EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Anthony Bourdain | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'Anthony Bourdain'

Throw Down with the Food Network!

I read an article today that has been on my mind for a long time. Every since the Food Network came to the Bay Area we have yet to see one of the star chef’s open up a restaurant here. Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain [who dislikes San Francisco because of Alice Waters in Berkeley] Mario Batali and the several others don’t want to even bother opening a restaurant here because the competition is too stiff.

Now we do have Wolfgang Puck who opened up Postrio and Roy’s Hawaii Cuisine, but not a single Food Network star has bother with San Francisco. Well I suppose I could include Martin Yan, but he’s no longer a part of the network. I haven’t seen Tyler Florence much lately, but he’s busy with his restaurant here at the moment. Now to me, if you’re going to talk like you’re a world renowned chef you should at least be able to thrown down in Baghdad by the Bay and pull it off. We’ve got some really hefty chefs here already like Michael Mina and Jeremiah Tower who have changed the restaurant industry, but for some reason we scare off the big guns of the media. Had I the money I would travel to one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants with a small camera crew and pull his throw down move with him to get him to come to SF and try his hand in the restaurant business here.

San Francisco, while being seven by seven miles has the largest number of restaurants than any other city in the United States. I was walking around the Embarcadero yesterday and found that there were more places to eat than I remembered. One block alone had six restaurants on one side of the street and these were Subways or McDonalds, but real white linen, sit down restaurants [I’ll still count the Tadich Grill since it’s so good, but no white linen table clothes.]

I like the Food Network and consider myself a bit of a foodie, but not a food blogger. I’ve got more to write about than Mom’s great recipes or the great dishes you can get around town. I watch it at least a couple of nights a week and do have a fondness for Guy Fieri’s Diner’s Drive-in’s and Dives, probably because he’s not afraid of San Francisco. I would love to see some of those Iron Chefs give it a shot in San Francisco, but apparently we scare them off. Could they even handle going up against one of our great food trucks at Off the Grid on a Friday night at Fort Mason? I don’t think so. Could they stand up against the falafel at Sunrise Deli or a shawarma at Yumma’s? I don’t think so.

Bobby Flay, I challenge you and your East Coast Food Network crew to a throw down to open restaurants in San Francisco and see how you fare in our Kitchen Stadium.

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Juanita Musson: Queen of the “Earmuffs”

The what?!?! Queen of the “Earmuffs“? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Well, today it turns out San Francisco has lost another one of it’s colorful characters. Following in the footsteps of Henry Africa, Juanita Musson passed away a few days ago. I had never heard of her before, but when I read some of the comments about her I wish I would have. She ran quite a few restaurants around the Bay Area, but was best known for Juanita’s Galley in Sausalito. I think that she had several restaurants around the Bay Area with the same name, but she made her name closer to San Francisco.

She was called, the Drinking Man’s Julia Child and that’s what caught my attention. She was known as a brawler, a women would could make a sailor blush with her foul mouth before she drank him under the table. She ran restaurants that in addition to the diners there would be dogs, cats, owls, monkeys, goats and pigs that would walk around her restaurants. There were no to go bags at her places. If you didn’t finish your huge portion you had to bring your own bag to bring it home in or feed the rest to the animals that were running around her place.

Juanita was a big woman. She weighed in at around 300 lbs and her huge endowment is where the earmuff joke comes from. She apparently had a penchant for sneaking up on customers, male of course, and grabbing her large pendulous breasts [she was braless before it was chic] and slapping them on either sides of men’s heads. If Emperor Norton was born a bit later these too would have been a hot item.

Juanita was a bit of a drunk, but not like the staggering through the Tenderloin kind of drunk. She was a fun drunk it sounds like. In Sonoma where she died the Sonoma News had the following to say:

Famous for her enormous slabs of prime rib, one order of a Juanita meal could typically feed a table. But diners quickly learned that if you didn’t clean your plate you couldn’t take it home, although you could slip some food unnoticed into a purse or pass a piece of excess beef to the dog that often wandered through the dining room.

Juanita kept a bedroom just off the lobby of the rundown hotel and arriving guests frequently found her fast asleep, her sizeable bulk covered in a flowing muumuu, her door open to the passing parade, her bed surrounded by an enormous collection of dolls.

If you knew Juanita and tried to sneak past her open bedroom door, she invariably sensed your presence and would call out in a shrill, commanding voice, “Hey honey, come in here NOW, and give Juanita a HUG!”

She was fearlessly and completely herself, there was no filter on her mouth or her emotions and she didn’t recognize a variety of conventional boundaries. Her “ear muff” prank consisted of sneaking up behind an unsuspecting diner and swinging each muumuu-wrapped breast up against the victim’s ears. Then she would cackle loudly and leave.

Famous Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones got an earmuff and so, almost, did this writer’s 75-year-old father.

I guess getting an earmuff from Juanita was kind of like a badge of honor for some. Keep in mind that this hard living foul mouthed restauranteur who would have chewed up Anthony Bourdain and spit him out lived to the ripe old age of 87. I bet she smoked too. 😉

San Francisco Foodies: Gourmands

Well, finally! I get to talk about food again. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about people labeling San Franciscans who like food with the term which I assume is derogatory, “foodies” or more specific, “San Francisco Foodies”. I say derogatory because the word “smug” usually comes up in most cases.

