Anna Roth

Anna's a recovering restaurant critic whose award-winning writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Best Food Writing 2014 & 2017, Lucky Peach, SF Weekly, Civil Eats and more. She's the author of West Coast Road Eats, a culinary guidebook. She currently lives in NYC but is a West Coaster at heart. Email: anna.roth @ gmail

The Ball-Shaped Bleakness of IKEA’s Gravy-Smothered Köttbullar

Or you can do what I did during a few depressed months last winter following a big move, and eat naked Ikea meatballs straight from the oven for dinner every night. Eaten this way, they weren’t exactly the picture of Pinterest-worthy domestic tranquility, just curiously dense spheres of pulverized protein. But pleasure wasn’t why I was performing this grim ritual night after night. I’d moved 3,000 miles, in part, to build a life that looked a little more like the vision Ikea presented in its catalog and showrooms. Instead I was running on fumes.

Analysis | It’s called ‘heartbreak’ because the pain is physical, not just emotional

The pain started on the way down the mountain, a dull ache in my chest that became more acute as the miles accumulated. The morning had been a blur of hungover goodbyes as a three-day camping wedding of close friends came to an end in Northern California. It wasn’t until I was in the quiet safety of a friend’s car that I allowed myself to feel the effects of my conversation with my date the night before. He had told me he wasn’t interested in trying a relationship. Remembering it made the pain

Is ‘Master of None’ the New ‘Sex and the City’?

The finance bros have arrived. With their button-down shirts and conversations about investment strategy, they seem different than the arty, laid-back crowd that usually hangs out at the Four Horsemen, the natural wine bar on Grand Street. The Brooklyn bar’s part-owner, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, has always given the place an extra sheen of coolness, but it seems to be attracting a new demographic these days, at least on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s been felt by longtime regular

There Will Be Bread: The Newest Development in Food Culture Is Also the Oldest

You're here, so you're probably a foodie (whether you like it or not). You've read everything there is to know about local sourcing and seasonal menus and the advantages of grass-fed beef. You've endured the rolling eyes of friends who can't believe the prices you're willing to pay for bacon, pickled vegetables, egg nog. You're not alone. But even you may find yourself wondering if things have perhaps gone a bit too far if we're now talking about artisanal flour. It's made from wheat, after all

A Youthquake in Wine Country

Blood sausage fried rice. Beef tongue yakitori. A potato croquette nestled in a paper wrapper like a McDonald’s hash brown. They’ve all been on the menu at Miminashi, a four-month-old izakaya that is not, contrary to what all of the above suggests, in San Francisco. Instead, it is the most exciting restaurant to open in downtown Napa in a very long while. Staid California-Mediterranean cuisine, the kind that has infused Napa Valley for the past 20 years, it is not. But it is an example of the n

Welcome to the agrihood: Farm-to-tableau living in Davis

A girl runs through a wheat field, her long blonde hair streaming behind her. A happy couple shops for apricots at the farmers’ market. A line of kids eats corn on a front porch, smiling cutely as the camera pans over them. Throughout it all, a voice-over espouses the virtues of local eating, sustainability and environmental stewardship. “This is not a nostalgic dream, it’s the immediate future,” the voice intones. “Life tastes better her

The Middle Sunset’s vibrant food scene captures a slice of San Francisco

On Sunday mornings, the mid-Sunset’s Irving Street is alive. Asian grandmothers with bulging shopping bags negotiate for the best seafood at Sunset Super; restaurant owners rinse down front sidewalks as they prepare to open for lunch; and neighbors line up out the door for roast duck and pork at Lam Hoa Thuan and bubble tea at T-Pumps. Outside of Uncle Benny’s doughnut shop, home to the ’hood’s finest apple fritter, an elderly man plays familiar tunes on the ehru, a Chinese stringed instrument.

The Amazing Disappearing Supermarket: Building the 21st Century Grocery Store

Only a few hours ago, the strawberry was sitting on a vine at a family-owned farm in Watsonville, about 90 miles south of San Francisco. But, a day before, at a computer somewhere in the Bay Area, an icon was clicked, a quantity was entered, and the berry's fate was sealed. As the city slept, the strawberry was picked, packed in a basket with others (all at peak ripeness), and driven up 101 to San Francisco and a warehouse in the Dogpatch, where it joined hundreds of other locally grown foods re

Bay Area’s love affair with the great American doughnut shop

Of the thousands of restaurant social media accounts in San Francisco, my favorite might be the one operated by Bob’s Donuts, that 24-hour Polk Street institution that has been around for generations. At @whatsfreshest on Twitter and @bobsdonuts on Instagram, the Bob’s crew showcases what can only be called doughnut porn: photos and videos of apple fritters bobbing in palm oil, just-fried dough getting a glossy coating of chocolate, and squiggles of jelly being applied to a rack of buttermilk ra

