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October 2004

PHOTOS: Fort Point

When The Golden Gate Bridge isn't undergoing seismic retrofitting, you can catch all sorts of great glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge from the windows and crevices that let in light throughout the Fort, which makes for a fun photo taking excursion. Although this is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and has recreations of how miliary living quarters would have looked in the 1800s, there is a good amount of decay and rot here, which makes me very happy.

PHOTOS: Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is still undergoing all sorts of unsightly construction in the name of seismic retrofitting... Apparently, the bridge won't be back into it's natural state of tourist gawking beauty for a good year or so. But I recently took some photos of the bridge anyway. After all, those shiny metal pieces on the bridge's underbelly are pretty cool.

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Each Fall, I look forward to RESFEST for my fix of innovative short filmmaking -- and kick ass music videos. This year's fix is Thursday, September 30 - Sunday, October 3, at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Cinema Electronica (10:00 p.m. Friday) and Videos That Rock (3:00 p.m. Sunday) are the two recurring music video programs I never miss.

A Videos That Rock screening a few years back was even my introduction to Death Cab for Cutie, and perhaps for The White Stripes as well. This time, Videos That Rock has Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", The Shins' "So Says I", and a video by RESFEST fave and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" director Michel Gondry for Steriogram. It will also be my first listen/viewing of anything by TV on the Radio. Given all the hype they've rustled up, I am amazed that's true.

Thanks to this being an election year, and an election which has stirred up a lot of strong feelings, the creation of Bushwacked! (8:00 p.m. Saturday), a collection of 22 short films about the Bush administration and its related politics was a given. There are two Bay Area filmmakers in the group: Eric Henry with his School House Rocks-style animated short "Pirates & Emperors" and Louis Fox's "Slam Bush", a Hip Hop Nation response to a George W. Bush debate monologue.

For the rest of my RESFEST picks, sign up to receive this week's flavorpill. Tickets to individual screenings are $9 plus service charges and postage in advance, $12 at the door. The $99 pass gets you into all the screenings and events (including the opening night party with L.A. indie rockers Midnight Movies playing a set.)

2004 Mill Valley Film Festival

I almost never leave SF unless I'm stepping on an airplane to go across the country*. But the line-up for this year's Mill Valley Film Festival may move me to rally some film-loving City folks for a road trip or two. There are screenings of several high visibility films slated for October NYC screenings at the New York Film Festival, but the bulk of the screenings includes several dozen U.S. premieres.

My picks for some of the highlights from the Mill Valley Film Festival schedule:

  • Finding Neverland -- this opening night film, starring Johnny Depp as British playwright J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. The film also stars Kate WInslet and Julie Christie. Unfortunately, after the members only ticket sales, this film is already at RUSH (day of waiting in line to by no-show tickets) status.
  • Vera Drake -- as part of the festival's tribute to Mike Leigh, which will include an on-stage Q&A, there will be a screening of Leigh's new film. Leigh won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for this film, while lead actress Imelda Staunton was recognized for her work as well.
  • Antares -- recently screened at the Toronto FIlm Festival, is a German film that explores the emotional ties and social conventions that bind people to each other, and looks
  • Hair High -- Bill Plympton fans who missed his latest film at the SF Indie Film Fest earlier this year get a second crack at it.
  • Head-On -- This German film explores the lives of second generation Turks living in Germany and won top honors at the Berlin Film Festival.
  • The Nomi Song -- On eof two MVFF films playing at the Castro Theatre in SF, this is a documentary on avant-garde entertainer Klaus Nomi, perhaps best known for his performance on Saturday Night Live with David Bowie in 1980.
  • Primer -- Generating lots of buzz due to its cast of unknowns and $7k budget, this indie film centers on the premise of the blessing and curse of being able to have anything you want.
  • Stage Beauty -- costume drama (that's been compared to Shakespeare in Love for obvious reasons) on what happens to a celebrated leading lady (a gentleman) once women are allowed on stage.
  • Stella Street -- an outgrowth of a British comedy series, featuring Phil Cornwall and John Sessions as a variety of celebrities.
  • Undertow -- a thriller about a disintegrating Southern family, starring Dermot Mulroney and Josh Lucas.

A big change from previous years is the lack of the the CinéArts@Sequoia Theatre venue. due to a collapsed ceiling last month. This means all their printed materials are wrong, and they are relying upon the website and ticket hotline to inform folks of the venue change resulting in all those films moving to the Regency in San Rafael.

