Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Absenteeism

Sorry I haven't put up a real post in a while. I've been busy working on this, which ran on the front cover of the SF Weekly today. I've also been packing up, giving notice at The Restaurant, and preparing for a 2.5 month jaunt, again. I'll be with Che in Buenos Aires for 6 weeks, then back in SF for four days, then with the 'rents in Europe for three weeks. Stuff is going into storage, the cat is going with a co-worker, I'm drinking way too much to cope with the stress of it all (which ISN'T working), and stuff.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I am a robot



Someone just posted a comment on the blog asking, "Are you a robot?" I'm not really sure what that meant but I liked it a lot.

This morning, ie 1:30pm, I was at Trader Joe's getting a few things: a Judy's breadstick, a bottle of green juice, a blemish stick, and kitty litter. Pretty typical waitress morning stuff to get. I was shuffling around in my furry parka and flip-flops because I'd just gotten a pedicure and sipping on the tiny cup of free coffee they give you while you shop.

After the checker finished ringing up pre-made sushi for the fit lesbian couple in matching red fleece vests, army green cargo pants, black messenger purses, and Oakleys, he took one look at my purchases, and me, and asked, "You just wakin' up, girl?"

"How did you know that?" I asked. "It's one-thirty pm!"

"You know, you just all quiet, sippin' on your coffee," he smiled. I told him I was a waitress and as I left TJs (after telling him he should come to The Restaurant sometime; I just can't help myself!) I heard him say to the person in line behind me,

"I knowed she worked nights. I could just tell."

The conversation and the bustle of the grocery store fading behind me, I padded home with my bag in hand, smiling to myself because I have a secret existence here in this busy city: that of a night owl.

There are plenty of us, and you'll recognize us as the ones in the bar at 1am who aren't drunk, but chatting with the bartender sincerely about how his night is going. We're the ones in the sunglasses at the coffeeshop at 2pm, lingering over the New York Times and a bagel. The streets of San Francisco are my domain at lunchtime and before, I share moments with bike messengers and homeless people as I wander the streets just for a look (I can't get enough of this city, even though I've known it all my life), corporate types bustling through their mornings with eyes wide shut.

Coming home at midnight on a Sunday, my whole neighborhood is asleep, and once again I have the streets to myself. I never guessed working late at night would make me feel that the city belongs to me, personally, because I see it during off-peak hours.

Sometimes I have weeks where I'm sick of serving people, jealous of their shiny Christmas presents exchanged in cozy booths as I open yet another bottle of expensive Burgundy for people who are paying to ignore me. Today, though, walking calmly through a city that felt like it belonged exclusively to me, I sipped my tiny coffee and relished my existence.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holla!


It seems The Man has as good of taste as the people I work with: Bourbon and Branch (one of whose bartenders works with me at The Restaurant) was named NUMBER ONE new bar in America by both Citysearch and MSN. Yeah! I knew that those strong Derby Manhattans had to reach a powerful editor somewhere. My boy Neyah is an amazing bartender; he's an alcohol intellectual that really gets off on stirring the rye the perfect amount of times so that it reaches the most exact temperature, flaming an orange rind just a half inch above a quivering surface tension of alcohol so the oil catches fire and when you drink the drink you fall off your barstool. I may be an elitist service and alcohol geek, but I love it when the things I love get recognition for being as awesome as they are. Holla! (Image unwitting courtesy of SFGate.com)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stewey Stewerson

One night at The Restaurant a couple weeks ago, I noticed an extremely tall and attractive young man sitting at the bar. He was glued to his Blackberry, and I thought, "Sweeet! an out-of-town business-type guy, dining alone? Purr-fect prey."

About ten minutes later, a girl came to meet him and they had dinner. I thought no more of it (I don't bat my eyes at boys who are on dates) and went about the evening's busy service. The next night, though, this guy came in with a different girl, and sat two bar stools down from where he'd sat the night before. Two dates, two nights, one restaurant? C'mon!

Two nights later, in with a different girl! When I came in for dinner the night after that, I had a hard time keeping a straight face when the only available bar stool was next to this fella and yet a different girl, but I had a great time telling my date about how many times I'd seen him that week.

MySpace, Match.com, Hot or Not? Where was he meeting these girls, and why was he bringing them into the same restaurant, night after night? Was he clueless or just a playa?

A couple of days later, I had to wait on him. The hostess was cruel enough to tell me the MySpace dater's name, and we had a hilarious time making fun of him, and speculating the personality-type his poor date (she was an eager one, she seemed to like him. Oh, how we wanted to warn the girl of Stew's history!).

I realized after one particularly loud explosion of laughter that we might be within earshot of his table, and told the hostess we had to keep it down after that. She pointed out that anyone who'd bring in eight different girls to the same restaurant in two weeks deserved to hear the staff of the restaurant making fun of him, and that our restaurant also has a menu item of the same name as the MySpace dater. This shouldn't really have assuaged my unprofessional, smack-talking related guilt, but it did.

And ol' Stew had the nerve to:
1) ask me what The Restaurant was known for on the menu--as if he hadn't already eaten everything on it!
2) step into the waiter station (which is tiny), very close to me, and whisper huskily: "Is this where the restroom is?"--as if he hadn't been to the restroom sixteen times here in the past two weeks.

He must live in the neighborhood, but c'mon Stewey Stewerson, find a new restaurant! The staff of ours cannot keep our faces straight any more!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dining like a Diva



Here's something for you to do next Wednesday:

The quirky folks at the Barndiva in Healdsburg will be hosting a winemaker dinner. Winemaker dinners feature different wines from one winery, paired with an extended menu created especially for the occasion.

The winemaker dinner at the Barn Diva is sure to be a decidedly entertaining event.
First, it's hosted by the irrepressible Lukka P. Abramski Feldman, he of numerous accents and extensive wit. Also the host of Sonoma County public access TV's newest show, What Lukka Likes, Feldman will deliver as many stinging intellectual barbs as he does glasses of champagne.

Second, the meal's going to be served family-style. Gathering around the long mahogany table at the rear of the restaurant, guests will help themselves to luscious crabcakes while mingling. Yum.

Third, as opposed to being held in a posh, white-tableclothed establishment, the winemaker dinner will be Healdsburg's answer to urban chic this Wednesday. If you haven't ever been to the Barndiva, it would be worth going to check this out. I've eaten there and the food is good.

Here's the menu:

Esterlina Vineyards & Everett Ridge

~Fresh Crispy Dungeness Crab Cake, Blood Orange & Meyer Lemon Aioli
Paired with: Esterlina Vineyards, Riesling, Cole Ranch, Mendocino 2004

~ Barndiva Chicken Pot Pie
Paired with: Everett Ridge, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley 2004

~ Grilled Petit Filet Mignon Foraged Wild Mushrooms, Sautéed Chard, Pinot Noir Demi Glace Paired with: Esterlina Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley 2004 & Everett Ridge, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2004

~ Molten Scharffen Berger Chocolate Cake
Paired with: Esterlina Vineyards, Porto, Sonoma County 2004

$85 (this is a steal for one of these events)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tripe Tacos


I've just arrived home from the party of the year (according to a Restaurant Boy); Boulevard chef de cuisine Ravi's 30th. Renting a taco truck (the most reputable in town, according to gal pal the Tablehopper) and parking it out front of Wish on 12th and Folsom, the birthday boy filled up the bar with 200 friends and chefs galore.