Yes, we’re smug, we know it all and we could fix the world if you’d just let us, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Let’s look at the word foodie and how it applies to San Francisco. Originally coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr and used as the title of their 1984 book, The Official Foodie Handbook. It described a person who was not a gourmet who had a very sensitive palate that could discern the difference between a 1978 Chateu la fit Rothchild and and 1979 Chateau la fit Rothchild.  Anyone who comments on my possible misspelling is not a gourmet, nor smug, but a snob who can’t find anything else to pick apart to discredit me.

Foodies are people who have a love of food that tastes good and are interested in why it tastes good so that they could possibly make it themselves. There was a term prior to this that actually fits San Francisco foodies much better. That term is Gourmand. They don’t necessarily have the refined palate of a gourmet, but they can at least tell the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot and they love food whether it is a succulent slice of prime rib from the House of Prime Rib to a bronco burrito from El Burrito Express. I would say Gourmand is a much more fitting word than foodie. First off, while being a modern word, foodie is almost 30 years old and well, sounds so 80’s even though I don’t remember anyone using the word here in the 80’s. Gourmand in and of itself is a word that has some class behind it, probably because it’s a smug French word and we being the smug people we are should be able to identify with it more.

In a recent story I read in a place I can’t remember, but probably sfgate.com, they mentioned that New York has the most diverse cuisine options to eat followed by San Francisco then followed by, well who cares, I’m trying to focus on San Francisco here. We are the second food Mecca of the US with the flavors of many countries around the world at our finger tips. Yes, we have lots of high brow restaurants in this city, but the people who eat there are perfectly happy walking up to a taco truck or one of the new versions that don’t serve tacos, but some form of portable cuisine that’s fast and easy to get and tastes good when you’re sitting on the curb consuming it.

There is a guy in the Mission who cooks up crepes from a side walk stand that moves around daily and he announces where he will be on Twitter. We have trucks that drive around the city cooking up BBQ, Korean food, even curry dishes. Highbrow? Nope. Good food? You bet.

Anthony Bourdain, a former chef who worked in gourmet restaurants travels around the world eating what he calls good food, well….I beg to disagree. He did a show in San Francisco and ended up eating a burger at Red’s Java House. There are some people that love the place, but I had a burger there once and I’ve done better with frozen burgers from Costco. A good burger shouldn’t be served with processed american cheese in this city. Anthony didn’t focus on any of the great mobile food purveyors in the city, but he did at least start with the House of Prime Rib. Anthony I would call more of a foodie than a gourmand. He’s trying to identify with the normal person who likes food, but he tends to choose places that don’t serve very good food when he steps down to the level of the average person and he basically eats shit.

San Francisco foodies [gourmands] can usually cook for themselves and enjoy cooking. There is nothing better for me than a day in the 60’s which causes me to pull out the BBQ. I try all sorts of different marinades and side dishes and in the event of a major disaster I know that my family will be well fed. I know how to turn a cheap piece of meat into a 5 star dish because that’s what you need to know in this economy. We know that you don’t have to pay $300 for a meal for two in San Francisco and sometimes the better meals you can get for under $15 for two people.

We also like to try new foods that are outside our comfort zone such as the fruit cherimoya. It really does have a taste like bubble-gum and pineapple but with all those seeds you have to be careful not to break a tooth. I have indeed stooped to the level of what some people would call third world countries and through some of my hispanic friends have been able to try chapulines over several shots of tequila. It takes about five shots of tequila for the average caucasian to even think of popping a deep fried grasshopper in their mouth, but I admit, they’re tasty. I’ve eaten dim sum that I have no idea what was in it, but it sure did taste good. I should probably learn more Cantonese or Mandarin to better converse with the vendors to know what I’m putting in my mouth, but if it looks good I’ll try it.

So for now, I’d say we should move away from the term foodie in favor of gourmand because after all we are San Francisco and we’re smug. Get over it.

Cambozola: The heroin of cheeses

It was one of those days. We had some friends coming over and we wanted to have some food available because we always like to eat. I ran out to Andronico’s which is like the food porn of supermarkets to get some cheese and there sitting in front of me was a huge collection of wedges of cambozola cheese. It had been awhile since I had it and I remembered how much I liked it so I grabbed a wedge and went on my way to get some prosciutto di parma and get back home.

Well when our friends came over they decided that they wanted to go out to eat. I’m thinking we’ve got cambozola AND prosciutto di parma in the house [along with a lot of other foods, but still] why go out? Well it turns out we did venture out to the Tennessee Grill and had huge meals that left us feeling like a light dinner sounded best.

As I sat down at the table that night my wife cobbled together some of the food we were going to eat for lunch. She handed me a some toasted bread and I automatically grabbed the cambozola and spread it on to the nice warm toast and noticed it start to slowly melt into the bread as I took a bit.

