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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

Let's pretend we are taking a Burning Man sabbatical*, and shut down this blog for the week.**

*we would not really go to BM anymore, it is so mainstream there is a full page feature every day in the Chron.
**Plus, Meredith reviews a restaurant, so we'll leave her alone.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Doped 

The Chron takes on the latest Lance Armstrong controversy. The article is pretty damning for Armstrong, but the first sentence is:
Are the latest reports about Lance Armstrong proof that the record-breaking cyclist used performance-enhancing drugs, or are they just the product of a bitter French vendetta against a dominant American champion?

Hold on a second here: EPO is found in his urine, but that could just be a vendetta between bitter France and dominant America? It is like every story must have two sides, one for, one against, no matter what the facts say. Did he pee some EPO? Tests say yes, tinfoil hats say no. The Chron's intro looks like, gee, they both make some valid points.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gastronomique 

Post is up at SFist. About Batavia Garden, one of the few Indonesian restaurants in the city (Borobudur is maybe the most famous one). It is in the Sunset, but that stretch of taraval is quite a little foodie haven: there is a nice wine store across the street, a very nice meat/butcher shop, and on the other side of 19th ave, a bunch of cute places: the sunset bakery, with organic coffee; Marco Polo Italian ice cream, which I mention in the review; el burrito express, which had a decent carnitas burrito for $3.50; the chicken coop, where a leg of turkey to go was $2.50; Taraval Okazu Ya, a sushi place that I'll try sooner than later; T-28, a macao bakery (whatever that is), also on the list of places to check out; Alex restaurant (or something like that), a cute pan-asian place which looked interesting. And that is only one twelve block stretch in the Sunset.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

First, thanks Seamus for holding down the fort while we were traveling. He reviewed her work so we don't have to. But then, we got intrigued by Seamus' post and had to go read the review nonetheless.

Seamus did catch that Meredith mentioned her friend's Heftsi's love of paella. What he forgot to bicker about is that she enjoyed paella every night on a trip to Barcelona. See, paella might be Spain's national dish or whatnot, but Barcelona is in Catalonia, where they are fiercely independent. Eating paella every night in Barcelona, and not the Catalan dishes, is like coming for a week in San Francisco, and having, say, Memphis-style BBQ ribs at all meals, because it is a quintessential American dish. Or going to Paris and only having choucroute. Etc. And Meredith mentions it proudly, as Heftsi's credentials and badge of honor, being as clueless as Heftsi.

Seamus of course got irritated by the dead battery and AAA episode. Who wouldn't? But he does not question the veracity of the story in the first place. I smell BS: she double parks, hops out of the car, and back in (the verb hop is hers) and the battery is dead. From what? From a sloppy double parking job? From turning the emergency blinkers on? From Meredith hopping too much? I mean, the car took her from her East Bay digs to SF in the morning, it had had its battery charging drive already. She had no reason to forget headlights or wipers on, we are talking about a lunch in summer here. The car started when she left the office, and it is not the dozen blocks on Harrison that would kill the battery. Unless she has a microwave oven in her car, plus some tanning lights, a vacuum cleaner, and a toaster. Plugged and running. Why would she make this up, I have no clue. But it somehow does not add up. Yet another fishy tale from Meredith.

Meredith is never one to avoid a cliché so she hops on the "I Am Making Fun of Gratitude's Nomenclature" bandwagon. When Sam or Bonnie Wachs did it, three month ago, it was fresh. And no one could accuse Sam or Bonnie of copy-catting each other: they did it exactly the same day. Meredith could be excused for not reading SFist, but Bonnie is her colleague at the Weekly! How dares she lift Bonnie's shtick?

And lastly, one more cliché: She passes a funeral, which reminds her she should be grateful to be alive. She writes: almost too obvious a symbol. Almost? Almost? Well, yeah, almost, for one person won't be bothered by the obviousness of the symbolism: the guy in the coffin.

Anyhow, thanks Seamus for taking care of it.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

rachel ray for a day? 