Highlights of the evening:
-Drinking a too-sweet Sazerac on the rocks (Pernot on ice with a splash of rye whisky, anyone?), which made me behave myself because I had to drink it really slowly.

-Getting convinced by Incanto chef Chris Cosentino to try a tripe taco. I did, but promptly handed everything after the first bite to the nearest bystander. I'll leave the offal to the "lips and assholes--the other white meat" chef.

-Hearing a fan of Cosentino's praise his restaurant as such: "Dude, I brought a date into Incanto the other night, and although she'd been a vegetarian for eight years, she broke her vegetarianism to try a plate of your calf's brains!" High fives ensued.

-Passing trays of cupcakes after an uproarious round of singing "Happy Birthday" at midnight.

-Watching two line cooks get taken out roughly by Wish's bouncer, and hearing the sweet-natured chef of Nopa offer to go "Be the big guy crying in the corner." I don't really know what this means, but it provided me with a hilairous mental picture. Maybe the sazerac and the cupcake had something to do with that.

**

Very different from last night's cocktail party, a ritzy affair Telegraph Hill. Highlights of last night's party:

-The libations. Billecart Salmon, Flowers pinot noir, and Hansel chardonnay were the respective sparkling, red, and white wines. The food was superb, although the slender society women did not eat much of it.

-The view. Right at the base of Coit Tower, the new home (for which the cocktail/housewarming party was thrown) had a stunning outlook of the lit-up tower and the bay.

-Talking to [one of] the owner[s] of YouTube (who is only a year older than I am) and getting out all three of the questions that my date had double dog dared me to ask:

1) "So, you're the owner of YouTube. What's it feel like to be you?"
2) "Do you read perezhilton.com?"
3) "Do you need a haircut? Because our hostesses hairdresser was invited and he's right over there."

Although my first inclination had been to rudely blurt out all three statements at once, I wound up politely inserting myself in conversation with YouTube guy, who turned out to be a down-to-earth and semi-awkward computer dude, just as I had imagined.

-Telling all of the people I spoke with that I was related to my date in different ways. I told several people that Jeff was my husband, others that he was my cousin, and a few that he was my brother. I plan to sit back and wait to see how long it takes before rumours of my incestuousness start to fly.

After the cocktail party (and admiring how lovely Jeff's sculpture looked in our hostesses living room), six of us dined at Zuni, which gets mixed reviews from just about everyone I mention it to. We had a nice experience, I think both the food and the service are kind of, "eh." but the oysters are always stupendous. Our bartender was ROTTEN, he shook my gin martini extremely hard, was generally surly, and forced us to close our tab instead of allowing us to transfer it to the table.

Afterward, beloved Hotel Biron (industry night tomorrow, anyone?) called and sure enough, we wound up talking to the kitchen staff as they got off work and popped next door to pop some corks as well as our waiter (who commiserated with us about the snooty French bartender) for a chunk of the evening as we were leaving.

'Tis the season for cocktail parties and I look forward to asking more inappropriate questions and lying about the status of my dates for many weeks to come.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rioja to the Max


The Restaurant was pretty slow on Monday night, what with the freezing weather and the rain and all, so three out of seven waiters finished relatively early and cabbed across town with one of the bartenders to Tsunami, an ueber-hip sushi joint in the Western Addition with a sake god-in-residence called JoJo. We lucked out and got the biggest table in the house (it was nearly 11pm and they were probably almost closed) and devoured Stellas, sushi, and sake until fishily happy. The waitress was someone I knew from junior college up north in the wine country, and although I'd seen her around town a lot this last year, I could never place her. She nailed it as soon as she saw my face, exclaiming, "Restaurant Girl! The only other non-sorority type from the swim team! Man, they sure thought we were freaks back then, didn't they?"

After settling up (and how is it that I always wind up paying fifty bucks for sushi when I just have a couple of pieces? I'll leave it at that, though, because there's nothing worse than a bill-haggler, especially with a group of waiters) and tipping Lydia enough to have made staying late worth her while, we took our requisite mixed-sake shots with her. It's trouble in paradise when a group of waiters go out--they're most likely all bound to know at least one person in the restaurant they dine in (which is why they went there in the first place), if they don't know someone already, they are bound to be friends with their waiter/chef/bartender by the time they leave, and restaurant people express their affection for one another by knocking back free alcohol together.

**

We were collected by an off-duty hostess from The Restaurant, and made our way to the Hotel Biron, an amazing little wine bar on Rose Alley, just behind the Zuni Cafe on Market Street. I'd found out last week due to a tip from chef de cuisine Ravi of Boulevard that the Hotel Biron celebrates industry night on Mondays; all bottles of wine are thirty percent off! With the help of a dear friend of mine (another waitress/writer type; there are more of us than we'd care to admit in this fine city) we went through a bottle of Dr. Loosen's Riesling and three bottles of a Rioja who's name escapes me. The Hotel Biron is great for a number of reasons, numbers three, four, and five of them are goat cheese, sheep cheese, and cow cheese (reasons #1 and #2 are, of course, red and white wine), on which I nibbled as I sucked down the temperanillo blend. Hotel Biron also has an extensive by-the-glass list, and the wine-geeky bartenders have often let me try each one of the type I wanted (explaining in-depth along the way) until I found a wine that I liked, then gone from there to discuss the different bottles, selecting one that was perfect.

We shut the place down and trundled back to one waitresses' house with a final bottle of Rioja, showing each other our dance moves until 3:30am. I don't go out with the staff of The Restaurant very much; hours are long and we all have our own lives (and aren't waestrels like so many other waiters--including myself at other points of my life--are), so when we get together for an Outing like the sushi/wine night, it seems really special, and I feel lucky to be working with a group of really smart, really interesting folks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Greasy Breakfast

In need of a greasy fix? Check out my highly subjective roundup of Sonoma, Marin, and Napa County breakfasts here, or here.

Bourbon and Branch

I recently, and belatedly, checked out the new speakeasy everyone's been talking about, Bourbon and Branch. Visiting the bar at 10pm with my roomie and a dapper bartender friend who's newly remodeled Luau has just reopened under the name Mercury (with the owners of Zebulon), we were escorted through the heavy wooden door and into the red-wallpapered room for our reserved seats at the bar. (FYI, the bar can't usually be reserved but Restaurant Girl has friends behind many bars in the city, and it was a pretty slow night in the Trender-loin). (photo unwitting courtesy of SFGate)

Bourbon and Branch is like a bartender's wet dream. First, guests can't just walk right in the door. They're viewed through the eye of a camera, which immediately makes them more docile (according to our bartender). If the potential quaffers look like a bunch of jerks, they aren't necessarily let in. A reservation is a must (even if the place is empty), so there's no bar-hopping.

Second, the bar features all kinds of esoteric bourbon, which for some reason is always a bartender's favorite drink (barkeeps, please weigh in here: tell Restaurant Girl why y'all love the mash so much!).

