Tag Archives: food

Zoe’s Bar & Restaurant is Poutine on a Show!

For anyone who has ever walked into a diner at three in the morning — possibly coming down from a night of drunken stupor and craving just about anything salty and smothered in goo, then you’re probably familiar with the classic diner dish Disco Fries. These are fries dripping with chicken gravy and garnished with thick slices of mozzarella or provolone.

As a New Jersey native, to be well versed in diner culture is a must. My first plate of Disco Fries served almost as a right of passage to the Garden State.  Admittedly, when it comes to diner food I can be a bit of a snob; fries must always be of the Disco sort and nothing less. So needless to say, when I heard that this thing called poutine was taking San Francisco restaurants by storm, I had to see what it was all about.

Poutine, which originated in Quebec, is essentially the Disco Fries of Canada.  Doing a little research, I found that Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant in the Mission District is the go-to place for the most authentic plate of poutine at a reasonable price.

Walking into Zoe’s can be a little intimidating at first.  What appears to be a typical hole-in-the-wall bar is accessorized with oil paintings, ambient lighting, and what sounds like the entire soundtrack of Dazed and Confused.  Naturally, my friend and I entered not really knowing what to expect from the food. Glancing over the menu, we found that the place was host to simple bar food items — like hot wings and burgers.
What does stand out, however, is the “Mushroom Poutine.”  My friend, who has never had fries with anything other than a side of ketchup, and I who was still rooting for my beloved Disco Fries, skeptically placed two orders of poutine and expected to soon call it a night.

What eventually appeared before us was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  A steaming porcelain bowl filled to the brim with golden fries soaked in homemade gravy, topped with caramelized mozzarella cheese curds and scallions silenced us for a moment.  And then we took a bite.  I rarely get poetic about the food that I eat. The very thought of describing what I ate that night at Zoe’s via literary device makes me cringe, but honestly that first bite of poutine erupted in my mouth like a thousand exploding suns.  The dish is satisfying for vegetarians and meat lovers alike.  Hearty mushrooms and salty gravy warm you up the entire time you’re feasting on this bowl of goodness.  What seems like something that could be fulfilling enough for three large men came at the decent price of eight dollars — which is usually around the same price I spend for a meal at the Market Café’.

I’m pleased to say that I walked out of Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant wholly satisfied and absent of any skepticism.  Sorry New Jersey, but Disco Fries ain’t got nothing on poutine!

Zoe’s Bar and Restaurant

3088 24th St.

(cross street Folsom St.)

(Photo by Danielle Maingot)

Students Boycott Bon Appétit

Student Senate Organizes Protest Against Bon Appétit’s Monopoly on Campus 

Today ASUSF Senate is hosting a boycott of the Bon Appétit dining services at USF. At the time this issue went to print, there were 930 people committed to a Facebook event that calls on students to forgo using Bon Appétit services on Thursday.

“Bon Appétit has been the number one concern since I was sophomore class representative,” said ASU President, Johnny Chibnall, “We tried addressing it by creating a food committee, and there were conversations going on within the committee but no action happened with it.”

Bonnie Azab Powell, Director of Communications at Bon Appétit Management Company, said that student food advisory committee will be reinstated and will meet regularly throughout the semester. Powell also addressed the concern’s about Bon Appétit monopoly on campus, saying “while yes, we are the only food service provider at USF — which is the standard at 95% of college campuses that use food-service providers — we are well aware that we have to compete with everything a world-class food destination like San Francisco has to offer.”

Charlie Cross, Vice President of the Office of Accounting & Business Services and Chief Financial Officer of USF wasn’t available for a sit-down or phone interview, but over email he said that he wasn’t aware of any criticism or complaints students had of Bon Appétit.

Chibnall said that Senate would like to see Bon Appetit do a better job at food labeling and allergens, and improve food safety, extend hours during holidays and weekends, a reduction or justification for campus catering, and increased communication and transparency between USF, Bon Appétit, and the students.

“This is a very peaceful assembly. We want to build awareness,” Chibnall added.

The most recent cause for concern has been the removal of the subsidy provided to USF campus organizations for catering services. According to Gregory V. Wolcott, Assistant Vice Provost of Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE), two years ago there was a 50% discount in place for student organizations, and last year it was reduced to 25%.

“This year we were notified there would no longer be a flat discount, but that Bon Appétit would develop a value menu to help offset costs to student organizations. The subsidy was originally approved by Accounting & Business Services at cost to the university, whereas the value menu would be provided by Bon Appétit,” Wolcott added.

“After careful financial analysis, Accounting & Business Services could no longer subsidize those discounts,” said Anne-Marie Devine, USF senior director of media relations.

The spark for this boycott came from the most recent ASUSF Fall Summit, in which the top two leaders from every student organization on campus are required to attend, when concerns about Bon Appétit were at the forefront of almost every discussion.

“The entire conversation turned to Bon Appétit,” said Taylor Jackson, senior class representative who spearheaded the boycott. “The students felt like they weren’t being heard, and their needs weren’t being addressed.”

Bon Appétit is Planning Changes

According to Cross, Bon Appétit has come up with a number of initiatives that are currently underway —including an attempt to resurrect the student food committee, an online survey, a 25% discount for student group catering events, a daily value special in the cafeteria, and expanded training of cashiers to reduce transaction time and lines. Bon Appétit Management Company has confirmed this.

USF’s contract with Bon Appétit has been in place since 2004, and will be in place for “at least 15 additional years,” said Cross.

According to Wolcott, Bon Appétit has always had exclusive rights to provide food service on campus, but that policy wasn’t being strictly enforced. In August, Events Management & Guest Services provided SLE with guidelines that stated the policies that clubs had to follow for meetings, events, and fundraisers.

Previously, requests for off-campus food service came to Bon Appétit directly and were approved on a case-by-case basis. However, Powell said that last year USF reorganized to have Events Management and Guest Services handle those requests. Foghorn calls to Events Management and Guest Services were directed to the USF Media Relations office.

“It’s a lot cheaper if we make tamales ourselves or get them from an off-campus source,” said Latinas Unidas Student Organization President Elizabeth Hernandez. “Under these new restrictions, we can’t afford as much food as we used to be able to for our events. At our last event some members of our organization didn’t eat because there wasn’t enough.”
According to Jackson, there have been complaints from students ranging from the handling of food in the cafeteria to the quality of it. According to an inspection conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health on April 17, Market Café received a violation of “High risk food holding temperature” and moderate risk of “Foods not protected from contamination.” However, both these violations were later corrected on May 17.

In addition to the boycott, Jackson has opened an email account, asusfbonappconcerns@gmail.com, for students to submit complaints and stories about their experience with Bon Appétit. Also, instead of the regularly scheduled Senate meeting next Tuesday, there will be an open forum where Bon Appétit officials, members of the Office of Accounting & Business Services, and students will be able to talk about their issues with the food management company.

Students Have Mixed Feelings About Boycott

“I feel like it was kind of about time something happened because Bon App has turned into a sort of monopoly instead of a catering company,” said sophomore Phelan resident, Stephanie Ortiz, “They ridiculously overprice everything and the prices increased from last year.”

Jessica Melendez, President of MEChA de USF said, “I thought [the boycott] is great! I had been hearing a lot of people having issues with Bon Appétit this semester, so I felt it was great that we were getting into action to do something about it.”

Other students criticized the boycott. 
Morganne Dodds, former Bon Appétit employee and current senior, noted that high prices are a result of the local and sustainable food options, and any request for longer hours puts a strain on employees who already work long hours.

“As a student who dines at Bon Appétit,” said Dodds, “I actually really enjoy their food. It has definitely improved since my freshman year and more of a variety has been brought in.”

Bon Appétit chefs can cook anything, but is it authentic?

“The university holds diversity to such high standards, and advertises how diverse the campus is, and this policy doesn’t reflect that,” Hernandez said. “Food is the part of a culture we can share. Not being able to share that takes away part of what makes us unique.”

Hernandez says that members of student organizations aren’t happy with the authenticity of the food, and the monopoly Bon Appétit holds on campus catering is making fundraising difficult.

Wolcott said, “A majority of fundraising done by student organizations has not been impacted. However, those groups who sold external or home cooked food (outside of bake sales) are no longer able to do so.”

When a Foghorn reporter asked Hernandez if she has tried bringing her own recipes to the Bon Appétit chefs to help with the authenticity problem, she replied: “I have heard of that, but I mean, our grandmas could make it for free.”

ASUSF Senate has written an open letter about Bon Appetit to Charlie Cross in the Opinion section.

I Did Not Go To The Farmer’s Market For This

Paul Krantz is a senior english major.

Paul Krantz is a senior english major.

In the recent Halloween issue of the Foghorn, readers may have seen an article entitled “The Hard Truth About Organic Food” by Andrew Menzer. As an urban agriculture minor and citizen who cares deeply about the environment, I found the arguments presented in the aforementioned article to be one-sided and misinformed. For the sake of food justice, I felt compelled to postpone my trip to the farmer’s market in order to sit down and write a response.

