EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Food | Baghdad By The Bay - Part 2

Posts Tagged 'food'

Rassela’s Closing

Rassela'sBack in the early 90’s there was a little joke that went like this: What’s the height of optimism? An Ethiopian in a dinner jacket. For most of us we only knew about the famine’s in Ethiopia and didn’t really know what was going on there. I didn’t either until I got invited to a place in the Filmore called Rassela’s.

My first thought when my friends told me about the place was Ethiopian cuisine? Isn’t that like, you know, an oxymoron? I was wrong. Totally wrong. I walked in the door with my friends and the Maitre D was in a full on fitted black suit. Here was my Ethiopian in a dinner jacket and he had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Rassela’s is an upbeat jazz club with a cool vibe when you walk in the door and it was an experience I never had before in my life.

Ethiopian cuisine can be a little odd for those who’ve never had it before. After you place your order your plate comes out and is covered with injera bread. It’s a special spongy bread that looks kind of like a tortilla, but tastes completely different. On top of the bread is your order. Usually stewed meats or vegetables. No knives. No forks. You eat with your hands by pulling off some of the injera and scooping up  some of the stew. It’s actually quite a lot of fun and the food is nicely spiced and has a good taste to it. Their Doro Wat which is Ethiopian chicken stew has a taste like no other chicken stew you’ll ever have.

While I don’t know the details it has become obvious that they will be closing due to an alcohol beverage control notice that ownership is being transferred to Lily Nguyen under the name Era Restaurant.

Opening in 1986 Rassela’s has been a fixture on the Filmore scene for almost 30 years. I’m sorry I never got to bring more people there because the food was always excellent if I could get people past eating dinner using their hands. Ethiopian dining is quite a communal experience with the custom of feeding each other. There really is no better way to get to know someone than to have them literally stuff food in your mouth.

Happy Mother’s Day!

High School Graduation: Marge Kauschen

Every day is Mother’s Day. That’s what my Mom probably should have said. From the time I was born, looking back on all the pictures she was always there for me. When I was sick, when I was sad, when I was happy. She was always there.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and I lost her four years ago. I honestly think that she reached a point where she realized that I could make it on my own. She taught be to look out for myself, pay the bills get things done that needed to be done. She taught me to cook so that I’d never go hungry. She fought for me so that I would get good teachers and schooling.

I probably could have done more. I think the last thing I did for her was make her a grandma. Granted, I had help in that aspect. I had a lot of help and it wouldn’t have happened without Wife. I’d include a picture of her, but she doesn’t like to be in the limelight. She has that same aspect as my Mom. She never wanted to or tried to replace her and that’s a good thing. Wife is a smart cookie like my Mom and I think I did a good job in conning her into spending the rest of her life with me.

So today if you have a Mom that isn’t with you anymore I want you to think about her and what she gave up to make you who you were today. If you have a Mom that is still with you or you’re married to just take the time to remember that they’re doing an awful lot to keep you and your family on the right track.

Sunset Spring Festival

20130427-093443.jpgJust a quick message to let you all know if you’re looking for something to do today that Sunset Elementary will be holding their Sunset Spring Festival at 40th and Ortega. Doors open at noon and there will be lots of games, things to see, people to meet and of course food.

I’m about to head out the door to run down and prep the corn dogs to sell and there will also be Vietnamese food and iced coffee available as well as lots of other things. Note to foodies my famous cinnamon buns will be on sale to help out the PTA. Be sure to bring the kids.

Omar Khayyam’s

Omar Khayyam's Famous Spinach SaladYet another place that has gone away. I call it a place more than a restaurant because my Mother and Father used to talk about it all the time as a place you didn’t just go to eat, but you went to experience. There used to be more restaurants like that in San Francisco, but many of them have gone aways now.

Omar Khayyam’s was started by Armenian George Mardikian in 1947 in San Francisco [after he opened a restaurant of the same name in Fresno, CA]. While it was billed as an Armenian restaurant it really had a couple of Armenian dishes with Middle eastern and African mixed in after they were adapted for the American palate. When it opened there was a decent sized minority of Armenians in San Francisco, but the food was still pretty foreign to most people even in San Francisco at the time. You have to remember that back then spaghetti was considered ethnic food.

You can see on the menu I was able to find that there really wasn’t much special by today’s standards, but at the time George Mardikian was a restauranteur which for the time meant he wasn’t just a chef, but a showman as well. Mardikian started as a freedom fighter back when Armenia was having problems with the Ottoman Empire in 1903. His surname was that of the warriors being that Mardik meant warrior in Armenian. He work eventually led him to leave Armenia and come to the US around 1922. He went through Ellis Island and started life in the US in New York before moving west and ending up eventually in San Francisco.

The MenuHe was very influential here and when he opened Omar Khayyam’s downstairs at the corner of O’Farrell and Powell there were pictures of him circulating around that showed him breaking  bread with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Eleanor Roosevelt alone with other notables in local politics. As you walked down the stairs upon entering you would be met by the Rubiyat Lounge with it’s velvet tablecloths. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to clean those if you think about it.

Mr. Mardikian also served as a food consultant to the U.S. Army which if you think about someone who served ethnic food to the public being hired to construct food for our armed forces then it must have been pretty good food. He introduced the public to flatbread, probably a form of pita that would last longer than your average loaf and still be tasty so I could see why he was asked for advice.

From the day it opened until it eventually burned down in the 80’s Omar Khayyam’s was a well known restaurant. It was the type of place that it didn’t matter if you could pay the bill, you still had to put a suit on to eat there. While I won’t get into that argument here there was a time when having to get dressed up for dinner was a part of the whole ritual of going out to eat.

Living The Techy Life

Mug for the camera. Microsoft wants to see where their money went...I went to a mixer last night which is sort of like an all you can eat buffet for techies and in talking with a few people I started to understand how people with a tech background survive in the City.

First off you have to get invited to lots of mixers or meet ups. They’re free, offer food and lots of free booze. They run from 4pm to around midnight depending upon the day of the week. The food and booze is sponsored by large tech companies or at least partially underwritten to make it less expensive to the attendees. So let’s see what I got last night.

I walked in and was handed two free drink tickets. These were pretty much good for anything from a coke to a long island ice tea. I’ve just saved potentially $20. After walking in the door and before I could get a drink the food servers got me. I was offered [not in order of appearance] crab cakes, mushroom duxelles on toast, smoked salmon on toast, kobe beef styled sliders with grilled onions, grilled polenta dusted with parmesan, sweet potato fries with a habanero aioli to name what I can remember. I stayed a little over an hour and I have to say I left overly stuffed. When I got home I could barely keep my eyes open from the food coma I was in and had one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a long time. Getting seconds and thirds of the food wasn’t uncalled for, but expected that evening and I probably got an extra 2000 calories to add to my diet that day. Total cost for the evening? $2 muni fare round trip because I was able to transfer back home in under the hour and a half time frame.

As I was walking down Montgomery street to the location I noticed something about downtown that I hadn’t in awhile because I don’t go there very often. Most of the people were in a severely dressed down state. I could count the number of button down shirts on one had and most of those were worn by the doormen at the various clubs along the way. Most of the people looked like they bought their clothes at a Goodwill and aimed for the lower end stuff. Passing by 111 Minna there were an large number of hipsters all with bike messenger bags yet there wasn’t a single bike to be found. 111 Minna has a low entry fee and cheap beer so if you’ve got a few extra bucks it’s a good place to end an evening or start one if you’re not hungry.

Now let’s relate this to the techy life. San Francisco we all know is an expensive town to live in. If you work here it’s almost as if no matter how much they pay you, it’s never enough. The ways you make ends meet is by attending the meet ups and mixers. They have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner so if you swing it right you never need to have food in your house. You can supplement those with the perks your business offers you such as chips and cookies before you run home to your your apartment that other people would call a closet. While I’m not as into the tech field as many other people I could still eat out on someone else’s dime for about three nights a week.

To get the techy look you have to buy used clothing or just have not bought clothes since Web 1.0. You very rarely need a button down shirt so you only need to own one that you can keep in your closet and pull it out once a year when you have to dress up or attend a funeral. The bike messenger bag is for carrying all your laptop/tablet and to stuff swag that you get at the meet ups, or stuff food into for a late night snack.

I never had to live this lifestyle since before I got my house the rent was way cheaper and I wasn’t spending upwards of $40k/year just on rent. While I can’t fully relate to it, I do have to say that I admire the way they get by. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go pull the kobe beef sliders and smoked salmon out of my jacket from last night.

Super Bowl Food

Chili Con QuesoSince the Super Bowl is tomorrow it’s all about the food you serve along side the game that makes it a winner or not. I could tell that today when my wife and I went to the store and everyone was there stocking up on chicken, brats, steak you name it. The problem is that with all this protein people will be sucking down tomorrow they need a little something to balance it out it with and that’s where I come in.

