Saturday, March 08, 2008


Normally, I don't love being booked for work down in the Marina chocolate mines all weekend, especially on sunny spring days when all the ladies of leisure come breezing in for a couple of fleur-de-sel caramels, full of cheery commentary on how beautiful it is out there beyond the barred gates of retail. But last night, the Giant Scary Dogs arrived in my home, courtesy of my roommate's visiting girlfriend. I haven't seen them, but I've heard them, and they sound like the Hound of the Baskervilles looking to take your leg off. So having a paid excuse to be out of the house today and tomorrow will be very welcome.

Off to the Libery Cafe for coffee and apple turnovers, then on to Bart to see K. off to the airport, where she flies back to Richmond for 3 more months of Army-officer training. Meanwhile we took many slow buses out to Lincoln Park for a spin around the Legion of Honor museum, followed by whole fish and goat cheese with tomato-preserved lemon jam at Aziza.

Which was swell, really, except for the service at Aziza, which was way snootier than anyone doing business at the Outer-Richmond side of Geary deserved to be. I learned a few tricks during my 10 years as a restaurant critic (back pre-Yelping, pre-blogging, when this was a job one got paid to do, with the accompanying professional standards), and one was that the chillier the waiter, the more likely that he or she would know next to nothing about the menu, or the food being served, or anything but the most basic info about the ingredients. And that he or she would, when pressed, b.s. with aplomb, usually in the most patronizing manner possible. So when we asked what was argan oil, exactly, we got the spectacularly unhelpful but smug response that It's Smoky And It Comes From a Tree. Like maple syrup, presumably.

Nothing about the small, oily kernels of the nut of the argan tree, a gnarly little tree native only to a certain part of Morocco. Or how the nuts are encased in a rock-hard shell that is in turn wrapped in a small, olive-like fruit delicious to goats. The goats clamber up the branches, eat the fruit, and drop the nuts (still in their shells) to the ground. Each nut must be cracked and the kernels removed and ground between heavy millstones to release their dark, pungent oil, work often done by women's collectives in rural Morocco. A good story, non? Especially if there had been enough oil dribbled on the white chunk of cheese to actually taste, rather than merely providing gourmet-cachet to the menu.

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