Towse: views from the hill

August 25, 2004

I am Nothing!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:03 am

I am Nothing!

Which Enemy of the Christian Church Are You?

Take More of Robert & Tim’s Quizzes
Watch Robert & Tim’s Cartoons

August 18, 2004

[FOOD] Mangarosa – worth another visit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:23 am

Jianna split a while back and we wondered what would take its place. We had visitors the weekend of the 6-8th and as we were walking our weekend guests back from Isa that Friday night, we noticed that something was happening in Jianna’s old spot near the corner of Stockton and Union.

I went to investigate. “Mangarosa” the new signage said. The menu said the food was Italian French California cuisine with a Brazilian twist. (Huh?)

I find Brazilian food so seldom, I hoped the Brazilian “twist” was more than just a twist. No feijoada on the menu, but there was foie on the menu. Yes, I know. Foie isn’t very Brazilian, but Yay! another restaurant serving foie.

“Opening August 12th” — a date we had already booked at Manresa.

When we were out and about last Sunday (15 Aug) afternoon, we walked by again to see if they were open on Sundays. They were. After we’d returned home and put away our grapefruit and other groceries from Union Street Produce, we headed back down the hill for dinner.

What a terrific surprise Mangarosa turned out to be, a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Sometimes restaurants are so disappointing. We finally ate at La Felce at the corner of Stockton and Union recently for the first time when we were trying out possible restaurants for various weekend guests we had on the calendar. We found no reason to return. The food wasn’t bad or inedible. The food was good and the portions were filling, but there are hundreds of restaurants to choose from nearby with a good number that are well worth a return visit and tons we haven’t yet tried.

No need to return to a restaurant that’s ordinary.

Some folks I know swear by La Felce’s family style meals, and if I needed a place where my rambunctious pre-teen sons would be welcome and find something to eat, La Felce would fit the bill.

Luckily, those days are long gone and these days I’m just in search of a tasty meal.


1548 Stockton St.

San Francisco (North Beach)

(415) 956-3211

Dinner: Su-Sa. Hours differ depending on day of week

We dropped in without a reservation because we knew it was new and most people would probably not yet be aware of it. You might want to call first or book over the Web.

Mangarosa, as you probably can guess, means “pink mango” in Portuguese. The new owners are Italian Brazilians and have an ethnically mixed menu to show it.

We ordered a Kunde Cabernet with our dinner: $30/bottle, which isn’t unreasonable for a restaurant.

I started with their foie gras appetizer, of course. The foie was served on a toast square with small bits of mango and a mango reduction. The foie was yummy, but not as yummy as Luke Sung’s foie with custard brioche and white peaches and not as tasty as the foie gras and cumin ‘creme caramel’ we had had earlier in the week at Manresa. Mayhap I’d had too much very good foie gras in the past ten days to compare the Mangarosa foie to.

I took the chef’s suggestion of a glass of Sauternes to accompany the foie — which Sauternes I don’t know. The wine was a good complement to the foie, but was a $10 splurge I found out after the fact.

His nibs tried the pair of seafood cakes — crab cake and salt cod cake — each served with a separate sauce. His choice was yummy too.

For his main dish, his nibs ordered the gnocchi in white cheese sauce with mushrooms. This dish was an absolute delight, rich, heavenly. Next visit, I think I’ll forego the foie (imagine!) for the gnocchi.

I ordered the steak Rechaud with a side of yucca fries, which I dearly love. The yucca fries came with a dipping sauce and, except for a few, were perfect: thinly cut and crisp.

In preparation for my steak, our waiter, Carolina, pushed the table for two next to ours up against ours to make a wider playing field before laying down a protective pad and putting the Rechaud (literally “reheat” in French) grill into play. Staff brought over a three-part dish with condiments, with a long spoon for each part.

Carolina carefully explained how to manage the open flame beneath the grill and why we should keep the bits of pre-seared beef to the side of the grill where the grill was cooler and only move them to the hottest spot when we were doing the quick grill before eating. As a child with pyromaniac proclivities, I was agog (and aghast) that anyone would trust me with an open flame in a public setting.