Sam is hosting "Be Rachel Ray for a Day Day." That is, you have $40, how would you eat them in San Francisco in a day? I made fun enough of Meredith lame effort (it sounded like the food court at the mall!), I kinda had to give it a try, see if I could do better. Rachel Ray's effort (lunch at Swan Oyster Depot and Metro café) is pretty good: a timeless SF classic and a decent neighborhood spot that is out of the tourists path. Not bad for an out-of-towner.

Where would I spend my $40?

I would have breakfast at Delanghe bakery, on fillmore at bush. I would have a croissant or two. Plain butter croissant, sure, or a hazelnut raspberry croissant if I wanted to be wild. $2.50 or less. The only way to get the croissant warm would be to go there around 7am, so you can tell right away I am only doing this Rachel Ray thing virtually. No pictures, for that very reason.

Lunch, I would go to batavia garden, and get a black pepper sauce dungeness crab. It used to be $7.50, now something like $11. For a whole crab. And it is delicious.

Now I have $26 left or so, which means the $25 prix fixe at Chapeau! I hope it is still $25, like it was a year-or-so ago. That would be a nice French 3 course meal.

If I was Rachel Ray for a day in my own lower haight, I would have a bagel at Katz (they just opened their third location on haight street), then lunch at Raja ($8 for the buffet, $7 with the coupon that you get at -shame on me for shopping there- safeway) then dinner at RNM for their $25 prix fixe. With the last $5, I'd have a pint at the mad dog or toronado, and I'd be perfectly happy.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

powerpoint feature. 

Every time I close powerpoint, it gets offended. "This must be a mistake, you don't really mean to shut ME down, you need me, you love me, you must have misclicked." So I get an error message, saying in essence "there has been a problem. You tried to turn off powerpoint, what is wrong with you?", which offers to send an error report. In the error message, there is a box, which is checked by default, whose effect is to re-open powerpoint. Because I meant to shut it down, I just ignores the message, hit "don't send" and boom, like an unrequited Glenn Close in War of the Roses, powerpoint pops up again. I seem not to learn. Un-check the darn box.


On an unrelated note, the blog will shut down for a week, due to some traveling and family reasons. Our weekly feature, "Mercredi, c'est Meredith" will happen, if it happens, on Thursday. Unless Seamus or anyone else wants to take care of it.

gastronomique 

Post is up at SFist. SFist editor Eve came up with the title, I got to give credit where it's due.

Louis Malle. 

By way of Bay Area Francophile, I see that the Balboa movie theater is hosting a Louis Malle restrospective, until August 25th. You all know Ascenceur pour l'Echafaud, with the fantastic Miles Davis soundtrack, so go see the other movies. Au revoir les enfants (8/19-20) is one of his most famous ones. The Louis Malle tribute also happens at the PFA.

While on the subject of French movies, you might have seen that Fear and Trembling is having a run in the city right now. It is playing at the Balboa right now. I read the book a while ago, and it is total crap. It is noxious, as Amelie Nothomb spreads some insidious racism. Story is autobiographical: she, the daughter of a Belgian diplomat, was raised in Japan, and decided to do a long internship in Tokyo at the end of her studies. The thing is: she is a total klutz, with major authority issues. That's why she's a writer, that's why she is an artist. That's fine, but her book blames the problems that arise from her being unable to function in any corporate environment unto, mmm, Japanese culture.

One chapter that made me cringe is that one of the task they ask her to do is some reporting of expense accounts. It is not rocket science: convert a dollar amount into yen (something the 8th grader I tutor does in her sleep), add the total. Voila. In the book, she has a nervous breakdown about it. Seriously. Nightmares, halucinations, the whole nine yards. Not only she cannot do it, it ruins her health, the poor thing. And it's not her fault, it's the Japanese! Give me a fucking break. The most irritating thing is that this book has been a relative success in France, and now is adapted into a movie. It's always a disappointment when the French people (and the ones who read books) are xenophobic, which they are quite often, unfortunately (see: Houellebecq, Michel).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

Meredith reviewed a restaurant. Sounds like what we'd expect from a food critic, but with her, it is news. It is one of the high-profile, high-concept new ones (the chef trained at El Bulli!), but the opening sequence is about the food she ate at the restaurant, and just for this we don't have the heart to find fault with her.

