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Eat + Drink

The Economy Sucks: Go Out to Eat



Clearly this whole economy thing is confusing us. On one hand, big-name restaurants are going gonzo and offering up packages like I've never heard of before. As Eater reported, "Big Restos Can, And Will, Ignore the Economy." Witness "Dining with the Stars:" For $1900 per couple, you can experience what you might call the ultimate progressive dinner, including Michael Mina, Cyrus and Meadowood.

Then, in the New York Times yesterday, an article in the Dining & Wine section entitled—"Across the Country, Restaurants Feel the Pinch"—reported of NYC: "Many restaurants say more customers are sharing appetizers, buying cheaper wine, ordering less wine and fewer courses, or just not showing up as much." It's a sentiment I've heard echoed by many restaurant owners in SF.

Mangoes From the Gods (i.e. the Mission)


If you're feeling the autumnal doldrums (it was downright brisk outside yesterday) or already weary of of grapes and apples, I have the tropical antidote: Mexico-grown Kent mangoes.

Last September, I wrote here about these mangoes. Tart, creamy and sweet, they represent absolute balance and perfection. The kind of mango that a knife slices through like butter. If a chef could create something so perfect, he would be God, is what I'm saying.

Sustainable Sushi

Hate to break it you, but your healthy sushi dinner? Not so healthy after all. At least, not so healthy for the fish—our voracious raw fish appetite is rapidly depleting the ocean of some of its most prized specimens.

This isn’t necessarily new news, but now we can’t say we didn’t know any better. On October 22, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch will be releasing its latest pocket guide, the aptly titled “Seafood Watch Sushi Pocket Guide,” which will tell us what species we can eat occasionally, which ones we should never eat and those we ought to try to convince restaurants (sushi and otherwise) to never serve again. You can order it here (it’s free).

Alice Waters Can Feed 20 People With 2 Cauliflowers?

While we’re used to hearing dreamy, Californiafied quips from Alice Waters, in NYC, they don’t even know what to do with it. A week ago she was at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival where she spoke on “A New Agenda: Food” with New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Mazorati. According to WWD, which excerpted some of the conversation (which I found by way of the always resourceful Eater), Waters—when asked about the elitism associated with foodies—said:

“I bought two cauliflowers at the farmers’ market today. It cost me $4.20. I could have fed 10 to 20 people with them. You just need to know how to cook.”

Taking this into consideration, I called up a few people that know how to cook to ask their opinion. Although more than one alluded to the fact that the idea of feeding 20 people with two (hopefully large) heads of cauliflower might be best applied in a third world country, I did get some creative—if hopeful—answers.

Upheaval at Orson

In all the hustle and bustle of last week (closing our November issue, dodging Fleet Week drama and the release of the 2009 Michelin guide) we received a press release from none other than Elizabeth Falkner, the executive chef behind both Citizen Cake and Orson. Unfortunately, the release confirmed what we feared might eventually happen over at Orson (for our early article and video about Orson, click here).

Tartine: Attack of the Bread Pudding


If rock stars have groupies, then certain foods in SF have a similarly fanatical following: Tartine Bakery’s bread pudding, for instance. It’s one of those things that people get irrational about. (Case in point: My mother. Last time she came in the city to help me clear out my basement of junk, she threatened to reneg if I didn’t have the bread pudding waiting for her upon arrival.)

Last week, I went to Tartine with my boyfriend. When it’s not busy, I love sitting in there on a weekday morning. It feels very civilized and European.

It did, that is, until he ordered the bread pudding for himself.

Turn a Pumpkin Carving Mishap Into This Cake

I've got pumpkins and squash on the brain lately. The first few squash made their way into my farm box this week, but not before I unknowingly spent $6 ($6!!) for an organic butternut specimen at Whole Foods. Let me repeat—butternut squash. Six dollars. What's that about the economy going to hell? Today, I had a pumpkin-shaped chocolate as my "afternoon dessert," a ritual I strongly encourage all of you to adopt. And over the weekend, I had the pleasure of driving around Sonoma at sunset and passed a bunch of pumpkin patches, filled with white and orange orbs. I would have bought some, but as everything I put on my stoop gets stolen, I just admired from afar.  Now I wish I'd bought a few sugar pumpkins so I could use fresh pumpkin puree for this handsome coffeecake. It looks like just the thing to ring in the season. Invite over a handful of friends for Sunday brunch and serve this, or bake it up on Sunday and bring it to some lucky ducks at your office Monday morning. Note: if you can't find fresh cranberries, they are available frozen at Whole Foods. And they don't cost $6 a bag.

Absinthe's Chef Jamie Lauren: Top Chef Calls


God, it feels good to be right.

If you haven't already read our coverage of the Top Chef casting calls, which I wrote about in April, click here. Back then, I made the proclamation that SF's own Jamie Lauren—currently the executive chef at Absinthe—was definitely headed for fame.

And if you haven't already heard, I was right. Jaime is going to be on the next Top Chef, as what they call a "cheftestant."

Although Lauren is certainly headed for potential ridicule as well as fame (aren't all reality show contestants?), I've always thought of Top Chef as being ok, as reality shows go. But then, I watched one of the video clips on Bravo's site, where they ask TF's judges and host—Tom, Padma and Gail—what gives them a "culinary boner?" (Can you see me cringing? I'm cringing.)

Scala's Bistro: A bright spot

One of our fabulous informants snapped this picture and sent it our way—suffice to say, this particular diner clearly found Scala’s Bistro to be a little too dark, and decided to remedy the situation by turning her mag light—er,  flood light—on the menu. Funny stuff. My question: does this diner travel around with this massive flashlight in her handbag?

Strange Fruit: The Latest from the Farmers Market

It's an heirloom-tomato-eat-heirloom-tomato world out there at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. SF's resident foodies, not content to settle for something as banal and yesteryear as an Early Girl (unless it's dry-farmed, of course) are always on the lookout for what's new, hot, the latest!

Beyond a small frenzy over Ella Bella's dry-farmed tomatoes (I saw Italian cookbook author Carol Field buying up bagfuls), this is what my trip to the market last Saturday revealed:
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