Carolina showed us how to layer a bit of grilling beef with bread crumbs, candied (her name for it, I would’ve called it toasted) garlic and what she called salsa. The salsa is nothing like your Mexican salsa. This salsa kicked me mentally back to my younger day. It tasted so much like what our Brazilian cook used to serve with our grilled meat: finely chopped onions, bits of tomato, black pepper, chopped bits of green (green pepper?), herbs, oil, wine vinegar.

“Put the beef here,” Carolina explained. “Add the crumbs. Put the garlic. Add some salsa for a cooling touch. Play with your food. Your mother always told you not to do this. Now you can.”

The steak was wonderful. We cooked it small piece by small piece, eating each piece hot before grilling the next. We were given so much meat that the two of us could’ve been happy sharing the dish. Next time.

We finished our meal with dessert — a delicious Doce con leite with candied brazil nuts from my old stomping grounds: Para. Two spoons. We could barely waddle home by then and I’d already let the last two yucca fries return to the kitchen because I had no room for them.

Earlier, I’d realized as I was watching the other diners and gazing about the room that I’d missed a perfect opportunity. Brazilian twist, eh? The bar must know how to make kicker caipirinhas. I found out they did. Another item to add to the “next time” list.

The dining room is painted in vibrant colors: orange, purple, golden brown. The ceiling lights are copper wok-like pans hung with the concave side down, with lights hanging below that reflect off the copper to add extra shine. The bar area across from the dining room looked as though its ceiling was also a copper color. The overall effect was warm and cozy.

The staff was friendly and outgoing. The dining room has very high ceilings and was relatively quiet. Relatively I say because last Sunday night when we arrived a pair of young-ish women were seated in the corner by the window waiting for their dinner. One of them started arguing with the other, getting louder and louder. Or maybe she was telling a story about an argument she’d had. In any case, the conversation got louder and louder and was liberally sprinkled with f*cks and sh*ts and like-h*ll-you-are’s. A foursome came in and was seated next to them, why I’ll never know. By now the level of noise was rising. The louder of the two was quite obviously a walking looney, whether she was drunk or had some other problem was unclear.

When their meal arrrived from the kitchen, the senior staff came over and offered to make the meal to go. The two would have none of it, but quieted down a bit. The staff moved the foursome in the table next to them to another window seating farther away.

The pair began finishing their meal and had quieted down to eat. You could hear one or the other of them saying again and again that they couldn’t believe they’d been asked to leave, the staff was asking them to leave, you were too loud, they were asking us to leave, this hasn’t happened to me before, they asked us to leave. They finished their meal quickly and paid their tab and left. Our server shook her head in apology.

The situation made me realize that restaurants need to have some sort of staff training in how to handle situations like that. I’m not sure what the staff could’ve done differently without setting off an even louder uproar, but the ranting went on for far too long.

Nevertheless, the food was terrific, the staff was terrific. We’ll be back, maybe with our French visitors who are arriving this coming weekend. All depends on what sorts of food they like to eat.

August 17, 2004

[FOOD] Manresa — heaven.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 10:00 pm

My birthday was coming up. (It’s since been and gone.) His nibs and I have been around together long enough that birthdays, as such, are no longer long-stemmed roses or buckets of dark chocolate, if they ever were.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“I want my MINI Cooper to be ready for pickup at the dealership.

(Note: TOMORROW! 4P!)

“I want to get this house ready for sale.

“I want to stay in San Francisco without coming back here to take care of business and fix up the place and box up the books and work on the women’s club annual program directory.”

Instead he offered to take me to Manresa.

David Kinch had been our favorite local chef since he open Sent Sovi in mid-July 1995. For my birthday that year, we ate there for the first time, less than a month after they opened. We arrived to see a couple of our City Council buddies out on the patio with their husbands, dining. A fellow YWCA board member and her husband were also on the patio dining with friends. Inside, another friend was dining with her husband and their friends, the she of which is now in Washington, D.C., whacking heads together. Friends whose children went to school with ours were in the corner, celebrating their wedding anniversary. The place was popping. Kinch’s food was delicious and his partner, Aimee Hébert, kept the front room humming. We ate there for years and were always happy with the service, the food.

Kinch and Hébert moved to Los Gatos and opened Manresa, a different sort of restaurant, larger rooms and kitchen, more seating, better parking. The kitchen at Sent Sovi had been tiny and cramped. Manresa’s kitchen was designed as a showcase for the chef, a place for him to experiment and run wild.