Menzer admits there are “inherent risks in the overuse of pesticide[s]” with inorganic operations, but he seems to overlook his own point in this regard when he promotes conventional farms’ ability to provide cheaper strawberries. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found a sample of strawberries that contained 13 pesticides, such as methyl bromide and chloropicrin. These chemicals are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and developmental problems in children. Not only are they found in inorganic produce that we eat, but they are utilized (in massive amounts) on farms near homes and schools — ultimately washing into rivers and the bay.

Menzer also claims that organic food is expensive, elitist and that small farm practices could never feed everyone. This is what multinational corporations that control the food system want people to believe, but as someone who has extensively studied our food system I can tell you it is simply not true.

As a counter argument, I offer this conundrum: globally we are producing more than enough food for every person on the planet, yet at least one out of six people in the U.S. do not have enough to eat, according to the non-profit organization, Feeding America. How can it be that we produce more than enough food, yet not everyone gets some?

The problem is a serious inequality in distribution. A large portion of the global population cannot afford to buy the food that exists in enormous quantities.

Food today is treated like an economic commodity, meaning that the supply is controlled to food producers to maximize profit. Proponents of Big-Agra say that economies of scale ensure that the most food will be produced for the lowest possible cost. However, if a food-producing entity’s motive is profit, it creates a clear conflict of interest with their stated intention to feed the most people.

It is true that even some organic food producers make profits, but to declare all organic food elitist is to ignore a large part of the story. Around the world small organic farmers, non-profit organizations and passionate individuals are taking a stand for food justice; such people are committed to making healthy, nutritious food a basic human right.

One does not need to go beyond USF to find people in solidarity with this cause. The USF community garden is run largely by students and volunteers who are enthusiastic about growing organic food, all of which is given away for donations to students on campus or donated to a local food bank for low income families.

However, I agree with Menzer that “eating only organic” will not solve all of the problems in our food system. I contend that it is a good practice for one’s own health, as well as the health of our ecosystems. So why not be healthy and hopeful? If enough people learn to care about each other as well as what we eat, we can certainly create a world in which everyone gets to enjoy locally grown, delicious, organic food.

Chev-Vaughn Lum, a sophomore media studies major and barista at Starbucks, said, “I get a lot of customers who say they’ve been waiting for it all year. Others say that they only drink it because it’s a nice breakaway from their normal daily orders.” (Photo by Mia Orantia)

‘Tis the Season for Pumpkin: Lattes, M&M’s and More

As we say goodbye to San Francisco’s Indian summer, Starbucks welcomes the return of fall with their popular Pumpkin Spice Latte — also known as PSL to aficionados. Since its debut in 2003, over 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes have been sold. The drink has even made its way into social networks with the hashtag #PSL, and has over 3,000 likes on Facebook.

Chev-Vaughn Lum, a sophomore media studies and barista at Starbucks, said, “I think the drink is so popular because of the season. Normally throughout the year you can’t get pumpkin flavored food or drinks because of the low demand for it.”

So what exactly is in a Pumpkin Spice Latte? Well, what it doesn’t have is actual pumpkin. The drink is a concoction of espresso, pumpkin-spice syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and steamed milk, with a pumpkin-spice topping. I wanted to check in on the hype, so I ordered a PSL at the Starbucks on Masonic and Fulton. Needless to say, it did not taste any less autumnal without the pumpkin. I expected the beverage to be very overpowering, but the steamed milk complemented and softened the sharp flavors of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. For the health-conscious, a tall 12 oz. is 300 calories. This drink is a great pick-me-up, especially if you’re in need of something to awaken and keep you warm on the way to class.

In the past decade the Pumpkin Spice Latte has been around, pumpkin spice has become the new taste of fall. McDonalds has also put out its own Pumpkin Spice Latte for the competitive price of $2.39 (12 oz.). Many other products have caught on to marketing this flavor. You can now buy pumpkin spice M&M’s, Glade fresheners, and Pringles.

The seasonal beverage is only here until the end of November, or longer while supplies last. The festive drinks don’t stop there. Red cup season — when Starbucks puts out their Christmas holiday drinks — is starting in November.

I Hope We Aren’t What We Eat

The evolution of the agricultural system in the United States never ceases to perturb and disgust me. As humans, we cannot universally deny that food is a rudimentary necessity for the continuance and livelihood of our species. Yet as I ponder over the relationship our country has with food, I cannot help but cringe. Reflecting over everything from the production, the distribution, the consumption, and even the marketing of food, it seems as if we have a grossly pervasive definition of what it means to nourish ourselves. Perhaps, we have truly lost sight of what food is.

