Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm blogging for Gawker

So I have left the Business Times and am writing for Gawker, a blog about media and pop culture. My last day at the Business Times was Jan. 19; my first day at Gawker started last night (Sunday).

You can read some of my initial Gawker posts here (the ones with my name in the lower right corner, mixed in with other peoples' posts).

Gawker is based in New York but I will be based at home in Berkeley, working an evening shift to get a jump on the next day's news.

I've long been an admirer of Gawker Media CEO -- and now Gawker Managing Editor -- Nick Denton, and this opportunity was too good to pass up. Still, I'll very much miss covering the hospitality beat at the Business Times, not to mention the East Bay. (I'm writing so many individual goodbye emails that I'm still sending them out; should probably just put everyone in a mass email already.)

I apologize for the long break in posting; I was busy interviewing and preparing for this gig and did not want to say anything until it was official.

In about three months time I'll probably start looking for freelance magazine work here and there (hospitality-related, hopefully) to flex my long-form writing muscles; if you know of any opportunities, please email me!

People have asked me what is going to happen to Covers. Here is the answer:

I'm going to keep writing Covers. Hospitality is a beat I'm going to keep following, and I'm going to have something to say on a regular basis. But it probably won't be on a daily basis, especially over the couple of months.

The best way to read Covers is along with all the other great restaurant blogs in this town, like SF Eater and Tablehopper and Bauer and your favorite food blog, in an RSS "feed reader" like Google Reader. A feed reader lets you read a bunch of different sites on one page, and it makes it a lot easier to follow sites that update sporadically.

If you've been sending me tips, the good news is that I can now post them up immediately, because I don't have to hold anything for the Business Times ;-) I promise, if you send me something good, I will get it up within an hour of seeing your email.

A tech note, you'll have to access Covers through Right now, you can also get here through, but I'm turning back into a truly personal homepage.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog, offered words of encouragement or helped educate me about the biz.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Covers is back from honeymoon

Obviously. Expect occasional half-baked observations regarding my three weeks in France and environs (Paris->Lyon->Provence (Lourmarin)->Pyrenees (near Prades)->Barcelona) for roughly the next month. They will be tagged "France" and kept relatively free of Serge Gainsbourg references.

Also, thank you to everyone who visited and provided feedback (via comments and votes) on my Knight Foundation grant application. It has advanced to the next stage of the NewsChallenge competition, meaning I have to draw up a more complete proposal by the end of the month.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

'Je vais et je viens'

I am finally going to France, with my wife, for my honeymoon, right now!

I solemnly swear not to post pictures here of any plated food, markets, patisseries, cafes or streetscapes. Or, uh, anything.

I have to go now because apparently I am, as of this moment, blogging during my honeymoon, which is so not awesome.

See you some time after October 25.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I got married and went on a honeymoon, without the Web's permission. She's a jealous obsessive lover, apparently.

At least you missed me.

It's flattering that I have been getting emails asking why I haven't posted, because at least it means some people want MORE, if only to kill a few minutes and a few thousand brain cells.

No, I have not updated it about a month. Yes, I should have told you what I was up to.

I got married and went on a honeymoon. I've been waiting until I assembled just the right photos, and somehow came up with a way to be at least a little snarky about my own marriage, but was swamped on returning to work Monday. And today. But after glancing at my email inbox tonight, I thought I should post.

Covers promises to return later this week!

But Covers is going to France in September for another honeymoon, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Confession: I drank some biodynamic wine. But I got the winery tasting guy to reveal that apparently the field workers make fun of it while they are carrying out the rituals. (See, this is the sort of crap scoopage I come up with after a long vacation.)


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chefs turn to witchcraft and sorcery in logical next step for food world

Photo Courtesy anatomist on FlickrSo you've taken Michael Pollan's advice. You replaced science with culture, and then you threw out "anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food," and your "ancestors " get to veto everything you'd like to buy in the supermarket.

Which kind of sucks, since your great ancestors were salt-of-the-earth types in East Texas and Oklahoma who mostly just fried the sort of critters you find around your yard, and you came to San Francisco to move beyond all that, but whatever. You've made the haj to Terra Madre for the Slow Food truffle-and-wine orgy, and even enthusiastically applauded the flag of Iran. Yay!

Locavore, check; organic/sustainable, check; rallied against demon corn, check.

What's next?

Well, it turns out, ritualistically stuffing excrement and chamomile into cow horns and deer bladders is next! Awesome.

It sounds weird at first, but really it makes sense if you think about it. We went organic because we didn't want to eat food with poison on it, right? And then we went sustainable because we didn't want our grandchildren to starve in a sea of fire and sand, right?

Well, now we're going to go "biodynamic" because Lucifer is a being of light that makes us creative and free and because we need "rituals, practices and formulas based on (the) study of nature and the cosmos -- for example, the making and applying of certain preparations by the lunar, solar and astrological calendars."

Wait, what??

No no, hold on, the Chronicle explains further, it starts making a lot more sense:

Two of the preparations, 501 and 500, involve stirring quartz and manure respectively into water in a way that creates a vortex in the water, reversing direction intermittently throughout one hour. The mixture is highly dilute, and often described as "homeopathic" in dosage.

