On the corner where Rose Street intersects San Francisco’s Market Street sits the legendary Zuni Café, an unlikely two-story establishment transformed in the hands of chef Judy Rodgers.
Foodies make the pilgrimage to the big city to sink their teeth into the restaurant’s famous chicken for two, roasted in a stone oven and served with mouth-watering bread salad, as well as the even more coveted Caesar salad and house pickled sardines.
Generous, simple and simply delicious food loved by the city’s upper class, artists and free souls.
California’s local market cuisine emerged in the wake of the idealistic 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of small-scale organic farms in the region transformed restaurants around the Golden Gate. The chefs understood that the best ingredients had to be found in front of their eyes, not on the other side of the world.
At Zuni Café, this discipline based on the new American and also Mexican food culture meets the French and Italian grandmother’s cuisine – and the worship of raw materials is taken to new heights.
Don’t stand in the way of food!
Somewhat paradoxically, Judy Rodgers noted, “Cookbooks give you ideas, but the market gives you dinner – study your local market at least as carefully as your library.”
Rodger’s heroes were just the great American and British writers we have become familiar with in recent weeks: Richard Olney, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Waverley Root.
With them as inspiration, he conjured up a mantra that still rings clear to his disciples: Don’t stand in the way of food! If you have the best raw materials to work with, it’s a shame to completely upgrade them.
For this reason, the recipes have a purist feel, clean and clear flavors: sorbet from aromatic strawberries in high summer, home-made fat-cured ham, happy pigs and ripe, smelly cheeses.