What To Eat & Drink In San Francisco

The following are some casual eateries and bars that I enjoy the most when in San Francisco. It strikes me as more or less easy to find information on fine dining, but finding places like these takes a bit more dedication. Enjoy! Japanese Food Orenchi Beyond Description: Casual Japanese ramen shop that also serves other…

How to Find a Better Restaurant (Or My Collected Restaurant and Bar Guides)

I’ve been traveling fairly regularly to San Francisco for years. Yet, until recently, I’d mostly dread those trips. San Francisco is expensive, its people half kind and generous, half aggressively irritating and it’s food scene, pretentious, fickle, boring (or so I thought). As it turns out, and to my delight, there is some good food in…

A Quick Guide to Dashi

Dashijiru, or “dashi” for short, is the all-purpose Japanese soup stock and is among the pillars of Japanese cuisine. The reason for this is that it’s a veritable (and relatively neutral tasting) umami bomb, which can turn up the volume of flavors on just about any dish (not just Japanese ones) in the right proportions (more…

Demystifying Umami

I find it uncontroversial to say that umami is the backbone of food generally. Western cooks, as a matter of policy, tend to nod politely whenever it’s mentioned. They seem to have no deep appreciation of the concept. After all, in the US, we’re told simply that umami is some sort of weird, fifth, “meaty”…

Marinara: A Multi-Part Guide

Bottles are beautiful things. And I’m not saying that because I’m an alcoholic. Beyond enabling our hydration (via water) and dehydration (via imbibing), they work on many levels as metaphors. Take, for example, the bottleneck. In addition to referring to the physicality of that which distinguishes a bottle say, from a jar, a “bottleneck” offers…

Marinara: Chemical Reactions and Extraction

Understanding the chemical reactions and flavor extraction that occur in food are among the pillars of good cooking. Melding the flavors of garlic and herbs into tomatoes to make a delicious sauce is little more than a combination of chemical reactions and extraction. By chemical reaction, I mean transforming one ingredient into something very different…

Marinara: The Recipe

Ingredients 800 g (28 oz) can of whole plum tomatoes 50 g (60 mL or about a quarter cup) extra virgin olive oil 50 g (about six to eight medium-sized) garlic cloves, very thinly sliced 1 medium sprig fresh oregano with the stem 1 medium sprig fresh basil with the stem 3 medium-sized basil leaves,…

The Fat of Our Land

The American diet borders on self-parody. We are fat and we are actually getting fatter. As of 2014, two out of every three Americans were considered to be clinically overweight or obese. The numbers keep rising despite the best efforts of people who have devoted their lives to this issue, expert advocates for health and…

The Violet Hour, Chicago

Whenever poetry is quoted out of context on a bar’s web site, it commonly isn’t an indication of better things to come. The quote to which I’m alluding, appearing in the “About” section of the The Violet Hour’s web site, is from section III, “The Fire Sermon,” of T.S. Eliot’s long poem, The Waste Land….

M. Henry, Chicago

I used to hate New York City. It may have been my as now overcome preoccupation with cleanliness and order, a sense of overwhelming awe, a bit of Second City blues or perhaps a combination of all of the above. But I hated New York City. My mind changed, however, when I was asked  by…

Earth + Ocean, Mount Prospect

View my brunch-only review of E+O from summer 2013. I enjoy faceless corporate manipulation. Not so much because I approve of it, but more because it’s fun to watch just like a zombie film is fun to watch. True, we know what’s going to happen–fools will be separated from their hard earned money just like zombie…

Ras Dashen, Chicago

Chicago offers a multitude of excellent ethnic food. Among the litany, a storied variety includes Ethiopian. There are three big players in this arena: Demera, Ras Dashen and Ethiopian Diamond. As with all purveyors of the food of proud and ancient cultures, their menus tend to be thick and impenetrable to the casual diner. Luckily,…