favorite religious movies)
2. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
3. Like Water for Chocolate
4. Mostly Martha
5. Big Night
8. Fried Green Tomatoes
9. Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
10. Tortilla Soup
Haven’t seen Tampopo, God of Cookery, or Kitchen Stories, so they’re not on the list.
1. Phnom Penh Combo (Annie’s Cambodian Cuisine, Eureka) – deliciously spiced meats (chicken, pork, beef) on a crusty roll with pickled vegetables. Only served at lunch, and only about five bucks. They’ve got like three different hot sauces on the table if you need more spice. I’ve written about this place before, and I have yet to be even mildly disappointed with a single dish there.
2. PLT (provolone, lettuce, and tomato – Amelia’s, Garberville) – This sandwich, I’m told, was a spontaneous late night creation frying up thin slices of provolone cheese to a bacon-like flavor and texture, and making a play on the classic BLT. It’s served on a great roll, and with a salad.
3. Chicken Torta Sandwich (Speedy Taco, Eureka) – That trailer restaurant you drive by in the Broadway Theater parking lot has some good food. Their spicy chicken torta sandwich is a favorite of mine. Very reasonable, nicely spiced, quick, and yummy.
4. Chicken Parm (Damato’s, Redway) – Love their chicken parmigiana on a Santo Roll (worth the extra buck for the right bread!). One in a line of great sandwiches and possibly the best pizza in the county.
5. Roast Beef, Avocado, Veggie, and Horseradish Sandwich (Wildberries, Arcata) – I don’t know what the sandwich is called, or even if it has a name, but my wife bought one for me one time and brought it to me while I was working, and it was delicious. I’ve just never made it back to get another one. Does it ring a bell for anyone?
So what great sandwich experience am I missing?
It’s about a month old, but this AVA interview with Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved – an indictment of what he refers to as the “food system” focusing on the paradox of simultaneous malnutrition and obesity. From a high suicide rate of small farmers to gender inequity in hunger, he tries to weave various issues together while distinguishing “food sovereignty” from the more elitist practices of “slow food” and “food localism.”
On the other hand, the interview doesn’t offer many specifics. I will assume that his books do. But I’ve read enough “we-need-to-reclaim-power-and-it’s-all-related” kind of solutions. “Community organizing” is pretty much the lefty default-solution to everything, only as we know from decades of trying, that’s easier said than done. Maybe some specific models? The only specifics in the interview are the Italian Communist Party, the Peoples’ Grocery in Oakland, the Black Panthers (who “fed more people than the State of California”), and most specifically the transferal of public lands into “the commons.” But none of them were involved in food production, only food distribution. What I was hoping to read were some proposals for economic models of food production which could compete with agribusiness under the existing structures while simultaneously pushing for more equitable structures. Maybe there’s a chapter in his book.
No mention of organics in the article.
Hands down, of all the bowls of soup I’ve taken in, the Seven Seafood Soup at La Costa in Fortuna is the most enjoyable. My son had soccer tryouts today, and we went for lunch. It’s Sunday, when they serve this incredible production with seven different seafood items – but the real essence is the TLC-laden broth. I’m told they use the fish head and bones to draw out the rich spicy broth. Perfect for a cold day when you have a slightly sore throat.
My son threw down some of the shrimp cocktail, which tasted like an excellent gazpacho with fresh prawns.
Okay, my kids only counted six items (fish, crab, mussels, scallops, prawns, oysters), but maybe there’s something more in the broth.
I’ve never had a dish I didn’t like there, and the fresh steaming homemade corn tortillas just round out the experience.
I don’t often give a restaurant two great reviews, having already posted one. But this bowl of soup just called for special attention.
After a heart-breaking one-goal loss in Futsal in Samoa (but my son did score three fantastic goals including his first header on a corner kick), my kids went with friends to the movies and some friends, my wife, and I enjoyed a great meal at Annie’s Cambodian Cuisine in Eureka last night. We ordered several items recommended in the Journal review, and I recommend all of them, especially the sweet and sour talapia. Also try the taro smoothie, which is a pretty purple and delish – kind of an exotic tapioca/vanilla flavor, but I say it just tastes like purple.
And the review is right about the pleah – very intricate flavors and unlike anything I’ve tasted before.
Great warm service too. It was packed last night, so the five of us waited at the bar. The waitresses were apologetic (like it’s their fault they’re so popular?), and took our orders so we wouldn’t have to wait very long once they had a table for us. I got to watch them mix up my taro smoothie. It was quite the operation.
Oh, and five of us filled up for about 60 bucks (not including the tip). I’m looking forward to trying their lunch specials.
Tucked right between the Sizzler’s and the omelet place at the north end of 5th – give them a try!
As I’ve written in the past, my kids have gourmet tastes in just about every category of food. And they know what they want, with routine orders at each restaurant we frequent. At Los Bagels my son orders the usual lox and cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel, and he asks for the complimentary tomato as well. And he likes capers, and after one difficult experience asks that they be “tucked under the fish so that they don’t roll off.”
Lilith’s preference is a little more extravagant. She asks for a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese, cucumber, and tomato. On top of that she wants guacamole. And then she wants a layer of Larrapin sauce drizzled on top of the heap. Yesterday when calling out her order, the man behind the counter asked, “who ordered this awesome bagel?”
He was less enthusiastic when announcing the completion of her Dad’s boring onion bagel with cream cheese, lox, with only the complimentary onion and tomato to dubiously pull it out of east coast orthodoxy. Next time I’d better order the sushi bagel.