Thursday, December 30, 2004
The Galette des Rois is a French tradition to celebrate the arrival of the Rois-Mages, aka. the Wisemen, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who brought myrrh, gold and frankincense to the crib of baby Jesus. The pie is supposed to be eaten on Jan. 6th, for the Epiphany. This King's Cake is typically an almond-and-egg paste wrapped in pate feuilletee.
It has a 'feve' (literally, a dried bean) in it. Whoever gets the slice with the feve is the king, and gets the right to wear the silly crown in the picture. The bean has evolved into fancy ceramic or gold plated 'feves', with religious motifs. Kids collect them, so it is an excuse to sell more pies. The youngest kid of the family goes under the table to assign the slides blindly.
I had a slice of la Boulangerie's pie yesterday. You can order whole pies there ($25 I think for a large, $15 for a small. $3-something for a slice). Call ahead, they were out of whole pies when I got there at 2pm. It is better than no galette, but to eggy and not enough almond-y. Also, a better patissier would flavor the inside custard with some liquor, to add some depth. No luck here. But it will bring back the memories if you have not had the real thing for a while though.
I would assume you can find the same pie at the other Bay Breads location (ie. la boulange de Cole, la boulange de Polk, etc.) If there are other galettes that I should know about, please leave a note in comments.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
To find a bunch of SF blogs aggregated together, SanFrancisco.cityfeeds.com syndicates this page and many other in SF, like the must-read SFist.
But do not worry, she does not go out of character: she still is the Costco of food critics (she gives you words in bulk, most of them you don't need), and she still hangs a stone throw away from the Fairmont at the top of Nob Hill. So my fellow business travelers, rejoyce, and get your expense accounts and dividend miles citicards out, once more, Meredith is here for you!
She goes to C & L, where the C stands for Charles Nob Hill, the super fancy restaurant that C&L replaces, and L stands for Laurent Manrique, formerly of uber-restaurant Aqua. Of course, Laurent Manrique, who owns a foie gras store in Sonoma, epitomizes the delicacy so much he has been harrassed in his house by anti-foie-gras wackos. It is not a surprise Meredith would go there in a heartbeat.
The money quote from her piece is: It seems I like foie gras.* No duh. To see how disconnected she is from reality, listen to this: meal cost $54 a pop, [B]ut in truth those are gentle-for-steakhouse prices. Yep, that is what you end up believing when you only visit 4 stars places all year long.
*just to clarify, I won't blame anyone for liking foie gras. I blame Meredith for misrepresenting the varied and diversified SF food scene by over-emphasizing the restaurants for the well-heeled, and ignoring simple yet delicious places. As such, her review is useless for those who are not rich or who don't fantasize about the lifestyle of the rich.
Which begs the question: does the U.S. constitution has a provision for recalls?
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
I say thank you, as this cost is passed on to anyone who has posted something on Craigslist for free.
On the other hand, lost revenue in local newspapers is a reason for their declining quality. Namely, the Chron could afford to syndicate Paul Krugman again. And the SF weekly's food critic could order lobster and foie gras every week. Oh, wait, she does...
Monday, December 27, 2004
At the top of my list is Original Joe's on Taylor, in the Tenderloin. One of their chefs, Roberto, is one of the finest. The zabaglione he makes (in a copper bowl) is the best in this town.
While I might have disagreed with him on some points, I have to say Original Joe's is the best. To have a waiter in a starched shirt serve you the best sweetbread for less than 10 bucks after hours, that is hard to beat. I sat at the counter, it was like a sushi bar: the chef talking to you, arguing with the maitre d' who sat another party after closing time, even though he would have done that party the same favor himself anyway, and pouring Hess chardonnay in my dish (which is too decent a wine for what they charge).
So I raise my glass to the good taste of the night cabbie, and wish him good luck in his new endeavors.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Groundhog day as a narrative process has been done before, so we thought we might offer some help:
Inflected Form(s): plural syn·the·ses /-"sEz/
Etymology: Greek, from syntithenai to put together, from syn- + tithenai to put, place -- more at DO
1 a : the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole.
Armed with this new tool, maybe she can combine the 3 visits into a review.
One the positive side, we learned that she has an editor. She describes a place as a cedar-lined closet, then adds: I initially thought of a cedar cigar box, but that seemed too pungent and tobacco-y a metaphor. The editor (note the passive form) nixed the cedar cigar box, of course. Next time, nix the whole review.
