Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spare the Stinking Air

These past two weeks the Bay Area has had Spare the Air for three business days in a row!!

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of "Spare the Air," it is a Bay Area program funded by the federal government where all public transportation is provided for free, in an effort to curb the release of noxious vehicle emissions at a time when the ground-level ozone (smog) in the atmosphere reaches unsafe and unhealthy levels.

Last Thursday, Friday, and this Monday were all "Spare the Air" days, so my best friend and I rushed to take advantage of the free public transportation with a culinary tour through North Beach (San Francisco's equivalent of "Little Italy") and Chinatown.

For North Beach, we planned on eating ridged waffle cones filled with thick, chilled, creamy, and viscous strawberry gelato and the small amaretto liqueur candies cloaked with a powdery desiccated coconut--you know, the kinds that are like a gourmet-version of a soft Tootsie Roll? Also, there are Greek places hidden in San Francisco's Little Italy, where you can get honkin' Greek pitas stuffed with grilled lamb and dressed with a fresh and cooling tzatziki (a yogurt, cucumber, and mint sauce).

At San Francisco's famed Chinatown, we planned on scarfing down crispy Portuguese-style egg tarts at the best place to have egg custards outside of Portugal (and Taiwan), a hole in the wall in San Francisco's Chinatown. There, we relished the buttered, flaky crust and the warm and soft custard centers--smooth centers that are silkier than freshly whipped cream, but with enough resistance to provide a snappy gelatinous bite. "San Francisco's Chinatown is a tourist trap," you might say. However, I disagree. Take a jaunt a mere block to the parallel streets, and you'll find where the locals hang and eat.

The main object of this post, was our dinner stop for our tour: the notoriously delicious restaurant, The Stinking Rose.

We started with the pillowy-soft garlic focaccia rolls, which we broke open and smothered with "garlic rose relish," a simple pesto made with olive oil, crushed cloves of garlic, minced parsley, and tart vinegar (vinegar which brings out the hefty, meaty, and pungent flavors of the garlic). Every three seconds, I would open the transparent plastic lid to the relish jar, repeatedly dunk the serving spoon, and retrieve heaping ladles-full of the garlic + olive oil concoction so that I could smear it over the bread.

We also dined on a monstrous mountain of creamy mashed potatoes, potatoes that were colored with a garlicky pesto that had been mixed and folded into the thickened mash.

The entreƩ of the evening was the sizzling iron skillet of shell-on shrimp with blackened edges, iridescent shelled mussels, and golden roasted garlic cloves. The skillet was served with an elegant drizzling of a soy sauce blend and a dipping tin teeming with melted butter. The open mussel shells beckoned my greedy fingers, and the shells acted as little bowl repositories that held pools of melted butter and briny seafood liqueur. After cracking open and slurping up all of the shellfish in the seafood skillet, my mouth emitted the most noxious emissions known to man: garlic seafood breath.

As I saw the green fumes emanating from my open mouth, I realized that in my gourmet quest, I had inadvertently defeated the purpose of "Spare the Air" day.


  1. hey p.e.,

    garlic = good for you = bad for person next to you on BART = more personal space

    looks really tasty... hungry now, gonna get something horrifically caloric and bad for me.... but i don't blame you p.e., its just me... ;)

  2. I love it! You spare the air by eating at the Stinking Rose!

  3. I love your mathematical analogy Rick James! In that case, I'm eating more garlic the next time I am going to ride on the BART and the next time I fly Southwest Airlines! Maybe that will give me more elbow room from those guys that are the "arm rest hogs."

    It is definitely a terrible irony Kirk! Pee-you!

  4. Oh PE - You want more space on BART - a few orders of Chou Dofu to go will fix that........

  5. Yes Kirk, that is the killer, right there! I guess then I really did "spare the air," because I spared the air from having to be permeated with the stench of stinky @$$ tofu! I've only eaten that stuff once, and I think that it is the earth's most closest equivalent to eating pure human feces.

  6. I love seafood and I like garlic too so when and if I come back of there, denitively we will go to stinking rose!

    hugs and kisses

  7. Love your last line. Perfect post. I'm glad you're getting back into the swing of things...was starting to miss your wit and prose.

  8. Everytime i go to the Stinking Rose in LA, i make a meal out of their garlic/parsley relish & bread. I cannot stop dunking my bread in there. It's like eating a mexican restaurant, you can't refrain from the chips.

    i definitely wanna do chinatown next friday. do u know of any good dim sum places?

  9. Can't wait to see you again Erika! The chef at the Stinking Rose is a very handsome and suave Italian man. Those Italians, they are beautiful! ;)

    Thank you Elmo Monster! I am not as prolific as some food bloggers, and am at a loss for words sometimes (you'll see many of the same adjectives used over and over again in each of my posts), but my love for food keeps me coming back! Thanks for always providing me with inspiration and leadership (in terms of showing me what an excellent food blog is).

    I do know some places Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, but let me forewarn you, San Francisco's dim sum tastes like @$$ in comparison with the dim sum that you can get in San Gabriel and Monterey Park. I'll send you an email with more info.

  10. PE,

    Oops, what I really meant to say was that I've missed you during the times you were absent, with no new postings for weeks, like the time you were on vacation and/or busy. Your blog is one of those that are consistenly witty and written with the most beautiful prose. Didn't mean for my comment to even suggest that you're anything but a shining example for the rest of us. Keep up the great work!

  11. Thank you again Elmo Monster! No worries, I knew you were talking about the lull in posts from me being on vacation! In that earlier comment of mine, I was just whining again about my (what feels like "perpetual") writer's block, but also letting you know that I have great respect and admiration for you and the high quality of posts that you put out. I am always impressed by your superbly-written blog entries. Most importantly, I am honored that you take the time to visit my blog. Thanks Elmo Man--you're no monster in my eyes.

  12. Shiatsu! PE!!! I'm so sad that EDnbM couldn't come out and play in the Bay with my bf and me. And I'm even sadder that I didn't do my homework on good dim sum joints. We ended up walkin around and around, and falling dead on into one of these "tourist traps." Booo.... aiyah. I'm going to venture into the city this week while he's at work. Here we go BART! =)

  13. Hi Best of LA! Are you still looking for good dim sum restaurants in San Francisco? Try Tony Kiang in Chinatown or Koi Palace in Daly City. Koi Palace isn't BART-accessible, and is on the pricey-side, but it is really delicious. Be careful of the take-out dim sum places in San Francisco's Chinatown, they are very oily and stale, and are often laden with MSG. There is also a place on Grant Street in Chinatown called Golden Gate Bakery with amazing egg tarts.

    Best of luck Best of LA, and if you'd like to meet up, you can get my cell phone number from Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, and we can all (bfs included) go to a classic San Francisco place!

  14. where the hell are these places!


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