EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Bruce Hill | Baghdad By The Bay

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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.

Why you gotta love San Francisco

There are a lot of reasons to love San Francisco, but I think one of the biggest is the food you can get here. You can travel around the world’s cuisines without leaving this city squeezed into a 7 mile by 7 mile peninsula. An Austrian friend of mine, Karin on her first trip to San Francisco gave me a wicked little smile when I said you can find any kind of food here. “I will offer you a challenge then.” OK, that was a rather Germanic way of putting it, but even though she was born and raised in Austria she’s of Syrian decent.

“Can you get authentic Syrian food?” I stopped for a second. What the hell exactly is Syrian food? I still don’t know for sure, but I imagine it must involve slow cooked tagines of animal parts served in a spicy sauce. Time to google. Yep, we have seven Syrian restaurants in San Francisco. We never got to try one to see how authentic they were, but even so you can still find any kind of food you want here. We of course have the fresh seafood down at the wharf. House of Prime Rib offers up some wonderous slabs of beef, but those are things you expect to find. The Italian food in North Beach is still great and has moved outside of North Beach to possibly permeate the city. Steak houses are a dime a dozen around here. Where you have to go to find some odder, uncommon foods is the local neighborhoods. Want a little tongue with your burrito? Head to the Mission. Chinese food that the squeamish don’t want to ask what’s in the broth of the soup. Head to Chinatown. Middle eastern and Indian food is everywhere from Yumma’s and Sunrise deli in the Sunset District to Saha Arabic Fusion and Shalimar downtown or Kan Zaman in the Haight. We even have a pizza place that rumor has it, imports its water from New York and brought it’s pizza oven from there as well.

In the picture that goes along with this article is one I took that yesterday at a local grocery store in the Sunset District. This is what I expect to see in a grocery store in the Mission District, not the Sunset. As a matter of fact they had almost an entire aisle dedicated to Hispanic ingredients right down to the candles with Jesus and Saint Mary on them.

I can get most countries cuisines without even leaving the Sunset district, although German and French food is getting harder to find, but there’s always Ethiopian food ready at New Eritrea on Irving Street. We have three Hawaiian restaurants within 5 minutes of my house serving up a plate lunch just like the surfers in Hawaii feast on after a morning of surfing, yet not one of them is near the beach. We got food here and you gotta love it. Now I think I’ll run out for some Southern BBQ today.