The screenings are not transit friendly, alas (unless you consider spending 1.5-2 hours each way and $8 nice), which means, as in previous years, I probably won't be attending any of these screenings. Too bad we don't have some sort of special Mill Valley Film Festival shuttle from the Larkspur Ferry'd think they could get some SUV or mini van manufacturer or even a local limo rental firm to sponsor it...

* This is due primarily to my not being a driver. But the smug satisfaction that I live in a City that serves up more than I could ever possibly have time to do or money to afford is another major factor.

BOOKSHELF REVIEW: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Judy Rodgers: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant Zuni Cafe has long been one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants. I love that it is equally ideal for the romantic dinner for two as for the huge ladies luncheon. And when I crave french fries, it's the pile of crispy golden shoestring potatoes from Zuni that call my name. Given this love, I had to have the Zuni cookbook.

REVIEW: Rodgers, Judy, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant

“I was smitten on sight when I walked into Zuni in 1987.” recalls Rodgers in her opening chapter, a sentiment many of her restaurant’s patrons would be quick to second. “The crowd was eclectic – young, old, middle aged, dressed up, dressed down, in noisy groups or quiet deuces. Some there for the place, some for the drinks, some for the food, some for each other. I took in the space and imagined you could eat as simply or as grandly as you wanted in this setting, and that the food would only be a part of the seduction.”

The casual reader is thus warned, upfront that this is not merely a treasury of time-tested recipes from one of San Francisco’s most popular and enduring restaurants. Rather, it is a chronicle of a chef’s love affair with a restaurant and with the cooking and eating it has allowed within its two-story window walls.

Her “cooking lessons” impart her key theories on cooking and eating, such as the importance of salting early, and are full of colorful, practical technique. For instance, in her lesson on reducing stock for use in sauces, she directs the home chef to “simmer steadily and gently, uncovered, skimming impurities as they veil the surface of the reducing stock. The most efficient way to remove these evanescent “skins” is to rest the underside of a wide, flat serving spoon on them – the veil will cling to the spoon. Lift the veil and gently pivot the spoon, so that the skin doesn’t slide back into the reduction, then rinse the spoon clean. Repeat as needed. This way you discard only impurities, not precious reduction.”

Rodgers learned to cook with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, and honed her skills with Marion Cunningham at Union Hotel, tenures which led to her appreciation of the artisanal, seasonal produce and ingredients the Bay Area has to offer. But it may be her stint as a foreign exchange student in high school, when she lived with a family that ran a 3-star restaurant in France, and subsequent apprenticeships in Italy and France, once she embraced her culinary vocation (all of which are mentioned in the headnotes and cooking lessons throughout) that most influenced her style.

Each of the 250 recipes has been adapted for the home cook who lacks Zuni’s signature wood-fired oven, with some recipes, such as the Zuni hamburger, providing detailed instructions for either grill, stovetop, or broiler to ensure best results for the cook who takes on the challenge of this “labor-of-love-intensive” dish. Each recipe is additionally paired with a wine suggestion (frequently for a lesser known, California wine) from Gourmet Wine Editor Gerald Asher. Rodgers includes the iconic roasted chicken and Caesar salad recipes, as well as directions for making the many house-pickled and cured pantry items that regularly show up on Zuni diners’ plates. When a recipe stars a seasonal item of produce, such as the "salami with raw favas" appetizer, Rodgers notes the time of year in which the produce is in season, thus saving a novice home cook from disappointment.

Rodgers goes out of her way to mention specific brands and resources for her less common ingredients, and includes 3-pages of resources for many of the pantry products she uses, plus a selected bibliography of food reference books. Unfortunately, neither the cheese course primer nor the resource list provides any leads for mail ordering cheese, which can be frustrating for a reader who, unlike Rodgers, doesn’t live in a city with major artisanal cheese importers. The same disappointment holds true for the wine pairings, several of which are for small production Santa Barbara County wineries with very limited distribution. These complaints, however, are minimal in light of the scope of the technique and solid recipes within Rodgers' first foray into cookbook writing.

Though many of the recipes may prove to be too time- or ingredient-intensive for a novice home cook, or someone looking for a quick way to recreate a memorable meal at Zuni, the Zuni Café Cookbook is well worth the time both as a culinary treatise on finding the best, most flavorful foods that are in season and available to you and how to prepare those culinary finds in a manner that highlights their specialness, and as a memoir of one woman’s love affair with a very special restaurant.