Third, on the back page of the hefty menu (for sale: $500) are listed The House Rules, two of which include, "Do not order a Cosmo," and "The bartender is always right." More of a rule follower than a rule breaker, Restaurant Girl felt inherently comfortable in this purposefully clandestine setting (a speakeasy) at which the parameters are defined, and immediately ordered the Rouge #10. A delicious concoction of house-infused pepper gin (Tanqueray number 10) muddled with fresh strawberries and lime juice and decorated with a few drops of Pastis on the surface of the drink (served up in a martini glass), it was probably the best cocktail I've ever had, hands down (and I don't throw around superlatives like that on a regular basis).

Brandon drank an old-fashioned (he's a bartender, so he likes bourbon, of course!) and although I egged my roommate on mercilessly to order a cosmo (she really does drink them sometimes, but she's not in the industry any more so we'll forgive her that), she followed the rules and ordered some sort of orangey-vodka drink also in a martini glass.

Another round followed, and was a little blurry, as second rounds are wont to be. I allowed the impeccable Neyah to choose my drink (actually, he offered, which was a huge weight off of my mind, and he's such a good bartender that I trusted him to pick something that would be the logical progression), and it was a salad-flavored martini, which is a lot better than it sounds. Probably something like Hendricks gin and very thin cucumber slices, with a tincture droppered over the top (they take their mixology very seriously at Bourbon and Branch; drops are dripped, alcohols are painstakingly stirred until they achieve just the right temperature from the ice cubes that drop down, impurity-free, out of the special ice machine that delivers them nine degrees colder than regular ice), and perfection is achieved.

**
After gentleman Brandon hailed roomie a cab and put her in it, he and I headed over for a late night snack to Farmer Brown, on our bartender's recommendation. DUD! Our bartender had told us it could be give or take, and this night it was definitely take. The joint was empty at 12:15, the bartender energetically sucking face with an off-duty waitress on the patron side of the bar. He grudgingly threw menus at us and sullenly made his way to his side of the bar, staring us aggressively down until I timidly asked what was better: the fried catfish or the chicken. Without an apology, he announced the kitchen stopped serving at midnight and B and I rushed out the door to Globe, which although not the oh-so-hot-spot it was a few years back (so I hear, this was actually my first time dining at Globe), was an oasis of good food and impeccable service in the middle of a foggy San Francisco night.

We had martinis (Stoli for him, Tanqueray for me; sadly, Globe does not have a sassy cocktail menu, nor esoteric alcohols) and some delicious snacks. The macaroni and cheese was bechemel-y and delicious, the salad lardon with just the right amount of bacon grease to wilt the frisee (and two little poached eggs, perfect for sharing), and the white-truffle mushroom pizza gave off heavenly odors. B let me take charge of the menu and discourse with the waiter and order whatever I wanted (what a guy), and the waiter was knowledgeable and friendly, something that's not so easy to find to find at 1am.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A not-so-cynical Thanksgiving

Until yesterday, I hadn't any plans for Thanksgiving. I was going to stay in San Francisco and not go on a bike ride and wallow in the misery of being an orphan in my home town (my family does not "do" holidays, so to speak of) and refresh www.perezhilton.com every thirty seconds, but I was invited last minute to celebrate Thanksgiving at the Burwells' up in Healdsburg, from where I now sit as the high-powered men play pool and smoke cigars and the ladies sit on comfortable ottomans and sip juicy zinfandel.

I arrived around 3pm after taking a scenic route through the horribly constructed new downtown Windsor and past the old family farm, which Grandma sold three or so years ago to finance her retirement and her move to Oregon. Visiting Healdsburg is always bittersweet for me. It's strange to suddenly be a celebrity of sorts for being a fifth-generation Healdsburger; when grandma was growing up Healdsburg was barely a town, and when I was growing up it was not the groovy land of Diesel jeans and fine zinfandel it is now. I can't even afford to live here now but my status as built-in hick lends me a street cred that people bring up at dinner parties for an entertaining conversation tidbit.

There were twenty some-odd folks here; friends, family, and orphans like me. None of my family lives in town any more, and I don't know that my mediocre salary as a freelance writer and Restaurant Girl will ever afford me the luxury of the beautiful surroundings I'm in right now. That's okay, though, because the paths that I am following in my late twenties seem to be taking me in a direction I never thought I'd see, and I'm thankful for that. Greetings, all, and count your blessings be they large or small.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Creepy Babies

This is what happens when I stop by the bar, alone, on the way home from work. Instead of writing about something amusing, I surf the internet and find truly strange videos like this.



Just when I thought my biological clock had started ticking! I'll watch this video if I start getting too wistful about how cute babies are.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What do you think?

About the new blog layout? Please leave your comments.

Ruthless Insouciance

As so often is the case, my day off was filled with big plans yesterday that disappeared into the stratosphere as I slept through calls from my friends urging me out of bed and on the bike (it was a gorgeous morning, and in my previous life I was a mediocre bike racer)and groggily picked up the cell only at 11am when a writer friend called to say he'd be in the city doing research for his first feature in Details magazine (congratulations!).

I rolled out of bed (only about an inch as I sleep on a mattress on the floor)and washed my face (something that I never let slide no matter how drunk/hungover I am, thanks to my mother's semi-rigorous upbringing) while boiling water for a gourdful of yerba mate. As usual, I f*****d around for way too long on www.perezhilton.com, a ridiculous website that I've been obsessed with for over a year. I don't have television and rarely watch movies, but some cruel friends of mine who know how shallow I can be plied me with trashy celebrity tabloid magazines last year until my addiction was firm and now I feel like Hollywood is my own personal comic book. I couldn't name Kate Bosworth's last movie (or any of them, for that matter) and I couldn't tell you what Nicolette Sheridan's voice sounds like, but I breathlessly follow their love lives and weight losses.

I finally made it out of the house by 1pm but only up the street for a much needed mani-pedi (where I enriched my brain with Ready Made magazine as opposed to my beloved US Weekly) and afterward lazed around the house doing god-knows-what. I know I sent some emails that must have meant something, because I have more stories assigned (for national magazines as well as San Francisco publications, hurrah!) but didn't write a word. I want to feel like I'm this very deep person but the truth is I adore my bourgeois-bohemian (boo-bo?) lifestyle, and although waiting tables is starting to take its toll on my body, the luxuries it affords me (like coming home last night and bidding on a T-Mobile Sidekick II on ebay although it doesn't even match my wireless carrier) are important to me and that makes me feel shallow as hell.

Laundry called around 5pm, and then I went to yoga until 9pm; the class size was me, another student who'd been practicing exactly as long as I have (off and on for a couple of years, more heavily in the last two months) and was at the same skill level, and the teacher. It was excellent, Wendy gave us lots of personal attention and I felt like I really improved. I left tranquilly and filled with love. In short, ready for cocktails.

