By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
By Max A. Cherney
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By Alex Hochman
By Anna Roth
"I love my cigar," Groucho famously told a couple on his quiz show who had 22 children, "but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." Well, I love to eat, but I find it helps to stop doing it for a few weeks a year. I used to pause this way formally, by visiting one of those places called "spa" or "health resort" (or, more bluntly, "fat farm"), which distract you from hunger pangs by enforcing regimens of exercise interrupted by ritual meals of severely reduced calories. (Depending on the kitchen's concept and skill, these occasions can be delightful or annoying. I remember one sojourn at the Rancho de la Puerta when I met a tall, slender San Francisco socialite, still very much on the scene today, who told me she visited the place regularly and didn't eat anything at all while she was there -- and its vegetarian Mexican cooking was quite palatable. But each to her own.)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Region: South of Market
Hot and cold buffet $7.50/ pound
Tres leches cake $3.95
Miniature cupcakes $1.25 each
Bubble-wrap chocolate $14/ pound
Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Muni: 6, 7, 26, 71, F
Noise level: moderate to high
Now I find that even a regular vacation, with its culinary indulgences, can result in dropping a few pounds due to the many hours I spend walking around and seeing the sights. But even more successful (though that's not the aim) are my visits to film festivals, at which the enforced regimen is a diet of movies rather than water aerobics and yoga classes, and where, if you're obsessive, you don't even pause for ritual meals.
I've felt movie-starved recently, partly because my favorite moviegoing companion is 4 years old and consequently I've been scanning the ads for G- and PG-rated movies, all of which I've managed to see (my summer joke was "I haven't seen War of the Worlds, but I have seen Sky High!"). So it was easy, during Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Film Festival and the 10 days of the Toronto International Film Festival that followed almost immediately after, to choose a screening over a meal. I even skipped the nearly irresistible catered opening-night Telluride block party -- this year a Cuban feast in honor of the late novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, to whom the festival was dedicated -- in favor of Les Ponts des Arts, a self-conscious and stylized movie made by a semiobscure Franco-American auteur named Eugenè Green, though it pained me to walk past the cauldrons of steaming roast pork and black beans. (And I loved the film. It's exactly the kind of thing you go to Telluride for, with the festival's cunning mix of the best commercial offerings, like Brokeback Mountain and Walk the Line; the most challenging foreign features, such as Paradise Now and The Child; and obscurities like the complete Green retrospective and a screening of the 1929 A Cottage on Dartmoor.)
By the time I got to Toronto I was completely in the groove, slipping from movie to movie in a state of celluloid bliss. The first day alone I saw a Swedish documentary on Orson Welles' passion for Spain called The Well; an Argentine family political drama, Sisters, set in 1975; the French October 17, 1961, a fictionalized film about a bloody demonstration in Paris during the Algerian war for independence; a psychosexual French thriller starring Emmanuelle Béart called L'Enfer; and a documentary, Ballets Russes, made by San Francisco filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, that moved me to tears. And so it went.
Of course I don't go a whole two weeks without eating.
Nor am I limited to a concession-stand diet of popcorn (which I hate in its movie incarnation, as much for its infuriating noise in consumption as its cardboardy texture and flavor) and Goobers (though the Canadian Goober equivalent, Glosette, is a vastly superior product). I survive -- nay, thrive -- on a diet of sandwiches, excellent ones purveyed by a number of delis and snack shops, purchased on the fly and consumed during screenings. (I know most theaters discourage the bringing in of outside food, but that has more to do with the bottom line than with annoying your neighbors: Videthe inexplicable crunchy popcorn. Nevertheless, I've seen people consuming pizza, big pastrami sandwiches, even, once, Chinese food -- out of takeout containers! with chopsticks! -- in theaters. So I don't feel guilty about my quiet little repast.)
You'd think that after two weeks of movies and sandwiches I would have had enough. But the truth is, I return habituated to the regimen and can't quite stop cold turkey. So it was that literally the day after my plane landed I found myself standing in line, again, for sandwiches and movies.
For the sandwiches I went to DeLessio Market & Bakery, an establishment on Market I'd wanted to visit ever since I wrote about Cuban sandwiches, months ago, and a reader e-mailed me to tell me his favorite Cubano was made there. I'd passed DeLessio several times since, with its always-crowded small courtyard fenced off from the sidewalk, but I'd never gone inside. When I did, I was stunned by how packed this eccentric place is with alluring things to eat. I was ostensibly there for a sandwich or two, but I was dazzled and distracted by a display of exquisitely wrapped chocolates; a cold table chockablock with bowls and trays containing not just the expected salad-bar items, but also such novelties as grilled Thai chicken, an assortment of different olives, and amazing-looking composed salads; a hot table laden with steaming trays of roasted pork loin and lusciously cheesy macaroni and potato gratin; and an open bakery in which cakes and pastries were being frosted before my eyes. I felt like I'd stumbled into a garden of earthly delights, a life-size cornucopia from which one could pluck out the most tempting morsels and put them onto conveniently waiting plates and into takeout boxes.
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