Austerity Measures: A Restaurant Critic's Week on Food Stamps

The marshmallow was the best thing I'd eaten in days, a soft, white, silky hit of pure sugar that went straight to all the pleasure centers in my brain. Four days earlier, I wouldn't have believed that a puff of corn syrup could bring me so much happiness. I was participating in the Hunger Challenge, an initiative put on by the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank to raise awareness about poverty and food insecurity in the Bay Area. For five days, 150 participants and I — chefs, journalists, and r

Gin makes a grand revival in the Bay Area

It looks like just another Hawaiian shirt — a common-enough wardrobe choice for Martin Cate, proprietor of tiki bar extraordinaire Smuggler’s Cove and a well-known expert on rum. But when you look more closely, you realize that in place of a tiki shirt’s pineapples and palm trees, Cate’s custom-made print features juniper berries, citrus, star anise, coriander, all-spice and nutmeg — the botanicals particular to gin. The shirt is an apt way for the rum lover to signal his transition to another

Troubling View From the Oasis: California's Abundance May Be a Mirage

The rains came, finally, on the 26th of February. Rain fell on the grapevines of Napa and the grassland of Marin, on the almond trees and tomato fields of the Central Valley, on the strawberries and lettuce rows of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Runoff gushed down dry gullies, sluiced through drainage culverts, filled up thirsty lakes and reservoirs. Farmers watched with relief as their dusty soil turned to mud and hoped that the long drought was finally coming to an end. The rainstorm was greeted d

A Tourist in the Mouth of the Wolf: Visiting Napa After the Earthquake

When the sun came up over the Vaca Mountains on Sunday, Aug. 24, the streets of downtown Napa were running red with Cabernet. A 6.0 earthquake at 3:20 that morning had shaken up homes and municipal buildings and sent more than 100 people to the hospital, but the damage to the region's wineries, wine bars, and tasting rooms quickly became the dominant story. Tweets and Instagrams flew around the internet from locals and early-on-the-scene reporters, bringing the world visions of toppled wine barr

The Money Shot

The dessert looks like a beehive. Its conical swirl of torched vanilla chiffon hides a knob of caramelized pineapple ice cream, the curlicues of coconut-caramel sauce that radiate from its center beckoning all to behold the beauty of the Baked Hawaii, Liholiho Yacht Club’s spin on baked Alaska. On a recent visit to the four-month-old Tenderloin restaurant I was too full for dessert, but I almost ordered it anyway—not to eat, but to Instagram. Just as it has for fashion and advertising, the phot

Just the Tip: Why Don't We Eat the Whole Chicken Wing?

Voracious diners these days have few inhibitions: They'll dig in roasted bones for marrow, suck the guts out of shrimp heads, and crunch down on whole fried smelt with abandon. But one of my favorite nibbly bits in the animal kingdom is sadly underrepresented in today's restaurant world. Too mundane to be considered exotic, too much of a hassle for most kitchens and eaters, the chicken wing's crunchy, cartilaginous tip is historically discarded in favor of its meatier counterparts. This could be

The Land of Giants: An Artist's Roadside Attractions Call Attention to History

The irrigator leans on his shovel in a Salinas field, his shoulders squared and his hand on his hip, as though he's taking a moment to assess his labor. The farmer crouches next to him, clad in a cowboy hat and work boots, holding a handful of soil and gazing out on the gently rolling Santa Lucia Mountains in the distance. It's a scene that's played out thousands of times in fields across the fertile Salinas Valley, but this one elicits a double-take from drivers zipping past in their road-wear

The Back Story on Yeast

RISING AND FALLING A Short History of Yeast and Humanity by Anna Roth photo by Jill Lightner I sped up I-5 north to Seattle, listening to The Grapes of Wrath on tape and talking to my sourdough starter. It was bubbling with life in a Styrofoam cooler on the passenger seat, a bandana tied rakishly around the neck of its Mason jar, displaying an ebullience that mirrored my own. I was 22, a newly minted B.A. jubilantly returning home after four years in the urban trenches of Los Angeles. To

Shuck and Jive: Drakes Bay Oyster Company Forces a Redefinition of Environmentalism

On a map, the rambling 2,500-acre inlet known as Drakes Estero looks like a chicken foot, its bony fingers pointing north from the larger Drakes Bay. In person, the estuary is strikingly beautiful: calm water protected from ocean waves by sand spits at its mouth, flanked by headlands and low, grassy hills dotted with cattle and a few trees tough enough to withstand the wind. It's also an ecological jewel, a stopping point for dozens of species of migrating birds, host to a thriving eelgrass popu
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