Monday, December 20, 2004
But before anyone accusing the players of quitting on the team, here is proof that they take victories seriously: so elated where they, that two of them got arrested for public drunkedness. Drunkedness is metaphorical for extatic about winning.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Google will offer the most likely suggestions first, that is the searches that are the most popular on google over the last few days (they could also offer the suggestions based on the money paid by the owner of the page who ranks first for the search, but google has been good so far at keeping the money away from the result ordering).
So let's look at the completion for some canonical searches: what does google suggest if I only type each letter of the alphabet:
a -> amazon, b -> best buy, c -> cnn, d -> dictionary (ok, this is a google feature, so not a surprise: you type dictionary and a word, and google gives you the definition), e -> ebay, f -> firefox (that is a cool result. Microsoft beware),
g -> games (the first search that is on a wide topic rather than on a website. I can bet on what 's' will be right now), h -> hotmail (I can bet 'y' on yahoo too), i -> ikea (no way), j -> 1- jokes, 2- jobs, k -> kazaa (r -> RIAA???), l -> lyrics (and 'love poems' ahead of 'love', at 5th and 8th respectively. People are practical), m -> mapquest, n -> 1- news, 2- nokia, o -> online dictionary, orbitz, online games, p -> paris hilton (NO WAY), q -> quotes, r -> recipes, s -> spybot (I lost my bet, but the suggestions are obviously sanitized. There are still no 3 letters suggestions even for 'se'. Don't tell me it's only on my mind), t -> tara reid (Call me clueless, but I had to click through to know who the hell she is.), u -> ups, v -> verizon, w -> weather, x -> xbox, y -> yahoo (this one I won), z -> zip codes.
[update: why does "san andreas" come first when you seach for "san"? Probably because 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' is one of the more popular games.]
I suspect neighbors were fed up with a late night bar, as the place must have been very profitable. I'll miss the happy hour sangria sundays.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Anyhow, I went to http://urbanforage.com and the page is already used by FocusOnU.com, that explains -I assume for a fee- how to Let The Power of The "MIND OVER MONEY" Automated, Self-Coaching Course Change Your LIFE and your money! (urban forage page still in the google cache.)
[Update: while trying to find the web page google cache, I found a post on IndyMedia that sheds some light on the abrupt closure: they say Urban Forage got sued by an ex-worker. From the court documents (go here and put in the case number CGC04428786) it looks that it was by a customer who fell 6ft through a trap door that had no business being open, and blew his knee. They settled two weeks ago, and there went the business. The title of this post was written prior to learning this, refers to the website going to a self-help scam already, and is in no way a pun about the plaintiff's fall].
The more important bridge question, though, is why didn't Bill Clinton burn down his bridge to the 21st century: it seems we're crossing it again and a little too fast.
From a poll conducted by Cornell University.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
First, let's give credit where it is due: it is her best review of the year. And I am not charitable just because it is the season. For one thing, the bar is quite low. Anyway, it is sad we had to wait till the 11th hour for this, but:
-she does not go to the Ferry building nor North Beach (she goes to Duboce triangle and the upper-Mission),
-she reviews sushi places (in her almost two year career at the Weekly, she had reviewed exactly 2 sushi places: Kabuto and Midori Mushi, yesterday's review doubles it.)
-She does not eat fois gras nor lobster (even though she repeats the old saw that ankimo is the foie gras of the sea and admits she wanted to order a lobster roll but somehow forgot)
-she reviews each restaurant in about 840 and 770 words respectively (+80 words telling she was tipped by readers for these places): that's her distance. Usually she tries to run those 1700 words on one place, gets out of breath, and fills up the rest with movie review garbage.
Of course, this review makes use painfully realize what we missed all year long, while we endured the review of countless Italian and Cali-French places in the Marina. And it raises the question: how come a Japanese restaurant does not deserve the scrutiny of 2 or 3 meals like those Italian and French places? Why is a drive-by reviewing enough?
To the review!
One of the questions I get asked frequently is how I choose the restaurants I go to, and beyond the obvious (covering the new places, my appetite), [ed: ie, the Zagat survey, the PR brochure I received that mentioned lobster, the proximity to the bay bridge and a parking structure or valet parking] there's an avenue I really enjoy: following up on readers' tips. Indeed, this is so way beyond the obvious, I am overwhelmed. Would never have thought of it. Revolutionary.
It does summarizes her attitude though: reader's tip are not something she would consider naturally. That would be too humble. But hey, where do the reader's point? Fancy foie gras places, or homey neighborhood places? French food at $26 a plate, or simple ethnic food? Following reader's tip is admitting she is wrong the other 50 reviews of the year, that she misses the San Francisco culture by only exploring the PR-publicized tip of the iceberg. And to her, alas, that is beyond obvious.
