Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Grease Trap: Somebody Stick a Fork in Spieler

By John Birdsall
Wed, Feb 14, 2007 at 3:27 PM

Someone has to say it: Marlena Spieler needs to go. It's nothing against her as a food writer. The Chronicle columnist has an impressive catalog of cookbooks, and yeah, she's probably a really nice person. But her column stopped being fresh years ago, and Spieler herself doesn't even live in the Bay Area (she's based in the UK). Today Spieler anchors page one of the food section, in a Valentine's supper-for-two piece called "Mood Food." We admit our Spieler-phobia is partly about the graphics: the softig food diva's image is nothing more than a smiling, heavily made-up face embedded in varying illustrations that sometimes seem scary � like today's.

The Spieler icon is fixed in a creepy-looking tableau, her cartoon body bound in a red dress and fishnet stockings like a lumpy sausage, reclining awkwardly in a semi-surrealist landscape of fleshy rose petals and dollhouse plates of food. We get that food sections need original voices and personality: We just think the Bay Area has newer, more engaging personalities � like Berkeley food writer Shuna Fish Lydon, for instance. With her buzz cut, great writing chops, and awesome cooking talent, we think Lydon might even survive the craziest of graphic treatments.

Syrah Feature Brings SexyBack

Big love to the CoCo Times and lifestyle writer Jessica Yadegaran for stepping nimbly around steaming piles of Valentine's Day clich�s. Instead of some been-there story about champagne or single-source cacao, on a day when even the (seemingly misspelled) Google bug has morphed into a chocolate-dipped strawberry, Yadegaran goes grownup. Her cover feature about syrah is a straightforward primer, full of descriptors like fruity and juicy, earthy and savory. But Perbacco sommelier Mauro Cirilli conjures works up a nice bit of pervy with this quote: "It stays so long in your mouth, it's so concentrated and bold and rich, it excites your body." Far more titillating than any text in the last Good Vibrations catalog we got � and Cirilli's only talking about a glass of wine.

Bakesale Betty Gives it Away

You gotta love a chef who's confident enough to give it away. In today's Trib, Alison Barakat, the blue-wigged pastry chef who presides over the daily Temescal moshpit known as Bakesale Betty, shares her recipe for gingersnaps � arguably the best thing she sells. What's more, Barakat comes clean about the recipe's source (Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies� Barakat made a few slight modifications). Face it: every published recipe is merely the last link in a chain of recipes � that's why recipes are un-copyrightable. We wish more chefs and food writers would stop pretending there's some mystique about their recipes and just come clean.

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

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