Tony Bourdain has a serious bone to pick with this town, characterizing it as a hotbed of veganism rife with "crunchers". This colored his 2009 program with a bitterness I as a carnivore found depressing and hinting of Personal Vendetta. Sure enough, the name Alice Waters was mentioned; there's a feud so wrenching for him that he misses the boat on what makes San Francisco a great place to eat. I generally enjoy Bourdain's programs, although the Pre-No Reservations, younger-Tony shows were more interesting for his being less angry, jaded, self-conscious, and more bright-eyed.
A forty-four minute program is long. To find it wholly devoted to an anti-vegan diatribe was, frankly, boring. It led him to scarf down low-quality meat at greasy dives for a third of the program and to pursue a manic meat-mission at unexciting places for much of the rest. When the San Francisco show was over, I wondered why I was so vexed by it and tried to imagine how he could better have used his time here.
Neighborhoods and ethnicities are the essence of this sprawling, diverse city. For a New Yorker, especially, to devote forty-four minutes to culinary San Francisco and not mention Vietnamese cuisine is downright negligence; the foodiest of New Yorkers are often completely unfamiliar with Vietnamese food, so common here, and truly spectacular examples can be had at all price points.
Another interesting difference between New York and San Francisco is in the Italian cuisine department, New York's tradition being rooted in Naples and Sicily, and San Francisco's in more northerly regions such as Tuscany. As North Beach's former Italian predominance disappears, some focus on the Italian history of culinary San Francisco would have been apt if not important, not to mention colorful and fun.
Views – restaurants with views from decks and heights – of the bay, of the ocean, of the city, would have provided visual excitement for the TV audience and acquainted it with a unique neighborhood or two. Countless visitors to our city are drawn by this very feature, and there's just no denying the romance and thrill of al fresco dining here. Many establishments have charming small patios and gardens. Why not show one? As for our local people, the camera was pointed at a variety of homeless street persons and toothless beggars.
One wondered why Bourdain, in his one foray outside the city, drove all the way to Oakland for a $2 taco from a fast-food truck, and ate it sitting on a parking lot ledge. Was this the (Eureka) clue: Program as dig at nearby Berkeley's "Chez Panisse"?
Sante's Rx: One heck of a delightful, self-ridiculing segment deliberately integrating soy foods into his palate, with his characteristic vulgar humor saying something like, "I've come to San Francisco to lose my soy virginity." This town would have obliged him, sending him to the moon with creativity. There are Thai and Chinese chefs who would have incontrovertibly proved that tempeh and tofu are "Not Just For Yogis" but actually components of an exciting meal. But then he would have had to drop his beat attitude and let himself walk around stunned thereafter, muttering, "I stand corrected."
I agree that the Anti-Meat lobbyists can be annoying, and I personally do not fancy meatless meals. But I also recognize that restaurant patrons are often looking for tasty examples of meatless cookery, and Western chefs are not cooperating. Our culinary schools are not demanding that chefs master soy, for instance, in order to graduate. Over a quarter century ago, I was offering tofu and tempeh dishes to the meat-accustomed palate on a meat-dominant menu at a resort attracting its share of vegetarians and vegans, and this my innovation kept guests on the property for dinner. Omnivores on vacation would experiment at such a place, opting for Tempeh Piccata over Roast Chicken on a given night, to discover its possibilities beyond Asian expressions. Many a customer complimented and thanked me for both accommodating their health needs and inspiring their own experimentation. There are chefs far more talented than I who could expand their clientele catering to this market. Not that Anthony Bourdain need ever be one of them, but the guy's act is just crying for a shattering, silencing sexy night with soy, and I hear him.
On a current Forum thread, a poster despairs of making tofu palatable for her A husband.
I didn't want to derail that thread, but I do want to tell what I've said to those who haven't yet found the keys to Delicious Tempeh as well:
1. Pay attention to brand. Different brands can have very different tastes.
2. Some brands have "flavored" (i.e., pre-marinated) varieties. These might actually be delicious. You could find one you use all the time.
