Today, January 3rd …
One of the great food places of the world was officially named on this day in 1847, when the little town of Yerba Buena became San Francisco. Jack Kerouac sums it up better than anyone, in “On the Road”. In case you didn’t read it in the 60’s (and if not, why not?), here it is:
“In the window I smelled the food of San Francisco. There were seafood places out there where the buns were hot and the baskets were good enough to eat too; where the menus themselves were soft with foody esculence as though dipped in hot broths and roasted dry and good enough to eat too. Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu and I'd eat it; let me smell the drawn butter and lobster claws. There were places where they specialized in thick red roast beef au jus, or roast chicken basted in wine. There were places where the hamburgers sizzled on grills and the coffee was only a nickel. And oh, that pan-fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from chinatown, vying with spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman's Wharf-nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market Street chili beans, redhot, and french fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausilito across the bay, and that's my ah-dream of San Francisco … ”
The city is famous for its sourdough bread and its cioppino (fish stew by a far nicer name), and many famous dishes have been invented at its hotels: Oysters Kirkpatrick, Green Goddess Salad, and perhaps Chicken Tetrazzini at the gorgeous Palace Hotel, for example. From the gorgeous St Francis hotel come a number of dishes named for the chef Victor Hertzler. His signature dish was his celery salad:
Wash six stalks of large celery. Make a stock with one soup hen or chicken bones, and five pounds of veal bones, in the usual manner, with carrots, onions, bay leaves, parsley, salt and whole pepper. Place celery in vessel and strain broth over same, and boil until soft. Allow to cool in the broth. When cold press the broth out of the celery gently with the hands, and place on plate. Season with salt, fresh- ground black pepper, chervil, and one-quarter white wine tarragon vinegar to three-quarters of olive oil.
Tomorrow: The Baron’s hat and other mysteries.