Rich Table:The Last Supper, Dan Brown, Exodus 16 and Foodieism as a Religion

The fact that Rich Table was my last supper in San Francisco (this was from my trip back in June..I’m a little slow these days)  made me wonder what the famous last supper was like.  I mean, the biblical account by each of the disciples was fairly uniform.  Jesus took bread, gave it to his disciples and ate it as a symbol of his body.  He then took wine, proclaimed it as his blood and passed it around.  Sounds pretty simple but I wondered what would happen if Jesus was a foodie.  I mean, what if he wasn’t happy with a 21 Herod’s Fury Merlot and send it back or got upset over the fact the bread wasn’t served with EVOO and a crisp balsamic vinegar.

These thoughts made me realize that being a foodie is like a religion if not a cult.  Think about it….can you not picture the foodie couple getting the kids ready in their little plaid shirts from the Gap so they can go to the 11 am seating at Sunday Brunch.  Instead of the Eucharist, they break and share aged cheddar scone and wash it down with french pressed coffee or a mimosa, Caesar or some other potent potable deemed acceptable on a Sunday morning. Any alms are already included in the inflated brunch prices

Ironically,  I stumbled across a website which used a scientific ranking system (science and religion don’t mix) for San Francisco restaurants based on a statistical formula which took into consideration everything from San Francisco Chronicle reviews to eateries awarded Michelin stars.  Rich table was ranked number 1, beating out bay area juggernauts such as Coi, Saison and Quince.  It’s another one of these places with a one month reservation policy but they were very polite in answering all my email questions and promptly booked me a big table when the time came. Due to the size of my group, I was told via email we would have a $65/person menu served family style.

Fast forward a month.  We had a short wait as the table before us was finishing up the earlier reservation.  It was buzzing for a Monday night and the small place was full of fragrant and savory smells.   After being seated, I realized I had a great view of the open kitchen. A friendly waiter soon arrived and handed us a few copies of the gospel according to Rich and I was reminded that it was a preset family style menu.  The menu contained 14 items divided by starters, pastas, mains and dessert.  I asked the waiter how many of each we could order and he politely informed me we were getting them all.

The flip side of the menu featured the beverage offerings which included almost a dozen beers, red and white wines and half a dozen cocktails.  I started with an El Jeffe which is a mezcal based drink with grapefruit, tarragon, aperol and bitters.  It was a refreshing summer drink with a nice amount of bitterness.  Throughout the remainder of the meal, the table developed an affinity for the Bobby Burns, a potent elixir of a holy trinity of scotch, vermouth and benedictine  and finished with bitters.  It started rough but finished smooth and a few of them went down as the night went on.

Genesis (starters):

Sardine chips, horseradish, creme fraiche– A thin slice of potato slitted,”stuffed” with a sardine and deep fried.  Served with a horseradish chip dip. Spectacular!

Douglas fir levain, house cultured butter–  Heavy, moist and extremely flavourful bread.  I had to limit consumption because  wouldn’t have had room for anything else.

Sardine Chips and Levain Bread
Sardine Chips and Levain Bread

Burrata Cheese, Strawberry Gazpacho, Chicken Skin and Almond-  This was one of the table favorites.  It was burrata elevated to  a new level.  The sweet/sour gazpacho would have succeeded as a stand alone in a big bowl, especially since it was sprinkled with some of the magic chicken skin.

Burrata and Strawberry Gazpacho
Burrata and Strawberry Gazpacho

Little Gems, Bottarga, Dill, Crispy Onion- An ingenious spin on a caesar salad that held it’s own against the other innovative starters on the table.  The balance of bitter/salt and cream/crunch was phenomenal.

Little Gems Salad
Little Gems Salad

Crispy Potatoes, Grilled Raddicchio, Garlic Chive and Comte– These went quick.  Once again, near perfect from a taste and texture perspective.