I went down to The Restaurant all by my lonesome, sat at the bar, and put down a gorgeous hamburger and a serving of bread pudding with caramel ice cream. And three cocktails. I thoroughly enjoyed the (mile-long) walk home, which is absolutely unbearable after my eight-hour shifts (twice as long as a normal Restaurant shift) but after a 5,000 calorie meal felt invigorating. Nick Cave is still singing directly to me through my headphones, and I'm struck by how after almost two years of living here (which have passed by literally in the time it takes to say "I.love.city.living."), I am still struck dumb by the littlest things like a theater poster in the window of a locksmith's shop, the way the air smells at 12:13am in the fall, and the fact that you can never stop discovering little bits of beauty at least every other hour when you live in San Francisco.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Don't You Wish You Were a Waiter?

Because if you were, you could do fun stuff like this when you got off of work.


Tonight we rented every single lane at the bowling alley in the Presidio, drank Smirnoff Ice malt beverages, and ate nachos with warm processed cheese-food that came out of a machine. The entire staff of The Restaurant, from bussers to bartenders to cooks to the owners. While most of the balls rolled made it into the gutters more often than not, we had style, as proved by one waiter's BAD-ASS moves while bowling. Yeah-yuh!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Acid Tango

There´s something truly amazing about a 10-piece tango band made up of dreadlocked Argentineans all in their 20s. Last night a group of us went to see underground acid-tango group Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro play a show to release their new CD ¨Mucha Mierda.¨ There were four accordionists, four violinists, a cellist, a bassist, a pianist, and a vocalist. The accoridonists sat on plastic chairs in the front of the stage with the violinists standing behind them. To go along with the ¨A lot of shit¨ theme, the accordionists´plastic chairs had toilet seats zip-tied to them, and the playlists were written on rolls of toilet paper that hung from the low microphones.

The group was shaggy and the smell of hashish wafted through the air. The muisc was wild, untamed. I don´t know where accordions got the reputation for being dorky, but after hearing these instruments play the same notes in semi-perfect time, watching the cute boys passionately stomp the floor and coax, and slam, and shove, the tango notes from the accordions, close enough to hear the bellows slap together, was a bold realization: this is the silent soundtrack that´s playing whenever I have really, really good sex.

I´d seen a tango show before, at the famous Cafe Tortoni, when I was in Buenos Aires this summer. It was lovely, a small venue with slick, gorgeous music and glittery dancers. Last night was piano pounding, accordions shrieking in minor-note disharmony, the music teetering just on the edge of out-of-control, and sometimes the drunk singer would growl in the microphone while wearing a motorcycle helmet perched on the back of his head.

The place that tango has had in my life so far has been relegated to movies, stereotypical sultry women with roses in their hair, flingling fishneted legs about with controlled passion. Later tango, mixed with groovy electronic lounge music, graced my stereo when it was chillout time and I had friends over I wanted to impress with my hip, worldly, tastes in music. Tango in Buenos Aires is a normal part of life, a type of folkloric music that has never gone away and had a resurgence (like bluegrass in America). The passion in both in the music and in its playing, is in-your-face without boundaries like the passion for living, and loving, is here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Now THAT'S Fusion!

I didn't think I would be posting from Buenos Aires but I have been to so many restaurants here in just two days that I had to dish some out for the rest of the world. I arrived Thursday morning after an exceptionally long coach flight, with which the details of I shall not bore you. It was hot and sunny here in Argentina's gorgeous capital, and after resting at the pad in San Telmo (the ancient, bohemian neighborhood where tango was born and where the freelance food and fashion photographer I'm visiting lives) for a couple of hours we went just round the corner for goat cheese sandwiches.


My friend "Che" (the international nickname for all Argentineans, hence the moniker Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Argentineans are so named because they say, "che" like North Americans say "hey.") is vegetarian, even though his homeland is home to the best steaks on the planet, and as I was raised vegetarian for most of my life and only started eating meat once I became Restaurant Girl, it's nice to take a break from the heaviness San Franciscan restaurant food and find a different side of Argentinean cuisine. The sandwiches were excellent and it was lovely to sit outside in the sun and watch the street.

There aren't many great sidewalk cafes I can think of in San Francisco (and if you can think of any besides the Cafe du Soleil, where I already spend a LOT of time, please let me know!) so when I get to a city that's got a sidewalk-cafe culture, I happily plop my ass down in the sun and drink coffee or wine, or both, and watch the world go by.

Yesterday Che and I had lunch at an Asian-themed restaurant in Palermo, the ritzy neighborhood right on the river with beautiful ancient trees waving over the cobbled sidewalks. Palermo reminds me of Hayes Valley or downtown San Luis Obispo with the gorgeous weather, shady trees, and cute little boutiques--there was even a Kid Robot store with some great dresses that I refrained from buying (I'm too tall for most clothes here, unfortunately). The food was great, and what I love about restaurants here is that you can get a "Menu del Dia" for something like 15 pesos (or $5) with a main course, a dessert, and a beverage (wine, water, or coffee) and it's good.


The hip-factor of the restaurants here reminds me of the San Francisco dining scene but more relaxed (and everyone's speaking Spanish). For dinner last night, Che took me to Olson, a Northern-European-themed restaurant. He had a baked goat-cheese appetizer (I think vegetarians here must eat a lot of goat cheese) and I had some little fishes (I think it might have been pickled herring) with arugula, caviar, and blanched potatoes on brioche. We both had the pumpkin-Gruyere-mandarin-mushroom risotto for our main course and an apple bread-pudding for dessert.

The bottle of Malbec Che chose do accompany dinner was a little overwhelming but I have made it a policy to always drink Malbec while in South America and he remembered that. The waiter, who had an ueber-hip mini-mullets and a hot body packed into a tight brown-and-white t-shirts like all of the waiters, brought us each a shot of vodka as a present after dinner; Che knew the hostess at the restaurant, so we had a great table, and everyone made much of the fact that it was my birthday. One vodka was infused with chiles and the other with honey.

I love how the restaurants I've been to so far feature foods from different cultures but with a decidedly Argentinean flair. Also I dig how the waiters here wear leather fanny-packs (like some hairdressers do) with all of the tools of their trade in them; there's a pocket for a notebook, a wine-key, and pens. I'd get one here except impressionable me no longer wants to work as a San Francisco waiter--now I want to move to Buenos Aires and be a starving writer. All in all, it was a great birthday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Celebrating in Style

Hello world...I'm leaving in just a few hours to celebrate my birthday in style--in Buenos Aires. Will return with more snarky restaurant reviews and work complaints November 10!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Saucy

I understand now why some restaurant owners do not let their employees hang out at the bar of the restaurant when they get off work. Friday night, after seeing Tom Petty at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, we stopped in at Sauce for a bite after pushing bikes up out of the Civic Center BART station and realizing all of the rock n' roll had made us a little peckish. I hadn't been to Sauce before but kept hearing reviews by co-workers and friends. It's one of the few late-night dining spots that serves decent food and wine until 1am and so it naturally draws an industry crowd.

We ordered two Starbucks martinis (good, although a little sweet), the tomato bisque, and fried calamari. The food was very good (we went with our bartender's recommendation for everything), especially the truffled-white-cheddar-on-foccacia sandwich sticks that came with the bisque. The calamari tubules and tentacles were lightly fried and then the bodies were stuffed with sausage and served in a tomato sauce. We accompanied the soup and squid with a glass of South African syrah (me) and a Santa Barbara pinot noir (him). Both wines were absolutely outstanding.