3. With tofu: Density is an important factor. There is "firm" tofu. There is "silky" tofu...
4. With tofu: You've got to express its water before you cook it. In the package, it is soaking in liquid, and you have to press this out. You can put the block of tofu on a plate, then cover it with another plate, and put a weight on that upper plate. Periodically pour off the liquid that has come out, until no more water is expressed. Now you can work with the tofu.
5. Frying and baking are the methods that I find most successful with someone who "doesn't like" tofu. You want to BROWN the tofu, give it a little crust that will contrast with the inner soft chewiness.
6. Tofu will absorb and nicely reflect the flavors you cook with it, so choose your oil and other ingredients carefully.
From the Blog Journal: November 2009
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Recently I've tried some new bites: Here's what is B-good and I've really enjoyed:
- Salmon Fajitas at Chevy's Fresh Mex: Delicious grilled salmon, bell peppers and onions. Chevy's also has a number of salads. You can get one with their grilled salmon: What a treat.
- Horseradish Cheddar: A local deli sells this. It's marvelous sliced and rolled with thin-sliced roast beef. You can then slice it in strips and toss it with a salad.
- Dill Havarti: Melt this over an open-faced roasted turkey or salmon sandwich. It's somewhat creamy and delicate.
- Pepper Jack: Another pungent winner. Wakes everything up. Re-discover it.
- Salmon Pakoras: An Indian restaurant takes chunks of tandoori-roasted salmon, dips them in a thin (uh oh) bajri batter (contains garbanzo flour) and flash fries them.
- Paneer Pakoras: They do the same thing with slices of Indian cheese.
(But you don't have to batter and fry tandoori salmon, which is usually so yummy on its own. And you can fry paneer in ghee with some spices; easy to reheat and slice thin, serve with chutney.)
I notice LAMB showing up on all sorts of cuisines' menus these days. All the Chinese restaurants are featuring it now.
Some favorite "ethnic" restaurant-Lamb dishes are:
- Boti Kebob (Tandoori Lamb Cubes)
- Shawerma (Middle Eastern roasted lamb, sliced and served - usually - in a pita sandwich with a vegetable salad. Sometimes it's mixed with beef.) VERY savory!
It's rare that I find myself eating a lamb leg roast or a rack of chops, though I do roast chops or tenderloin at home, and I also like lamb burgers. A number of San Francisco restaurants are serving lamb burgers now; it's definitely a trend.
B's: Do keep your eye open for Rabbit. Especially à la Moutarde in French/Burgundian restaurants, served in a copper terrine, generously sauced. This is so...soothing. It may be the ultimate B comfort food. I've tried making rabbit myself. I dunno. The bunnies this prime butcher has tend to be skinny: Very little meat on the bones. So it's a strictly restaurant option for me. If you can find a good place to order it, go often and bliss out!
We're deep into game season. Go somewhere top notch and order roast loin of venison with a port/berry reduction. Maybe you'll have dreams about your ancestors and their fire-roasted gazelles.
Some people report problems with many red wines: Headaches and the like. Often this is a matter of tannins, in which case it's a good idea to experiment with the low-tannin, more quaffable reds. Hint: If Beaujolais Nouveau (harvested a mere 3-8 WEEKS before release) doesn't upset you, your problem could very well be a matter of tannins.
But, hey, maybe you do well with ANY red wine, but you're looking for something you can drink shortly after it's released, not having a cellar or collection, or not being a wine connoisseur...What you'd want, therefore, is a red wine that is low in tannins, which means it's easy to drink young. Red wines that are heavy on the tannins take years to "grow into" them; tannins are what provide "structure" to these cellarable and complex elixirs.
But if the simpler quaffs are the ones you want (and these are, in fact, more food-friendly than the Big Boys), look at the other Beaujolais, especially since "Nouveau" or "Primeur" is out of date within just a few months of release!