Then came two plates of a popular fusion dish [...] the miso-glazed cod. So she takes a traditional dish (miso-glazed cod) and calls it fusion! Nippo-Japanese fusion, we'll assume. Her Japanese restaurant reviewing skills are a bit rusty, why, it has been a year since her last.
Ok, more ridiculousness from her: Casper Oswald [...wrote...] "I imagine after a review my haunt will be overcrowded and difficult to get a table at." But in San Francisco, where there are at least 120 sushi places, I don't think he really has to worry. So because there are 120 sushi places, none is crowded, right? I must have imagined waiting in line at Hamano or Ebisu or even at the over-rated Midori Mushi, which got really crowded after they stuffed* the Best of the Bay ballot right under Meredith's nose.
But it's the season to be charitable, so here is my wish for next year: more reviews of places like Amasia or Oz, with two restaurants per review at 800 words per, and I'll be so happy.
*I don't know if they did stuff the ballot, but they did came out of nowhere to win best sushi, (and best new restaurant too), with a very limited seating capacity that makes it hard to convert the masses in such short time. Plus, the food is not so exceptional (I hate it when place that market itself as only serving the best fish uses imitation crab meat in the rolls). Meredith loved the place, but she is not discriminating for Japanese food. It is not below her that she might have "liked" it in an attempt to suck up to the readership (cf. her going to last year's best new restaurant winner, Quince , four times to find something good to write about it).
Amasia is another example. It is an okay neighborhood's spot. Food is decent, if uneven. The chef was rude to my pregnant companion, who did not want to eat mercury-loaded fish. Instead of finding the stuff she could eat (unagi, ika, saba, etc.), he would berate her for not eating the tuna or the yellow tail.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Web ( On-Line ) Registration at http://www.ccsf.edu, on FRI, 07-JAN-2005
Telephone Registration at (415) 452-0600, on FRI, 07-JAN-2005. Please note that Telephone Registration will no longer be available after December 23, 2004.
In-Person Registration, TUE, 04-JAN-2005 at 9:00 A.M.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Brad correctly says that: not so fast, as if the tool goes wrong, then the user does not have the ability to get back to manual pilot: the user does not even notices something is turning awry. While Brad is of course correct, he forgets that the user not knowing absolve him of the responsibility of the bad result: once the faulty designed is exposed, the customer will sue the builder of the tool, not the designer who used the tool (math skills will be required from a flock of legal experts as well...)
Of course, the Chron being the Chron, it says
even though today is Tuesday.
Anyway, it is mostly about the slide of the dollars, something that concerns me, as a foreigner living here. It errodes my buying power back home, and makes returning to France more attractive financially. But on the other hands, my few liquid assets over there have gained 30% or so over the last year, so that elusive down-payment on an appartment might happen after all. The question is: since the dollar slide will have to be compensated by raising interest rates, which in turn might deflate the bubbly SF housing market, why should I take advantage of the opportunity?
Ouch. I live right next door to one of them, walk in front of it any day, and I haven't noticed a thing. The phone still rings, so at least that bill got paid. I don't understand they should close so quick after expanding so fast to two spanking new locations. Obviously their growth model was seriously flawed (or, if you consider organic raw veganism a religion, seriously faith-based.)
I will miss them, and my (occasional, so I take responsibility for their downturn) wheatgrass shot or yummy egg-and-dairy-free macaroon.
Friday, December 10, 2004
So I hooked it up to my laptop right away, and it worked fine to get it to work with itune, and it was easy to install.
But then I could not get it to work with my other computer. It is annoying, cause my music is split in between the two computers, and I cannot get it all onto the iPod. Maybe I'm just a klutz, but I haven't solved this problem yet.
Anyhow, I got a few mp3's onto the thing, and right then, as I have had the device for less than 2 hours, the menu button on the click wheel froze. I could click down the menus using the select button, but I could not go back up. I was caught in a blind alley. Aaaargh. I tried to reset the device, I tried to reformat it using the iPod program, and nothing worked. I was going to send it back to apple when I ran into a message board that explained that many people had the same problem.
It turns out that pressing the click wheel while putting the device off hold (the function that locks the click wheel so that your keys in your pocket don't change the track inadvertently) recalibrates it to a value that pretty much disables it. You must not touch the clicking wheel when you unlock the click wheel. So I did put my iPod mini on and off hold, and MIRACLE! it seems to work again.
Anyhow, it is a darn silly user interface problem, and it almost ruined my iPod experience. (oh, and the other thing is for those who don't like to read user's manual, and like to rush things: don't look for the power cord from the device to the charger, it is disguised as the firewire cable. Not intuitive at all)
Otherwise, it is a great little thing. I am so happy, it is one of the best Christmas gift I've had.
