Category Archives: Rants

Noooooooo! How can I miss this?

Just read my Tablehopper newsletter, and saw this:

***Wednesday March 18th is the next ~THREE ON FIVE BEVERAGE BATTLE AT FIFTH FLOOR~: Vegetarian Showdown. Emily Wines will pair wines against beer selections from Craig & Beth Wathen of City Beer Store, and cocktails from celebrated mixologist Marco Dionysos of Clock Bar, with the added pairing challenge of the Gascony-inspired vegetarian menu. 7:30pm. $125 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Please specify “Beverage Battle” when making your reservation. 12 Fourth St. at Mission, 415-348-1555.***

Vegetarian! Alcoholic! That’s me! Just my luck, I’ll be in DC on the 18th, for one night only. So promise me, if you have the means, go. Support them so they’ll do more veggie stuff. I’m all stressed that it’ll flop because of the economy, but they’ll blame the vegetarians. Us animal-snugglers always get the stink-eye of suspicion in these matters.

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Filed under Major Coin, Rants

Well, hello there.

It’s been tough times here at A Few Reservations international headquarters. Maybe the curse of Kristin has come to pass. Or maybe I picked up an enchanted Tiki in Hawaii and it’s starting to haunt me, Brady Bunch style. In short, life has unraveled. And blogging has fallen by the wayside.

Luckily, I had dinner Saturday night with a few fantastic friends, including the lovely and talented Michael Procopio, author of Food for the Thoughtless, and contributor to Bay Area Bites and the SF Examiner. His guilt trip worked wonders: Here I am typing.

The thing is, I can’t really blame my lack of blogging entirely on my current mental state. It’s also due, in large part, to the fact that I keep being disappointed by my culinary forays. And frankly, I’m tired of bitching about it.

Exhibit A: A recent meal at Coco 500. Now, Coco is a go-to restaurant for me. An easy recommendation for just about any occasion, and a sure-fire crowd pleaser when I’m taking folks out on the town. Last time I was there, I asked if the chef could pull together a vegetarian entrée plate for me. I wasn’t disappointed. So, this time around, I asked for the same thing. Guess what they sent out?

Yeah. Risotto.

Of all the gorgeous vegetables they could have used. All the lovely sides they have to offer. Fuck me. Risotto wasn’t even on the menu that night. Did they have a pot waiting in the wings, marked “For Emergency Vegetarian Use Only”? Sure, the risotto tasted great. But really, that’s not the point.

The aforementioned dinner with my boys at RNM was less disappointing. No vegetarian entrees on the menu, of course. But at least the collection of sides they brought out was truly well seasoned. Some asparagus, some spinach, some farro, and a downright tasty mushroom gnocci. (I know: Gnocci and farro on the same plate? Look, I’m trying to be charitable here.)

This is what I don’t get. Why is it a crime to put something vegetarian on the menu? If the chef is willing to make an offering upon request, then why not commit and put it on the page? It sure would make me feel a whole lot better. You know, like they actually valued me as a customer instead of treating me as a special needs case. It’s not 1957, and we don’t live in Nebraska. No one is going to label your restaurant a hippie joint if you dare to offer an entrée sans carnage.

I’m getting tired of beating that drum, you know? Has anyone out there had a fantastic vegetarian main plate lately? And if so, where? Tell me. Please. I promise to try it and scribe a happy, glowing review. Maybe it’ll even pull me out of my funk. Write and let me know. You can consider it a public service.

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews

I’m a real blogger!

Well, friends. The day has arrived. They say you’re not truly a blogger until you receive an oddly personal attack post from a total stranger. I guess I’m all grown up now, because “Kristin Adams” has taken me to school.

Since Kristin’s carefully constructed comments were recently attached to an old post, I thought I’d just serve them up to you here. I know she’d be thankful that I’ve increased her readership.

“In case you weren’t aware, readers don’t give a shit about how privileged you feel in your personal life, or any of your self-entitled drivel. Consider yourself boring. If you want to write a self-adoration blog, call it something else so you don’t waste people’s time with this dreck. That way, serious foodies can read actual reviews, and your acolytes/disciples/minions/subjects can taste your day-to-day jackoffs. I’m sure you’re so important they clamor to lick it up. You’re sure that people are fascinated with you just because you are you, whoever you are, and can’t wait to know the minutiae of your life and how taken with yourself you are. I’m sure you’re spellbinding. But tell us all in a forum not disguised as a blog about food. You’re transparent. And if you’re taken with yourself and your life, tell your friends. Maybe they care. I don’t know if you know this, but you’re not interesting. Pathetically, you probably think people applaud your every utterance. Jackass.”

