Thursday, April 23, 2009

the great american dinner party

There has been a gradual food revolution in America over the last 40 years. Entertaining at home has evolved. What used to revolve around a couple of kinds of events like holiday dinners, barbecues, and cocktail parties has become the great dinner party. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and she made warm family dinners on Sundays and holidays, but I don't ever remember her having a dinner party for no other reason but to have over a group of friends. Not an option. So, what's different now? And how did we become such discerning cooks and entertainers?

A couple of things changed really. Cooking became popular!  It became trendy. Then it just became lifestyle. Julia Child kicked it off with the concept that you can cook "restaurant" at home. Alice Waters let us make it simple and very fresh. Voila, the food "industrial complex" is born. We are a nation that takes cooking classes from star chefs, invests in dozens of cookbooks, watches hours of the Food Network, and spend our evenings interpreting top recipes for our friends. (My mother's favorite, sit-down theme dinners for 12.)

The second thing that changed was the concept of what comprised family. If you have moved away from home (like myself) and can't be at every family dinner, your friendships, which can span dozens of years, become the new family dinner.

I became so much more aware of this recently. Actually, my friends made the point very clear and it became the idea about how even in economically challenging times the dinner party evolves again. They made the suggestion that rather than ever cut back on our dinners , we all contribute in one way or another, wines, liquor, even cash, pooled. Not that we didn't contribute before, its just more purposeful. Its about maintaining the time together.

So I did just what the great American cook would do: I made panini appetizers from Harry's Bar in Venice, veal osso buco by Tyler Florence and blackberry mousse right out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Sound familar? Yes, once again it was shock and awe!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

organic gourmet burger at pearl's deluxe burger on post

You know, one of the great things about San Francisco is the little gems of restaurants that are tucked into this corner or that all over the city. Pearl's Deluxe Burger (pun intended) is just such a gem. The original Pearl's Phat Burger is from Mill Valley, specializing in top quality beef, plus buffalo and organic beef on request. I stumbled onto it completely by accident when I was searching for great sweet potato fries. You don't see them around too often, and a friend said you have to try this new place on Post. (It has since been there a couple of years and I have been there several times.) It's not far from my house so it was a no-brainer to try it on the way home. It's a small place with seating for about 15 maxed out and pristinely clean. I think they do a crazy take-out business.

The basic pearl deluxe is a 1/2 lb beef burger on a sesame seed bun with curly leaf lettuce, mayo, onion and tomato. This isn't anything we haven't seen before, but the key is the very fresh ingredients. They also do a mini pearl that is a 1/4 pounder. But believe me you can have it anyway you want it with any number of combinations such as the Phat Bob with bacon, onions, jack cheese and bbq sauce, to a hamburger with a hotdog on top called the "King." Fries and onion rings are available but the sweet potato fries are the house speciality. They do a dead on perfect dill pickle spear that is cold and crispy like a refrigerator pickle. Have as many as you like--they are serve yourself. In case you are still feeling a little weak with hunger, there are dozens of gourmet milkshakes to choose from such as blackberry, chocolate chip, pumpkin, or peanut butter. No it isn't that cheap, but it is a nicely done handmade product--and I hear a rumor there may a 2nd location in SF in the works. Hope you get lucky enough to have it in your neighborhood. . . . till next time.