Friday, August 12, 2005

gastronomique 

Forgot to mention yesterday, but post is up. We have been stopping by at a few places in the mission (namely pizzeria delfina, baku de thai, the window, big lantern, crazy sushi) and I did not feel like devoting a whole review to each, for different reasons, so I just mention what I liked there.

Iron Chef: SF Triumphs 

When the food network announced its new Iron Chef series, I was sad that there was only east coast chefs, and delayed my ordering cable until SF chefs are involved.

Turns out I should give a call to comcast, as Jardiniere's Tracy Des Jardins not only participated, but dominated Mario Batali in Battle:Shrimp. You go, Tracy, you rule.

(my only nitpick with of her victory is that risk-taking did not get rewarded, according to what I gather from the article: Mario gambled on a shrimp remoulade mousse for dessert, and Tracy played it safe with a creme brulee. Mario was shooting for the moon. Funny thing is when I dined at Jardiniere, we ordered a "risky" dessert with sage in it, I believe, which would not have won her any Iron Chef title.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

beurger king? 

This (which I found by way of the Bay Area Is Talking) just cannot be true. It is about Beurger King, a fast food chain which supposedly opened in a suburb of Paris. Its name is a pun on Beur, which means a kid born in France -thus French- of parents who immigrated from Maghreb.

Why I suspect it's a hoax: it's about a fast food chain which conforms to Islamic principles, which already is an oxymoron, fast food chain being an example of the pervasiness of American culture, and by extension a symbol of American imperialism. If you wanted to conform to Islamic law, you would not make a pun about Burger King, would you?

Then Beurs, as I explained, are the French kids. They don't live in Islamic traditions, or if they do, it conflicts with the French public school system (re: wearing a chador), etc. So catering to these traditions would appeal to the generation of their parents, but not necessarily to theirs.

And I searched on Liberation, the French newspaper who would be talking about this kind of stuff, and nothing shows up.

I commented a while back on another ridiculous story blown out of proportion (some stupid anti-American rag that sold 7,500 copies, the equivalent of peeing in the ocean, but nonetheless made the AP and the Chron). Well, it comes from USA Today, what did I expect?

Tomorrow, I'll read this in the Chron, I bet you.

[Update: I was wrong: it did not make it into today's Chron.

Also, the excellent Brian, from the BAIT dug more links re: the story in an update of his post and ask in comments: Does this convince you more either way?. Ok, it is not a hoax. I made a mistake: I read it originally as it was a fast food chain opening, whereas it is a single restaurant. The only one talking about a chain is me, in this post.

Why did I believe it is a chain? Well, would the opening of a single restaurant in Clichy-sous-bois make international news? Would the opening of a single halal burger shack in Antioche make the news in USA Today? In my mind, the only way USA Today, or ABC News would cover this is that it was newsworthy, ie. multiple restaurants, millions of dollars invested, etc.

Turns out it is a single halal burger shack. Why do USA Today and ABC news cover it? Beats me. Relationships of France with its Muslim population in general are target of many speculations here in the US, so it is a touchy subject for me. A couple years back, the refusal to go to war in Iraq (I have yet to hear someone say that Chirac has more spine than Tony Blair) was described as a weak attempt to placate the 3-or-so million Muslims in France, ie. the government was hostage of a rather small minority (with the somewhat racist implication that this minority was potentially troublesome or dangerous!). And now, is a Beurger King is a symbol of positive integration of Muslim values into American-like consumerism? Or is it a symbol of a radical minority which requires its own restaurant to eat in a burka or to be faithful to a different rule? Neither of course, it is just a silly burger shack, with a bad pun in the name. Whatever the AP wants it to be, let's just ignore it, ok?]

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copy editor. 

Could not find a link on-line, but in the paper edition, the SF Weekly is looking for a copy editor. It's part time, $20/hour. Hey, it's what I have been doing already? I guess I have to apply to this job.

