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Jeremiah Tower's California Dish (long)->"quintessential" SF restaurants

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Jeremiah Tower's California Dish (long)->"quintessential" SF restaurants

Windy | Jan 11, 2004 12:24 PM

I breezed through this gossipy food memoir last week, laughing, drooling, and forced to reconsider Alice Waters' iconic status.

If you didn't live here in the 80s and early 90s, Tower was head chef at Chez Panisse, turnaround chef at Balboa Cafe and Santa Fe Bar and Grill, owner, chef, and center of attention at Stars. His childhood may be the most entertaning section, including a stint living in a hotel in London as a child, hanging out with the chefs and waiters when his parents have forgotten to enroll him in school.

In reading it, I gained a new appreciation for how the layout of the kitchen affects what can be served there, the financing issues, the problems of star chefs who want to continue to innovate, and the pricing of entrees relative to ingredients. Under his reign, the prix fixe at Chez Panisse broke the $10 mark for the first time. He also talks about the myths of California cuisine and how England and Ireland had better ingredients available until the 70s. And it's worth a glance just for the sniping at various local food critics including Jim Wood and "boy" Bauer.

This is a restaurant question, though. I realized I'd probably never eaten in any of Towers' restaurants at their prime. And after reading various posters describe Zuni as a "quintessential" San Francisco restaurant, I began to wonder what restaurants fit this description. (I don't like Zuni, so it wouldn't be on my list). And is it really about the food or something else? Longevity? Clientele? Listed in Patricia Untermann's guide?

Most places that are described as such tend to be clubby and famous people or those on expense accounts are spotted there (I think of Jack's or Cypress Club at its height and maybe Boulevard).

Stars fancied itself a quintessential SF destination. I imagine Slanted Door feels the same way, even if I don't. The quintessentially NY places I think of serve pizza or pastrami.

What makes a restaurant quintessentially San Francisco?

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