Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grease Trap: Turn Suffering Into Party Treats

By John Birdsall
Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 3:28 PM

Someone should write a book about the theme-y heart of the American table, from elaborate color-themed ladies luncheon parties at the turn of the last century to LA diners shaped like bowler hats and windmills to the elaborate Polynesian kitsch of the Trader Vic's restaurant empire. Think of Oscars entertaining as a contemporary subset.

In anticipation of Sunday's long, grueling awards show, the CoCo Times offers a giddy party guide of movie-themed cocktails and nibbles tied to this year's nominees. Our favorites? "Babel Moroccan Meatballs," "Letters From Iwo Jima Sesame Prawns," and "The Departed Irish Nachos." Sure, turning the emotional agony of Babel into ground meat on a toothpick is deranged, not to mention linking the horrors of war with an Asian party nibble. Oh, and those "Irish Nachos"? Potato chips topped with corned beef, mustard, and pickle, bruschetta-style. Now that's agony.

The Chron Gets Heavy We love it when stories more weighty than biscotti-tasting panels show up in the Wednesday food papers. Good for the Chron for putting Carol Ness's roundup of more substantive food stories (new E. coli rules, as well as the latest concerns about cloning and genetic engineering of food crops) on page one of the food section.

As far as we're concerned, Ness doesn't need to feel as self-conscious about it as her introduction suggests. "Food is big news," Ness writes, with a hint of apology. "Not just the latest trends in salumi-making or buzz about which chef has left town for New York, but also the business practices that are less visible but just as crucial to what we eat."

Velasquez Fills Negrin's Old Chef's Clogs

From the Chron's "Inside Scoop": "Peripatetic chef Lance Dean Velasquez has hopped to yet another venue � Grace Street Catering in Alameda � as executive chef. Velasquez was last seen revamping menus for Home restaurants in San Francisco, after closing his short-lived but well-received Bendean in Berkeley last June. It's Velasquez's twelfth gig, at least, since the early 1990s."

Incidentally, Alison Negrin, the John Muir Health executive chef I profiled in this week's Express cover feature, once cheffed at Grace Street. Who knows, Lance: Maybe you, too, will end up as a hospital chef one day.

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