Crispy Potatoes
Crispy Potatoes

Dried Porcini Doughnuts, Raclette Cheese- I’m convinced that the manna which spilled from heavens in the Old Testament  may have been these donuts.  They were amazing as a stand alone but became a religious experience when the cheese dip was added.  A table of grown adults looked like a group of kids attacking a family pack of timbits or Homer Simpson hitting a Krispy Kreme when the red light is on.

Porcini Doughnuts
Porcini Doughnuts

The Pasta of Pastas

Pappardelle, Crayfish Oil, Goddess Melon, Pickled Jalapeno, Shiso– The pasta itself was done perfectly.  The array of flavours was a bit much for some but I thought it worked well.  The melon provided a surprising burst of sweetness which I admit was a bit odd but in the end the dish worked.

Pappardelle with Goddess Melon
Pappardelle with Goddess Melon

Garganelli, Housemade Sausage, Tomato Gravy, Basil- Once again, the pasta was spot on.  The flavours were very traditional which was almost surprising considering the uniqueness of all the other dishes at the table.  That said, it left you with that rustic, home-cooked feeling.

Garganelli with Sausage
Garganelli with Sausage

Tagliatelle, Braised Duck, Aged Sake and Almond-  This was my favorite of the bunch.  The use of sake reminded me of a penne alla vodka and the almonds nicely complemented the rich flavor of the duck.

Tagliatelle with Duck
Tagliatelle with Duck

The Gospels (Mains)

Summer Squash Gratin, Kale, Local Gouda, Mixed Herbs- Beautifully presented, this dish was a cross between scalloped potatoes and a mac and cheese with greens.  The abundant use of the herbs and crispy kale added a great punch to this common yet uncommon offering.

Summer Squash Gratin
Summer Squash Gratin

Pork Loin, Toasted Wheatberries, Cherries and Wildflower Honey- I’m a big fan of using cherries with most meats and pork is no exception.   The balance of the flavours was great and I really enjoyed the wheatberries. I wish the pork was cooked a little longer. I’m not adverse to a cut of pork cooked medium but I felt the slight undercooking of the loin affected the texture.

Pork Loin with Cherries
Pork Loin with Cherries

Alaskan Halibut, Corn Grits, Chanaterelles, Bouillabaisse, Pistachio- This was my least favorite dish of the evening. The halibut was a bit limp which didn’t lend well to the fact that the surrounding ingredients has the same texture.  It was like a big plate of mush.

Halibut and Grits
Halibut and Grits

Revelation (Dessert)

Coconut Panna Cotta, Toasted Meringue, Lime Crumble- Nice texture and nice flavours. This was a fresh way to end a large and rich meal.  I could have taken or left the meringue.

Coconut Panna Cotta
Coconut Panna Cotta

Salted Chocolate Sable, Milk Ice, Mint-Chocolate Mousse-  This one had mixed reviews at the table.  It was very minty and very chocolaty so those who aren’t extremists thought it was a bit much.

Chocolate Sable with Milk Ice
Chocolate Sable with Milk Ice

My Take

Although Rich Table hasn’t been blessed with a Michelin star by the food gods, it’s cumulative acclaim ranked it number one in San Francisco on sfist.com and statistics don’t lie.  It’s interior is somewhat humble but not overly crowded.  The large table beside the open kitchen makes for a great dining experience, especially if you are in a big group.  The service was professional and smart.  The cocktails were heavenly and wine list is reasonable including a reasonable corking policy which allows for the waiving on one corking fee if you buy a bottle there.  As for the food, there was a huge selection for a very reasonable $65 per person served family style.  The offerings were brilliant although the entrees were somewhat anti-climatic compared to the starters and pastas.  The porcini doughnuts (as well as the fowl at State Bird Provisions) are biblical, suggesting that if Foodieism is in fact a religion, San Francisco is definitely the Mecca of the foodie movement given these modern day  interpretations of manna and quail first mentioned by Moses in Exodus 16.  When thinking of my last supper at Rich Table, I couldn’t help but think of “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown and hoped that my dining experience wouldn’t be like the book; overhyped and lacking substance. Instead, it was much more “enlightening”, perhaps suggesting that if the Illuminati did exist, they would eat like this.

