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When I read R.W. Apple's description of himself in the foreword to his new book, Apple's America, as "never a feckless eater," it was in reference to his "four decades crisscrossing the continent in professional pursuit of politicians ... [when] journalists in search of diversion, supported by expense accounts approved by indulgent editors, found and frequented good restaurants around the country." The phrase struck a chord with me, because despite my profession (a journalist in search of good restaurants around the city, with an expense account, though not Apple-scaled) I am often a feckless eater. The day after a fabulous seven-course tasting menu at the newest temple of gastronomy, I often open the cupboards and find them rather bare.
1 Ferry Building,, No. 41
San Francisco, CA 94111
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Four-item bento box $9.50
Crab croquette $3.75
Potato croquette $1.50
Blancmange with strawberries $2
Mistral Rotisserie Provençale, 1 Ferry Building, No. 41, Market & Embarcadero, 399-9751. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Thursday until 9 p.m.), Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: $2 off at adjacent lot, with validation. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 21, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: moderate.
Delica rf-1, 1 Ferry Building, No. 45, Market & Embarcadero, 834-0344. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: $3 off first two hours in adjacent lot, with validation. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 21, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: moderate.
M.F.K. Fisher wrote about her own feast-or-famine diet in An Alphabet for Gourmets under "A is for dining Alone": She's not invited to share a home-cooked meal of "honest-to-God fried chops, peas and carrots, a jello salad, and lemon meringue pie" because "the kind people always murmur 'We'd love to have you stay to supper .... We wouldn't dare, of course, the simple way we eat and all.' ... with silent thanks that they are not condemned to my daily fare of quails financière, pâté truffé en brioche, sole Marguéry, bombe vanille au Cointreau .... I drive home by way of the corner Thriftimart to pick up another box of Ry Krisp, which with a can of tomato soup and a glass of California sherry will make a good nourishing meal for me."
My sherry is Spanish, and the can of soup is more likely to be Andersen's split pea with bacon, which I amp up with a few slices of quickly sizzled-and-snipped bacon (if I've got bacon on hand). Crackers are rare, because I find them too easy to eat (too many of); a slice of whole-grain toast is more likely. It's a decent single-girl supper, if not an inspirational (or aspirational) one.
But sometimes there isn't even a can of soup to be found in the larder. At times, especially after a visit to one or the other farmers' market, the fridge is bursting with good things to eat. The selection reminds me of Dorothy Parker's description (in "I Live on Your Visits") of what's stuffed in the tiny hotel refrigerator of a mother hopeful that her son will eat dinner with her on one of his dutiful but infrequent and brief appearances, the most poignant list in all literature: "There were a cardboard box of eggs, a packet of butter, a cluster of glossy French rolls, three artichokes, two avocados, a plate of tomatoes, a bowl of shelled peas, a grapefruit, a tin of vegetable juices, a glass of red caviar, a cream cheese, an assortment of sliced Italian sausages, and a plump little roasted Cornish Rock hen." When he doesn't stay, we know that all that provender, so lovingly and expectantly purchased, will molder while his mother drinks her dinner.
I love to open my refrigerator and be greeted by delicious things to eat. But occasionally, when whisking around the city distracted by other things, I'll let shopping, cooking, and even eating slide -- as I realized the other week when I emerged from the Castro Muni station and headed to opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival, late and unfed. There wasn't even time to join the lines clamoring for snacks at the concession counter. I was reduced to rooting around in the festival's free gift bag in search of sustenance. I found a package of breadsticks, whose generous supplier I shall leave unidentified, because although I gnawed through each and every one, I found them distressingly similar to the wood after which they are named; and another of blue potato chips, with which I was also not completely thrilled, but still -- they disappeared. I was hungry.
I thought I'd found all the food, hidden among a nifty Stella Artois beer glass, Sundance Channel DVDs, an inexplicable "Meet the Fockers" plastic shot glass, and a (mysteriously emptied) miniature bottle of Skyy Orange Vodka. But a chance remark by a friend led me to return to the bag on the morrow, and breakfast (yes!) on the shortbread cookies and madeleine I unearthed after further careful investigation (upending the bag on the counter).
This was worse than feckless eating. This was feral eating.
I resolved to treat myself a little better. If I was too busy to shop or cook properly, I would make sure I was greeted by some nicely prepared, healthy takeout upon opening the fridge.
As it happened, a couple of friends were under the weather and needed sustenance delivered. One had very specific requests, beginning with "organic" and following with a rather frightening list of foodstuffs to which she was sensitive. I went, list in hand, to Mistral Rotisserie Provençale in the Ferry Building, because the place uses naturally raised local meats and fowl and organic produce from the farmers' market right outside its doors. I chose a small, plump roasted bird, a real spring chicken, that had been rubbed with herbes de Provence (a seven-herb blend including thyme, rosemary, fennel, and lavender), potatoes roasted in the drippings under the rotisserie, simply steamed broccoli, and ratatouille. (Along with an epi loaf from Acme and a couple of strawberry-rhubarb tarts from Frog Hollow, both conveniently located right around the corner in the Ferry Building.) I also got a half-chicken plate to go for myself, with ratatouille and potatoes. The chicken was moist and fragrant under its herbed skin, the ratatouille chunky and well spiced, and those potatoes, floury beneath crunchy golden exteriors, were quite divine. (My friend's caregiver reported, happily, that she had eaten with real appetite for the first time since falling ill.)
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