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Take the Quiz

Are you a true San Francisco food aficionado?

By Paul Adams

As a transplant to San Francisco from New York, I notice one difference between the two cities the most: California chefs' total lack of sense about cultural hygiene. Here, geography and history apparently have no advice worth listening to about what goes with what, and how, foodwise. In my East Coast upbringing, there were Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Jewish delis and the like; frequently next door to each other, but never actually the same establishment. Now I don't want to stir up any NY/SF bad blood, but in New York, the city that has everything, it was not possible, last I checked, to obtain a jalapeño bagel or an asiago bagel or a banana-nut bagel, except by special order through some custom fetish-bagel baker.

In the celebrated newer restaurants of New York, such as Nobu, Bouley and Mesa Grill (as well as the less celebrated and less new), the chefs are lauded for their astonishing flexibility and finesse within their particular cuisine. The food is imaginative, the dishes are clever and unanticipated, and, yes, irreverent, but it is an oddity, not the norm, to find wasabi in one's mayonnaise.

San Francisco's star chefs are paid salaries among the culinary world's highest to dream up outlandish hybridizations of, well, whatever they can. But even I can fuse dishes as eccentric as theirs. Or can I?

Here's a little quiz for you San Francisco food aficionados. Can you tell which of the following dishes have actually been prepared and served at the city's restaurants, and which are fake?

  1. Spicy roasted potatoes with tropical aioli
  2. Poached red snapper in green-tea Mascarpone sauce
  3. Potato-wrapped trout with foie-gras apple stuffing
  4. Pan-roasted pork chop over soba with pickled ginger, blood orange vinaigrette
  5. Broiled ahi in port sauce with baked apple
  6. Sweet-and-sour turkey-stuffed cabbage
  7. Smoked salmon with corn cakes and wasabi crème fraîche
  8. Sake-cured sturgeon and white-corn ravioli in saffron-mint broth
  9. Chimay-braised rabbit maki with hoi sin aioli
  10. Pâté spring rolls with mango sauce
  11. Boysenberry-seared duck medallions on quinoa risotto with papaya-champagne salsa
  12. Kombu-polenta cakes topped with Gruyère
  13. Guava empanada with brie
  14. Soft pork taco with chipotle, aioli and coriander salad
  15. Duck confit with fava-uni dumplings and white-ginger marmalade
  16. Asparagus and pineapple salad with anchovy vinaigrette
  17. Pickle-stuffed carpaccio in lemon sauce
  18. Sautéed Thai-curry gnocchi
  19. Whipped Satsuma potatoes with basil-chipotle butter
  20. Poached chicken-avocado spring rolls with tamarind-peanut sauce
  21. Foie gras, eggplant and Asian-pear napoleon with white miso curry sauce
  22. Grilled salmon with lemon-caviar fondue
  23. Lemon grass, smoked eel and fennel salad with coriander-citrus dressing
  24. Hushpuppies with jalapeño crème fraîche
  25. Uni mashed potatoes
  26. Five-pepper crusted chicken with oyster-pumpkin stuffing
  27. Ginger-steamed salmon and scallop pillow with prawn mousse and foie gras coulis


  1. Real. Available at Backflip.
  2. Fake.
  3. Real. At Aqua.
  4. Fake.
  5. Real.
  6. Real. At Firefly.
  7. Real. Silly. Backflip.
  8. Oh, how could that be real?
  9. See number 8.
  10. Brainchild of Daniel Yang, Akimbo.
  11. Sounds good, doesn't it?
  12. Not real.
  13. Quite a tasty appetizer. At Infusion.
  14. Ryan's, gone overboard.
  15. I can't even picture how that'd work.
  16. Try this one at home, if you like.
  17. Real. At Acquerello.
  18. Oritalia.
  19. Nope, made it up.
  20. Another weird one from Oritalia, actually a good restaurant.
  21. Fake.
  22. Go to 2223 Market if you're baffled.
  23. Not real, thank God.
  24. This passes for bar food at Andora Inn.
  25. Served in a sea-urchin shell at Farallon.
  26. Phony, but with a delicate autumnal perfume.
  27. Also at Farallon, believe it or not.

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From the November 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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