Leopold's sausage and kraut (photo by Ed Anderson)
It's been 12 months of good eating. After reviewing all my past blogs, I've pulled out some—though clearly not all—of the most delicious dishes from 2011 and listed them in no particular order. A couple are new discoveries to me (see L'Ardoise), some are rediscoveries (see Kiss), but most are new as of this year.
Like Champagne, Tequila, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, piment d'Espelette is one of those rare things regulated by AOC, meaning the product's name is tied to a specific region and can not technically be produced outside its designated origin. Piment d'Espelette is a chili pepper cultivated in the Basque town of Espelette. It's similar in flavor to paprika, though many chefs find its brand of smokiness and aromatics particularly bewitching. Of course, the pepper has been around forever, but recently I've seen its frequency rise on menus around town. Jasper's Corner Tap chef Adam Carpenter, a long-time lover of piment d'Espelette, suspects it's showing up more now because the price has recently become a bit more approachable. "There was a time when it was over $100 a pound," he says. "It was very scarce." Here's a glimpse of some places where piment d'Espelette is popping up these days.
I remember the day a publicist popped by my desk a few years back with an exotic species in his hand: a pink pearl apple that was being used by a chef in town. I marveled at this little apple's girlish beauty and at its crisp, tart taste. And as it's the beginning of September, pink pearls are showing up around town again.
Like so many San Franciscans, I can feel the seasons waning by the changing of the fruit guard. It's happening right now. While all the stone fruit is still there tempting me, farmers are showing up with grapes and apples too. It always makes me a little sad because it means we're hitting the time of year when summer becomes fall, which hence going forward shall be called faller. Or maybe sumall.
Michael Bauer's reviews have become a hot topic in our office these last few weeks. After Sara posted her response to his harsh review of Acme Chophouse, we received an unprecedented number of emails and comments. Some people told us off. Others, notably lots of chefs, heard just where we were coming from. Many of them said they too were sick of the Bauer tyranny, but also so afraid of his influence—both here and nationally—to go on the record about how they really feel.
On Tuesday we'll be introducing a new guest blogger, Ella Lawrence of Restaurant Girl Speaks. Although she works as a writer, she also works as a server at A16 (you've heard of that place, right? Nate Appleman has had quite the month).
We brought her onboard to speak to one question: How can we be better diners? But before she tells us how we can be better diners, I wanted to write about the importance of a good server. (Just think how great the world would be if it was made up of well-behaved diners and conscientious servers!)
Here’s how you know blogging has reached the mainstream: chefs — notoriously short on time, and mostly workaholics — have somehow made time for the pursuit. Some blogs, such as the one kept by cook Richie Nakano of Nopa (linecook415.blogspot.com) offer a behind-the-scenes look at a busy SF restaurant. Others, such as the one written by Brett Emerson, owner and chef at the forthcoming Noe Valley restaurant Contigo (inpraiseofsardines.typepad.com), chronicle the harrowing process of opening a restaurant in the city.