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

The Sunset Snub (and its correlated Marina Mania) keeps going on. Since we should not be all negative all the time, let's point out Paul Reidinger's excellent review of Dragonfly. We say excellent, because (a) it is in the Sunset, and (b) we described the place as excellent ourselves, and we are insecure that way.

Talking about Paul, he used to deride Meredith, transparently, but without naming her, for starting her reviews with "I," which prompted us to call her "I, Myself and Me-redith": To launch a piece about a restaurant with an "I" is to set a tone of braying self-importance that is going to be very difficult to clear away if one hopes to say anything of interest, anything even noticeable, about the restaurant ostensibly in question.

Today's opening cranks it up one notch above on the delusion scale: You could have fearlessly bet money, a lot of it, that I'd love this new book. The self-important I is preceded by a "you," whose purpose is to reinforce that I. The opening "You" is involved, even has a financial stake!, in the travails of the next I. The assumption is that "I" is interesting, but also "You" cares! Next week's opening: "You may worship me, as I do it too."

And what is the restaurant ostensibly in question? Newroz, in the Marina, a place with which she is disappointed. Ie. Impala redux, except Impala was in North Beach. I illustrated Impala with a Narcissus picture, how appropriate it still is.

Duh line of the week: I was ... a little sorry to have dragged the girls across town for a nicely served but uneven supper. We know Meredith lives across the bay bridge, but her friends don't even live in the Marina, she made them go there. Sunset Snub, Marina Mania.


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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why did I read the Chron. 

I usually title "why did I read Debra" my critiques of Debra Saunders, the Republican talking point copy machine at the Chron. Today (I'm too lazy to link to it): "The mainstream media pays me sweet money to say that the mainstream media does not cover the happy pretty positive things in Iraq. Dumb mainstream media." How true that is.

But I also read Ryan Kim's piece in the business section, titled: Cisco rumor sends Nokia stock up 1%.



Show me ONE DAY for which the Nokia stock up does not move by as little as 1%? Has Ryan Kim, a staff writer, ever followed a stock in his life? He hasn't followed Nokia much, as he named the CEO "Jorma Miller" (it is Jorma Ollila). If you google Jorma Miller, as the Chron fact checkers are too lazy to do, you find exactly ONE result, Derek Potteiger's home page. Derek might be a nice fellow, but don't they think the CEO of a $70 billion company won't be a bit more google-visible? Ryan Kim also says the CEO left last week. In fact, he announced last week he was leaving next June.

The lesson here: if you plan to invest, don't count only on the Chron's business section, subscribe to the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times too.



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Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Best Way to Commute 



This guy (whose picture I did not ask permission to post, so I anonymized him) plays the bass in his headphones on his way to work on Caltrain. Lucky him. Caltrain IS definitely the best way to commute: how many people learned a musical instrument driving?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fear Factor: eating in Chinatown. 

From the Examiner:

Last week, The Examiner published a story detailing how The City's restaurants had scored under a new food-safety rating system that went into effect Jan. 1 and ranks restaurants on a scale of 1 to 100. The Chinese-language press reportedly followed with stories about the cleanliness of Chinatown's restaurants.

I really like the qualifier 'reportedly' about the follow-up stories in the Chinese press: we can't be really sure, it's encrypted, and we can't break the code!

Golden Dragon Restaurant, also in Chinatown, had the lowest score in San Francisco due to reported issues with rodents, cockroaches, flies and lack of employee hand washing, though the restaurant's manager told The Examiner the problems had been fixed promptly.

The problem -let's be honest here, the rodent in question is not the manager's pet hamster- look so wide-spread at Golden Dragon that the only way to fix it promptly would be to shut the restaurant down.

Wilma Pang of A Better Chinatown Tomorrow said neighborhood restaurants had already been hit hard by competition from eateries in the East Bay and South Bay, where parking is easier. She said it is crucial to ensure Chinatown's restaurants stay competitive.