Anyhow, the day after, yesterday, the SF Gate could not help but run it as well. It seems white supremacists must be given a forum. Maybe the Chron is trying to extend its readership to Alabama.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The 3rd st. muni line is coming along nicely right outside the door. The rails are in place for some segments already, and the elevated muni stops have been built. While I'm on the construction topic, I hear octavia has re-opened on a few blocks, on one side only. That job too is moving along. I got a cheeseburger, and it was quite tasty. It cost me $3.75, and came with a bag of either cheetos or fritos. I got fritos, it's healthier. They can upgrade a burger with a slice of fried ham.
Now I am willing to bet my social security private account that Meredith Brody would not go there in the time I retire. And she'll miss on a perfectely good burger.
*I browsed this month issue, and there was an advertisement for Espetus Churrascaria, one of the few places reviewed this year by Meredith Brody that is not within walking distance of a Sheraton. Furthermore Espestus doesn't serve lobster. But she got out of her way for it, anything to please the business traveller with a hefty expense account, that's the kinda girl she is.
By my count, this is her 9th visit this year to North Beach (counting Bocadillos once, even though she reviewed it twice). This is first, tied with the ferry building-embarcadero area, ahead of the marina, 6 times, and the castro, 5 times. Mission: 1 visit; Inner sunset: 0 visit; Richmond: 1 visit. But we know there's hardly a restaurant at 9th and Irving, 16th and Valencia, or on Clement st. Restaurants need to be close to water and cable cars to live, dontcha know that?
Actually, there used to be one place to eat on Clement st, but, says our SF expert wanna-be: the Vietnamese restaurant on Clement that I'd intended to take a group to had apparently gone out of business. At least she knows Clement st. exists.
With the Gods against a foray deep into this jungle of a city, what's a zagat junky to do? Go to perennial favorite, the Helmand. A top 100 restaurant according to Michael Bauer, a top rated zagat, a winner of Best of the Bay from Meredith's own SF Weekly, a restaurant reviewed in the Weekly, and mentioned here (the last review of Greg Hugunin, the guy she replaced!), here and here. Talk about uncharted territory.
But Meredith like to state the obvious, and obviously she does not read her own newspaper*. So to the Helmand she goes. Was the review necessary? Let's compare with Hugunin's review. Oh, and by the way, I bet Meredith saw Hugunin's review framed on the wall of the Helmand. According to him, a fact she keeps silent, you have to walk by a display of more than a decade's worth of restaurant reviews from publications local and national.
|Greg Hugunin says (in 2000)||Meredith says (today)|
|Stepping through the door of the Helmand, you wouldn't think it was one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. Instead, you might take it for the lobby of a small hotel: A few chairs surround a dark wood coffee table strewn with magazines, and what looks like a broom closet turns out to be a bar.||The Helmand's tiny anteroom is cramped and unpromising,|
|You may still not know that a Helmand is a river that flows from the Hindu Kush toward Iran, but that might not matter, because, for one thing, you can always look it up when you get home||"Helmand," it turns out, is the name both of Afghanistan's longest river and of the owner's first-born son.|
|Even more remarkable is the Helmand's location -- North Beach's bustling, neon-saturated Broadway -- which makes the white tablecloths, fresh flowers, and sedate elegance you find inside seem all the more bizarre.||My first surprise came on entering the restaurant from a slightly sleazy block of Broadway. [...the first room...] opens onto a long, narrow room with three rows of white-clothed tables that seemed soigné, warm and welcoming on that chilly night.|
|you must order aushak, Afghan-style ravioli stuffed with leeks and huge, peppery, diced Chinese chives, served over garlic-mint-yogurt sauce and topped with minced beef.||I was too inflamed by the sight of a dozen meat and vegetable dishes, and filled my plate with [...] aushak (big tender ravioli filled with chopped leeks and scallions, scattered with ground beef and mint).|
|For those not familiar with the cuisines of central Asia, aush is a soup that in some sense epitomizes the myriad influences on Afghan cookery. A dense, succulent beef broth contains thick, udonlike wheat noodles curled around a cloud of mint-yogurt sauce, topped with a bright orange dab of slowly simmered, spice-rich minced beef. It may be the best soup I've ever had, this aush -- strong and sharp, with firm, luscious noodles juxtaposed against burning herb and three distinct levels of savor.||We tried two fabulous soups: aush, a dark beefy broth full of chewy noodles, topped with yogurt, mint, and a dab of ground beef sauce, and shorwa, a very lamb-y broth full of long-cooked chunks of lamb and lots of fresh vegetables.|
|Thus, the kaddo -- pan-fried, baked baby pumpkin with yogurt-garlic sauce -- can be served with beef for carnivores, or no beef for Michelle; the kaddo's silky texture and delicate, honey-molasses undertones resonate for hours after the last bite.||My favorite dish was the kaddo, a baby pumpkin that had been pan-fried and then baked with a sprinkling of sugar until it was meltingly sweet, served on a pillow of garlicky yogurt and speckled with ground beef: an amazing combination of flavors and textures.|
So nothing new under the sun, and Meredith is as lazy as always.
