The Food World 30 Years Ago, Old Apples, and New Cheese

Categories: Talking Points
Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

1. A little history for you. Yesterday, I was looking up Jack Shelton, the "famous restaurant critic" listed on the Bill's Place burger menu, to find out more about him. (Turns out he was quite famous up until his death in 1984, and one of the first restaurant critics to insist upon anonymity.) I stumbled on this digital reprint of "Food Power," a 1980 Ruth Reichl piece delineating who the major powers in the California food world were. The list is so old that it pre-dates Wolfgang Puck's rise to celebrity (though he's mentioned). But Alice is there, Chuck Williams is there, Marion Cunningham is there, and so is a great new restaurant critic at the Chronicle-Examiner, Patricia Unterman. A wonderful snapshot of West Coast cooking as it was coming into its own.

2. Apple taint: busted. Jon Bonné, the Chronicle's wine editor, just wrote an article about biting into a spring apple and wondering if it was corked. Turns out, it was indeed tainted with the compound infamous in the wine world as TCA. So are those baby carrots that sometimes taste musty, or the celery that carries a whiff of cellar in its crunch. I've been sensitive to that smell in apples over the past few years, and figured it was just fruit that had been badly cellared. The lesson, perhaps: Don't buy Northern hemisphere apples after February.

Cowgirl Creamery
3. The new cheese survey continues. Ever since polling local cheese pros last month about their favorite new cheeses, I've been looking for their recommendations at the markets. This week, I stopped by the Ferry Plaza and picked up a wedge of Cowgirl Creamery's new Wagon Wheel ($16.95 a pound). It's a ginormous washed-rind cheese, aged two months, with a creamy texture, a subtle jolt of acidity, and a distinctive celery note that segues into the smell of a springtime walk around the farm. Lovely.

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