Sent Sovi still serves delicious food. I make a point of telling folks that just because Kinch is no longer there is no reason not to continue patronising the restaurant. Enjoy the talents of the current chef. We’ve eaten there a few times since the new owners took over from Kinch and Hébert and find that Chef Josiah Sloane serves wonderful dishes — seared foie gras, yum — but that’s not what this story’s about.

We’d gone to Manresa soon after they opened in mid-July 2002. Might’ve even been my birthday again. By happenstance, we bumped into and caught up with the same fellow YWCA board member, who was there with her husband and friends.

We were disappointed with our experience that night. Chef Kinch seemed to be trying too hard to be cutting edge and creative. Some of his dishes were superb, outstanding. Some of his tries didn’t quite make it. I was reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quote which (roughly remembered) said, “If the roof doesn’t leak, the architect hasn’t been creative enough.”

The service that night was scratchy, even with Hébert running the front room. The experience for the price, and boy howdy what a price, was not worth it. A disappointment. We hadn’t been back.

Earlier this year, though, Pim described in detail a couple excursions to Manresa. The first visit came after an invitation by Kinch after turmoil in eGullet over Kinch’s egg.

Sure David Kinch might’ve been extraordinary because he knew he was under a magnifying glass, but you must be serving yummy food to the entire dining room if you’re serving yummy food to a table. I sent copies of Pim’s reviews to his nibs who suggested we try Manresa again for my birthday and see if our feelings or Kinch’s food had changed. Maybe we had expected too much for a restaurant that had just barely opened. Now, two years later, maybe things had mellowed.

First off, the price is still as boy howdy as ever. We opted for the Chef’s tasting menu and paired wines and got out of there for barely $30 less than we got out of Rubicon. Boy howdy. My birthday, though, comes once a year.


320 Village Lane, Los Gatos.

(to the W off Saratoga Avenue between North Santa Cruz and University Avenue)


Dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Reservations are recommended

I wasn’t taking notes and wasn’t taking pictures as many food bloggers seem to, but this is how I remember it.

We ate in the front dining room, me with my back to the windows hung with raw silk. I like to watch the other diners so my usual spot is back to the wall, or windows in this case. His nibs could see the torches in the front garden from his place. The floors are concrete, covered with a variety of woven carpets. Raw beams on the ceiling. The overall feeling is homey, cosy. Casual but not too. This is not a snooty place. It’s a place to enjoy your food.

To get to the back dining room, where we ate the last time, one walks through a hallway, past the kitchen and oh, what a kitchen it is. The windows between the front room and the back are blocked with curtains so each room feels cosy and you barely realize just how much larger Manresa is than Sent Sovi.

The couple to the right of us were on terms with Chef Kinch but not tight. They asked him where he’d been three weeks ago when they were last in for dinner. (Three weeks ago! I don’t know if I’d eat again anywhere that often with so many other places to choose from.) He said he’d been in the kitchen.

Earlier, they’d been grilling one of the staff about what had happened to Aimee Hébert (she’s in Santa Monica studying Chinese herbal medicine — even I knew that just from reading the papers) and where General Manager Michael Kean was that night. (Home, not feeling well….) They grew louder as they progressed through dinner and a second bottle of wine but were never as loud as the pair of women at Mangarosa this last Sunday, but that, too, is another story.

Behind his nibs was a table of six or so. Two of the people were obviously treating the others to a nice dinner. I overheard Silicon Valley talk. Seemed like a business boondoggle, but who knows. The hosts probably paid over $700, maybe much more, for the meal.

We were pleased when we arrived to see Esteban Garibay greeting and seating. Garibay started out with Kinch as a busboy, pouring water, serving bread, clearing tables at Sent Sovi. He was always pleasant, hardworking, charming. Nice. It lifted my spirits all night long to see Garibay where he was. Sometimes hard work and a good attitude do get rewarded. Hats off to Chef Kinch for keeping staff around for going on nine years and bringing them up through the ranks when they deserve it.

We settled on the Chef’s tasting menu with paired wines and settled back to have our socks knocked off.

The meal started with an assortment of amuse bouches, unpaired with wine, which was novel to me because I seemed to remember that the Chef’s pairings at Sent Sovi had always started with something in the glass. There were so many amuse bouches, in fact, with no wine in sight that we finally checked to make sure that the wine pairing had been placed. “Oh, yes,” said our waiter, “but they don’t begin until we get to the savory selections.” Fine.