The problem was that we felt like we were invading a private party. Although the bartender was only about three feet away from us the whole evening, every time we wanted something we had to flag him down, and I felt rude pulling him away from his co-workers that were finishing up the shift and coming to sit down at the bar and have a drink. When we finished our meal, the bartender came over and said, "So, I guess you guys are all set then?" and dropped the check. I'm not normally a dessert person, but I wouldn't have minded looking at the menu and perhaps having a glass of dessert wine. We meekly paid and went along our way, the jovial shouts of the rapidly-loosening employees and their friends following us into the balmy late-night.

Most of the restaurants I've worked at have a no-tolerance policy for employees on the floor the same night of their shift, and I thought they were just mean. Seeing it from a customer's perspective changed my mind.

**

In other news, I've now been privy to a boar roast. I stopped by the forge Saturday to interview Jeff for a story I'm writing about him, and found out that Angelo had decided to go whole hog and skewer one of the little boar he'd hunted last week up in Healdsburg. The other is for a fundraiser on November 2nd, which I will not be privy to as I'm going to Buenos Aires for a week, for my birthday (leaving this Wednesday, which, coincidentally is the Tablehopper's birthday). The boar's feet were sawed off (it had already been cleaned) and it was stuffed with fennel from the garden plot on Potrero Hill, then wired shut and put on the spit where it rotated for two hours and made the whole forge, and our clothes, smell yummy. We served it with a salsa verde (just lots of parsley, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and capers--I was allowed to make the salsa, under Angelo's strict instruction) on braided rolls from the Acme bakery. People started showing up and we managed to eat almost the whole thing, washed down with copious amounts of red wine. I love my life.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Food Writers Who Blog

It looks like more famous food writers are taking the cue from Michael Bauer's popular foodie blog. Cooking With Amy highlighted some of the newest ones here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Making Money, Spending Money

My roommate was right. When I came home from South America, I was so unsettled. I felt like I had too many possessions, led a spoiled lifestyle, and had my priorities skewed (favoring designer jeans and champagne-fueled evenings over seeing the world and connecting with myself). Her response to my bitching about accompanying her to mani-pedis and sample sales in the Marina, "You'll get used to San Francisco soon enough again."

It's true. Working 4-5 nights at the New Restaurant, I'm pulling in enough cash to have paid off my credit card and I'm working enough hours to begin the cycle of thinking, "Oh, but I deserve this.."
1) expensive dinner out
2) gratuitous fashion accessory
3) other expensive dinner out
4) new sneakers
5) expensive haircut, shampoo, and over-tip

So many servers I know get caught up in that cycle of working their ASSES off all week and not doing anything during the days besides having coffee and reading the Times, maybe a walk in the park or some other sort of exercise if they're truly motivated individuals. Because I'd been so broke since returning from South America, I'd virtuously scorned all of the excesses that servers tend to indulge in on their days off. It's like we try to spend all of the cash we made during the week on our weekends; which, amazingly enough for me this week was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--unheard of! I've actually been able to hang out with non-server friends.

Here's the low-down on all of the money I wasted, happily, this weekend:

Friday: thought about going shopping at H&M but was still feeling virtuous about not spending money (it was only Friday, after all), so I rode my townie bike down Market Street past One Post (the BART station where all of the bike messengers hang out) and had some messenger minutes with friends I don't often see. The day was glorious (as has been the whole weekend) and I pedaled around the Ferry Building (walking my bike through until I got thrown out by the security guard) and drank some juice on the dock overlooking the bay (the one not behind the Slanted Door, but one further north). 4pm, massage at the Mindful Body. I'd been a-hurtin' for weeks and hadn't had a massage in months, so I indulged. Beginning of my spending downward spiral.

After the massage, I hopped a cab (indulgence #2) to Edo, where the fantastic Roxy had squeezed me in for a cut (indulgences #3,4,5: cut, shampoo, styling products). My friend Emiley (the bartender at Treat Street, where I spent last Saturday night) had gotten a haircut there and highly recommended Roxy. Roxy worked magic on my unruly in-between length not-curly-not-straight hair (which one of the servers at the New Restaurant recently likened to a wig), and I strolled down to Mecca to catch the last of happy hour oysters (indulgences #6-20). A dozen oysters, a martini, and a glass of champagne later, I was busily texting everyone I knew to come down and join me. A friend arrived, and we tasted through several of Mecca's appetizers, opting out of the expensive entrees and saving our money for a bottle of Flowers red table wine. It wasn't the best choice to go from drinking a gin martini (me) and a glass of Syrah (him) to drinking a red wine blend that was mainly pinot noir--my error. I should have gone with my instinct and gotten the Red Car Syrah (friend of a friend Carroll Kemp just won a Food & Wine award for "Best Wine under $20" for that wine; funnily enough it was $35 on Mecca's wine list!) but I wanted to see what Flowers could do with their mixin'. A sweet, pretty, feminine wine (indulgence #21).

After dinner (where we had excellent service, even by Restaurant Girl's scrupulous standards) we headed up to North Beach for a Fernet and Cola (a disgusting drink that is popular in Argentina, and I don't know why I ordered it. Fernet should be sipped straight or shot directly after work, and after work only).

Saturday was a leisurely stroll through the park to the Upper Haight for breakfast at Squat & Gobble. Upper Haight street always makes me want to shop and yesterday was no exception. Over the course of the day (which included drinking tall beers on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park and a matinee of The Triplets of Belleville, one of my all-time favorite movies that was playing at the Red Vic) I accumulated some feminine undergarments, a skirt from the Adidas flagship store, a super-80s pair of sunglasses, and some leggings from American Apparel, cementing my status as scenester fashion victim (indulgences #22-30)

I managed to stay away from spending too much money Saturday night but it was only because I passed out and slept 12 hours...brought on by working 5 nights last week and the beer in the park. It's amazing what a difference that fifth night of restaurant work makes. It's the breaking point for me--give me a fifth night in a week and I'll refrain from all exercise (too tired; just trying to recover) and spend hundreds of dollars "treating myself" because I work so hard.

*Sigh.* The fun news is that wearing leggings makes me feel like I'm 13 years old again and I enjoy how awkward that is.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Impromptu Bourbon

I think I have an excess amount of energy. Saturday, after driving up to Carneros to pick grapes all day with the group of bohemian food-lovers I was lucky enough to fall in with a few weeks back, we crushed and de-stemmed nine 30-gallon barrells of pinot noir and feasted on a spread that Angelo had been making all day. It was the last day of the harvest and the big group of 12 or so of us was HUNGRY.

Angelo, his nephew Gaetano, and Angelo's friend Sandro (all lovely, warm, Sicilian men) had been cooking since 2pm. The feast included wild boar (that Angelo had hunted--he still has one more and he's going to roast the whole thing sometime in January), polenta, quartered fennel bulbs, eggplant done several ways, turnips, roasted peppers, lots of bread... a lot of things that I can't really remember right now but it was one of the most delicious meals I've ever had.

