As a magazine editor, I always feel the pressure to be ahead of the curve. But sometimes, I’m about three years too late, as is the case with the Ghetto Gourmet. Attending one of their dinners has been on my to-do list forever, but I just got around to it last Saturday night. I just wish I’d done it sooner (like maybe before Time magazine covered it).
Over the years I’ve collected a mini library of books about all things food—over 100 cookbooks, plus literary musings and oddballs like the one called Strange Foods: Bush Meat, Bats and Butterflies —a favorite that’s not for the faint of heart. Most just sit there looking good, but some, like The Zuni Cafe Cookbook are spattered and stained with use.
Full disclosure: I’m good friends with Gerald Hirigoyen, one of the most lovely, talented and hospitable chefs in town. In fact, we took a trip to Spain together about two years ago to this day. The coldest winter Spain had seen—snow on the beach in San Sebastian; the streets of Barcelona virtually empty as everyone tucked into cafes to escape the brutal winds and warm up with cigarettes and decadently soupy hot chocolate.
I’m not sure it’s appropriate to call a cruciferous vegetable hot (if you haven’t noticed, magazine editors obsessively use this word), but since I work at a magazine I’m going to unabashedly put it out there: Cauliflower is hot.
photography by Stefanie Michejda
Long, long ago I was tipped off via Raj Parr (the wine director at Michael Mina) about a place called Punjab Kabab House (101 Eddy St., 415-447-7499). I hate to admit how far back this dates, but let’s just say it was many moons ago when Raj was working at the Fifth Floor.
With a family that firmly believes in “wine-thirty” (in the Deseran clan, that would be 5:30 pm—the time of day considered late enough for our nightly bottle, or two, to be uncorked), I’m always looking for reasonably priced selection to pull out of the cupboard. And lucky for me, the deal of the century is going on right now at Good Life Grocery Store (448 Cortland St., 415-648-3221) in Bernal Heights, just up the street from my house.
When Cecilia Chiang (asianpacificfund.org/awards/bio_chiang.shtml) asks you to dinner, you know you’re in for a grand event—full of multiple courses and many toasts—no matter how highfalutin or no-nonsense the restaurant. In the case of an end of December meal, I found myself driving a bit white-knuckled, through fog and rain to get to KL Restaurant (4401 Balboa Street at 45th Street), a Cantonese spot that I’d never heard of. Cecilia leaned over to whisper to me “You don’t see Americans here!”—which was true, barring my parents who had come along, as well as food writer Patricia Unterman, a true eater who’s traveled the world over.