Saturday, October 14, 2006

More on Michelin

Well, now that I have finshed my class at Tante Marie's Cooking school in San Francisco where I did a Tuscan radish salad with pecorino fresco (what a hit that was), roasted mixed vegetables (even bigger hit and looking like a renaissance still-life painting) with diced potatoes, beets, whole cloves of garlic, carrots, whole shallots, chanterelle mushrooms, tiny button crimini mushrooms, fresh sage and rosemary all bathed in extra virgin olive oil, umbrian quail stuffed with herbs and pancetta and braised with white wine and John Whitman's red flame and Thompson grapes (John is my sister Dee's fiance and has a farm in Fresno), and let's not forget dessert! Florentine Apple cake - yum. I love teaching and wish I could have my old job back as an instructor and demo teacher at the California Culinary Academy. Actually, I'd like a teaching job at a small school with fewer students in the class. The ideal job I really wanted at a small school is not available to me (and probably never will be) was given away under my nose. So much for "tight" friends and collegues.

OK. Michelin Guide. I railed about it in my last blog, but bless them, they are trying to get into the vast American market and probably felt there was room for them, too, along with Gayot and Zagat among many others including Patty Unterman's excellent book San Francisco Food Lover's Guide. Even though I hate to admit it, many of us restaurateurs in S.F. have a goodly portion of business from travelers, and I don't mean just the ones from the city next to us. We like to think we are "local" and our clentele adore us and keep coming back. While this is partly true it is also true that with a popolation of roughly 750,000 people and well over 4.000 restaurants, making us the second (I challenge this) most restaurant-dense city after New York, that is far to few people and far too many restaurants to make a viable market. God bless the travelers and tourists - at Vivande we get lots of travelers and not so surprizingly we get a tremendous percentage of Europeans and Asians. I think they are looking for more of what they get at home than the "latest" word on food. Remember, Michelin is international, and once they have slipped into the Bay Area market, quite a number of foreign travelers will look to them for guidance on where to eat when they come to visit us. This should pump book sales for Michelin.

You food critics out there - heed this: I still think there needs to be more emphasis on the preparation of the food and less on its source and the architectural ambience of the space. Don't we have anough "shelter" magazines out there already? Do we need to know that the puce walls did not go over well with the critic while he was eating his brilliant green sauteed spinach and thought the puce would have been better with blood sausage? I once ate caviar and champagne and strawberries and choclate truffles served out of the trunk of a friend's car in Golden Gate Park. I never once complained about the "ambiance" of the trunk, or of the cypress and pine tree umbrella overhead - I thought it was damn good eats, and the air and natural canopy was terrific. Also, those lunches on summer Sundays at Stern Grove hearing fine music - free - that was damn good eats too.

Anyhow, in over 4,000 San Francisco restaurants (not the Bay Area itself) to find that Vivande is one of the 192 listed but with no banana (star - excuse me), it is nice to know Michelin did in fact do its homework. The big complaint about Michelin was there was a lot of typo erros and factual errors. Reading the local papers is not much better yet they do not criticize themselves (go figure). But when Michelin in France can come and find Carlo and Lisa Middione at Vivande and say something true that is also very nice means I can't fault them - only praise them. This is more than our local "press" is doing for us. They know we exist but will be damned rather than give us a nod. Go figure again. It is true, then, isn't it that you have to leave home to be appreciated in your own hometown. So Michelin did it for us among deserving others. Thank you Michelin.

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