Each dish arrived with a description from the server. Each wine arrived with a description from our waiter. I wished I had a cheat sheet to follow along with or take home. (“What was that? Fennel?”)

What do I remember? I wish I’d at least taken some notes even if I do think it’s a bit weird to take pictures. Herewith my memories, occasionally prodded with a note from his nibs. (“The beef came with, was that a turnip puree? No, it was something else. The turnips were in a soup.”) I can’t even remember all the wines we were given, once they began arriving. The evening was an over-the-top indulgence in tastes and wines.

Amuse bouches.

A “barely cooked” tomato soup that was wonderful. Seemed like they’d juiced and seeded the tomato and strained the result. That was it. Not thick. Translucent. Barely cooked. Essence of tomato.

Petit fours of beet and black olive. A small plate with two servings of a dark olive madeleine and a cube of beet gelee. Think “beet gummy bear” and you’ll get the correct texture. The olive base for the madeleine was of the Kalamata olive sort. Not Proust’s madeleine. Tasty.

A small plate with two servings, yellow & red melon squares soaked in flavorings, served with long wood picks. Blissing out on the flavorings, which were very faint, which may be why I’m blissing. I seem to recall that the red watermelon squares had a faint licorice taste while the yellow melon had a hibiscus infusion, or was it vice versa?

“The egg,” which we’d had the last time we were here. If you haven’t had time to read of the controversy, someone over in eGullet had raptured about “the egg” amuse bouche. People who have reviewed the restaurant have raptured on about “the egg” and how clever Kinch is. Pim took exception to Chef Kinch claiming creativity points for “the egg” because, she said, it was a ripoff of the egg that Chef Alain Passard of L’Arpège is known for. Turns out in the end that “the egg” isn’t even on the menu, as it’s an amuse bouche, and, when asked, the staff clearly states that the egg is an homage to Passard’s egg. Chef Kinch says he’s made it his own, which is good enough for me.

The egg is delish. Served in shell with a small spoon. Use the spoon to dive straight to the bottom of the eggshell and scrape the contents from the bottom up. (“You want to get all the flavors in each spoonful.”) The contents are a soft-cooked egg, coarse ground sea salt, chopped chives, cream/creme fraiche whipped with aged sherry vinegar, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Hot. Cold. Salt. Sweet. Solid. Soft. Smooth. Coarse. Yin. Yang. Ym.

Meal proper, memorable items, not necessarily in the order served.

Foie gras and cumin ‘creme caramel’. This dish was one of my favorites and not just because I’m a foie fanatic. I’d checked the regular menu before we ordered the tasting menu and was surprised there was no foie gras on the menu. Kinch seemed always to have some foie on the menu at Sent Sovi, sometimes seared, sometimes mi cuit or sliced from a terrine. Ahhhh, I thought when this dish came out. There *is* foie in the kitchen. This little bit of foie creme was delicious, scrumptious.

Melon soup with crab.

Big eye tuna tartare served with a cucumber gelee. Thinly thinly *thinly* sliced cucumbers were arranged at the bottom of the plate. This dish was delish as well.

A corn and tomato salad served in a martini glass. The corn was a corn puree at the bottom of the glass, layered with a tomato gelee extraction similar to the “barely cooked” tomato soup. Skinless tomato balls. Tasty.

A turnip soup that floated smoothly down my throat, turnips, cream, butter. What’s not to like? I was reminded of the first time I realized turnips could taste so good, a turnip soup served by La Tour in Palo Alto many, many years ago.

Stuffed chicken wing confit – a boneless chicken wing stuffed with foie and deep fried like a chicken McNugget. I couldn’t taste the foie that I was told was there and the heat, of course, had completely melted the foie in any case. An interesting experiment, but ?

A piece of roasted suckling pig, with a long bone so you could pick it up and nibble off the last bits of meat, if you were so inclined. Served with a delicious black sausage. Chick pea frites.

A piece of seasoned beef, served with a scrumptious garlic puree. The garlic would’ve been too intense on its own, but paired with the beef, it added an extra layer of taste. The beef was served with a large sprig of roasted fennel.

I know I’m missing dishes. Fish, I’m sure. Scallops?