Kristin, love, I’ve got a few handy pointers to make your food/web reading experience more pleasurable. First, if you’re on a site you don’t like, try clicking elsewhere. I swear, it works like a charm, every time.

Second, I implore you, never EVER read anything by Ruth Reichl. Her endearingly personal style includes all kinds of self-absorbed references to her husband, her kid, and her friends. (Who knows how she made it at the New York Times, or why a magazine like Gourmet would hire her as an editor?) Seriously, Kristin. You’ll find her work deeply offensive. May I suggest something written by robots instead? Our shiny metal friends are far more objective. They never get the funny notion that food, love, and life are all tied up in one big, tangled, beautiful knot

And third, if you’re going to go to such lengths to lambast me (on a Saturday night, no less), just come out and admit it: You’ve got a crush on me. It’s okay. I won’t tell your boyfriend.

p.s. Acolytes? Really? Kudos on the 50 cent word. I actually had to look that one up.

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Filed under Rants, Uncategorized

Universal Cafe

I’m becoming a colossal bore.

Seriously. If I’m boring myself this much, I can’t imagine what you must be thinking.

I’m talking about me writing the same old story, again and again. It goes a little something like this: Nice restaurant, well-prepared food, nothing but Risotto for the vegetarian entrée.

At first, it was funny. (Although, admittedly, not that funny.) But now, it’s just getting to be a downer.

Here’s another one to toss onto the pile: Universal Café. It’s everything you could ever want in a neighborhood restaurant. Small and intimate with an open kitchen, their space tells a story of craftsmanship and care. The menu changes every other day: It’s short and sweet, with a clear point of view.

My Mixed Lettuce Salad was perfectly dressed in Red Wine Vinaigrette. There was nothing fussy about it, and that’s the way I like it. Our table shared the Grilled Flatbread with Escarole, Juliet Heirloom Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella. It was lovely. Uber-thin and crisp. And my Risotto (grrrrrr) with Roasted Butternut Squash, Leeks, White Truffle Oil and Thyme carried an uncommon depth of flavor. Subtly sweet, but never cloying.

Hu-freakin’-rrah.

I’m sure there are some folks out there who wish I’d simply get over it and take the yummy meal at face value. (Believe me. I understand. I have this argument with myself all the time.) But isn’t that admitting defeat?

Here’s the thing—as I look down at their menu, I see ideas and flavors that sing to me. Something braised in red wine with Tokyo Turnips, Carrots and Horseradish Cream. Something sautéed with Baby Leeks, Fingerlings, Mache and Verjus. These are combinations that never show up in Risotto. They just sit on the menu, taunting me. While my fellow diners explore a world of possibilities, I’m chained to the culinary kids table. No matter how delicious the Risotto is, it still lives in the same neighborhood as all its cousins, somewhere near the corner of Creamy and Savory.

So do me a favor. If you know a chef, tell them to branch out. Tell them to try something new. Please. I’ll love them for it. I’ll sing their praises and send all my friends.

And if they refuse, bitch-slap them. For me.

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews

Nua: Not So Much

While we’re on the topic of neighborhoods, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Northbeach.

In the love column: The ready availability of cannolis, the presence of some damn-fine coffee, City Lights, the cathedral at night, and the occasional feeling that you’re visiting another, more glamorous country than your own.

In the hate column: The neighborhood’s continuous celebration of Hoochie Fest 2007. (Which followed fast on the heels of Hoochie Fests 2006, 2005, 2004, etc, etc.)

The girls (and their “goin’ out in my striped shirt tonight” male counterparts) were certainly out in force on Sunday night when we visited Nua. The streets were clogged with ‘em. Squealing, hammered, holding each other up as they stumbled down the street. Is there some sort of elevation change on Columbus that causes accelerated absorption of alcohol?

But I digress. On to Nua.

Since I’ve already wasted your time with my bitching, I’ll cut to the chase. Nua didn’t rock me. At best, it gave me a playful nudge.

There weren’t any veggie entrees on the menu—not even a guest appearance by my nemesis, the veg-friendly risotto—so I asked the server if the chef would be willing to make a plate for me. (I noticed a number of promising sides and accompaniments to the meat dishes, so it wouldn’t have been difficult.) The waiter let me know the chef could do the Gnocci without the duck and the Seafood Risotto without the seafood. No way, man. I’ve been down that road too many times before. When you remove a main ingredient from a dish, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to suffer. Instead, I opted to start with a salad, then ordered individual sides of Roasted Cauliflower and Gigande Beans.

The salad—Red Crimson and Bartlett Pear with Mache, Belgian Endive, Candied Walnuts and Manchego—wasn’t half bad.  I wish it had been dressed more thoroughly, though. At first, I thought it lacked acid, but the pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate proved me wrong. My partner’s salad mysteriously arrived without Manchego. She was understandably sad.

