Golden age on a side street

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but not a new one – Romans of the Imperial era lamented that people in their day did not lead as joyous and virtuous lives as their ancestors. The British at the peak of their empire looked back fondly on the days of Queen Elizabeth, the French in the 1950s…

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Mexico City by the Bay

I was puzzled when the new owners of the former Blue Agave restaurant in Hermosa changed the name to Marena, which is Spanish for “from the sea.” It might be an excellent name for a place specializing in Baja or Veracruz cuisine, but that’s not the specialty here. The cooking at Marena is in the…

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Chickens Gone Global

Fried chicken has been multicultural from its beginnings, a Scottish cooking style married to a West African tradition of battering using a seasoned flour. Those traditions combined in the American South in the 1830s and were an instant hit. Regional styles quickly developed, with cornmeal used in some areas, wheat in others, and seasonings mild,…

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Australian gone global

Ask most Americans about Australian food and you’ll get a jumble of disconnected impressions that have little to do with reality. Top will be “shrimp on a barbie,” a phrase Australians don’t use, because anything big enough to be skewered and grilled will be referred to as a prawn. The bloomin’ onion isn’t an Aussie…

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More than just a steak

Musician Brian Eno once wrote a list of what he called “Oblique Strategies” for solving creative problems, which are valuable for many endeavors besides music. One of my favorites is “Make a blank canvas valuable by putting it in a perfect frame.” I find this advice useful when considering the pros and cons of steakhouses.…

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Asian traditions in motion

The nomenclature of the culinary world has steadily become less precise, to the distress of academics and purists, and yawns from just about everybody else. Yes, tapas used to mean Spanish cuisine, but is now anything served on small plates. Things called martinis contain neither gin nor vermouth, and there is such a thing as…

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Lobster Guy’s on a roll

Lobsters in their native environment don’t look appetizing, unless you get hungry when looking at aliens in 1950s science fiction movies. It’s a beady-eyed horror, with more legs (10) than a spider, and natural armor like a tank. As if that isn’t enough, it has claws that look vicious even in repose. There’s an old…

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Small wonder, Thai style

It’s hard to believe anyone ever looked at the space that is now Siam I Am and thought, “That’s a perfect space for a restaurant”. They may have the smallest dining room in the South Bay, though I’d have to take a tape measure both here and to the nearby Cozy Café to be sure.…

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Odd name, odd location, interesting ideas

When I first saw an article about Goop Kitchen, I thought there was a typo in the name. Could it be that it was supposed to be “Good Kitchen,” but the letter “d” was upside down? They can’t have deliberately given the place a name that means “a viscous or sticky substance,” could they? They…

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You have to know it’s there

One way of asserting status among people who love dining out is to reveal a secret spot – somewhere nobody else knows about where you can almost always get a seat and a really good meal. The appeal is obvious, both in being first among your friends to find a cool place, and it being…

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Paris on Pier

Last week we had houseguests, who sounded delighted when I told them we were going to a new Hermosa restaurant that was quite promising. “What’s the cuisine?” asked my friend Lou.” When I told him it was a French bistro, he looked concerned. “I don’t have a jacket or collared shirt,” he said with an…

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The restaurant server problem

by Richard Foss To a historian who has been following the ups and downs of the dining industry, the biggest controversy in that field has a familiar ring. There are shortages of people willing to work, say restaurant owners, and those who do take a job are ready to move on as soon as another…

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