I grew up in the Sunset district of San Francisco in the late 40’- early 60’s. My mother was from the Midwest and her special dishes were of the church social type. Rather bland without much in the way of seasonings beyond salt and pepper and very well done meats. But when we went out for dinner! Chinese food in Chinatown; Hispanic food in the Mission; Italian food in North Beach (the Golden Spike was a great family spot); pizza at the Villa Roma or at Pasquale's on Irving; the Occidental Hotel and Union Hotel in Occidental, CA; and for that special event, brunch at the Starlight Room of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Every Saturday my father would take us to the California Delicatessen on Clement Street where we would buy the weeks deli meats. I could go on forever! What great food.
I think the most exciting culinary experience my wife and I have had was when we were invited to dinner at Rene Verdon's Le Trianon on O'Farrell Street in San Francisco, by a business associate. This was a very special occasion and my associate, whose wife was a very old and close friend of Rene’s wife, asked Rene if he would fix something special for the occasion. The entire meal was specially prepared by Rene. It was completely off the menu, and served with several bottles of 30-40 year old Gran Cru Bordeaux’s. The evening was topped off with a grand tour of the kitchens and then Rene presented my wife with an autographed copy of his cookbook “The White House Chef Cookbook”
I am a self taught cook (with a lot of help from my wife). In 1980, my wife and I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Goodbye great restaurants and ethnic foods, hello chicken fried steaks and mashed potatoes SMOTHERED in sausage gravy.
This was really the start of my culinary journey as a participant rather than an observer (or taster).
When we moved to C d’A, the deli at a new supermarket was considered the gourmet spot because you could get hot mac & cheese and chicken strips! If we wanted good food, the only recourse my wife and I had was to cook it ourselves.
Although my wife was, and still is, an excellent cook and bakes most of our bread, I got the bug to try my hand at cooking. I started with simple dishes and have progressed to where I like to think I’ve become fairly competent in the kitchen.
I’ve cooked in many chili cook-offs and won the 1991 Idaho State Chili Championship. I’ve packaged and bottled and sold my dry BBQ spice mixes, chili mixes, and marinades. For about 3 years I had a catering business with a focus on chili feeds for large groups of 100-300 people.
In 1994 my wife and I opened the “¿Qué Pasá? Chili Company”, a hot sauce store where we sold over 350 different hot sauces, over 150 salsas, over 100 BBQ sauces, plus many other pepper and spicy food related items. We installed a tasting bar where our customers could taste any of the products we sold. We closed the store, much to our regret, in 1999 due to a heavy travel schedule from my primary job. While the store was open I wrote a monthly news letter discussing the various hot sauces and other products we carried and providing recipes featuring the products we sold.
Although the restaurant scene is greatly improved in Coeur d’Alene, we still entertain our friends with brunch/lunch/dinner parties 2-3 times a month, not to mention trying to outdo each other when cooking for ourselves the rest of the time.
All of the fantastic ethnic restaurants in the San Francisco bay area.