It happens to me all the time, I find myself eating in the South Bay because I cannot park on Grant. Heck, I'd rather drive an hour south than spend 30mn looking for a spot or, god forbit, take muni. I hear tourists avoid SF's chinatown, saying: I flew all the way from Peoria, I'd rather visit San Mateo county, their Chinese food is top notch and they don't have these clanky noisy cable cars there, and, well, I don't exactly have a car here, but I hear parking is hell. Wilma is so right, we should really really look the other way in terms of public health violation, or the East bay will steal all the customers. It is so hard to keep people off bart.

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Gastronomique. 

Gastronomique post is up at SFist, a review of Dragonfly, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Inner Sunset. Chef previously of Le Soleil, on clement, which I haven't tried yet (for no particular reason, I associate Le Soleil with La Vie, on geary, which did not leave a deep imprint on me).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Damned firefox 

Firefox crashed on me in the middle of the post below. Darn it. Had to do it almost all over again. It is not a firefox bug, it is an editing feature, as it looked longer before the crash.

I wrote a rant at SFist, regarding the absurdely early starting time of last Sunday's SF Marathon.

We also would like to thank Pepper, of the Daily Pepper, for the kind words. You made our day.

Mercredi, c'est ravioli. 

We review this week Adjectives Gone Wild #17, a series edited by Meredith Brody. We are reminded of Mark Twain's advice: As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.

This week, we doubt a lot, and Meredith strikes little. So we get quickly to a sticky date pudding. Oh, we know it exists, but it has been a long time since we went on a sticky date.



And then the avalanche overwhelms us: creamy polenta... pungent Gorgonzola...sharp parmigiano...creamy mascarpone...sweet salmon....toothy farro...fragrant aioli....perfumey nectarine....snappy romaine salad....fragrant oranges.... There is nothing wrong with adjectives, but go read it yourself: there is not a substantive which is not preceded by one. And never mind that she did not try the parmigiano nor the mascarpone, but can nonetheless happily qualify them. How would she know if the parmigiano was dull or the mascarpone dried up?

We particularly enjoyed the scarlet, fat, juicy, carefully chosen Ella Bella raspberries, for which we decern the Most Useless Adjective Award, previously held by verdant spinach. We'll rescind the award when someone shows us raspberries that are not scarlet.

The adjective avalanche took any semblant of logic away. You may notice that the two pastas I mentioned above did not show up; so did we. What, you did show up? Oh, you mean you did notice, and so we may have as well. But what we noticed, it's what you write above: Everything else arrived soon after [the antipasto]. So the all inclusive everything else does not include one third of the dishes she ordered? Pretty misleading, isn't it?

But not having the pasta does not prevent her to rave about them. She mourned them, she felt cheered at the thought of spaghetti with giblet sauce. That is some pretty hard-hitting reviewing here. Why did she go in the restaurant in the first place, if it is to praise dishes she did not have?

She then goes to another restaurant, Sea Salt. We have been astonished many times by Meredith's fascination with lobster. She shot down Blupointe last week for not better reason that the oyster place did not serve lobster. The good lobster at Tallula (and curried fries) eclipsed everything else in her enthusiasm. This week gets even weirder: the lobster looked at her, called her "Mummy", and in a clumsy attempt to hug her, clipped her hear with its claw.

I am only half kidding: The steamed lobster on a torpedo roll said "Mom" to me, so I invited her for lunch. Yes, for lunch on a quiet Monday, so quiet that Tom was unsure [if the place] was open. No dinner, no busy day. Another drive-by reviewing.

Logic escaped the second location as well: [Tom] walked in and discovered us, sat down, and ordered a snappy romaine salad [with stuff in it]. His heap of yellowfin tuna tartare [and sides] arrived with our desserts. That is some serious kitchen screw up, if ordering a salad gets you a tuna tartare.

Meredith added two more East Bay places to the list. Her Sunset batting average is still, what, 0 for 150 now?

Update: Sam, in comments, believes that "scarlet raspberries" is not a pleonasm. She think the word scarlet invokes a certain type of redness, a wanton, vivid, deep, rich red which only the best of raspberries have. So, among the adjective deluge, here is one that might have been useful after all. We will rescind the award and give it back to 'verdant spinach.' Unless 'toothy farro' really wants it.

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