I'm used to "family meal" being a tedious affair in which the kitchen of a restaurant uses the waiters as walking garbage disposals--we're hungry enough at the beginning of the shift (because we don't have anything in our home fridges except for beer and Perrier) or at the end of the shift (because we've been sprinting from table to table all night) to put away whatever the kitchen throws at us. Family meal at Angelo's forge is another thing entirely. Bottles and bottles of wine were opened (from the pinot bottling we did last Wendesday) and the platters of food that piled over the table emptied out after just a half an hour, hungry grape pickers from all walks of life completely satisfied after a day of hard manual labor that they welcome as a respite from their fancy indoor city lives.

So after all of this (and I worked HARD crushing and de-stemming. It's my favorite part, I think because it happens so fast it reminds me of restaurant service, or catering) I decided to go to the Mission with a couple of the group who weren't falling asleep in their plates. We were going to check out the Litquake finale at 12 Galaxies but it was over by the time we got there so we headed over to Treat Street, a super divey bike messenger bar where my friend Emiley works. I'd never been there (I never get as far out as 24th and Treat!) and I wanted to see her. The bar was PACKED from all of the Litquake overflow, and after about a half an hour Em asked me to hop behind the bar and help her. She was alone and I was happy to collect and wash glassware.

The fun and dangerous part about having bartender friends is that you drink way too much and way too long--drinks are free and you're allowed to hang after hours (I was helping clean up). So there were a lot of bourbon shots taken, probably not the best idea after a whole evening of drinking home wine. I had some steam to blow off, though, but Sunday morning I had one of those mornings where I swore I'd never ingest anything alcoholic again.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fancy Art Event

Last night I went to a fancy-pants art auction, which was a fundraiser for the Larkin Street Youth Services. The Youth Service Organization, which has been a model of excellence in San Francisco and nationwide for more than 20 years, gives youth on the streets the tools they need through housing, medical care, education, and job training, to permanently reclaim their lives.


There were over 200 pieces of really cool art at the event. I especially liked the pieces by Ariel Dunitz-Johnson, Felix Macnee, and Jeff Burwell. The event, which cost $100 a head, was hosted at 21 Buena Vista East, 5-stories of excellent taste overlooking the entire city. I wanted to drink sake in the bathroom all night, because the bathroom (one of the twelve or so in the house) had the most exceptional views from the Diet Coke billboard (my personal favorite billboard in the city because it glitters) by the Bay Bridge all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

I wound up hanging out at the bar (naturally) for a large part of the evening because a friend of mine was tending bar. The first thing he asked when he saw me was "How on earth did you weasel your way in here?" I assured him that I had a bona-fide invitation from the curator (I had even put on a cocktail dress and faux-shmina for the occasion) and proceeded to swap dirty jokes with him like he was behind the bar at the Restaurant where we worked together.

The food was excellent, but I didn't eat much of it because I was still recovering from the lunchtime dim sum feast I'd had with the Tablehopper at Golden River Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant, all the way out on 22nd and Geary, a spot so far out in the Richmond I wasn't sure I was in Kansas any more. It was my first time eating Dim Sum and I think I overdid it.

I enjoyed myself at the Fancy Art Event (I always like to get dressed up and look at pretty things and drink free alcohol) but was assured by all involved that tonight is really the night to come. It's $45 and all of the artists will be there. Just my luck, I've got to work on the night of the tawdry fun.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Waiter Nightmares


In one dream, my college roommate told me she'd be walking down a peaceful tropical beach, when she'd suddenly come upon ten tables that all needed service right then.

A friend of mine who worked the insane schedule of the lunch shift at Boulevard followed by the dinner shift at Jardiniere told me he had a recurring dream in which he'd be working at both restaurants at the same time, and somehow had to take all of his orders and put them in the computer at Boulevard, then manage to get across town on the Muni to deliver all of the food that must have come up on the line by then at Jardiniere. Ouch!

My waiter nightmares are usually a simple re-hash of the stress of the shift I've just finished. It's usually pretty bad when I start a new job (and they never went away for the entire four months that I worked at one of San Francisco's top restaurants this spring) but then taper off after a couple of weeks. I haven't had any since starting work at the New Restaurant, which is a good sign.

I think that because a restaurant shift is so fast-paced, there isn't much time to process the stress of the job during the shift. It's wham, bam, thank-you ma'am (especially in a busy lunch place, where 200 covers are crammed into three hours), and you're off work with a shot of Fernet in hand. It's not until your body has time to relax and de-compress during sleep that your mind can think about the stuff it's gone through that evening. I sometimes wake up with a start, remembering in my sleep some small error I'd made--did I give that to-go box back to the table? did I adjust the tip properly or did I short myself again? why was the GM giving me the hairy eyeball at 9:23pm?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Get Out of the Way

Remind me to never, ever, own a restaurant. I've been working 5-6 shifts a week at the New Restaurant, and while the bloom is still on the rose enough so that it's not too much of a big deal to spend nearly every waking moment working, I just can't understand how anyone would want to actually own a restaurant and willingly spend all of their time there!!

I will ideally work 2-3 nights a week in a restaurant where I make a gajillion dollars a night so I can afford my San Francisco rent, cocktails, yoga membership, and designer-jeans habit. When I was working doubles all week this spring, I lasted about three months before I quit all of my jobs and disappeared deep into South America. I'm determined to be more of an adult in 2007, like maybe keep the same job for more than a few months and save up some money for longer than it takes to buy a plane ticket to somewhere exotic.

**

Last night after bumping into yet another drunk chick buying a cocktail from the side of the bar that's right next to the kitchen, the chef looked at me, rolled his eyes, and asked, "Now why don't you blog about that?"

Tight spaces in restaurants are such a funny integral part of the way the dining-room floor and the kitchen work. There's something that develops, I call it the Restaurant Ballet, and it's the way people working very very quickly in a very small space move around each other; spinning about it rapid, graceful pirouettes, trays filled with martinis held perfectly aloft. Cooks slam knives down in precision, throwing pork chops on the grill as they reach through each others' arms in an octopus-like Tetris move to shake a frying pan as it's just starting to smoke.

When someone who is not in tuned with this dance comes into the space, it throws a wrench into the works. That's why there are metal bars to separate the service well from the rest of the bar, and why chefs give the hairy eyeball when a server steps over the invisible boundary between the side of the line where the food comes up and the side of the line where the food is cooked.

Sometimes customers unwittingly (or knowingly, which is worse) cross this line, and insert themselves into the spaces where we are trying to work. Everyone has their own tricks to get these people out of there without asking "Could you please move?" which would be a complete non-non in the fancy food world where the customer is always right. My tactic is to bump a purse every single time I walk by. Even if the purse's owner is not in my way, she will be soon. If I actually bumped someone on purpose, I'd feel guilty (I'm of Nordic descent and I'm extremely tall and sturdy) because I'd probably take them out, so a gentle purse bump every six seconds does the trick pretty quick.

One of my coworkers has no compunction about throwing an elbow, but only to guys. He lets the girls stand wherever they want. One waiter tells a story about passing a plate of hot food very, very close to a customer's ear; not so close that it touches them, but close enough that they realize something bad might happen if they don't get out of the way--although what the in-the-way-person doesn't know is that the waiter, an absolute master of balancing, will never let a drink spill or a plate drop, no matter how much drunken gesticulating goes on at the table by the people who are about to eat and drink the goods we deliver.