Walk through any supermarket and grab any ten items which are not labeled USDA organic, and read the ingredients list. As you do this, try to imagine the ingredients on a plate: Blue #1, Tartrazine, potassium bromate, and Olestra.

American journalist Michael Pollan writes in “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” “if your grandmother can’t picture it on a plate, you probably shouldn’t eat it.” Now couple that list of ingredients with those that are not labeled, thanks to successful lobbying efforts by mega-agribusiness corporation Monsanto. Less often are we eating food, and instead we are constantly consuming what Pollan deems as “food-like substances.” Whether it concerns genetically modified foods or pesticides that are noted for their toxicity in the human body, our country is creating a national dependency on what is essentially laboratory food. Even worse, we have allowed agribusiness corporations to censor research showing how the synthetic food we consume is quite realistically to our detriment.

Monsanto has monopolized our farm industry by patenting its genetically modified seeds, and also happens to be the same organization responsible for the creation of Agent Orange used in Vietnam.

This is why when hearing news of Google’s 332k funded lab burger, I was less than pleased. The burger is artificially created in a laboratory through cultured beef made up of cattle stem cells. The intention behind its creation is to reduce our dependency on livestock farming. I do salute the attempt to address growing issues in our meat industry, such as bad USDA regulation and the huge  bi-product of methane gas increasingly contributing to climate change.  However, no matter how high-minded the intentions of the project may seem, the prospect of unintended consequences seem far too murky to deem it a sustainable alternative. There is not nearly enough transparency about how the burgers are cultivated. Quite honestly, I am predisposed to be weary of all things genetically created after reading a French study that published information about Monsanto’s corn being linked to increased chances of cancer in rats. This is all information most Americans are not privy to.

I suppose the way in which we evaluate our relationship to food is indicative of the philosophical position of mankind in relationship to nature. I feel that genetically modified foods and stem cell created hamburgers seem to be shortcut solutions to problems we have caused through man-made destruction of world-wide ecosystems, and I genuinely doubt that the restoration of our land or our bodies will happen artificially.


S. Sandwich

Saigon Sandwich Satiates

The sandwich shop that the New York Times rates as having the best banh mi in America

     A trip to Saigon Sandwich does require a bit of determination, especially if you got off muni too early, and have to walk three blocks down Larkin toward City Hall. The shop is really more of a cluttered counter. There’s a large display

S. Sandwich

A Vietnamese sandwich costs about $3-$4, making it a very inexpensive and delicious meal.
(Photo: David Garcia)

of Asian candies and cookies, a selection of nuts and colorful, sticky-looking things in plastic containers, and a pile of small, leaf-wrapped pyramids, held together with rubber bands and labeled with a sticker reading “Coconut.” On one side is a cooler full of Vietnamese coffee and tea drinks. At a table, two seats are occupied by elderly Vietnamese women. There’s a woman behind the counter, working like crazy, restocking the pickled carrots, pulling bread out of the toaster, giving change, and answering the phone—God help you if you’re still making up your mind when she asks for your order. Have your order and money ready.

I tend to prefer a cold banh mi, so I got the pâté, a spreadable paste of ground beef and fat. It comes smeared on the bread, instead of sliced like a cold cut. The lady behind the counter put together my sandwich in 30 seconds flat. She spread a thick layer of gray pâté over a warm, crispy baguette, shoved in a fistful of those sharply sweet pickled carrots, a spring of cilantro, and finished with a light sprinkle of thinly sliced raw jalapenos.

The sandwich, which is easily eight inches long and four inches thick, is best paired with a can of soda from the cooler, which, for some gloriously perverse reason, has only RC and Diet RC Cola.  The pâté was luxuriously rich, and the acidic bite of the carrots and spicy jalapenos cut through the creaminess perfectly, with the cilantro providing an aromatic contrast. The flavors are so harmonious that this giant sandwich can still feel like a light lunch.

And the RC? Beyond belief. When’s the last time anyone bought a can of Diet RC cola? Take my word for it, it’s way better than you might imagine.

So go to Saigon Sandwich. Brave the filthy streets and the cluster of homeless people across the street. Unwrap your banh mi, pop open the soda, and enjoy the wonderful, breathtaking combination of French colonialism and off-brand cola.

Saigon Sandwich

560 Larkin St (between Turk St and Eddy St)

San Francisco, CA 94102

Cash Only/Takeout