A handful of women got together the other night at Zuni–women mostly in their sixties who have spent their lives in food and religiously believe that good eating brings ultimate happiness. How come we were still there and one of our sisters, Judy Rogers, had left us?
Rogers, our friend, and chef/partner at Zuni, died in December at 57 of a rare cancer.
We ate so well that evening: piles of a shattering fritto of squid, onions and puntarelle chicory; ephemeral ricotta gnocchi strewn with buttery pistachios and sorrel; succulent oak fire-roasted chicken dripping onto bread salad tweaked by sharp-flavored frills of mustard green. As a prelude, some of us stood at the bar and toasted her with martinis and a platter of oysters.
At the table we drank Bandol rose, troweling Acme levain with sweet butter and expertly sprinkling on salt. For dessert, we spooned deep into glasses layered with strong espresso granita and whipped cream .
I found it hard to be sad, just because we took so much pleasure at being around the table together at Judy’s house. We could feel her presence in the food, the cooking as vibrant and expressive as if she were still overseeing the kitchen everyday. These irresistible, challenging, now iconic dishes will live on as long as there is food memory, and a restaurant kitchen determined to keep cooking them just the way she wanted.
Judy created something timeless at Zuni. Being there, we couldn’t help but feel that she was still alive and with us.
1658 Market Street, San Francisco 415 552-2522 Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner