Today at Grub Street SF we're launching a new series called The San Francisco Diet in which we ask local luminaries to keep a food diary detailing where and what they eat over the course of a week. For our inaugural diary, we approached the astonishingly svelte Chronicle critic Michael Bauer, a man who typifies the San Francisco diet having covered this city's food scene for over two decades. How many restaurants did you anonymously dine in this week, Michael, and how in hell do you stay so trim?
Eating is my life, and I do a lot of it; but it seemed last week it was even more stuffed than usual. I had a food friend in from the East Coast, and I was making a mad dash to the Top 100 Bay Area restaurant finish line. [Ed. Note: At last count, he told us, he was down to 102.]
Friday, March 12th
I started my day as I always do: with a morning latte from the cafe in The Chronicle building. It may be familiarity, but I prefer Joe and Fee’s coffee over what I’d get at Blue Bottle. It’s straight-forward, honest and they let me put sugar in the cup before making the coffee. Generally I’m good until about 11:30, when on a normal day I have lunch at my desk.
10 a.m. We were testing Meyer lemon panna cotta in the test kitchen, so I naturally had to sample all three; and then go back for a second helping of the winning version.
12:15 p.m.: It was raining but I made my way up to Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station with my East coast friend for lunch. I couldn’t pass up the greens and beans or the fava leaf salad with slivers of speck and dots of Point Reyes blue cheese. We also ordered the pizza with a crisp and buttery tasting crust topped with potatoes, asparagus and mozzarella; and tagliatelle primavera filled with white, purple and orange carrots, asparagus, fava leaf, green garlic and spring onions. Beef stew had a blast of black pepper, which made us anticipate the cooling ice cream sandwich of Meyer lemon ice cream and soft ginger snaps; and honey rose ice cream with biscotti.
5:45 p.m.: Snacks at Frances. I started with a cocktail made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth and a few appetizers: incredibly smooth chicken liver mousse; bacon beignets with creme fraiche and chives; Panisse frites with Meyer lemon aioli; and sea urchin with pops of sea salt, shallots, chives, Meyer lemon and olive oil. We also ordered the vegetarian main course: cannelloni of lacinato kale with a chop of wild mushrooms and Andante Cadence cheese
7:15 p.m. : Drove across the Bay to Adesso to try one of the bourbon cocktails (I sipped and didn’t drink much) and had seven kinds of salumi including lanza, spicy coppa, and ventrcicina, with blood orange and warming Sicilian chilies.
9:15 p.m. Dinner at Chez Panisse. The four course tasting menu was comprised of warm asparagus with Iowa prosciutto and a half hard-cooked egg in a delicate crust; herb-saffron ravioli with shellfish; and grilled quail with mustard sauce, potato-sorrel gratin and wilted greens. Dessert was a Pink Lady apple tart with Cognac ice cream, probably the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted.
Saturday, March 13th
It was a first for me: I woke up with a food hangover, but I soldiered on. I started the day with coffee at home and then went to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and on impulse bought Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, fennel, horseradish root, onions and arugula flowers with the idea of making something for lunch on Sunday.
1:15 p.m.: Went to Farmstead, a new restaurant in St. Helena, where I ordered the seared grass-fed beef with arugula and Vella dry jack, followed by chicken and dumplings and the chocolate cream pie. However, since my job is tasting, I also was passed what others ordered: mixed chicory salad; bone marrow and toast; cheese burger with fries; Petrale sole with beets, Meyer lemon butter and greens. For dessert: chocolate cream pie and corn griddle cake with olive oil ice cream. We then toured a few restaurants.
4 p.m.: We stopped in for more dessert at Redd because I’ve always maintained Nicole Plue is one of the best pastry chefs in the country. She didn’t disappoint. We shared a butterscotch sundae with vanilla-rum ice cream; peanut butter-milk chocolate gianduja, with peanut honeycomb parfait; roasted apple tart with cinnamon toast ice cream and milk jam; and hibiscus granita with rhubarb.
7:15 p.m.: Started the evening at RN74 where we had a cocktail and maitake mushroom tempura; smoked sturgeon rillettes; and duck liver mousse.
8:30 p.m.: Dinner at A16. We ate our way through the menu ordering roasted calamari withe Sicilian cucunci , basil, fennel and orange argumato; tuna conserva with potatoes, fennel, radicchio and greens; bucatini with walnut-Meyer lemon-anchovy pesto; grilled swordfish with pistachios, capers, green olives, Meyer lemon and herbs; roasted beef culotte with pickled chilies, Meyer lemon and mint; roasted chicken with escarole, pine nuts, currants and garlic; cannellini beans with garlic and oregano; chard with garlic, lemon and anchovy; roasted carrots and turnips with green garlic, mint, lemon and chiles. For dessert we had the chocolate tart sprinkled with sea salt and the Amarena cherry crostata with Sicilian almonds and Meyer lemon gelato.
Soon after I fell into a food-induced coma and dropped into bed.
Sunday, March 14th
With my friend heading back to the East coast, I decided this was a day to show restraint; at least until I had to go out for a review dinner. So I started with my coffee ritual.
12:15 p.m: Lunch was leftover pizza from Osteria Stellina, a fennel and blood orange salad with arugula flowers and blood orange vinaigrette and those Rancho Gordo cranberry beans with bacon, preserved lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.