(1) The top: Cru Beaujolais, meaning the 10 villages accorded this status. Crus are the longest-lived, generally, of the Beau's, some more than others. A great Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent is sometimes compared with Burgundy, being the most highly structured (tannins!) of the Crus; therefore these can lie down for 3-8 years. Although: I had a fantastic Moulin-à-Vent a few months ago, a 2003 (a FABULOUS year for Beaujolais) that would have been just right for the tannin-avoider. Perfect, in fact. Even elegant, which many wine snobs would never say about a Beaujolais (Fine, all the more for me). The other 8 Crus are nice, too, at 1-3 years.
(2) The Beaujolais-Villages: One step down from Cru, and one up from straight Beauj. In a good year, these can be every bit as good as Cru.
(3) Beaujolais: This is what the People drink, and it's good enough for me, if it's good enough. But definitely drink it within 1 to 1-1/2 years of bottling.
Now take a look at some of your Cabernet Francs: I've enjoyed Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgueuil, all from the Loire region of France. These are, also, drinkable young. If you're inclined to try a Cab. Franc from another region, go ahead!
Crozes-Hermitage, some New World Merlot (New World=Southern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere)(this category includes thousands and thousands of wines), and some Bordeaux that are skewed toward Merlot/Cabernet Franc (rather than Cabernet Sauvignon, which is more tannin-heavy)(ask the knowledgeable seller, if the proportions are not listed on the back label, which labelling is becoming more prevalent as consumers become more savvy), St-Josèph, Vacqueyras, and Côtes du Rhône: All available young (under 3 years old).
From Spain, the Garnacha is generally easy and fruity, and often is harvested from old vines; and some Tempranillo is easy-drinking as well. Try the Garnacha, and if you prefer something somewhat more refined, look for it blended with Tempranillo (should be stated on the label, front or back), and it should be pretty easy on you, tannin-wise, as well as money-wise.
From Italy, try Bardolino and Valpolicella, drinkable ONLY young, really. There's always Chianti, as well as Nebbiolo d'Albi, and Barbera d'Alba (some).
Finally, don't ignore the Pinks! These are meant to be drunk as close to harvest-time as possible, talk about tannin-freeness. Don't laugh at the thought, as if Pinks are for...teenagers or "girls". There are exciting pinks being made today...some have a transparent red-pinkness to them, and I highly suggest you experiment with these if tannin is your problem. My all-time favorite in this category has long been Domaine Tempier (Bandol), but I'm royally miffed that they keep raising the price, to the point where a beloved quaff is now a "special treat" (Sorry, but I find $24 for a bottle of Pink a bit steep! But at least it shows you the "seriousness" of the category). I love an organic pink coming out of Argentina's famous Malbec crop: It's under the Familia Zuccardi label and is available in the US at Whole Foods Market for something like $8. (When I first tried it, it was on sale for $6: Talk about low-risk, and I high-tailed it back there and bought more, after having tasted it). This wine wordlessly answers the question "How can a wine be really, really fruity with LOW residual sugar?", a common one among the uninitiated.
Now: Don't be afraid of white wine. ALL of it is tannin-free. And there are some superb combinations with food, with which you'd never usually consider white the right accompaniment. If there is demand, I'll share white wine tips with you soon. Otherwise, I'll keep them a secret.
I wasn't really thrilled to be B, or any type I might have been, as long as I was "doing-things-with" most of the right ingredients, until the Epiphany, with which I really have to credit Dr. Robert Atkins, the breakthrough-messenger in this regard: "It's okay to eat outside the Low-Fat box." For me that box, of whose tyranny I'd been quite unconscious before, was labelled "Full Fat Dairy Is Forbidden".
Frankly, I'd preferred whole milk to reduced-fat all my life, but only permitted myself to guiltfully buy the occasional quart, and I indulged my taste for it chiefly in two places: Half-and-half in my coffee, and -- rarely -- an ice cream treat, again: Knowing it's "not good for" me.
After scanning Bob's book last summer, I made different choices at the dairy department that very evening: I bought heavy cream and full-fat yogurt and sour cream. And, indeed, the ensuing weight loss was -- dramatic! (In the past, whenever I've wanted to lose weight, I've used a terrific weight loss "diet". It includes lots of dairy, but all skim or almost-skim. Not really satisfying.)
But here's what this B has discovered: I LOVE preparing cream sauces, creamy dressings and desserts. I LOVE paneer amidst my curries, and sour cream on my manna toast, with fruit. The guilt is gone: I openly and unabashedly look forward to feta cheese dressing on my beets, and I've invented a bedtime cordial that is very calming and satisfying: A shotglass of cream (occasionally diluted with cold spicy (leftover) herb tea).
In sum, I decided to indulge myself in my inherited right to really ENJOY dairy, not just "permit it, low-fat". And once I began doing so, I confirmed that the BTD is not so much about dodging lectins and "avoids": It's about, indeed, coming fully into one's genetic individuality and brazenly enjoying whatever parts of one's "beneficials"-spectrum seem to fit with THAT. My individuality -- not the Blood Type Diet -- is primary. A North American Pharmacal brochure puts it this way: "Dr. D'Adamo's research and the Blood Type Diet can help you...feel 'right' in your body, your mind and your world."
As a B, it dawned on me that the enjoyment of a way of eating that featured dairy CENTRALLY was not only "to be tolerated" but, in fact, The Answer. I'd been thinking, like most Westerners, as an O: "What's my MEAT going to be? and I'll build the menu around that." The O hunter goes out and spears the deer, and all meals revolve around that carcass for a long time. But now I think as a B: "What's my milk, my cream, my cheese, my yogurt going to be?" The B shepherd/nomad goes out and milks his camels/horses/goats/sheep, drinks the milk, churns some butter, curdles some cheese, cultures some yogurt/kefir. These guys walk alot too, and they're in great condition. Instead of: "Cool! As a B I 'can-include-some' dairy, like a low-fat kefir drink or yogurt shake", I'm saying, "WOW! I can indulge in my favorite food! Hooray!"
Example: Instead of making a tomato sauce for my spaghetti (ho hum), I'm cooking a super-creamy veal and mushroom stroganoff and covering my parsleyed egg noodles with it, next to the brussels sprouts and red wine. I'm thinking, "Those poor suckers who have to fall back on tomato sauce..."(Corollary: The way to stop missing your "avoids" is to start REALLY DIGGING your bennies!)
I'm learning a whole new way to everyday-cook. When I lived in Switzerland, I was semi-attached to my Californian metabolism, unable/unwilling to handle the "gruyère, gruyère, everywhere" ways of my friends..until NOW. (Timing is Everything.) Just as my BTD-compliant, type A, brother is admitting that he's just not honestly drawn to animal food anymore, I'm admitting that my particular B-inheritance has me enjoying the creamy milk of the flock, above and beyond all else: The milk is my centerpiece and shall take a much more central place in my every meal and snack.
Do you see how we tend to congratulate the O who identifies with the hunter/gatherer and "discovers" meat? and how we likewise praise the A who begins to really enjoy his tofu and veggies? but we address all sorts of caveats to the B who develops a cell-deep appreciation of the shepherd's way of eating? (Ever see a shepherd milk his goat and then skim off the fat before drinking it? What were we thinking????)
So, my B clanmates: Nonfat yogurt and skim milk as occasional snacks to form part of the periphery around a meat-centered diet (and those meats are supposed to be the wild stuff: venison and bunnies) may actually be unbalanced. Since I could, alas, find game and rabbits only seldom, I was spending pretty pennies on lamb, lamb, lamb and fish, fish, fish: Maybe that's your limbo-stage, too, in adhering to B. But it gets really FUN when you start saying, instead, from your deepest origins, "Look how much milk I've gotten from this cow: How can I use it creatively and satisfyingly?" and then ADAPTING your turkey leftovers or your fresh-caught cod to THAT. Pick up some paneer and say; "Where can I harvest some greens to make a saag?" and only THEN, go get your (smaller) pieces of meat and fish, and your veg/fruits/nuts...
You'll certainly be reading more from me on this topic. Meanwhile, Bob, wherever y'are: Thanks, Buddy.