Is SOMA StrEat Food Park a New Type of Restaurant?
In this week's full review, I wonder if SOMA StrEat Food Park and other permanent homes for food trucks and pop-ups like SF FoodLab and The Guest Chef could become a new model of eatery -- a place with many of the amenities we've come to expect from dining out, but with an ever-changing lineup of chefs and menus.
According to Larousse Gastromique, the word "restaurant" appeared first in the 16th century. It came from the French verb restaurer (to restore) and first only applied to a type of food that was thought to have restorative qualities -- then slowly evolved to mean a place that sells restorative foods. People have been eating at inns and taverns for centuries, but it wasn't until the late 18th century that the idea of the modern chef and restaurant as a destination took hold. For special occasions, grand French houses followed in the tradition of Louis XIV and served food a la francaise, which featured lavish, elegant tableaus with all food for that course on the table before the guests arrived.
Russian diplomat Prince Alexander Borisovitch Kourakine is widely credited with introduced service a la russe into Parisian high society through his grand embassy dinners in the early 1800s. This new tradition emphasized individual courses and plates brought from the kitchen in order to keep the food as hot as possible. It spread through France but took a while to catch hold in Britain (the Oxford Companion to Food cites an 1863 cartoon in Punch showed confused Englishmen at a French table with the following dialogue: "this is what they call a la russe, isn't it?" "Well there, I could a' sworn it warn't Beef or Mutton." Har, har.)
For more on the history of the restaurant, the exhaustive Food Timeline is always a good place to start.
Read the full review here.