Food, Feast, Zen Noir, writing and reading
Posted by shannonclark on September 25, 2006
Or a summary of my weekend and thoughts
For the past couple of weeks I have been in a bit of a semi-daze, trying to get something organized for OneWebDay and generally trying to finish settling into my new life in San Francisco as a single (straight) bachelor. I’ve been wandering the city, eating well if at odd hours and generally alone, and I’ve caught a few movies (and read more than a few books, some even good ones).
On Friday I saw the SF Premiere of the long awaited movie Feast which was fun, gory, a bit chaotic and relatively low budget, but enjoyable none-the-less. Not quite as “comedy/horror/gore” as I had hoped, a bit too “straight” but fun with an edge and clear sense of humor – so I’m glad to have seen it, and a midnight showing seems somehow appropriate (I saw it at the Clay Theater in Pacific Heights, an old theater now owned by Landmark).
Tonight I saw the movie Zen Noir which was, as the title might give it away a zen take on a film noir detective story. Not an entirely perfect take on either subject, but definitely interesting, though I was unhappy with the amount of flashbacks that were employed (I tend to think these are a sign of a somewhat lazy/cheap director, rather than new scenes to move the story forward they rehash old images and scenes – which for me usually disturbs the overall impression and sensation of the movie with the reminder that it is, afterall, a film). On the otherhand, I’ll probably never quite look at an orange (or eat one) in quite the same way again.
I am an aethist and an existentialist, however I have a lot of sympathy and resonance with Zen Practice. Besides being a fan of the great book, “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I am a huge fan of the deeply Zen influenced works of Natalie Goldberg. Her book, “Writing Down the Bones” is my vote for the best book on the practice of writing that I know – and one that I periodically return to for inspiration. So I enjoyed this slice of life (and death) from a zen perspective.
When I moved to San Francisco one of my first goals (among many others) was to find a replacement for some of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, the places I would turn to week after week when I was hungry, eating alone (or less often with friends) and needed specific, favorite types of meals. One of which is good Korean food. In Chicago, my favorite by far is “24hr Korean Restaurant”, which is, as the name suggests, open 24hrs and a place that since the early 90’s when I was in college at the University of Chicago been a place I would eat at nearly once a week. They were closed for a bit over a year when their kitchen burned and I waited for them to reopen.
So I have been looking for a replacement here in the bay area, and I have tried quite a few spots. Some good ones in the East Bay (in Oakland), some great places in the Richmond (but not all that easy for me to get to on a regular basis from Noe Valley via bus), so for the moment my current favorites are all in Japantown, where there are quite a few great Korean restaurants. While I like Korea House, a bit better than most of the others, my current favorite is a small, newer place, DooBu (which is at 1723 Buchanan St, San Francisco CA 94115, 415.292.6002 but doesn’t seem to have a website yet).
The food is uniformly excellent and while the menu has only a handful of options they are all executed with a care and quality level that is much higher than every other Korean Restaurant I have been to so far in the area – and they include a bunch of dishes with each meal that I don’t usually see – specifically a deep fried and extremely tasty whole small fish, and a very rich soup with prawns and small clams, a small dish of japchae (noodles), on top of a small but very tasty selection of panchan and rice. Highly recommended – though they are not a place for “cook at your table” – they are a fantastic addition to the city’s dining options.
And while I have been wandering the city this week, I have had some amazing coffee, both a great cup prepared by Phil himself from Philz when I wandered in, planning on buying their very excellent mint tea, but Phil convinced me that I should get his coffee instead – and he’s right, it is possibly the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.
But that’s coffee (albeit amazingly good coffee), even Phil approved of my other top choices in San Francisco, Blue Bottle and Ritual Coffee. I haven’t been to Blue Bottle lately, but I have been greatly enjoying double lattes from Ritual Coffee Roasters which is possibly even better (though it is a worthy and tight competition) than Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago (who have baristas who have won national competitions multiple times).
Tomorrow my parents visit San Francisco, my furniture from Artisan Burlwood finally arrives, I pay more than a few bills and old debts, and I’ll be getting a delivery of various semi-random kitchen items from my grandmother (delivered by my parents who are driving up the coast from Santa Barbara where they were visiting my grandmother). So it should be a busy start to the week. After they arrive and drop off the dishes etc and see my place for the first time, we’re going to do some shopping and touring of San Francisco then will have a late dinner at one of the many restaurants I have been meaning to try for a long time, The Richmond which is the type of restaurant we all love, local produce prepared with great care by a chef with a passion in a friendly, neighborhood setting. I’ll report more after we eat.
On Tuesday we’ll be going to another spot I’ve noticed, Bushi Tei, a french-japanese fusion restaurant in JapanTown with walls and interiors from a 150 year old restaurant from Japan, but rearranged in a very modern style. We may get the chef’s omikasa tasting with wine pairings, or we may try to rather spectacular ala carte menu, it will be a tough but pleasant decision.
During the day we’ll do more touring and shopping and will be visiting my grandfather and his wife in Marin for lunch. All in all it should be a pleasant couple of days visiting with my parents and it will be very nice to have family around – and to have their help in organizing and decorating my new apartment. There are any number of tasks where a second pair of hands (not to mention a rental car) will make the tasks much, much easier. Little things like buying curtains, possibly some rugs, dressers, mirrors, etc.
I’ve been reading a lot lately, not owning a TV means that I have more time. I’ll give more detailed reviews in the future, but unfortunately (well not too) I have been buying more books than I have been reading – on Saturday I went to Borderlands Books for the 11th anniversary party for Tachyon Publications where my friend Tim Pratt won the Joshua Norton Award (and signed his book, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, out in trade paperback for me). So that goes towards the top of my “to be read” pile.
My current reading (fiction) is another book I picked up this weekend, Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson (yes, a new book by Robert Heinlein, Spider Robinson was asked to finish an unfinished novel outline, the results are so far at least very, very good) I’ve also recently finished books by Terry Prachett and Michael Stackpole.
In a few weeks I will be traveling to the East Coast, to the Washington DC area and then, I hope to also get to NYC. If possibly I should have a free day for visits in the DC area, then a couple of days in NYC. I may try to arrange for a MeshWalk NYC while I’m there. My goal is to have a book proposal written before I leave for DC, so that will be my primary task for the next few weeks! Wish me luck (and intros to agents or publishers are always welcome!)