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Paying Respects at Zuni

By   /   April 8, 2014  /   1 Comment

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

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1 Comment

  1. Shellye McKinney says:

    I did the same thing with three friends in January. We shared meals and wonderful times together at Zuni throughout the 90′s. Everything was perfection and we never wanted to leave. It felt like home. A wonderful home where the martinis were dry, there were always more oysters and Acme bread, the caesar was the best in town, and the roast chicken was iconic. And we always had room for dessert, because how could you not have the granita? We toasted Judy that night — for her brilliance and simplicity, for her food, for her caring which continue to be expressed every night at Zuni. She will always be missed.

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