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San Francisco, Muffins and Shellfish

Some times, San Francisco chefs just don't get it. I mean, sure, where else other than in San Francisco will you find a fresh from the oven oatmeal and wheat germ loganberry sour cream muffin at your corner coffee shop?

Then again, try to find just a regular blueberry muffin in San Francisco's financial district. Last winter, Rick (a manager at my office&#41 and I went on a crusade to find a good blueberry muffin. We searched high and low, finding: Maine Blueberry Scones, Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins, Oatmeal Muffins with Blueberries, Multi-Berry Wheat Germ Muffins and Organic Whole Wheat Cruelty-Free Vegan Blueberry Muffins sweetened with Apple Juice… but no simple blueberry muffin.

Then it hit me: though San Francisco is a perfect place to find creative chefs creating innovative dishes, it's nearly impossible to find any simple cuisine.

This afternoon, Janet and I went to a clambake in Bristol, CT. We were invited by my friend and co-worker Jim, who gave us the rundown of how the clams were being served up as soon as we got there: clam chowder, steamers, cherrystone clams on the half-shell. There was drawn butter and lemons for the steamers and cocktail sauce (made by Jim's father with tons of horseradish&#41 for the cherrystones. It was plain and simple, and when we left, I was both sated and satisfied.

In San Francisco, when you get shellfish, you're offered any number of different accompaniments, but rarely do you even find a restaurant that serves butter, lemon and cocktail sauce. One time when my father was visiting, we went to a well renowned raw bar called Zuni. My father ordered up a dozen oysters and a dozen clams on the halfshell. When the waiter returned with the shellfish, my father noticed that though there were a couple of accompanying toppings for the freshly shucked bivalves… but neither of them were cocktail sauce. My father then asked what the sauces were…

Father: What is this?
: Champagne Mignonette.
Father: And this (while pointing to the other sauce&#41?
Server: Vinaigrette.
Father: (dips fork into the mignonette&#41 Nope. (dips fork into the vinaigrette&#41 Nope.
Server: (exhales in the typical way snooty San Francisco waiters always do&#41 Is there a problem?
Father: I'm sure these are good, but I just want cocktail sauce with horseradish.
Server: I'm sorry, we don't have cocktail sauce.
Father: I'm paying over a hundred dollars for this meal and you don't have any cocktail sauce?
Server: We don't have any cocktail sauce. Just mignonette and vinaigrette.
Father: Can you check with the chef?
Server: Sir, we don't carry cocktail sauce. Ever.
Father: What if I give you a couple of bucks? Can you go out to the store and buy me a jar of cocktail sauce?
Server: No, I cannot do that.
Father: Fine. Get me a bottle of catsup and some tabasco from the bar.
Server: (who is now taken aback in horror&#41 What?
Father: Listen, all I want is some cocktail sauce. No champagne mignonette or vinaigrette or anything else. I just want some cocktail sauce and if you can't bring me some, I'll improvise.

The moral of the story is that my father never got the cocktail sauce that he wanted, and I was never able to find that elusive blueberry muffin while I was living in San Francisco. Sometimes we want the food we like, even if it's not cutting edge. Why? Because it tastes good.

Posted in Observations.

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