Getting to Know You



Hello. I’m taking over food coverage for the Express from my colleague and friend, John Birdsall. I’ve been writing about food for years, but I’d rather skip the yawn-y details of my resume. I’ll just tell a story.

Three years ago, I was living in the culinary mecca of Brooklyn. I had just relocated from a stint in the Midwest (think: deep-fried everything), and I felt immensely blessed for my newfound playground. I loved a good urban escapade, especially when there was a beach taco, a Korean stuffed chicken wing, or a perfect pastrami waiting at the other end.

One night, my friends and I had clam pizza in our sights. It’s a white, thin-crust pizza, topped with plump littleneck clams, olive oil, oregano, garlic, and a handful of grated cheese. We had read a lengthy article exploring the origins of this regional treat (pleasure reading for food nerds), tracing it back almost 80 years.

We tracked down Franny’s, a joint legendary for clam pizza wizardry. Franny’s put some tweaks on the traditional clam pie, foregoing cheese, lacing the crust with white wine and heavy cream, adding a bit of chili pepper fire. Maybe non-conventional but still, a revelation. After a couple of slices, I felt beholden to (and smitten with) our chef. We ordered more pizzas, including one with a baked duck egg in the center.

And damn, was that a fine egg. Rich, unctuous, almost aggressive, its memory has eclipsed anything else on the pizza (figs? offal? cheese?) We were seated near the controlled chaos of the open kitchen, and I yelled to the chef: “That egg was the best thing I ever…” He stopped me short. “Duck is good and all, but you know what lays the perfect egg? Goose. It’s totally overpowering, makes a fucking incredible omelet.”

After that night’s brilliant dinner, I trusted the chef implicitly. If he said goose eggs were the best, then that they must be. I had a new grail.

Clam pizza had proven to be a straightforward quest, but I would spend countless man-hours scouring food message boards, calling poultry farms, and trolling off-brand ethnic markets in search of the elusive goose egg. Duck eggs were easy to find in Chinatown, and I saw goose carcass hanging in the Greek butcher's window every day. But goose eggs? I got a lot of shrugged shoulders and shaking heads.

A couple of years went by, and I moved to the Bay Area. I had all but given up on my quest. Until, at a farmers’ market this summer, on the counter of an unremarkable chicken egg booth, there were two goose eggs, each big as a grapefruit. By week's end, I had scrambled one, poached the other, and closed the book on another food adventure.*

Goose eggs were just the beginning of my Bay Area culinary wish fulfillment. Abundant, year-round produce; fresh-caught Pacific seafood; carnitas burritos...honestly, you're probably sick of hearing East Coast transplants rhapsodize about your food. But I can't help it. I feel very fortunate to write on something I'm so passionate about, in a place so rich with material. I hope I can convey that.

For a bit more background, visit Comments? Tips? Stay in touch via Jesse (dot) Hirsch (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com.

*How was it? I’ll let you have your own adventure.