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Posts Tagged 'foodie'

$4 Toast, My Thoughts

iMfTrhtWhen I first heard someone talk about $4 toast in San Francisco I knew we weren’t talking about Wonder Bread. No one would have the cojones that big to try and sell Wonder Bread for $4, but of course San Francisco has plenty of bloggers with the cojones to make you think that. These rich techies are paying $4-$6 for a slice of toast!!!! Well, yes bread is involved and yes it’s toasted, but that’s pretty much where in ends for the most part.

Where it started is up for discussion, but people usually point to Trouble Coffee out in my hood or The Mill as the originators. They start with inch thick slices of wheat bread and slather it with butter and depending can top it with brown sugar and cinnamon, peanut butter and honey or whatever the hell they’re going to think up next. For a big eater it’s a light breakfast or a decent snack, but for the average person it’s pretty much a meal. It’s got a lot more calories and nutrition than a slice of Wonder Bread for sure.

The owner of Trouble Coffee said it was a comfort food for her because she grew up poor. For me, I was a kid in a middle class household that wasn’t hurting for money too bad and guess what my Grandmother used to make for me as a treat? Toast with lots of butter and brown sugar. Grandma would toss it under the broiler for a few seconds to get that serious caramelized effect that chefs like to go for now. It wasn’t a poor man’s pastry, it was actually more expensive than a donut back then probably because of the huge amounts of butter and stuff my Grandmother would toss on top of it. While most of the ingredients came out of boxes or bags this was home made for my Grandmother. I still like it today, I just never thought of slicing the bread an inch thick first.

My Grandmother would toss lots of stuff on bread that she’d toast. She used to broil cheese on bread and that was her version of a grilled cheese sandwich. I took a cue from her and toast bread then rub garlic on it and toss some chopped up tomatoes or other vegetables and call it lazy man’s bruschetta. Unfortunately for most people in San Francisco today lazy tends to be the norm. Finding a friend who is a foodie that can cook is kind of rare nowadays. Most of what people are spending their money on food wise has been prepared by someone else. Yes I cook so of course I’m going to not understand why other people don’t, but we’re talking about toast here. You can go to a bakery like Boudin and buy a loaf and ask them to cut it thick for you. You take it home, toast it, toss a bunch of stuff on top [if you’re slick you’ll put it under the broiler…] and you’re done.

The only reason there is $4 thick toast is that people don’t bother to do it for themselves. For the people who started selling it I think it’s a good idea. If you’ve never made it or bought it, it is something special. I had a poor period and a friend of mine gave me a 10lb bag of flour and a jar of yeast. That reminded me I knew how to make bread and I never felt hungry and I was able to do some pretty incredible things with it because when you’re hungry your mind sees everything as something you can turn into food [at least if you’re a guy like me.]

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Incidentally, the $4 toast, after doing a little search didn’t start in San Francisco. It started in Japan as a breakfast item too. It has scrambled egg on top and is sprinkled with chives and is sold as tamago toast for the equivalent cost of…$4

Looks pretty good and I’ll have to give that a try one of these days now.

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San Francisco: Playland For The Borrowed And Not So Famous

Daddy, can you get your credit limit raised on your card?I had mentioned this briefly in my last article, but I felt this needed more attention. People don’t realize that San Francisco today has become a long term amusement park for people trying to make a name for themselves in the world who ultimately don’t and I thought I’d talk about what that means.

As many of you know I’ve been driving for SideCar which is fun and gets me to see more of the city on a daily basis. About half of the people I pick up haven’t been in San Francisco for a year and of those I hear a lot of them saying that Daddy sent me to San Francisco with his credit card for a year to grow up or something similar to that. First off, BAD DADDY! Sending someone in their 20’s to San Francisco with an open credit card will only make you broke and won’t make them grow up. They won’t make a name for themselves here [at least one that will make them money so they don’t need your credit card] and in the end they’ll end up calling you back to bail them out or move to the East Bay for a little while longer.

Because of the no credit limit kids who don’t learn a thing such as $3500 is far to much to pay for a 2 bedroom apartment and that a cup of coffee doesn’t have to cost you $5 they are the ones ending up destroying the City as we know it. They aren’t giving anything back only taking away. Well, they are giving money to the businesses, but aside from bars and landlords it’s pretty slim as to who else is getting the money.

This has happened in the past. If you think back to the 90’s we had slackers. They were the ones sitting around in coffee shops all day smiling in the sunshine without a care in the world. We just didn’t know how they were paying the bills. Back then most of them jumped from couch to couch of their friends until they ran out of friends or stopped being able to make anymore and they left.

People like to blame the techies, but I don’t really think it’s their fault. They’re causing building in run down areas of the City to be remodeled and creating new places to visit in the city. Yes, they are moving out low income people to some extent, but they’re also moving out low income people in high crime neighborhoods where there’s still enough crime to go around [have you heard of people talking about the good old days in the Mission when they had their cars broken into every weekend? No, because it’s still happening.] The techies also can’t ship in all the employees so they’ll be hiring locals which gives all the computer nerds a reason to smile after being ignored in college.

I’m not sure where this money comes from that the kids who were sent here to grow get to spend. Some of them actually have said that they’d never take the bus because they’re above that. They become disconnected with the rest of the world that they’ll have to go back to at sometime in the near future. Dads, if you’re thinking of teaching your kid to grow up in San Francisco send them off with a month’s rent and a couple hundred dollars. That’ll make them grow up quickly and give you some money for your retirement.

It is my honest belief that this whole amusement park thing that is happening to the City at the moment will soon come to pass. Think may never go back to the way they were, but the bubble will burst for the kids and the only ones that will suffer other than the kids who will run home are the landlords, new bars and restaurants that have been pushing their prices up day after day. Luckily there are still a few places that haven’t changed so much, but I’m going to keep those to myself.

Don’t Move Here!

Talk-to-the-handAs I was spending my day surfing the web I came across a few articles about people who’ve moved to San Francisco like this one. My suggestion is don’t move here. Most of the people who were complaining about San Francisco have lived here for 3-5 years at the most, tend to be hipsters from the Mission, and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t understand that there’s more to San Francisco and I’m going to tell you some of the only reasons you should move here.

First, you’ve got an Aunt Gladys who bought her house in the pre-Prop 13 days and stayed there. Then she died and left you the house. Depending on the size of the house you’ll get stuck with paying between $800-$1500 a year in property taxes and the bit of house upkeep. Having a house handed you means that you have the equivalent of $42k/year income a year since you don’t have to pay rent. If you’re rich buy away. Once your house is paid off you’ll be paying per year less than what you’d pay per month to rent. I have a friend who bought a two bedroom house about 10 years ago and his mortgage is less than what he could get for renting the place plus it has a built in bar.

Second, if you choose to rent and now isn’t the best time you pretty much missed the boat by about 15-20 years. If you do decide to rent try to stay there. We’ve got a thing people refer to as rent control. My wife and I rented a two bedroom house 10 years ago that we payed $1200/month. Mind you we moved in there in 1997 before the dot com 1.0 pushed rental prices up to a ridiculous rate. If we stayed there we might be paying $1500/month…for a two bedroom house. When I first moved out to the Mission and that was around 1991 I split a two bedroom house with a full living room, full dining room, big kitchen, two huge bedrooms and a sun room for $400/month and that was my share. Our rent never went up while we stayed there and any fix ups the house needed we got to take off the rent.

Other than that, don’t move here. Rents are high and some of the employers are paying stupidly low wages. People who work in grocery stores and the like are here because they live with there parents, inherited their house from their parents or are section 8 disabled. Seeing guys in their 50’s who live with their aging Mom or Dad isn’t something to look down on here because they’re able to live here and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant every once in awhile while working for $17/hour. If you don’t already own and have your house paid off you need to earn about $35-$50 an hour to live like you would in other parts of the country. I don’t understand why some people move here and work long hours and then go shopping on the weekends for prepared foods because they don’t have time to cook or they go out to eat for half the week at an overpriced eatery when they could make enough food on the weekends at home for the whole week if they just made the effort, but that’s not my place to judge. I did used to shake my head when I worked with a girl who made $14/hour, lived in the upper haight with several roommates and would go to Whole Foods to buy her lunch. I would go around the corner for a $2 taco and bring a soda from home if I hadn’t brought my lunch and this was last year.

If you move here you don’t know the City well enough before you move here and don’t understand things like you can get the best and cheapest burrito outside of the mission because there aren’t those kind of hipsters where this place is located. You can get good food cheap if you know where to look [hint alley ways], but you’ll only know that once you’ve moved here and been around the City for about six months.

PBR is not what cheap San Franciscan’s drink. It’s Budweiser. PBR also tells everyone you’re a broke hipster and you’ve just labeled yourself even if you weren’t trying. While there aren’t that many born and raise in SF people left they’re the ones with the money in this city. Face it, until you’ve got 30 years under your belt here you’re going to have a rough time of it.

By all means though, come and visit us. We have a lot to offer. Great parks and museums and as others have noted great food. Affordable housing just isn’t one of those things.

Tony Does Frisco

I know I hate using the word Frisco for San Francisco, but I was trying to do a riff on the old Debbie Does Dallas, so I thought I’d give it a go. Anthony Bourdain’s the Layover aired last night and was about San Francisco. He used to hate us and thought we were obnoxiously smug twits. Well, he came by and saw us once and changed his mind. This time I have to say he did San Francisco proud.

While he hit almost every neighborhood of San Francisco, he did leave out the Sunset District, but I’ll let him slide on that one because he did a good job by staying away from the trendy places and focusing on more middle class fare this time. Swan Oyster Depot was probably the most expensive place he ate at, but he also tried one of the Mission District’s bacon wrapped hot dogs that they sell on the streets.

The only touristy thing he did was ride a cable car, but at least in doing that he understood how cool the cable cars are. The funniest was him telling us how cool they are a phony cable car with wheels drove past him in the background.

Bars, Bars, Bars. I think Tony was drunk about four hours after landing. After the hitting the Swan Oyster Depot it was onto the bars and the Tonga Room was a spot where he seriously got his drink on. He hit a bar in the Haight and Li Po’s in Chinatown where I’m surprised he didn’t sample the Uhn Kapay [I have no idea how that’s really spelled, but I have received a bottle for my birthday a few years ago and it’s something only for serious drinkers].

I think the best part of the show was when they interviewed locals who gave very good descriptions of what life in SF is like. Wear layers, expect overlaps in cultural cuisine, etc. I do wish he had made a trip out to the Sunset because we have some excellent places to eat. If he did I only wish that Pacific Sunset was still in business on Judah Street because what would he love more than to meet Klaus Loos who was the Executive Chef at Maxim’s in Paris and one day said, f*ck it I’m out of here to open a small restaurant in SF. He made some awesome food by the way and if you never got to eat there before they closed in the 90’s you really missed out.

Tony, hats off to you. You did a great job in San Francisco even though you ignored the Sunset District. I hope you survived your hangover and I think you should have gone to Trader Sam’s in the Richmond over the Tonga Room [which technically, the Tonga Room is a tourist attraction].

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.

Shopping on Irving Street

Irving street is a funny mix of stores. There’s a produce place just about every other storefront and then there some electronic/kids clothes/candy/XXX Vcd places. Yes, I did say XXX VCD’s and they were right next to the kid stuff, but at least they had cardboard in front of them and I didn’t get smacked by my wife when I pulled a piece of  cardboard up to reveal the perfect asian boobies behind the cardboard.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’d like to talk about my two favorite places to go on Irving street that concern food. The first is the 22nd Avenue Market. It’s been there for years and is mostly a produce market, but it also sells canned and bottled food in the back that you won’t find in your average grocery store. A lot of it comes from the Mediteranean. Greece, Turkey, that kind of thing with some Russian stuff thrown in. What I especially like is big aisle of nut sacks they sell. Yes, you heard me right. There nothing like a huge Irving street nut sack and they have all kinds of nut sacks to choose from. They have colored nut sacks, white nut sacks, raw nut sacks, even roasted salty nut sacks.

The list is mind boggling, but their also very inexpensive. I’ve recently found a new snack food I love called cacahuates or “Japanese Peanuts”. These are salty peanuts covered in a slightly sweet hard coating. You can think of them as Mexican M&M’s without chocolate. I have a huge bag of them now and they’ll probably last me at least a week. I was tempted to purchase some Turkish Delights, but I couldn’t find a price on the box so I figured I’d hold off for now.

After a trip to the 22nd Avenue Market you have to go next door to the Sunrise Deli. This is a great Mediterranean Deli that has THE BEST falafel in the city. You can get a half dozen falafel for $2.99, now that’s a deal. They’ve opened another place downtown, but it’s more expensive because of the neighborhood. This is still the best and most inexpensive place to get mediterranean food I’ve found. Their hummus and baba ganoush  is always fresh and cheaper than you could get it at a big chain grocery store. We feed about 40 people on less than $75 with food from here for my daughter’s first birthday. You can also sit down and enjoy a nice shawarma plate or one of their other fine plates that will run you around $6.95 and you probably won’t finish it. Incidentally, the plates come with these little pink things [That I don’t know what they’re properly called] that are pickled turnips. They taste much better than they sound and are worth a try. I would recommend you back away from the myrrh flavored chewing gum as it’s a rather odd taste that the Western palate probably isn’t quite ready for yet. Now time to run off and eat my falafel and hummus!