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A Bohemian Guide to San Francisco Restaurants

Clarence Edwords made it clear from the outset that he wasn’t going to put on any false shows of humility in "Bohemian San Francisco: Its Restaurants and Their Most Famous Recipes," published in 1914. 

"No apologies are offered for this book," he wrote in the first sentence of the forward. "In fact, we rather like it."

The same can be said for Edwords’ thoughts about his beloved city, which he clearly believed was the most enchanting -- and most universally envied -- on earth. "Were one to write of San Francisco and omit mention of its gustatory delights the whole world would protest, for in San Francisco eating is an art and cooking a science, and he who knows not what San Francisco provides knows neither art nor science," Edwords declared.

Twenty recipes from Bohemian San Francisco are reprinted in Vintage California Cuisine

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"Do not other cities have equally as good chefs and do not the people of other cities have equally as fine gastronomic taste? They have all this but with them is lacking atmosphere," he added.

What made San Francisco so charming, such a "Mecca for lovers of gustatory delights," a city whose name "is known wherever men and women sit at table," was the astonishing array of people from so many cultures, each with their own distinctive neighborhoods arranged side by side up and down the steep hillsides of the city. The ethnic neighborhoods transformed a stroll through the streets of San Francisco into a magic carpet ride around the world, Edwords wrote.

The cultural stew was enough to befuddle the most cosmopolitan visitors to San Francisco. And among citizens of the city, even the most genuine of bohemians – who Edwords defined as those whose lives reflected "the protest of naturalism against the too rigid, and, often-times absurd restrictions established by Society" – could fall into a rut.

Edwords wrote his book for those who "become bewildered and turn to familiar names on the menu card rather than venture into fields that are new." He hoped the volume would encourage his readers to try "strange and rare dishes whose unpronounceable names of themselves frequently are sufficient to discourage those unaccustomed to the art and science of cooking practiced by those whose lives have been spent devising means of tickling fastidious palates of a city of gourmets."

Never was the "spirit of Bohemian San Francisco" more in evidence than at a dinner that Edwords recalled as "one of the most merry and enjoyable of feasts ever held in the city." It was on the occasion of the 1906 annual meeting of the Merchants Association of San Francisco. The dinner proceeded as scheduled even though weeks earlier San Francisco had been devastated in the cataclysmic earthquake and ensuing firestorm that had taken hundreds of lives and destroyed thousands of buildings. The feast was held in the St. Francis Hotel with the "the crumbling walls and charred and blackened timbers hidden under a mass of bunting and foliage and flowers."

Eight years later, when Edwords wrote his book, the St. Francis Hotel had returned to splendor and its restaurant was one of the finest in town, its head chef, Victor Hertzler, one of the most famous. Edwords asked Hertzler for his single best recipe and the famous chef offered the following two.

Sole Edward VII

Cut the fillets out of one sole and lay them flat on a buttered pan, and season with salt and pepper. Make the following mixture and spread over each fillet of sole: take one-half pound of sweet butter, three ounces of chopped salted almonds, one fourth pound of chopped fresh mushrooms, a little chopped parsley, the juice of a lemon, salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Add to the pan one half glassful of white wine and put in the oven for twenty minutes. When done serve in the pan by placing it on a platter, with a napkin under it.

Celery Victor

Take six stalks of celery well washed. Make a stock of one soup hen or chicken bones, and five pounds of veal bones in the usual manner, with carrots, onions, parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Place the celery in a vessel and strain the broth over it. Boil until soft and let cool off in its own broth. When cold, press the broth out of the celery with the hand, gently, and place on a plate. Season with salt, fresh ground black pepper, chervil, and a one-quarter white wine vinegar with tarragon to three-quarters of best olive oil.


Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef