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What restaurant staffs eat, Eleanor Widmer, how far San Diego's food comes

Stephen Facciola, dumpster diving, the top ten chefs

Dennis Sharmahd of Escondido promotes the Brazilian Butia capitata, or jelly palm, which bears small, round, orange-colored fruit with intense pineapple flavor.
Dennis Sharmahd of Escondido promotes the Brazilian Butia capitata, or jelly palm, which bears small, round, orange-colored fruit with intense pineapple flavor.
At Nine-Ten, traditionally, staff meals are many times improvisational works.

What Insiders Eat

Restaurant staff gab and gobble.

Travis Murphy, also a cook, planned the staff’s daily dinner. At Nine-Ten, he said, the hardest part of arranging the staff meal, also called the “family meal,” was “to find something to use. The biggest challenge is protein. I have to improvise with what’s extra. Basically, we have to scavenge around. The family meal is…what’s the word I want? Spontaneous.” Traditionally, staff meals are many times improvisational works.

By Shari McCullough, Jan. 22, 2004 | Read full article

Eleanor Widmer on KNSD 7/39 news

The Late Long-time Queen of the Cafe Critics

A life in food and literature remembered.

One of the ironies of Eleanor Widmer's life is what she ate in her last months. Widmer had become a restaurant critic in 1974, back when brunch at La Valencia featured molded Jell-O "Seafoam," made with pulped fruit, cream cheese, and whipped cream. In the following years, Widmer had dined on Japanese donburi and barbecue ribs, Peruvian anticuchos and French quenelles, Turkish baklava and Indian raitas, fresh pastas and moles and dumplings. But toward the end, confined to her bed in La Jolla, she wanted only chocolate.

By Jeannette DeWyze, Nov. 23, 2005 | Read full article


Mel Lions: "If we can't get the food over the mountains or by boat from Chile, then we're going to go hungry."

The Well-Traveled Tomato

Do you know where your dinner comes from?

On a hot day in late November, I'm all set to enter Vons: my role for the day — food archaeologist. Janice Baker, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and medical nutrition therapist, is my guide. My goal is to learn what food we San Diegans buy. I want to understand what should be an uncomplicated question: Where does that food — displayed in unrepentant quantities at supermarkets, fast-food chains, soup-and-salad lines — come from?

By Thomas Larson, March 8, 2007 | Read full article

Facciola and Frieda Caplan. Caplan was nationally known as the “Kiwi Queen” for having single-handedly introduced the fuzzy brown fruit to America.

Cornucopia: Stephen Facciola's Edible World

“You’re eating bug excrement.”

Stephen Facciola and I are standing in the parking lot of a Middle Eastern grocery in disheartening Anaheim. The streets are eight lanes wide. The blocks, a mile long. The air is hot, humid, smoggy. Strip malls and traffic stretch on and on to the hazy horizon. Facciola has just handed me a chewy white square of Iranian candy that tastes mostly of rose water.

The bug excrement, the gaz, gives the candy some of its texture and sweetness. Actually, it’s called Gaz of Khonsar. The jumping plant louse of Iran, Syamophila astragalicola, sucks sap from a plant, a relative of locoweed, and excretes the gaz. Peasants harvest it in late August. Who knows if they’ll be harvesting it next year, or the year after? The world is changing.”

By Abe Opincar, Nov. 22, 2000 | Read full article


There are “regular people,” who apparently just cannot pass up a bargain. There are the homeless. And there were the philosophical freegans.

Dumpster Diving for Dinner

Freegan harvest

Half of a “nutrition bar” sat before me on the wobbly café table. I couldn’t eat the rest because it was oily yet granular but also couldn’t force myself to throw it out. I had arranged to meet freegans at the Other Side coffeehouse on 30th and Lincoln. If they saw me toss out good food, they’d probably think, yeah, another wasteful American. Glancing around to make sure they hadn’t arrived, I wadded the bar up in its foil wrapper and whisked it into an overfilled trash can.

By Ollie, June 25, 2008 | Read full article


Yukito Ota: "Many local fishes are not oily enough and are too small."

Happiness on a Plate

San Diego is an ocean of pleasures, a paradise to live in or see. Only lately, though, has it started to be a great place to eat.

My assignment, should I choose to accept it, was to come down from San Francisco (where I’ve been a restaurant critic since the Bronze Age) and eat out anonymously until I’d identified and interviewed San Diego’s ten hottest chefs. All too casually, I accepted the challenge, expecting that n six or seven weeks I’d be able to find 30-odd solid candidates and winnow down from there. Little did I realize what a desert I’d be trekking.

