Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I think this might possibly be the best pizza I've had in the Bay Area. And I'm not being hyperbolic. It beats out Zachary's & Gioia . . . And as far as the pizzerias in the city, I suppose I've yet to try Pizzetta or A16 . . . but they've got stiff competition here. Thanks for turning me on to it, Mary!

Try the one with the wild nettles. . . yum!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dosas are all the rage

Fact 1: Every brown person in San Francisco knows that a restaurant specializing in South Indian food opened its doors in the Mission.

Fact 2: There are so few brown people in San Francisco that they all know one another. (Hence, word of the new South Indian place spread like wildfire.)

Maybe I'm stretching the truth a bit, but it seems egregious that we're on the cusp 2006 and South Indian food is practically an unknown quantity in SF! A few years back, even the Indo-Chinese fusion--Gobi Manchurian and all--made its way into our fair city. But the great irony, in a city that lauds itself on food forward thinking and a long list of innovations, no decent idlis or dosas (food which is the mainstay of almost 1/2 billion people) are to be found for miles around . . . until now.

If you perused The Chronicle yesterday or heard through the brown person grapevine, you'll know that Anjan and Emily Mitra sought to rectify this problem, debuting their new digs in the cursed space next door to Herbivore. During my tenure in the City, several places optimistically opened and closed in that location. Never did I enter whatever trendy thing inhabited it. Something about it says, "Keep walking. There are plenty of better options in the neighborhood." Unfortunately, not for South Indian food.

To be fair, I haven't yet tasted Dosa's food. And I'm frankly not tempted to try. I sent two very trustworthy emissaries (my brother and his fiance) to scout it out, and they gave it a bona fide thumbs down. First, they were miffed by the fact that the owners of the restaurant aren't even South Indian. Everyone can find a niche and fill it, I suppose. But when I hear of someone starting the original something-or-other, especially when that something is close to my heart, I'm hoping for just a little bit of street cred.

Sami and Hansa report that the dosas came cold to the table and that they weren't properly fermented. People, listen very carefully. A dosa is not a crepe! Sometimes, we are too eager to Anglicize our names and dumb down our cuisines in order to make the world understand that we eat food worthy of a French person's assent! A crepe is not fermented, but its phenotypically similar but genetically unrelated bedfellow, the dosa, is. A dosa should taste akin to a sourdough baguette. That's what makes it um-um good. What's more, they say that the chutneys were horribly bland, looking sadly like an obese rat racing against Secretariat, my mother's kick-ass coconut and peanut blends. The home stretch was a spicy, tasty sambhar that was warily perceived as having come from the innards of an MTR box.

But, what do we, who have nothing to compare this restaurant to, know? Without the bar of my mother's culinary skills (and the many South Indian restaurants in and out of the US I've frequented), how could I possibly know that this doesn't measure up? For starters, trek a little outside of the City to the likes of where the South Indians lie in Sunnyvale, San Jose, Fremont. You'll find bunches of brown people lined up around a corner, waiting for brunch: a mile-long paper thin sour dosa, stuffed with the spiciest potato stuff with sides of the freshest sambhar and to-die-for chutneys. I'm talkin' Sarvana Bhavan all the way.

Incidentally, dosa parties among my mother's lady friends are all the rage these days. They hire the women from Fresno's famed Brahma Bull, who on a roll-out griddle make the most delicious dosas to order. If you want the real deal--and it doesn't get much realer than this--arrange for a dosa feast in your own home. And invite all the lovely brown ladies in Fresno along. They won't lead you astray.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Thanksgiving Tarts

Pies weren't the only thing on our table. Mei brought a lovely fig tart while I made a (slightly overcooked but delicious anyway) pear and almond tart.


Warm mushroom tart with goat cheese and a nice frisee salad to boot! For those of you, who pay attention to this blog or know me personally, you're well aware that I have a husband, who doesn't like fine dining. While I crave to dine outside the house, having a palate-stimulating new experience, he wishes for the good food of the home. Granted, he's got it made 'cuz I do all the cooking and often deliver high-end stuff in the home for a fraction of the cost. I've spoiled him out of taking me out!

But for my 30th, he succumbed. We went to Jojo's, a lovely French place on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. It was a Wednesday night, not crowded at all. We got an intimate table and began with some sparkling wine. I know many don't like what the bubbles have to offer, but I love the celebratory feeling (and the taste) that it imparts. As for our tasting menu . . .

A Trio of Little Salad
Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart
Seafood Stew with Shrimp, Scallops, Clams & Romano Beans
Grilled Wild Sturgeon with a Lemon Caper Sauce
Lemon Tart
Sorbet Selection

The food was close to divine, but all the pastries, mushroom tart included, were out-of-this-world. Now that I have some time, I'm going to try to replicate this little slice of heaven in the upcoming weeks.