My Mom discovered the recipe for Chili Con Queso a little late. Back then microwaves were for heating up food not really cooking it so she would prep this one on the stove. Microwaves are easier now and just about everybody has one so here’s the recipe:

1 lb.  (16 oz.) VELVEETA®, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can  (10 oz.) RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained

Chop the velveeta® into chunks and toss everything into a large microwaveable bowl and nuke it on high for 2:30 stir and nuke it again for 2:30. Serve with tortilla chips, chunks of bread, pretty much whatever you have around the house. I have friends who say they can’t cook and the only way to prove that to me is if you can’t make this recipe.

Since this is the Super Bowl you’re not supposed to ask whether or not it’s low salt, vegetarian, organic, healthy. Most Super Bowl snack foods aren’t healthy for you and that’s why I think it only happens once a year. I’m on the verge of calling this vegan because there’s no way anything living [except the tomato and chilies] could have ever come from a living thing. If you don’t go over board and down a couple of cups of the dip your salt and saturated fat shouldn’t put you over the deep like a brat would.

Note to all: This is old school and there is no artisanal, gourmet or other brand marketing in it. Hipster’s need not make unless they’re hosting a retro party.

This is probably one of the simplest dishes to make to go along with all the other garbage you’ll be eating tomorrow and it’s not quite as deadly as some people would think. My friends who are vegetarians and not vegans love this, but they wouldn’t ever admit to eating Velveeta®. Just as a side note, the original recipe called for a can of chili without beans and that definitely had a meatier punch to it. If you go this route I’d start slowly with the chili until you get it at the right consistency for you. Leaner chili would be good since you don’t want grease from the chili having an orgy with the oil in the Velveeta®.

GOOOOOOO NINERS!

 

My First Job

Please Sir, I'd like some more.I was talking with a friend the other day about silly jobs we’ve worked. Most of my jobs have been fairly normal and anything odd never lasted more than a week [setting up the audio for a gay new year’s party was interesting, but having to move out the day after wasn’t]. I had to think hard on this one and then I remembered back when I was nine years old. That was what I would consider my first job.

I was in elementary school [Lawton Elementary to be specific] and it was the year that busing started. There was lots of turmoil going around most of it in class or on the school yard and I was this nice clean cut white boy who just should have had a kick me sign glued to my back. My mother was even told by the Principal that the reason I was getting into so many fights was because she dressed me too nice for school. I didn’t like school back then because in a couple of years I would be working out organic chemistry at classes I took at the Academy of Sciences that I learned more from than the prune faced teachers of yesteryear that would just scowl at you and put on the TV so we could watch an episode of Sesame Street or Electric Company while they went to the “conference room” to suck down have a pack of cigarettes.

I needed a way out and a friend of mine Cornell told me there was an opening for a dishwasher in the Cafeteria. Cornell and I because friends because I think I told him he was cheating at four square which I didn’t realize was a challenge or slang for, terribly sorry, but would you possibly mind kicking my clean cut white boy posterior? Afterwards we became friends and he let me in on the little secret.

When you worked in the Cafeteria you got to leave class before lunch. Lunch was split into two sections where the first group would be eating then go out to play and they’d shuffle the second group in. We got our lunch for free and there was almost two hours out of my school day I only had to deal with Mrs. Dixon who scowled at everyone except us, Cornell and one other person who I can’t remember his name. For getting the trays and washing them [I had the dryer detail putting the trays into and pulling them out of the dryer and stacking them] we were paid 25¢ a week plus the free lunch. I’m sure we could have asked for more, but six nine year olds going on strike doesn’t exactly make anyone suffer. In some ways I felt a bit like Oliver from Oliver Twist, without all the filth and suffering.

These were the days when your parents would scare you with threats that if you didn’t do better in school they’d expel you and no other school would take you and you would wind up broke and on the streets. Well at least that’s what my Mom would tell me. Being broke and on the streets would have been tough for a nine year old so I worked at school which wasn’t much of an effort and if I did wind up on the streets I could at least be a dishwasher.

What I remember the most was Mrs. Dixon [who I just can’t imagine what Mr. Dixon looked like if he did exist] would reward us at the end of the month if we did a good job with an ice cream bar. I never understood why she had them since none of the other kids got ice cream [note bragging sound in my voice]. It wasn’t really that much and I could probably go home after school and at least three days out of the week I could grab an ice cream bar out of my own freezer, but I guess because I had to work for it made the difference. Cornell always used to work hard because once a month was about the only time he would get ice cream and he’d run out the door showing that ice cream bar to everyone in the school yard. The quarter didn’t mean much when you got ice cream at the end of the month.