Oh God. I forgot just how good this tasted, but like the title says, it’s the “heroin of cheeses”. You just can’t stop and you keep going back for more and more. I was cutting up little pieces and dropping them on my salads, crackers, bread. I think I brushed my teeth with it one morning. It is just that good a cheese. I had become obsessed so I went to look up some information on my renewed addiction via Wikipedia:

It was patented and industrially produced for the world market by large German company Champignon in the 1970s. The cheese was invented circa 1900 and is still produced by Champignon. In English-speaking countries, cambozola is often marketed as blue brie.

It is made from the same blue Penicillium roqueforti mold used to make Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and StiltonCream is added to the milk, giving Cambozola a rich consistency. Therind of the cheese is similar to the Camembert rind. Cambozola is considerably milder than Gorgonzola. It features a smooth, creamy texture with a subdued blue flavor.

The cheese’s name appears to be a portmanteau of Camembert and Gorgonzola, given that its flavor profile combines the moist, rich creaminess of Camembert with the sharpness of blue Gorgonzola. It also refers to the Roman name Cambodunum of the city Kempten, where Champignon is located.

OK, I knew it wasn’t make in the Bay Area, but this German cheese with an Italian sounding name made by a company with a French name deserves at least some shrine in whatever town Champignon is in. I started searching for more info on my new love and found that people are putting this on everything now. Hamburgers with cambozola, pizza with cambozola, cambozola cheese pastries. It’s everywhere. It’s got a somewhat strong, but smooth taste, but none of that stinky cheese smell. It’s also a semi-soft cheese so spreading it isn’t too difficult. I just finished a snack of cambozola on toast with some barnier olives from Andronico’s and the tastes went well together. It didn’t even clash with the dark chocolate I had to finish my meal. Then I found out that Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle and Food Network fame has made a sauce with cambozola that he sells through NapaStyle and he even gives a recipe for asparagus with cambozola sauce on the Food Network website. OK, I know what I’m making for dinner tonight.

There is a downside to this wonderful cheese though…it’s not cheap. A pound will run you between $15-$20 depending where you get it. We used to find the cheapest at costco, but we don’t go there as often as we rarely need a palette full of anything anymore. If you can keep the addiction in check though it is a great cheese to try. It’s pretty easy to find in San Francisco as most grocery stores have it and it seems to be made only by Champignon so you don’t have to wonder whether you’re getting the best brand or not.




I am NOT a food blogger!

I recently have had the unfortunate experience of seeing quite a few food bloggers on television. This is not a good thing because if they are any indication of what food bloggers are like, I am not a food blogger. Most of them seem to have no luck with the opposite sex, can’t cook and the food they write about while tasty, has them all on high blood pressure and cholesterol meds.

This is not what I am. I love food, I write about food some times, but I don’t write about food I’ve bought at a restaurant all the time, I write about food I cook. Yes, I may have a couple extra pounds on me, but seeing as I’m getting closer to 50 that’s not so unusual and I know people in their 30’s who have more of themselves to love than me.

I grew up in the kitchen. I have a picture of myself at about 3 with an apron on standing on a chair washing dishes in the sink. This is probably because that’s where you always start out — as a dishwasher. I remember around 7 I got to move up helping my Mom mix cookie dough and bake the cookies and at 10 I was helping out my Dad at the BBQ. My family is from an Italian and German background, mostly Italian so it’s always about the food. While I’m a city boy we always spent the summers up in the Sierra foothills in what most city people would call a “red-neck” town. All the guys got a gun for their 16th birthday and you could sit out on the porch in the evening and watch the raccoons, skunks and deer walk right past your house. One of the things I learned from this was an appreciation of nature and vegetables. We used to drive out to Joe Malfino’s farm and get about 10-20 pounds of Italian red onions that his father brought the seeds over from Italy when he came here. Nothing is as sweet as one of those onions and my Dad used to show off to my friends when we’d get back my cutting an onion and having them taste it raw. When we’d be driving home we’d always stop at a place called Sloughouse that had the sweetest yellow corn you could ever imagine. When we’d get back home my Dad and I would plant radishes, carrots and swiss chard out in our foggy back yard which was kind of a way of bringing country life to the city.

I learned a lot from those times growing up. I was a city boy for most of the year, but in the summer I’d have to be a country boy picking the walnuts, figs and apples off the trees at my Aunts house or maybe we’d go over to a cousin’s place were we would be wrestling with the pigs and milking the cows and picking the freshly laid eggs from the hen house. For most of the people that was work, for me it was fun because I got to do something my friends in the city never got to. I remember my Aunt’s friends coming by and dropping off boxes of peaches and other fruits that were maybe off the tree for a couple hours at most.

Now I’m carrying on the tradition by cooking like I learned from my family and adding my own side to things. I’m moving out of the Italian/German comfort zone and playing around with South American, Indian, African dishes just to see what new I can come up with. I’ve wanted to be a chef many times, but some of my acquaintances such as Bruce Hill and Joe Zelinsky have said, “You work long hours, with no overtime and you barely make above minimum wage.” I think I’ll have to pass then, because I want to be able to buy the food I cook at home.