I know I can’t remember the multitude of desserts. One dessert was a mango medley served in a martini glass. The finale was a small bittersweet chocolate souffle with dark molten center, served with almond toffee ice cream on a thin dark crisp chocolate wafer. Even his nibs, who is not a chocolate fan, finished off this dessert.

His nibs also enjoyed his tea, a compact tea ball that blossomed in the hot water and, after some time, provided a wonderfully-flavored tea.

A memorable meal. My only minor criticism is that Chef Kinch does like to use coarse sea salt for the taste and texture contrast and I’m unused to much salt in my food these days. The salt did add texture and bite, but I finished my whirlwind tour of flavors feeling like I’d regret the salt intake in the morning.

I was very glad we’d gone back to try Manresa again, very glad our experience had been superb enough to overcome our “he’s trying too hard” memories of our first visit. Chef Kinch is serving up some whopping good food at Manresa. Yes, I’d go again in a flash — especially if someone else was picking up the tab.

August 5, 2004

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:27 am

I was surprised not so long ago to discover that Henri Cartier-Bresson was still alive and would turn ninety-six on August 22d.

But that wasn’t to be. Cartier-Bresson passed away August 2d at the age of ninety-five after an life full of accomplishments and accolades.

Requiescat in pace.

August 4, 2004

Henry Miller’s writing rules

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:59 pm

Henry Miller’s writing rules from Martine’s bilingual blog from Montreal.

Sample rules:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring”.

4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Eleven rules in all.

Sal, you have to F.O.C.U.S.

Q&A provides the "Who to vote for?" answers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:59 pm

Presidential Match: “Can’t decide which candidate to vote for? Searching for more information on a candidate? Try our decision guide.” The Q&A ranking sorts out which candidate’s views are most like your own.

August 3, 2004

The English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 10:28 pm

A gem:

The English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator



San Francisco is #30 for Education, with the education level of the adult population being the factor. Interestingly enough, the site says, “Education Attainment was indexed with two [sic] variables. 1) Percentage of adult population with an education level of 8th grade or less 2) Percentage of adult population with a high school diploma or more 3) Percentage of adult population with a bachelor’s degree or higher.



11!1 OMG LOL

America’s Most Literate Cities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:37 pm

John W. Miller, Chancellor University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has come out with his 2004 report on America’s most literate cities with populations over 200K. Miller rates cities according to education, newspaper statistics, publications published, library statistics and booksellers.

San Francisco ranks tenth overall behind (1) Minneapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Madison, Cincinnati, Washington, DC, Denver, Boston, and Portland.

San Francisco is in the top ten for the Publications (#4) and Booksellers (#1) categories. Publications is based on number of magazine publishers with circulation over 2500 (gross and per capita) and number of journals published with circulation over 500 (gross and per capita). Booksellers is based on number of retail bookstores, number of rare and used bookstores, and number of members of the American Booksellers Association.

San Francisco is #30 for Education, with the education level of the adult population being the factor. Interestingly enough, the site says, “Education Attainment was indexed with two [sic] variables. 1) Percentage of adult population with an education level of 8th grade or less 2) Percentage of adult population with a high school diploma or more 3) Percentage of adult population with a bachelor’s degree or higher.”

San Francisco was #35 for Newspaper Circulation. The rankings were based on circulation weekday and Sunday for “City Zone circulation,” “Designated Market circulation,” and “Total circulation.”

Even sadder, San Francisco was #35 for Public Libraries, which was based on statistics of school media personnel per 1K public school students, number of branch libraries per 10K library service population, number of library Internet connections per 10K library service population, volumes per capita, circulation per capita and professional library staff per 10K library service population.

Seems San Franciscans read, they just don’t read the paper and don’t use the library.

(via Deck Deckert)

What a deal!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:05 pm

Korea’s Daum Communications Corp has acquired Lycos, Inc. from Terra Networks for $95.2 million.

That price is less than 0.76% of the $12.5 billion Terra paid for Lycos four years ago.


(via John Paczkowski at Good Morning Silicon Valley)

Philly Cheesesteak Rolls on Spruce Street in Philly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:29 pm

Entertaining entry on Language Log regarding Chinese Philadelphia Food and the Philly Cheesesteak Rolls on Spruce Street.

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