Restaurant Ballet keeps you in shape, but I think it's also the main cause of Waiter Nightmares, a topic which deserves its own post. More on Waiter Nightmares tomorrow...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Restaurant Girl Reviewed





Restaurant Girl is in San Francisco magazine this month!

An anonymous veteran wait­ress and freelance journalist offers readers "an inside slice of restaurant life" with her lively blog at Restaurant­GirISpeaks.blogspot.com, a mix of gossipy accounts of restaurant drama; philosophi­cal musings on her life as a waitress; and detailed, food snobbish reviews of local restaurants. Anyone who's ever worked in the restaurant business will chuckle know­ingly at her insights, but even if you haven't spent any time as a server or host you'll enjoy her confessional, perky prose, The site perfectly conveys the ups and downs of work in the food-service industry, bemoaning the stinginess of a transvestite Barbara Walters look-alike one day, rejoicing that her new hairdo got her some extra-good tips the next.

One post mischievously describes a particularly slow and unlucrative evening that she and a co'worker spent sneaking across the street

to a dive bar to pound drinks. Restaurant Girl never names the places she's worked, so part of the fun is guessing which restaurants she's writing about. So far I've gleaned that what she calls "The Bistro" is a little place somewhere in Pacific Heights and that "The Res' taurant" is near Market and Church. As she posts more, maybe we can figure out exactly which places she'o giving us the dish cn.

BYRON PERRY

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rain Has Come

And thus begins my year of never-ending winter. It was so lovely to have a month of sunshine upon my return to San Francisco from South America, but today the rain has arrived, reminding me that I missed summer entirely this year and am now in for two more months of winter. Sigh. Last night I went to Angelo Garro's forge in SoMa and helped Angelo and Jeff bottle wine. Helping to make wine is fun! Although I worked at wineries for years (Roshambo, Iron Horse Vineyards, and Michel-Schlumberger), it was always as a tastron, an events coordinator, or a tour guide--never in the cellars.

We bottled 50 cases of the 2005 Pinot Noir, drinking plenty of it as we went along, and finished the evening with a lovely dinner of homemade Penne (Angelo's nephew, Giatano, was cranking it out of an ancient machine as I arrived) with a sauce Angelo made with tomatoes from Jeff's parents' house in Healdsburg and sausage made by a friend of theirs whose name I've forgotten but is supposedly a famous sausage-maker. We also had a tomato salad (just fresh heirlooms with olive oil and vinegar and dried oregano that was hanging from the ceiling in bunches, from Angelo and Jeff's plot in one of the city's community gardens), and lots of songs (Hope from the Lincart gallery pulled out a guitar and proved she's got a set of pipes as soulful as Gillian Welch) and laughter. It amazes me how Angelo can have such a slow-food, Sicilian lifestyle right in the middle of San Francisco. Having been introduced to a group of people to whom simplicity and friendship is so important to is inspiring.

After bottling the pinot (two barrels), we punched down the grapes we'd picked last Wednesday. My hands are completely stained purple (although I managed to escape with my clothing free of wine-stains), and I have to wait tables tonight. I'll just wear them like a badge of honor, shrugging casually and saying, "Oh, you know how it goes during crush! I haven't had a day off in weeks and everything's covered in various stages of wine. But, you gotta do what you gotta do!" like a seasoned pro.

Blogger of the Week #54

Restaurant Girl is Becks & Posh's Bay Area blogger of the week, aw shucks! Thanks for the honor!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Michelin Stars Showered

The Michelin stars have been released! The influential guide, which has expanded into San Francisco and the Bay Area for their 2007 edition, doesn't hand out ratings easily (something like one empty sugar packet left on the table will ensure that no stars are given). I ran into Boulevard's chef de cuisine tonight at Nopa, my new favorite after-hours, industry-friendly dining spot (click here for Amanda Berne's great article in the Chronicle's Sunday magazine this week about late-night dining spots). Glowing and a little dazed, Nancy Oakes' right-hand man was celebrating his star with a sushi-chef friend of his over white wine, roasted sardines, and goat cheese. With food, service, and wine, Boulevard has consistently been one of San Francisco's finest restaurants for thirteen years. Congratulations!!

Here's the rest of the results:
3 STARS
- The French Laundry

2 STARS
- Aqua
- Cyrus
- Manresa
- Michael Mina

1 STAR
- Gary Danko
- Fleur de Lys
- Rubicon
- Bushi-Tei
- Quince
- Range
- Acquerello
- La Folie
- Masa’s
- Ritz-Carlton Dining Room
- Boulevard
- Fifth Floor
- Chez Panisse
- Sushi-Ran
- Chez TJ
- Auberge du Soleil
- Bistro Jeanty
- Bouchon
- La Toque
- Terra
- Dry Creek Kitchen
- Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
- K & L Bistro - Sebastopol

For more info, see the official release.

**

On another note, last night after I got off of work (very late) and had a couple of Chimays with my co-workers, our competitive edges came out. Four of us (two girls, two boys), instigated a game of pick-up basketball in Duboce Park and whooped the bejeezus out of Jack Falstaff's management team. The final score was 11 to 3, and we won twenty dollars. We played until the cops threw us out at 4am (the group was about fifteen people with two full teams and hangers-on) and have decided to instigate a Sunday night basketball league. If any restaurant staff thinks they can take us on, let me know!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Travesties

Today I went to the matinee of Tom Stoppard's Travesties: a comedy revolution with Grandma, who was in town for a couple of days. The comic mixture of literature, love, and dadaism reminds me of my own life, and I hearkened back to Lukka's sniggering taunts last week when upon my exit from the Barn Diva I ran into an old "friend" at the bar, white-shirted and fresh off a lunch shift at the Very Prestigious Restaurant where the two of us worked together.

This boy trained me as a waiter there (he's a great server, charming and slippery and smart like a waiter should be), and I wound up hooking up with him a week into my employment at the Very Prestigious Restaurant. I have no interest in blogging about my love life (except when it intersects with a restaurant, and I have sworn to not let that happen any more), but I think restaurant flings are interesting. It's best when they happen between two sides of the house that don't have too much contact.

A fling between a cook and a waitress is all good until it goes all bad--the waitress has got to pick up her food from the kitchen 100 times a night. A fling between two waiters is common (after all, they're cut from the same oversexed, money-loving, snakeskin) and better when it goes bad because they can ignore each other on the floor (they've got their own sections to worry about, after all) but the communal drinking that goes on after work between waiters can be sort of awkward when two of them have just finished with each other. A fling between a waiter and a bartender is relatively uncommon--bartenders are usually too busy scoring with the drunk girls sitting in front of them to bother with the waiters. Besides, bartenders see it all, and probably don't want to hook up with a waiter who's already been passed around town.

Hooking up with this boy at the Very Prestigious Restaurant was a catalyst for a lot of reasons. I'd never gotten together with a coworker before; but more importantly, I'd never had a one-night stand before. Call me naive, but having someone seem so interested in my every thought and action, only to completely ignore me the next day was absolutely shocking. This slap in the face produced a lot of bad behavior on my part, and I moved to San Francisco shortly thereafter.