My friend Susan went with the Gnocci, and I was glad I’d avoided it. She said it was salty in the extreme. My Roasted Cauliflower with Capers, Pine Nuts, and Parsley, had a nice flavor, but could have done with a bit more time in the oven. (For a lesson in how Cauliflower should be roasted, check out Pizzeria Delfina. They know the way: Keep it in the overn ‘til the cauliflower screams “uncle”.)

My Tomato-Braised Gigande Beans with Spinach were actually pretty tasty, but in desperate need of a buddy on the plate. I’d seen them being served at another table, snuggled underneath a pile of meat. I imagine they were quite happy there, harmonizing with some deeper flavors. On their own, they were okay, but…

Ugh. It sucks if you subtract a main ingredient, and it sucks if you just order sides. So what’s a vegetarian food lover to do? Chefs, I beg you. Think about this shit. You’re in California, for Christ’s sake. Give us something we’ll love, not just something we’ll tolerate for lack of anything better. It doesn’t take much. Just a little bit of effort. And another thing—if a vegetarian is ordering a bunch of sides to make a meal for herself, you might consider trying to plate it like an entrée, so she’s not made to feel like a picky little toddler at the table with the grownups. Just a thought.

Phew. Rant over. Moving on.

We finished the meal with Churros and Chocolate. They were tasty, but what fried thing isn’t? I was hoping for some of that super-creamy wonderstuff you get in the center of a good, fresh churro. Sigh. Didn’t get it.

Maybe if I were a meat eater, I’d give Nua another shot. But with nothing on the menu for me to eat, save a hobbled-together meal of sides, I don’t think I’ll bother any time soon.

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews

Chez Spencer

Seriously, dude. Don’t get me started. I’m in no mood.

Risotto. Why can’t I quit you?

We had a big client dinner last night at Chez Spencer. Which, in several respects, was quite lovely. You can’t beat a table on the patio there—it feels like you’re in your own private tent on some exotic, French-themed safari.

There were fourteen of us, total. We called several weeks in advance to make the reservations, and we let them know there’d be vegetarian guests in attendance. With a party that large, they required a set menu. So you’d think the chef would have plenty of time to think up something wonderful. And by wonderful, I mean something other than risotto.

Nah. Why bother?

So, my $65 prix fixe got me a butter lettuce salad, risotto, and a Meyer Lemon pot de crème. I have to tell you, I felt a little gypped. Though I realize my venison and steak eating friends got the better side of the bargain.

I’m not writing today to bitch about the food. The salad was quite nice—great dressing, actually. The risotto (“Truffle scented, Honjimeji mushroom with Shaved Parmesan) was tasty, and the pot de crème was decent, though nothing to write home about. In fact, I’ve heard from several people that the food at Chez Spencer is usually good, with occasional off nights. And their list of specialty cocktails is reason enough to return.

I’m just pissed at the risotto. RISOTTO. Risotto, risotto, risotto. It’s not you, Chez Spencer. It’s everyone. Yep, I’m pretty much angry at the entire culinary world for its lack of imagination. My wonderful coworker, Mike, who has heard my rice-rant many times before, saw the dish on the menu and burst out laughing.

For the love of all that’s holy, won’t someone please surprise me? I’m not a marathon runner—I can’t keep carbo-loading like this.

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Filed under Major Coin, Rants, Reviews

Why I’m Always Captain Crankypants

It’s been rough going since I completely nixed fish from my dining out possibilities. Places I might have raved about a year ago have become big disappointments. I look over the majority of my posts, and it’s Bitch Fest 2007 in here.

Frankly, I feel kind of crappy about it. I hate being the person who never seems to have anything nice to say. But what can I do? I’m going to call it like I see it. Or as I taste it, as the case may be. My standards are high, and I intend to keep them that way.

For those of you who think I’m off my culinary rocker, I invite you to conduct a little experiment. The next time you go to your favorite restaurant, order a vegetarian meal. No shrimp. No fish. No chicken broth in the stock. You gotta play by the rules for this one. Then compare your experience to the last time you ate there. Bonus points if you can make it through dessert without being force fed risotto.

I’m not looking for pity, people. I’m looking for a good meal.

I’ve had vegetarian food that has taken my breath away. I’ve had eight course tasting menus that kicked their meaty counterparts flat on the ground—amazing, innovative, flavorful, beautiful food. So why are the everyday menus of San Francisco such a vegetarian wasteland?

P.S. I’m serious about the experiment. Try it. Tell me what you find.

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Filed under Rants