By Naomi Wise, Sept. 28, 2000 | Read full article


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Dennis Sharmahd of Escondido promotes the Brazilian Butia capitata, or jelly palm, which bears small, round, orange-colored fruit with intense pineapple flavor.
Dennis Sharmahd of Escondido promotes the Brazilian Butia capitata, or jelly palm, which bears small, round, orange-colored fruit with intense pineapple flavor.
At Nine-Ten, traditionally, staff meals are many times improvisational works.

What Insiders Eat

Restaurant staff gab and gobble.

Travis Murphy, also a cook, planned the staff’s daily dinner. At Nine-Ten, he said, the hardest part of arranging the staff meal, also called the “family meal,” was “to find something to use. The biggest challenge is protein. I have to improvise with what’s extra. Basically, we have to scavenge around. The family meal is…what’s the word I want? Spontaneous.” Traditionally, staff meals are many times improvisational works.

By Shari McCullough, Jan. 22, 2004 | Read full article

Eleanor Widmer on KNSD 7/39 news

The Late Long-time Queen of the Cafe Critics

A life in food and literature remembered.

One of the ironies of Eleanor Widmer's life is what she ate in her last months. Widmer had become a restaurant critic in 1974, back when brunch at La Valencia featured molded Jell-O "Seafoam," made with pulped fruit, cream cheese, and whipped cream. In the following years, Widmer had dined on Japanese donburi and barbecue ribs, Peruvian anticuchos and French quenelles, Turkish baklava and Indian raitas, fresh pastas and moles and dumplings. But toward the end, confined to her bed in La Jolla, she wanted only chocolate.

By Jeannette DeWyze, Nov. 23, 2005 | Read full article


Mel Lions: "If we can't get the food over the mountains or by boat from Chile, then we're going to go hungry."

The Well-Traveled Tomato

Do you know where your dinner comes from?

On a hot day in late November, I'm all set to enter Vons: my role for the day — food archaeologist. Janice Baker, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and medical nutrition therapist, is my guide. My goal is to learn what food we San Diegans buy. I want to understand what should be an uncomplicated question: Where does that food — displayed in unrepentant quantities at supermarkets, fast-food chains, soup-and-salad lines — come from?

By Thomas Larson, March 8, 2007 | Read full article

Facciola and Frieda Caplan. Caplan was nationally known as the “Kiwi Queen” for having single-handedly introduced the fuzzy brown fruit to America.

Cornucopia: Stephen Facciola's Edible World

“You’re eating bug excrement.”

Stephen Facciola and I are standing in the parking lot of a Middle Eastern grocery in disheartening Anaheim. The streets are eight lanes wide. The blocks, a mile long. The air is hot, humid, smoggy. Strip malls and traffic stretch on and on to the hazy horizon. Facciola has just handed me a chewy white square of Iranian candy that tastes mostly of rose water.

The bug excrement, the gaz, gives the candy some of its texture and sweetness. Actually, it’s called Gaz of Khonsar. The jumping plant louse of Iran, Syamophila astragalicola, sucks sap from a plant, a relative of locoweed, and excretes the gaz. Peasants harvest it in late August. Who knows if they’ll be harvesting it next year, or the year after? The world is changing.”

By Abe Opincar, Nov. 22, 2000 | Read full article


There are “regular people,” who apparently just cannot pass up a bargain. There are the homeless. And there were the philosophical freegans.

Dumpster Diving for Dinner

Freegan harvest

Half of a “nutrition bar” sat before me on the wobbly café table. I couldn’t eat the rest because it was oily yet granular but also couldn’t force myself to throw it out. I had arranged to meet freegans at the Other Side coffeehouse on 30th and Lincoln. If they saw me toss out good food, they’d probably think, yeah, another wasteful American. Glancing around to make sure they hadn’t arrived, I wadded the bar up in its foil wrapper and whisked it into an overfilled trash can.

By Ollie, June 25, 2008 | Read full article


Yukito Ota: "Many local fishes are not oily enough and are too small."

Happiness on a Plate

San Diego is an ocean of pleasures, a paradise to live in or see. Only lately, though, has it started to be a great place to eat.

My assignment, should I choose to accept it, was to come down from San Francisco (where I’ve been a restaurant critic since the Bronze Age) and eat out anonymously until I’d identified and interviewed San Diego’s ten hottest chefs. All too casually, I accepted the challenge, expecting that n six or seven weeks I’d be able to find 30-odd solid candidates and winnow down from there. Little did I realize what a desert I’d be trekking.

By Naomi Wise, Sept. 28, 2000 | Read full article


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Quartyard’s glowing

It’s so good to see a chef taking the trouble to create tastebud-caressing flavors
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