Some other formulas include those injected into compost. One consists of dried chamomile flowers stuffed into intestines (natural sausage casings) and buried underground for six months. A yarrow compost preparation consists of dried yarrow blossoms stuffed into the bladder of a deer, hung from a tree for six months then buried underground for another six months. Oak bark preparation, also used in compost, must be placed in the skull of a domesticated horned animal and buried for six months before it is used.

See, it's not so bad. The whole thing was dreamed up by an Austrian esotericist named Rudolph Steiner who defenders say was quite charming, only very rarely delivering controversial lectures on race and mostly just prattling on about Anthroposophy, which is about "sense-free thinking" and "spiritual science" and other things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The key thing is, biodynamics can give you an edge. That's why two-Michelin-starred Manresa chef David Kinch is doing it -- it gets him out of the undistinguished scrum of chefs shopping organic at the farmer's market and into what he called "the next level" on the "voodoo side."

Read all about it, if you haven't already:

Chronicle: Digging biodynamic / Restaurateurs look beyond organic in quest to cultivate pristine produce

(Photo Courtesy anatomist on Flickr)

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Deal I hyped falls through

Back in December I wrote that PBS chef Nick Stellino would "probably" take over the kitchen at the Argent/Westin hotel.

Strictly speaking this was true, and I was right about the hotel investing in a new Italian restaurant as part of a trend toward better hotel dining.

But I was way wrong about Stellino: Inside Scoop reported that Marta Cristina Causone of Osteria Laguna in New York will run the new kitchen.

So now I place blame for my false hype squarely where it belongs: With you, the reader. For shame!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Correction: Tyler Florence and Kimpton talking, but NOT about Grand Cafe and Scala's

In a Business Times Web update linked to previously from Covers, I wrote that San Francisco boutique hotel chain Kimpton was talking to TV chef Tyler Florence about possibly cooking at the Grand Cafe and Scala's.

As some of you may have guessed, if a chef like Tyler Florence is going to open a restaurant, it is is generally going to be under his own name. Florence did NOT talk to Kimpton about operating Grand Cafe or Scala's, he talked about a variety of opportunities for collaboration, whether at a national level or in one of Kimpton's new hotels.

There are no immediate plans. A Kimpton spokesman told me the door is open to working together going forward.

I have not changed my original Covers post, since it did not include any of the incorrect information, but we have corrected the original Business Times Web article:

TV chef moving to Bay Area (corrected)

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Correction: THIRD Out the Door in Pacific Heights

In yesterday's item on Charles Phan starting construction on his third Out the Door in Pacific Heights, I said it was the second Out the Door.

In reality, it's the third: One next door to the original Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, one in Westfield SF Centre and the new one. I forgot about the original because somehow in my espresso-addled brain it's just part of Slanted Door.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Charles Phan expansion to Pacific Heights now under way

Slanted Door chef-owner Charles Phan is opening a third Out the Door.

He bought a building in Pacific Heights where he is working on a 3,000 square foot restaurant. When I talked to him on the phone just now he was in the middle of demolition.

I have the address and more on the food concept in an update on the Business Times website today (free link).

I was going to mark this "scoop" but I just Googled and found 7x7 posted something to their website March 1.

7x7 people: When you're not busy ogling the owners of District, consider putting this sort of stuff -- you know, "news" -- on your blog. That and an RSS feed.

UPDATE: OK, I just did some more Googling, and can proudly say that other than tablehopper, Chowhound, 7x7 and the Zoning Board, I was totally first with the story. (So glad I didn't use the "scoop" tag. So very glad.)

Well, at least we know construction has started.

This post has been corrected from its original form.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sanctimonious Scotch snobs moving to bourbon; Maker's and Coke to cost $19

From the "If you read it in a glossy magazine it must be true" department: Bourbon whiskey is taking the last of the rich guys who used to spend their money driving up the price of single-malt scotch. And you thought they had all moved on to premium rum, organic vodka or high-grade cocaine!

According to always-honest San Francisco magazine -- well, at least they're ostensibly plugged in among the big spenders -- "small batch whiskey looks to be the next big thing in San Francisco. Young drinkers have been educating themselves with the selection of fine new American bourbons, ryes and single malts now on the market."

A new bar in the Haight called Alembic is all over this trend, with a bourbon-soaked cocktail list (PDF) and what has to be one of the most obnoxious websites in the city, and that's saying a lot considering how Flashfully awful the typical restaurant Web presence is.

Whiskey Thieves on Geary and Hyde claims 70 American whiskeys behind the bar, albeit in divey surroundings accentuated by legal smoking (typical Yelp review: " This place BLEEDS brawlin ...").

In addition to Alembic and Whiskey Thieves, which seem to be reasonably legit exemplars of the Bourbon trend, SF Mag threw in as examples Nihon and Jardiniere. ???! . Still, an interesting new way to spend a lot of money on booze.

Schnapps, by the way, remains pretty much the last liquor type without a ridiculously overpriced, "ultrapremium" brand extension. It's holed up with Boones Farm in the Liquor Alamo.

Correction: My headline originally said 'Jack and Coke,' but Jack is not bourbon. Thanks to Echa in the comments for setting me straight.

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