*she does not even read herself! How else to explain this: "theeka kabab, for example, is grilled prime rib marinated in a purée of onions, sun-dried baby grapes, and garlic and cooked on skewers" and that: "We also feasted on two kababs, seek (charbroiled leg of lamb) and theeka (grilled prime rib), both heady with their marinade of onion purée, sun-dried baby grapes -- a raisin by another name -- and garlic".
They were also fighting the implantation of a new Trader Joe's in the stead of the paint store on market and sanchez, three blocks down from them (not that I am particularly in the know, they just posted this info in their window and I walk by there all the time). So maybe their shutting down means that TJ is coming to the hood.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
This morning I was picking up said mother and child at the airport, driving down on 101. The guy next to me in his white accura slows down so we go the same speed, and shows me a bush-cheney sign out of the window. The new bird flipping, I guess. My driving was not that offensive, but I do have a Howard Dean sticker on my bumper. I felt sad for the guy, who had no one else to share his bush pride with.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Kos noticed that conservative blog readers would use IE and windows more often (75% and 94% respectively at instapundit). Some guy (quoted by Kevin Drum) extended the comparison to other blogs, but his numbers are not consistent with Kos'. The trend is, however: tech savvy people tend to be liberal, and liberal people tend to be more tech curious.
How about readers of this blog? For once, it is not very political (even though it is embedded in a liberal environment, and proudly so). But its readers sure are more adventurous than those of them big blogs: there are only 42% IE users (31% IE 6, 11% IE5) and 64% windows users (33% windows 2000, 24% XP, 6% windows 98, 1% windows millenium). More than half of the readers use some other browsers than IE. 28% are mozilla/firefox users; 18% are safari users. There is a third of Apple OS users here. Pretty cool.
Amazing how new technology will always replace the existing ones, even though in this case, the old technique has worked perfectly for thousands of years. It vaporizes the grass into the bag, and you inhale from the pouch, like kids getting high on helium. You got to be seriously hooked on your pot to fork the 500 euros ($650, on its way to $800 pretty soon) for it.
I enjoyed the reviews of the machine: A gram of herb, finely ground fills several (I lost count after the second balloon) bags before it starts tasting like roasted popcorn. And you don't want to be caught smoking pop-corn, do you? Or I just came back from the 2004 HT Cannabis Cup! Darn potheads, always so competitive.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
I also noticed that Butterfly Lounge was now Levende Lounge. I had not been there in a little while either, but I used not to like it. Too yuppy for my taste. That was way back then when it opened. Don't know about inside, but the new Levende Lounge looks silly to me, as they kept the "Lounge" part of the sign (a part that was appended when Butterfly split in two, with the restaurant going somewhere on the embarcadero): the word Levende is too small to fit in the place left by Butterfly. Maybe you are not supposed to look at it during daytime.
I drove down today, and there was a spankin' new sign, which kept the first two statements, but drop the third one. Go shopping at Stanford or Hillsdale, then.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Three cowboys are in a bar, one from CO, one from WY, one from TX
A company MBA goes and visits the Gov. of CA, NY and TX to scout for a new plant location
The cowboys compare the size of their ranches. The guy from CO has a 10,000 acres ranch.
The MBA visits Gov. Schwarzenegger. He sees a gold phone on the desk. "You see this phone, for $10,000 a minute, I can talk to God and solve any problem" says Schwarzenegger.
The rancher from WY has a 100,000 acres ranch.
The MBA visits Gov. Pataki, he sees a platinum phone on the desk. "For $100,000/mn I can talk to God" says Pataki.
The rancher from TX says: I have a 10 acres ranch. The other guys say "That's it?"
On Gov. Perry's desk, there is a beat-up plastic rotary phone. The MBA says "That's it? In CA, in NY, they have a phone on the Gov's desk, for $10,000-100,000/mn they can talk to God".
The Texan says: "yes, but it is downtown Dallas."
The Texan says: "but son, don't you know in Texas God is a local phone call away?"
Not that the joke is very good, but he managed to say it twice. The ultimate politician encounter: he sold us twice the same goods, and everybody was happy at the time.