Michael Bauer Watch: Local Food, Imported Wine--Why?

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In his blog today, Bauer ponders a reader's question as to why, at a restaurant that focused on "very local, farm friendly, organic and sustainable" food, "the wines were predominantly French and Italian." Let's take his responses point by point.

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First, Bauer opines that "wines from Chile, Spain or Australia may offer more value per dollar than the California counterparts." True enough, but the wines at the restaurant in question are, as at many of our market-driven, otherwise locavore places, French and Italian.

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Next, he suggests that, since "many of these wines are unfamiliar to the average consumer," restaurants can, for example, mark up a Michele Chiarlo Arneis higher than they could a bottle of California Chardonnay. Sounds good in theory, but I don't believe I've ever seen a wine list where local and imported wines had different markups. Most restaurants around here sell bottles for three times the wholesale price, which is double the undiscounted retail list price. (As far as I'm concerned, anything higher is a ripoff.)

Sicilian Events with Fabrizia Lanza

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Fabriza Lanza, daughter of the eponymous founder of, and instructor at, the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school / foodie resort on the Regaleali estate outside of Palermo, is touring the West Coast to promote Sicilian culture and cuisine. Two or three of the events are in the Bay Area:

Monday, May 11, 6:30 p.m., Italian Cultural Institute (425 Washington near Battery): screening of Lanza's short documentary film The Bread Altars of St. Joseph's Day, an interview by noted local cookbook author Carol Field, and light refreshments. Free, but reservations required; call the Institute at 788-7142 to RSVP.

Tuesday, May 12, Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck near Vine, Berkeley): four-course Sicilian dinner with Regaleali wines, $125 including wine before service charge and tax. The menu:

M is For the Many Places You Can Take Mom To Eat (and Drink!) on Sunday May 10

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This year, as usual, restaurants are offering all sorts of special meals for Mother's Day.

But in a particularly poignant response to current events, many of the places are emphasizing the booze they're serving as much as the meals. Let's get Mom legless so she won't think about her dwindling 401(k), her upside-down-mortgage, or her unemployed kiddies!

Bacar (408 Brannan at Ritch, 904-4100) sent out a bare-bones announcement: Bottomless Bloody Mary Brunch 10 a.m.--2 p.m., featuring bottomless Bloody Marys made with local Lotus Vodka, $12; Annual Mother's Day Dinner 4--8 p.m., featuring 50 wines under $50. 

General partner Jon Jackson told us "We usually do either a Mother's Day brunch or a dinner, on alternate years. We were planning to do a dinner this year. But our recent Easter brunch introduced the bottomless Bloody Mary made with Lotus vodka, whose offices are about two blocks from us in SOMA. You can't get more local than that! And it was wildly successful, so much so that not only did we add a Bottomless Bloody Mary Brunch to our Mother's Day plans, it will serve as the introductory launch for continuing Bottomless Bloody Mary brunches every Sunday from 10 a.m.--2 p.m."

The brunch menu includes French toast, eggs Benedict, quiche, hangar steak, Caesar salad, and a burger, as well as the more unusual crispy pork belly and potato hash served with asparagus and a fried egg (prices range between $8 -- $15). 

In addition to the regular menu at dinner, there will be a special five-course tasting menu priced at $68 -- whose not-yet-finalized components will be determined by what's available in the markets. 

Tonight: 31 Cent Scoops at Baskin-Robbins

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Thanks to Eater for this late-breaking, yet cents-ible tip-off: From now (5 p.m.) to 10 p.m. tonight, Baskin-Robbins (find a location near you)  is holding 31 Cent Scoop Night. The special promotion is a fun way to raise awareness for fire charities and is hosted in partnership with the National Volunteer Fire Council and the National Junior Firefighter Program. Each participating Baskin-Robbins should also have a way to donate right in the store to firefighting charities that specifically target the Bay Area. For its part, Baskin-Robbins will also donate $100,000 to the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Meals Under $8: Salads and Sandwiches at Pal's Take Away

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Just opened last week inside a Mission District liquor store, Pal's Take Away features salads and sandwiches made with fresh, local ingredients on a menu that changes once or twice weekly. On opening day, I picked up two sandwiches and had a hard time eating just half of each and saving the rest for later.

All the specials are posted on their Web site, but Pal's provides a "detailed menu analysis" at the counter, in case you are curious about the origins of each individual component. Behold, the magnificent description of the addictive pork shoulder and arugula sandwich ($8) pictured above:

"The pork is grown by Jude Becker outdoors in a completely natural, free-range environment. It is a Berkshire-Cheshire cross. The arugula comes from Annabelle by way of Star Route in Marin. It is a cultivated strain of wild Italian arugula and has a lovely earthy, spicy flavor. The canola mayo is infused with some Riverdog fennel fronds and Knoll spring garlic and my neighbor's Meyer lemon. The sesame Kaiser roll is from Acme in Berkeley."
Tags: Mission

Local Hip-Hop DJ and Event Promoter Spin Food Tales on We Eating TV

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"Two burgers, two shakes and two fries. Come eat with two hungry big guys!" So goes the theme song to We Eating TV, a Web video series profiling Bay Area eateries set to a hip-hop soundtrack and hosted by two insiders of the local music scene: Big Jon of the veteran DJ crew Style Beyond Compare (SBC) and The Homie Gus (aka GuS-tomer Service), a promoter and host for events under the banner of the JunkYard Gang. The show fulfills a desire for these two longtime friends and Bay Area natives to work on a project together; they also have local music video director Mono of Baysick Entertainment manning the camera and editing stations.

"The Bay Area is blessed, we are a melting pot of culture," says Gus. "If you want to hit up a Thai, Ethiopian, vegetarian, Japanese, Hawaiian, breakfast, soul food, Vietnamese, Latin, Filipino, Indian, American, or Italian [restaurant], we've got it all. There are endless locations for us to explore and introduce not only to Bay Areans, but foodies worldwide!"

With episodes so far dedicated to burritos, cheesesteaks, BBQ, and deli meat, this isn't exactly fine dining, but it does cover an eating sector where the price is definitely right.

Snacktion: Kika's Chocolate Covered Coconut Shortbread

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Name: Chocolate Covered Coconut Shortbread
Brand: Kika's Treats
Origin: San Francisco
Found at: San Francisco International Chocolate Salon
Cost: $7.50
Ingredients: Semisweet chocolate, unsalted butter, unbleached wheat flour, rice flour, unrefined cane sugar, Rapadura sugar, unsweetened coconut, kosher salt, coconut extract, vitamin E
Why I bought it:
Kika's Brazilian Honey Cakes are lovely, but the shortbread is a new offering from this La Cocina Incubator Kitchen-operated business.
Tasting notes:
The Rapadura (dried sugarcane juice) gives this a caramelized tinge that's appealing. There's a good crunch and it doesn't make a big, crumby mess like regular shortbread.
Would I buy it again? Yes, although the Honey Cakes are beckoning . . .
What other blogs/sites thought of it: A Yelper calls these "so dark and addictive it's almost criminal."

The Light Brown Apple Moth vs. Veggie Trader

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Thanks to an article by Roxanne Webber on Chow, I discovered Veggie Trader, a site that helps people swap or sell their home-grown fruits and vegetables. Since the plants in our yard produce more Meyer lemons, figs, and rosemary than we could ever consume ourselves, I thought it would be a great way to get some other fruit for free.

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SARDI - Greg Baker
Well, think again. A few minutes after I posted a listing looking to swap some of our Meyer lemons for whatever people might have to offer, I got a message from a moderator saying, "it looks like you are in the Bay Area apple moth quarantine zone. You probably aren't aware of this, but unfortunately this comprehensive quarantine is in effect for many parts of the Bay Area and prohibits people from removing most homegrown produce from their property. Nuts and seeds are probably fine, but lemons are definitely under quarantine."

The Big 4's Wild Game Week, May 12-16 (or DIY)

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Wild game week returns to the The Big 4 restaurant in the Huntington Hotel (1075 California at Taylor) from Tuesday, May 12, through Saturday, May 16. The dishes on this year's menu range from such relatively normal meats as rabbit, quail, boar, antelope, buffalo, and elk to serious exotica such as "Nigerian salt prawn," Brazilian pacu, sika deer (originally native to Japan), and Himalayan yak.

An appetizer and entree will set you back $55-65, and desserts from the regular menu are $9-10. The restaurant is open from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and you can make reservations online or by calling 771-1140.

Upcoming Great American Food and Music Fest Features Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Marshall Crenshaw, Little Feat, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy -- and an Astounding Array of Eats

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There'll be plenty for both foodies and music lovers to enjoy at the Great American Food and Music Fest, a one-day event running from noon to 10 p.m. on June 13 at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View.

Chef and Food Network star Bobby Flay is the host, and will demonstrate his famed grilling technique. Local-boy-made-good Guy Fieri, the most successful winner of the Food Network's The Next Food Network Star, will also appear onstage.

Food booths offering quintessential American delights have been curated by Serious Eats founder Ed Levine, who told us "This has been a fantasy of mine which I first proposed doing in 1993, and am now achieving at long last! I always imagined what kinds of foods I wanted to eat -- when I was in college in Grinnell, Iowa, I would fantasize about Barney Greengrass. Or what I wouldn't give for a real pastrami sandwich from Katz's on the Lower East Side. This is a fantasy list from years of deprivation!" 

The dream team assemblage includes Katz's Deli (NY), Pink's Hot Dogs (LA), Barney Greengrass (NY), Graeter's Ice Cream (Cincinnati), Southside Market & Barbecue (Texas), Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY, creator of Buffalo wings), Junior's (Brooklyn, home of the famed cheesecake), Zingerman's Deli (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Tony Luke's Cheesesteaks (Philadelphia), and Thomas Keller's Bouchon (Yountville). The booths will be offering plates of their specialties for $5 each (the first plate comes free with the price of admission to the Fest). 

"We won't be doing a WHOLE Katz's pastrami sandwich, " Levine says. "That would finish someone off for the entire day."
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