I do, however, remember the quail salad on a late spring evening in Bizou. The Hama Hama oysters at the bar in Boulevard. The simple, subtle, rich flavors of my first meal at Chez Panisse. It has not escaped me that of all the terrific meals I’ve eaten in and around San Francisco, for some reason the dishes I can still taste, were served in restaurants with women chefs: Loretta Keller at Bizou, Nancy Oakes at Boulevard and Alice Waters at Chez Panisse.I’ve long wondered if the reason was that, at the highest level, women cooked differently from men. And whether I – a man of a certain age with a diminished sense of smell, a less than discerning palate and a galloping appetite – could really taste the difference on the plate.Of course, I’ve also eaten delicious meals cooked by men. But those three were memorable.
In addition to Boulevard and the always-popular/publicized Jardiniere (headed by the lauded Traci Des Jardins), other excellent female-run kitchens exist at the likes of Zuni Cafe (Judy Rogers), Foreign Cinema (Gayle Pirir), among others.
[Photo of Loretta Keller courtesy: Seasonal Chef]