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« The Cooking of Southwest France | Main | Malaysian Layered Desserts #1 »

September 24, 2005

Zuni Cafe

ZUNI

Dear Friends

Zuni Cafe is delighted to celebrate Paula Wolfert and the new edition of
The Cooking of Southwest France

The brilliant cookbook is full revised, updated and enriched with many
wonderful new recipes. It is as essential as the original edition from 1985.

On Thursday, October 13th 2005 our dinner menu will feature
a number of our favorite dishes from the book.

Books will be available and Paula will be here to meet you and sign books.

                  Reservations are limited. Please call 415-552-2522
                              and please mention you are coming for
                                The Cooking of Southwest France

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Thanks for posting the whole menu, Squeat. It was indeed a wonderful evening that I will remember for a long time. But then, the combination of Zuni Café, Judy Rodgers and Paula's dishes is an unbeatable combination.

I brought three friends to dinner and between us we tasted all of the cookbook dishes except for the mussels and the Poulet a la Basquaise.

The Compote de Lapin aux Pruneaux was indeed excellent. The prunes were an almost voluptuous accompaniment to the tender rabbit. The brioche toasts added a nicely contrasting crunch in texture and the frisee provided a bitter counterpoint in flavor. Two of us ordered the rabbit; another had the grilled sea bass with romesco sauce, leeks and sea beans and another, the grilled pork chop with quince apple compote and watercress. We also got an order of Zuni's wonderful shoestring frites with a side of aioli. Although I haven't cooked rabbit before I am officially inspired to make this dish. In fact I had only eaten rabbit once before at another restaurant in SF and in that case it was not a good experience. With the main courses we had a very agreeable red Burgundy, but unfortunately the name escapes me.

We loved all the “Wolfert” appetizers which we shared between us. First though, we perused Zuni’s wonderful oyster list and settled on a plate of exquisite Miyagi and Hama Hama oysters from Washington. I’ve enjoyed Miyagis for a long time but the Hama Hamas are now definitely added into my oyster list rotation. They are smallish, plump oysters with a wonderful hint of cucumber. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite between the sardine potato cakes, duck liver flan with caramel vinegar sauce or the chicory salad with confit of duck gizzards… The sardines were so fresh and were excellent with the simply spiced, buttery potatoes. The duck liver flan had a beautiful texture and a delicate flavor reminiscent of fois gras; the sauce was a perfect complement. I’ll also be trying to rustle up some duck fat soon in order to make the duck gizzard confit at home to recreate the salad. I brought a bottle of 2003 Storrs Monterey Riverview Vineyard White Riesling. Our waiter thoughtfully chilled the wine in an ice bucket for us. It is a dry Riesling with the famous hint of petrol in the nose and also has a slight sweetness which worked very well with the full flavored duck and sardine appetizers.

Here were the two desserts from the cookbook:

"Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel" and the "Gauteau Basque".

Rodgers served the Gateau Basque with a warm compote of black cherries on the side which was a happy combination. In her book, Paula calls this variation (with the preserves served in the cake) Bayonne Cake. In addition, this was the nicest Gateau Basque I have had with a tender crumb, delicately flavored pastry cream and a top crust with the perfect amount of crunch. I'm also eager to try this recipe. Somehow I missed tasting the chocolate cake but I can report on appreciative murmurs heard from the other side of the table. We were pleasantly surprised when our waiter also brought us a complimentary dish of strawberry balsamic vinegar sorbet to share. The sorbet had a truly suave texture and intense strawberry flavor. The regular house coffee was excellent!

We had a merry time speaking with Paula and also got to meet Judy Rodgers at the end of the evening. We also visited with some friends at other tables. We were seated upstairs in the mezzanine overlooking the bar which is one of my favorite places in the restaurant. At night you have an 180 degree view through the upper glassed windows of the restaurant to the lights and bustle of Market Street outside. (Other favorite area is downstairs near the wood burning oven with glimpses of the kitchen behind). Paula was up in our area quite a bit, behind our table, cycling between the upstairs and downstairs, visiting friends and guests and signing books. It was quite a sociable affair with great food. We really enjoyed our evening and I can’t wait to start cooking out of the new edition!

Thank you Paula

Ludja

This turned out to be a very enjoyable event. (How could it not, eating Paula Wolfert's recipes prepared by Judy Rodgers' kitchen?!?)

I shared a table with three friends. Service was Zuni's usual high quality, except for a slight hitch when the bar staff temporarily misplaced one friend's credit card when we moved from our outside cocktail table to our dining table. Oh, and come to think of it, they never brought the shoestring fries another friend ordered - now I'm thinking we tipped too much. Oh, well; I had a great time, anyway!

The menu was as follows (dishes with an asterisk are from Paula's new updated release of The Cooking of Southwest France):

- House-cured anchovies with celery, Parmesan and niçoise olives
* La Tapina's sardine and potato cake
* Duck liver flan with caramel vinegar sauce
- Rymee's house-made air-dried beef with green beans and crème fraîche

- Zuni Caesar Salad
* Salade aux géssiers de canard: confit of duck gizzards with a salad of mixed chicories
- Gudelia's mesclun salad with garlic croutons and Banyuls vinaigrette

- Bowl of polenta with mascarpone or Parmesan
- Potato-celery root soup with fried leeks and capers
* Moules paysannes: steamed mussels with ham, shallots and garlic
- Fettucine with guinea hen-dried porcini sugo

- Grilled white sea bass with romesco sauce, leeks and pickled "sea beans"
* Poulet a la Basquaise: sauté of chicken with peppers, ham and tomatoes with "armottes"
- Chicken for two roasted in the brick oven; warm bread salad with scallions, currants and pine nuts [Zuni's famous signature dish]
* Compôte de lapin aux pruneaux: Lucien Vanel's compôte of rabbit with prunes
- Grilled house-cured pork chop with quince-apple compôte and watercress salad

We ordered everything that came from Paula's book (two of rabbit), plus an order of polenta (and the fries that never appeared). We all shared everything.

I thought everything looked and tasted great. The first thing I'm going to try from the book is the Poulet a la Basquaise, which was marvelous, and the second thing is going to be the Compôte de lapin aux pruneaux, which was likewise.

Paula came by and sat down to chat with us several times as we were eating, regaling us with stories about the recipes and in general being her usual charming self. It was also wonderful as usual just to watch Rodgers move through her supremely organized kitchen, tasting here and giving tips and demonstrations there. (Paula told us she and Rodgers have been friends since before the opening of Zuni, something I hadn't realized.) As we were leaving, we stopped to say hello to yet another mutual friend, who had come for a later seating.

All in all a most wonderful evening... thank you, Paula! I can't wait to start cooking from my new book!

Cheers,

Squeat

PS: I just have to mention the duck liver flan and the duck gizzard confit -- both were awesome!

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