Seeing this boy at the bar wasn't the dramatic scene that I know Lukka was hoping for, but we were cold to each other. I guess I was pretty cruel to this boy after he spurned me, but although I didn't want a relationship with him, I was hurt by his absolute disregard for everything about me after he'd gotten what he was after.

I know plenty of girls who agonize over, "Why hasn't he called????" when the truth is he just doesn't respect her after she immediately falls into the sack. I won't rail on about the antifeminist double-standards that exist in our culture here, I'll just quietly sit back and have a Scotch (that's the manliest drink I can think of) and realize that all the drama's in our heads, anyway.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Day in the Life


Instead of slobbing around in front of the laptop in my pajamas drinking coffee all day, stopping only for an hour of yoga somewhere in the middle, yesterday I decided to go up north for some manual labor in Healdsburg. I was called late the night before that by the owner of a.Muse gallery on 18th and Alabama, who I'd met at the soft opening of my friend Brandon's new spot, Luau. She was going up there to help harvest and crush two rows of Syrah as the guest of chef/blacksmith/Sicilian about town Angelo Garro and his young apprentice Jeff Burwell, who is one of her artists. I'm from Healdsburg, and I hadn't been up there in way too long (ever since I let DPT keep my car after one tow-job too many) so I agreed to keep Lori company on the drive and in the fields.

We arrived at 11am to join a jovial crew of artists and Europeans (including Angelo's cousin from Sicily, Jeff's cousin from Belgium, and an independent filmmaker from Slovakia who was mostly sick because she had put on a nicotine patch in order to kick her 15-year habit) sweating away, sickles in hand. We jumped right in and picked the two rows pretty quick (well, we only picked about 3/4 of a row, having been late). After putting everything through the crusher/de-stemmer it was time for a swim in the young apprentices parents pool while Angelo cooked lunch: wild boar ribs (which is almost common food in the Dry Creek Valley), a delicious pasta, crostini with cheeses, tomatoes, figs, and Angelo's own prosciutto, and lots of wine (jug wine from Preston, which is next door to the house and Angelo's syrah from last year).

More swimming and sunning followed lunch, and then Jeff and Lori and I headed down to the Barn Diva (where I worked and was fired from three times in 2004-2005) to see the general manager, who is a dear friend of mine (hence the re-hiring) and a friend of Jeff's as well (Healdsburg is a very, very small town). We quickly polished off 2 bottles of Roederer Rose (it's good to have friends who manage restaurants) and called it a day. It was 6pm and time to head back to the city; after promising the GM that I would return to Healdsburg next summer and stay in his empty bedroom (which has been empty for a year ever since his hippie chef left to get married in Santa Cruz) and clean for him and see how many more times in one summer I can get fired from the Barn.

**

I drove back to the city and dropped myself off on Cesar Chaves, which was the location of yet another Ghetto Gourmet (which I weaseled a seat at and a ticket to, through my hard work as a waitress on Sunday night. Thanks, Jeremy!!). The food was interesting, and you'll have to wait until next Wednesday to read more, somewhere in the actual printed-word world.

Following the "underground dinner," Michael Hebberoy, his lovely girlfriend Holly (who'd flown down from Seattle for a long weekend), the photographer who's documenting the dinners for his book, two friends of theirs who live in the Mission, and I headed over to Nopa for more wine and dessert. I like the food at Nopa very much, and the three other city-dwellers (we were joined by a friend of Holly's, who was jokingly peeved we were at Nopa at all as she'd wanted to surprise Holly with dinner there tomorrow night) agreed that the food was good but were in disagreement over the mural. I love it (it's an artists rendition of the Western Addition, complete with a hipster walking little dogs in Alamo Square, and I think I can see my old house), they hate it.

Dessert was two baskets of fries (I think Nopa has the best French fries in the city, served with a spicy harissa aioli), chocolate ice-cream, and spiced doughnut holes with a rum-caramel sauce. The fries were gone in a blink and we all picked at the desserts (they were very good but I think we wanted something saltier to accompany the two bottles of Nosis (where's the "G"? Anybody?) verdejo that Michael picked, yum. The two Blue Bottle espresso martinis went down easy, too, which was maybe not such a good thing as several shots of espresso right before bed atcually *do* make for a sleepless night.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Ghet Gets Vegetarian



Last night's Ghetto Gourmet at the top-secret location in North Berkeley took place outdoors under the stars and the icicle lights in the back garden of two lovely folks who'd attended a few dinners and hosted one this summer (which was recorded for NPR).

The menu, which was entirely vegetarian (and nearly vegan) was full-fledged late-summer/fall bounty. A hot and cold salad of confit tomatoes, little sea plants, and chrysanthemum fronds led the way to a minestrone-like soup with all of the vegetables distinctly flavored and textured. It's so easy to turn vegetable soup into a hearty mush (which I always seem to do), that the cranberry beans and patty-pan squash pieces floating in an herbed broth, seemed like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And normally I don't even like cranberry beans because it seems like they're on everyone's menu this time of year.

The main course was a butternut-squash lasagna, with thinly-sliced layers of the squash itself acting as noodles interspersed with black and white chanterelle mushrooms, white corn, and parmesan. The lasagna sat atop a puddle of red sauce and was adorned with arugula and more crispy parmesan. Dessert was little chocolate cakes with homemade caramel ice cream and crispy little pieces of vanilla bean.

The Ghetto Gourmet is a BYOB type event, so the communal tables (there were 30 guests in attendance) were filled with pens and wine-openers, all the better to take down names, doodle in gastronomic frenzy on the menus, and open bottles. Musical entertainment was provided by Jeremy's roommate on classical guitar, and some hippie chick from the East Coast wailing about the Mother Earth. Mostly I couldn't take my eyes off of her glittery, tasseled, white Sherpa boots, and the boxer dog who lived there put in a decent effort at hooking up with them a couple of times through the night.

**

Although it was a Sunday night, I should have known this wouldn't stop the roving band of bohemian culinary outlaws who'd just returned from a weekend spent 24/7 drinking Macallan 12-year scotch with Gore Vidal. The boys hadn't slept much and were loopy from a weekend of amazing conversation, food, and company (I knew I should have pressed them to let me be their waitress-in-residence!), so of course I took them out. We met up with Matt Dillon from Sitka and Spruce, who was in town from Seattle trying to get away from the pressures of being the town's most recent four-star chef (and on GQ Magazine's Top 5 Hot List for restaurants this fall), at the 500 club for a few and then moved on to the Lucky 13 until closing time. Fueled by cigarettes, adrenaline, and skyy citrus vodka, we headed over to Baker Beach (which took me 40 minutes to find from Market Street as I never drive in the city) so that the photographers could jump into the ocean while I did headstands on the beach (a yoga instructor told me last week that inverting myself for a minute every day would combat the stresses of waitressing all night. She was right!)

I woke up this morning feeling strangely refreshed after my second night of bohemian debauching in four days, and realized that my theory must be true: it doesn't count as being a lush if you're in the company of other artists. I'm like Kerouac, baby!