My Dinner at Chez Panisse

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According to Gourmet Magazine’s most recent ranking, Chez Panisse is the second best restaurant in America. It’s one notch below Alinea, which serves future food–high concept, experimental, visionary–and one notch above the French Laundry, which offers classic refinement and sophisticated grandeur. How does Chez Panisse fit in there, there at the pinnacle of American cuisine? It’s much older than the other two–almost two decades older. Its message, innovative and exciting back when it started–fresh seasonal food, simply prepared–has spread so far and wide, it can’t really be new any more, can it? Why should anyone make an effort to eat at this restaurant, this old war horse, this has-been with a superiority complex? The answer, I think, is simple: it delivers.

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The Slanted Door

Do pictures of food speak for themselves? Can you tell if I loved my lunch at The Slanted Door by images alone? Let’s find out. I’m not going to say any more–just going to post lunch pictures with labels so you know what you’re looking at. Now it’s your turn to be the critic: if you were served this food, would you be happy?

Green papaya salad with tofu, rau ram and roasted peanuts:

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A16

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This review will be easy. I loved A16.

When Fatemeh suggested it for dinner, I didn’t know what to think. I hadn’t heard of it. It sounded like a steak sauce. Was it really worth giving up one of my dinner slots for this? Well the answer, as I can tell you now that I’ve been, is emphatically: yes.

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Tartine

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If I thought more people knew the song, I would write this post to the tune of Dolly Pardon’s “Jolene.” It would go: Tartine…tartine…tartine…tartine…I’m begging of you please don’t take away my tart. (If you don’t know the song, I think you should buy it or download it illegally. It’s fun!)

My rental car situation is tricky. Because I rented a car, I feel like I should drive everywhere but since many destinations are within walking distance of Raife’s apartment, that would be ridiculous. And frustrating, because parking here is like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle. Wait. A needle in the eye of a camel. What expression am I thinking of?

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Zuni

Don’t go to Zuni. Do go to Zuni. It’s overrated. It’s underrated. It’s passed its prime. It’s a perennial. It’s a legend. You have to eat there.

Welcome to the Zuni Cafe, the subject of much debate in the San Francisco dining scene:

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I’ve known about Zuni for a very long time. I’ve had the Zuni cookbook for a very long time. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to San Francisco was to eat at Zuni. And on Sunday night, right after my meet-up, Raife joined Sam, Fred and I for dinner at this relatively new, but no less significant, San Francisco institution.

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A Ferry Building Welcome

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“You have to go to the Ferry Building!” “You have to go to the Farmer’s Market!” “If you don’t go to the Ferry Building or the Farmer’s Market I’ll never read your blog again and not only that, I’ll burn my computer with your page loaded up so I can watch you smolder.”

These are the words that regaled me when I announced I was going to San Francisco. My readers are very aggressive people. So I knew, Saturday morning, that I’d have to go to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market or pay the price.

Luckily, Sam of Becks and Posh was happy to be my host. She met me at the front of the Ferry Building (a San Francisco icon, poorly photographed from the back, above) and told me how crappy it was that it was raining. But I said, “Well, let’s embrace the rain: maybe it won’t be as crowded.”

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