Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe Dies at 57, Leaves Behind Quite a Legacy

Categories: SF Food History

Judy Rodgers, the influential Bay Area chef, author, and owner of Zuni Cafe, died yesterday. She was 57, and had been battling a rare form of cancer.

Rodgers came up through Chez Panisse and opened Zuni Cafe on Market in 1987. Back then it had a vaguely Southwestern theme; she installed a brick oven and used her considerable talent and vision to turn it into the ingredient-driven California restaurant that it has become.

She leaves behind quite a legacy. Her Zuni Cafe Cookbook is a well-worn and beloved kitchen necessity for many amateur and professional chefs. The restaurant itself has so many splendid dishes, from the burger on rosemary focaccia bun to the impeccable selection of oysters to Caesar salad, and a wonderful, casual-yet-special atmosphere that can hardly be found anywhere else. It's a favorite of many people in and out of the food world, and it is one of the reasons I fell in love with San Francisco.

See also: Chef and food writer David Leibowitz's eulogy to his friend and mentor

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Sam's Burger Still Going Strong after 47 Years

Rhys Alvarado
His name's Mike, not Sam.
Usually when I'm looking for late-night eats in North Beach I make my way to My Canh, where I satisfy the rice-mongering Filipino in me at a table alone, inhaling a fried pork chop plate topped with a runny egg. But on nights I feel like some conversation at the counter, I head to Sam's for a burger.

If you've been here before, you'd know that the guy commanding the grill in a black cap isn't Sam. He's Mike.

Since 1970, Mike Shawa has been called Sam, after his uncle who first opened the burger counter in 1966. Sam was the first Palestinian transplant that brought Shawa and eventually 50 other family members to San Francisco.

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Meet Debbie Ward, S.F.'s Queen of Corned Beef

Rhys Alvarado
Debbie Ward continues the 103-year-old family tradition of curing beef.
There have been too many a long and drunken night where I've floundered into hofbraus like Lefty O' Doul's with just enough singles to get me a corned beef sandwich to smooth out the inevitable rocky morning after.

No insight as to where this hangover savior has come from. No care but for my own, wasted well being. No idea of the unique history that corned beef has in this city.

So it must have been fate that led me to Debbie Ward in the upstairs office of the city's oldest corned beef plant, adorned with throwback deli photos of sky-high pastrami sandwiches, shamrock clocks, and dated menus of days when the stuff would cost but 25 cents a pound. For the past 103 years, Roberts Corned Meats has been providing corned beef and pastrami to Lefty O'Douls, Mel's Drive Inn, Tommy's Joynt, and a long list of big hitters in the city and around the bay.

"We've weathered the time because we're a specialty house," Ward says.

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Why We Love KGO Radio Host Gene Burns

Categories: SF Food History

Courtesy talk910.com
Gene Burns
Radio god Gene Burns passed away in San Francisco this weekend at age 72; his health had been declining in recent years due to a series of strokes. Many eaters faithfully tuned into the popular Dining Around with Gene Burns radio program on KGO on Saturdays to hear him interview chefs and food personalities from near and far -- his deep voice and interview style was a skillful blend of warmth, charm and authority. Yes, he liked food, wine and travel but made it all approachable and attainable--no airs on air for him. Here is Burns talking about pisco and Peru's independence day. Burns also covered news and politics on his nightly KGO radio program and his career included earlier work in the Baltimore, Boston, New York, Orlando and Philadelphia markets.

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Was The Mimosa Invented in S.F.?

The Bold Italic has a fun blog post today with six things you never knew were invented in San Francisco, and one of them took us completely by surprise: the mimosa. As the cited story goes, everyone's favorite brunch drink was invented by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, on a rough morning after a night of drinking at Jeanty at Jack's. (He must've been in town a lot -- Vertigo, The Birds, and Shadow of a Doubt were all filmed in or near San Francisco.)

See also: Re-Visiting the Hangtown Fry, the Dish That Epitomizes Gold Rush California
The 20 Most Significant Food Inventions in History
Step Inside S.F.'s Oldest Restaurants With New Interactive Book

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Step Inside S.F.'s Oldest Restaurants With New Interactive Book

TablesFromRubble final coversmall.png
Tandemvines Publishing
Food history buffs, take note: a new digital book available for the iPad through Apple's iBookstore takes a behind-the-scenes look at some of the city's oldest restaurants that opened in the years after the 1906 earthquake. In Tables From the Rubble, author Denise E. Clifton steps inside five iconic San Francisco restaurants -- Swan Oyster Depot, Liguria Bakery, Sam Wo, The Palace Hotel, and House of Shields bar -- and tells their stories through historic and new photographs, menus, recipes, stories, and more.

See also:
- San Francisco is Home to Two of the Oldest Bars in the U.S.: Can You Guess Which Ones?
- Great Moments in San Francisco Food History: Green Goddess
- Cookbook Explores California's Culinary Past

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The Four Dearly Departed Classic SF Eateries We Miss Most

Many restaurants come and go in San Francisco, while some stay for hundreds of years. Since there's no shortage of good food around these parts, it is the personalities of the defunct places that can stir up the most nostalgia. We don't ever remember a Doggie Diner (1949-1986) wiener as being the best hot dog around, for example, but we are still always strangely comforted to drive past one of the old friendly dog heads resting high above Sloat Boulevard near the San Francisco Zoo, preserved as a local landmark.

What are your favorite San Francisco restaurants of yore? Tell us about 'em in the comments. And while you're reminiscing, check out the four spots we miss most:

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Fresh Herring to Be Sold in SF This Winter

fresh herring
Ever wonder where the many tons of fish landed by San Francisco Bay's commercial herring fleet throughout the winter go?

There's a growing market for local and sustainable seafood, but the bay's herring -- an inexpensive fish that lends itself to a variety of preparations -- doesn't end up at the wholesalers that line the piers along Fisherman's Wharf. Instead, the fish are processed for their roe, which is consumed as a delicacy in Japan.

That's about to change. Over the summer, local herring fisherman Ernie Koepf was instrumental in getting California Department of Fish and Game regulations revised to allow for a market from November through March for fresh herring. (The prior regulations, geared to the roe fishery, allowed only a token quota: fresh herring could be landed for only two weeks early in the season, before the fish are abundant.) The department will issue up to 10 permits, each allowing a boat to land up to 1,000 pounds of herring per day for the fresh-fish market.

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Vegan Fight! Activist Doesn't Want PETA Getting Credit for Vegan Meals in Jail

takver / flickr
Last month, SFoodie discovered that if you're vegan and you go to jail in S.F., you can get vegan meals. Eileen Hirst, chief of staff at the Sheriff's Department, told us that vegan food in S.F. county jails came about because of vegan PETA protesters who were arrested in antifur protests in the '90s.

We're sure that news prompted celebrations all over the Bay Area, but at least one person was infuriated: activist Anita Carswell, who called up SFoodie to set the record straight. PETA had nothing to do with getting vegan food in jails, she says; the credit belongs to her and her organization, In Defense of Animals.

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Louis' Restaurant Reopens with More Vegetables

Categories: SF Food History

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Rosencruz Sumera
Louis' Restaurant on Point Lobos Ave. reopened today with some menu changes that were more or less mandated by the U.S. government.

The restaurant on federal land, run by the Hontalas family since 1937, was closed by the feds for eight months while the family had to rebid for the contract.

SF Weekly covered the news of the reopening on the Snitch. Here on SFoodie, we thought we'd give you a peek at what menu items the government's demand for locally sourced produce would translate into.

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