Meet Ben Rhau, a blogger and digital media professional living in San Francisco. If Ben’s blog name, You Fed a Baby Chili?, isn’t enough to pique your curiosity and click over right away, let me tell you this: He’s a synthetic biologist turned food blogger, turned digital media professional, turned photographer. Intrigued? You should be. Although Ben has only been publishing sporadically on his blog, it’s been enough to be noticed by the big guns: he was a finalist at the IACP Awards in the Digital Food Journalism category and Saveur Magazine named him in a list of “Food Blogs You Should Be Reading“. He has a truly unique voice, and that’s the reason why his fans (me included) forgive him for posting so far in between. Stay tuned though: his blog just had a rebirth and he promised (sorta) that he would write more often now. Here’s San Francisco, in his own words.
My Edible City
San Francisco. I’m a New Yorker at heart, so even I’m surprised that I chose San Francisco. I’m always kvetching about the lack of New Yorky things here. Like a proper breakfast sandwich, for instance. On a Kaiser roll. A concept that seems to mystify 38 million+ people in my home state. But I digress… There are many reasons, but the most important to me is that San Francisco is where I learned how to cook. Part of that was out of necessity, with my daughter starting to eat solid food. But a lot of it had to do with the food culture here, and the peer group I fell into. That really propelled my pursuit of food as a defining aspect of my lifestyle, and is the reason I started writing about and eventually landed a career in food.
A friend of mine once described San Francisco as the older, more responsible sibling, forever jealous of all the cool parties that Los Angeles and New York get invited to. That inferiority complex plays a huge role in articulating this city’s ethos. But food is one area where SF holds its own. And the fact that New Yorkers are now gaga over Blue Bottle and Mission Chinese Food implies that we’re at least getting something right.
My Favorite Dish
Ice Cream. There’s definitely one thing San Francisco has over New York, and that’s ice cream. Granted, I haven’t been back to NYC in a year (which is, like, 50 in dog years, right?). Correct me if I’m wrong, but last I checked, people doing interesting things with ice cream was not yet a thing in NY. In 2010, Humphry Slocombe made the cover of The New York Fucking Times Magazine. That had to be an embarrassing moment for pastry chefs throughout the Tri-State Area.
No such paucity of third wave ice cream here. In a city best known for subjecting summering tourists to hypothermia, folks regularly wait in theme park-style lines at top creameries: Humphry Slocombe, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Smitten, to name a few. My favorite is Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. For me, chefs Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio strike an ideal balance between innovation and accessibility. Recommended flavors, Candied Violet, Orange Blossom, and (quintessentially San Franciscan) Fernet Branca.
- For an insider’s look at life in San Francisco, don’t miss Ben’s Instagram feed, where he shares excellent spontaneous street and portrait photography
- Heading to San Francisco? Check out my favorite guide to the city, Sourced Cities: San Francisco, edited by talented photographer and stylist, Chantelle Grady
Ben’s not the only one thinking San Francisco’s getting something right, food-wise. Here are two good reads guaranteed to make you hungry:
- 9 Dishes Worth Traveling to San Francisco For (yes, ice cream’s in there)
- 10 Foods From San Francisco I Want to Bring Back to NYC
Photo Credits: All pictures by Benjamin Rhau.