Rich Table on Urbanspoon

Starring in “Baptism at Brunch”…A Made in America Movie Now Showing at Foreign Cinema

Some will argue that being a foodie/hipster is a religion or better yet a cult. Either way, like other theologies, there is a strict doctrine one must follow to gain acceptance by the congregation:

1.  Do your best to looks like the guy on the side of the Abercrombie bag.  If you cannot achieve the Adonis  six-pack, then the clueless look into the distance will suffice.

2.  Scoff at the hicks and jersey wearing sports enthusiasts who drink Bud Light to get free Nascar swag or an NHL beer cozy while they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon; a beer just as shitty where they get absolutely nothing.

3. Eat brunch.

Brunch is a rite of passage for the hipster/foodie type.  It’s like a baptism into the church of all things pretentious.   It also allows one to eat foods you can only get as part of the weekend menu or pay $4-5 bucks for something just deemed breakfast every other day of the week.   In addition, it is typically  not served before 11 am which applies to John Q. Foodie because they are soooo hungover from all the bourbon they drank the night before.  There’s also the fact that  having another cocktail designed for the morning hours or a french press coffee is such a much cooler remedy than a couple of advil and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch at home.

I was in San Francisco so attending  brunch here would be like attending mass in the Sistine Chapel.  So I looked long and hard to find a suitable brunch that met all the criteria but considering the fact it had to be on a Saturday (the orthodox foodie will only attend brunch on Sundays). Luckily,  foreign cinema fit the bill.  It is highly rated on numerous websites, situated in a “developing” area of San Francisco and boasts menu items like organic pop tarts, oysters and whipped cod brandade.

It was quite a cab ride from the convention centre.  We were driven by a rather frivolous cabbie  into the heart of the Mission district and were dropped off at the address listed on Google maps.  An extra  blink and I would have missed it.  The front of the restaurant  looked as debilitated as the rest of the buildings along the street.  The entrance was a long tunnel which ended at a large, open courtyard that was already buzzing with hungry brunch goers. Despite the open concept it was quite loud which made it quite  difficult to carry on a conversation. The clergy (servers) seemed preoccupied and slow throughout the meal which I concluded was appropriate given the ceremony.

Of course, I started with the organic pop tart ($6.75 ) and a stiff drink (Persian Bloody Mary $11).  Both met at least one criteria for an ideal brunch experience. The overpriced pop tart was flimsy and unimpressive and only surrounded a  tiny amount of peach filling.  The Bloody Mary was seasoned with aggressive middle eastern flavours but as a Canadian, I’ve never had a Bloody Mary that comes anywhere close to a Caesar.

Peach Poptart $6.75
Peach Poptart $6.75
Persian Bloody Mary $11
Persian Bloody Mary $11

For my main I opted for the Chile Verde (fried eggs, slow-cooked heritage pork, poblanos, tomatillos, mojo, queso fresco and tortilla ribbons) for $18. Although not the prettiest dish (especially once you began to dismantle it), the flavours blended beautifully.  . Each bite, lead by the pork and egg,  was a blend of  fresh flavours accented with a perfect amount of acid and heat from the vegetables and sauces.

Chili Verde $18
Chile Verde $18

My Take

As mentioned, my visit to foreign cinema was like a baptism into San Francisco foodieism (probably pronounced foo-day-ism).  It was a loud but enjoyable ceremony.  I managed to visit an” up and coming” area of town, order organic food, drink a breakfast boozy cocktail and pay too much for eggs. I even got somewhat pretentious service to match. However, I am still  unclear on the whole movie concept. First,  it’s called foreign cinema and plays predominantly American movies. Second, I saw no evidence of the movie at all.  I think they play them in the outdoor courtyard which wasn’t offered to me.  Maybe that section is reserved for the established foodies and not the ones who think paying seven bucks for a pop tart is an automatic ticket to hipster heaven.

Foreign Cinema on Urbanspoon