6:30 p.m.: Dinner was at Dosa on Fillmore where we shared the mango and goat cheese salad with walnuts, radishes and a cilantro dressing; and the prawn chile fry, shrimp rubbed with a chile and chick pea powder before being fried and presented on mixed greens. That was followed by the dosa masala; vegetable korma with coconut rice; and pepper chicken in a rich brown sauce with black peppercorns, ginger and other spices with lemon rice. I couldn’t handle two desserts so we split the banana cream pie with toffee bananas and candied cashew nuts.
Monday, March 15th
I’m hoping to be back to my “regular” eating regime today so I arose at 5 a.m., went to the office, had a cup of Sweet & Spicy Herbal Tea while I wrote my review. I then went to work out which is what I normally do Monday through Friday, expending at least 500 calories on the treadmill. Because I was recovering from a cold and had visitors I hadn’t been to the health club for a week. I made the mistake of weighing in, only to discover I had gained 5 pounds; I’m officially at my all time high.
9:15 a.m.: I then replaced the calories I lost with my morning latte.
12:15 p.m: Our staff meeting went longer than usual, so I was behind schedule. Today my lunch was the beans from yesterday, topped with a handful of arugula dressed with salt, pepper, Meyer lemon juice from my garden and a little olive oil. I also toasted two slices of the herb slab from Acme.
7:15 p.m.: I made my final review visit to Credo where I ordered the bean soup; lamb shoulder on mashed potatoes; and the pasta brise with vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce. However we passed around everything else too: fritto misto with shrimp, vegetables and calamari; carpaccio; fettuccine with Bolognese sauce; flourless chocolate cake and panna cotta in a sour cherry sauce.
Tuesday, March 16th
I started the day at 5 a.m., threw on some clothes, made tea, wrote a review and then took off to the health club. I’m happy to report that I’ve lost 1 pound. Next on to the morning latte.
11:30 a.m.: Amanda Gold is working on a story and testing recipes, so I sampled some of her bread pudding pancakes with cinnamon butter.
Noon: Time for lunch, which was a butter and radiccho salad with ranch dressing and a huge pile of steamed broccolini with Meyer lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Light but I’m determined to take off the four extra pounds; I know that won’t happen at dinner tonight.
2:30 p.m.: I couldn’t resist, and grabbed a Chocolate Mint Girl Scout cookie from the tasting counter.
6:15 p.m.: We could only nab an early reservation at Town Hall to check out the new menu and chef. Started with the Parmesan crusted sardines, propped on pads of smoked and pickled eggplant, surrounded by pads of romaine topped with aioli. The main course was pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and trotters sausage and served with greens, rough grained polenta and strips of cooked, sweet rhubarb. I have a soft spot for fried okra so I ordered a side of deep fried spears. I also sampled octopus carpaccio with mango and avocado and Petrale sole with asparagus and black trumpet mushrooms. For dessert we had strawberry rhubarb tart and warm chocolate bread pudding.
Wednesday, March 17th
Don’t ask me how I did it, but after my morning tea and work out I got on the scales and saw that I lost the rest of the weight I gained over the weekend. Four pounds in a 24-hour period. I couldn’t believe it and tried again. No I was at 152. Truth be told, I’d rather be at 148, but I’ve maintained the current weight for more than 5 years.
9:00 a.m. As a reward I had a ham, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from the cafe in the Chronicle building and my morning latte. Today is our heavy recipe testing day, and staff lunch, so I probably won’t be eating until 1:30 or so. I vow to eat light to make up for the morning calorie dump.
1:30 p.m.: At our staff lunch I sampled a tofu and beef stir fry from our Working Cook column; Paris Thai soup with beans and chorizo from Marlena Spieler; gnocchi or an upcoming story by Marlene Sorosky Gray; Caveman cheese from Rogue Creamery for an upcoming cheese column; and cole slaw Lynne Bennett whipped up “because it’s St. Patrick’s Day.” For dessert we had Gray’s orange blossom beignets and Amanda Gold’s matzo brittle. That should hold be until dinner, I think.
7 p.m.: Dinner at Manresa. We ordered the four course tasting menu, but we didn’t see our first course for an hour. Instead there was the parade of surprises that accompanies these types of meals: vegetable beignets with crisp fried leaves; pear sorbet with avocado mousse; sashimi of geoduck and octopus; and the signature Arpege egg with dots of maple syrup. The first course was called “into the vegetable garden” which consisted of an Alice in Wonderland blend of purees, hot and cold vegetables including Thumbelina sized carrots and a scattering of herbs and fresh flowers. Then came wild striped bass flavored with oysters and accompanied by roasted potatoes and cabbage. For the main course, chef Jean Paul Carmona (David Kinch was out of town) seared beef bavette that had been roasted in fat and arranged the cubes of meat among radishes, roasted parsley root and little bon bons of green garlic panisse. Dessert was a riff on New Orleans flavors with beignets, caramelized bananas, chicory and pecan praline. It ended up being a fairly late night, and with an hour’s drive home I knew 5 a.m. would come early.
Thursday, March 18th
By now you probably know my routine: 6 a.m. a cup of tea; 9 a.m, Coffee. Went to the health club and found that I had maintained the weight loss; despite the three hour marathon last night.
11:30 a.m. I didn’t have time to think much about lunch and I have to write the lead to my annual Top 100 Bay Area Restaurant guide, so I grabbed the last of the cranberry beans and heated them up. I also tossed together a butter lettuce and radicchio salad with shaved celery and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. That should hold me until tonight when I’m making my first visit to another new restaurant.
Earlier: James Oseland Is Pleasantly Suprised by a Diner and a Hospital Cafeteria in Walnut Creek [Grub Street]
Nate Appleman Tastes His Way Through Pulino’s Menu [Grub Street NY]