Spaghetti with bottarga, the must-order at La Ciccia.
Naomi Duguid just blazed through town. The Toronto-based cookbook author—who has spent her life documenting the food culture of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia—is one of my all-time heroes. Her amazing new cookbook is Burma: Rivers of Flavor, and on Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend a demo she gave on Burmese food. She made an unctuous chickpea flour-based soup garnished with chive oil, chili oil, cilantro, and peanuts. It was fantastic and my next dinner party to-do. I recommend getting the book, if just for this.
Duguid is the hearty world traveler that I will never be (i.e. the type that has slept on the floor of huts), but I can just live vicariously—though, after listening to her speak, I’m seriously contemplating going on her intimate tour of Burma in February. I like Naomi because, not only is she completely devoted to making sure the food she writes about has been documented with the utmost respect, she is also a woman who doesn’t mince words. On her blog, she wrote about her trip to San Francisco. Specifically, about her experience at Burma Superstar, the beloved Richmond District restaurant. Here’s what she had to say:
“We ordered the ginger salad, the pork with pickled mustard greens, the cabbage salad with mint, the fried tofu squares, and the tofu and okra, as well as rice of course (jasmine), and ginger-lemonade. The drink was very good and cabbage salad too; the rice was fine. And after that? Not wonderful. It’s really too bad, on the one hand, given all the easy-to-make glories of Burmese culinary tradition; I’d love people to be getting a real taste. On the other hand it’s great that the owners have made such a success of their business that they now have four other locations of the restaurant, I’m told.”
Take it from an authority.
On a more positive note, she has a Vietnamese sandwich from Sing Sing Sandwich Shop in the Tenderloin and says it ranks as one of the best banh mi she’s had in North America. Now, that's a compliment.
Since it's my less-adventurous job to document the food of Cal-Americana, last night I finally made it to The Corner Store on a blustery (like a blizzard of fog practically blew me over) corner of Masonic and Geary. In my narrow-minded, Missioncentric mindset, I figured the restaurant would be dead at the 6 p.m. hour that I arrived. I mean who goes to dinner around there, right? Wrong. Duly (and sheepishly) noted. It was packed. The service was friendly, the patronage was refreshingly unpretentious, and the food was really, solidly good. Talk about a part of the city starved for a cocktail-driven, comfort-food restaurant. From the menu, we had a nice salad with shavings of fennel, watermelon radishes, and figs followed by a great burger made even greater by the bacon jam topping it. To balance that, I ordered a great vegetarian dish of a mix of hearty grains and wild mushrooms made into a soupy risotto and topped with a handful of greens and shavings of Parmesan cheese. If I lived out that way, I’d be at the Corner Store all the time too. Apparently, there have been two-hour waits since it opened.