Sunday, February 19, 2006

Guest blogging by Wendy: Slow Food Guide to San Francisco

A few weeks ago, Chelsea Green Publishing sent me two books. One of them is about the new trend of "slow food":
Slow food is a growing international movement committed to sustainable agriculture, local food traditions, and the honest pleasures of the table. More than 80,000 members worldwide have fought successfully to protect raw milk cheeses, heritage breeds of American turkeys, and many other outstanding foods that are either threatened or simply deserve to be more widely known and enjoyed.

I thought it was a bit weird that they sent a book about San Francisco all the way to Toronto, but surprise, surprise, Wendy just went to San Francisco last week, so she took the book with her. I am honoured to have her as a guest blogger today:

"The Slow Food Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area" by Sylvan Brackett, Sue Moore, and Wendy Downing with Slow Food USA

I'd never really explored San Francisco before, and it was definitely fun to have a restaurant book in hand when I had the chance to do so. The only problem with the book is that it is highly selective - it would have to be, of course, sponsored as it is by Slow Food, but it's not all that useful for someone who's a stranger to the city and wants to eat lunch near her hotel.

The reviews were beautifully written - not a single complaint there. Unfortunately, they say more about the atmosphere and mode of the restaurants, and less about the actual dishes available to eat. I went to Limon for dinner, and Tartine for lunch, both in the Mission district.

Limon: Here, I actually ate a dish described in the review - the Ceviche Limon. The book reads, "The signature dish, ceviche limon, is a generous sampling of raw fish marinated in lime juice, served with yams and Peruvian corn." Well, sure it is. But I would describe it differently, perhaps this way: "The signature dish, ceviche limon, includes a variety of shellfish as well as halibut, marinated in lime juice. Completing the plate is a sweet slice of yam to offset the acidity, and two types of Peruvian corn - some is soft and joins the fish in the marinade, and some is toasted, to add a welcome crunchy texture." Do it justice, people! It was very good - I preferred it to my main dish, Lomo Saltado, a very traditional dish of beef, tomatoes, onions and potatoes, which was tasty but not extraordinary. And even though it is a ubiquitous Peruvian dish - our waiter said we wouldn't find a Peruvian restaurant without it - it is not mentioned in the review.

Tartine: This is actually in the section of the book devoted to markets, as it is a bakery/cafe. At Tartine, I ate one of the most delicious sandwiches of my life - technically a "pressed sandwich," it was a sampler of three different small grilled cheeses, accompanied by weird but yummy little pickled carrots. My lunch companion had the quiche, which was glowingly mentioned in the Slow Food review - it actually looked a bit overbaked, but she said it was very good. This place proved the point that the experience, even though that was the focus of the review, described in a book is not always accurate. We had no problem getting a table at around 1pm, and the line moved smoothly, both contrary to what was written in the book.

For those devoted to or curious about Slow Food, this is obviously the right book. For Josephine Traveller, like me - you might want to pick up a Zagat's.

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