Photo by Lydia Chávez

We can blame Chad Robertson for this. He’s set the gold standard by consistently turning out perfectly chewy/crusty/memorable loaves at Tartine Bakery.

When foodies make such a monumental deal about food, why shouldn’t we expect  perfection in every bite?  So, while others give you reviews, Perfect (or Not), launched on May 12, 2014, seeks perfection one dish at a time. 

Since launching Perfect (or Not), I’ve been eating a lot with that standard in mind and it’s hard to meet. There’s always something a little bit off.  But then I bite into a an ancient grain loaf from Tartine and decide that, no, perfection does exist.

I started thinking about Bi-Rite’s Mexican Chocolate ice cream with Salted Peanuts. I’m not a fan of chocolate, which is why I can still remember that first bite on a chilly fall day in 2008. Standing in the front of a fireplace, I felt the heat of Oaxaca on my face. The sweet bitterness of mole on my tongue. The memory of Rodrigo in my . . .

What I’m saying is, in my memory, it was perfect. But was it?  I went to Bi-Rite on Saturday to get some for dinner.

What? No Mexican Chocolate with Salted Peanuts? Crazed, I read over and over again the list of ice creams for sale on the fogged-up freezer door.  ARGH.

Maybe a pint was tucked away behind the prosaic vanillas and Salted Caramel. I opened the freezer door. Bi-Rate hates that, because it raises the temperature inside. But when you’re looking for perfection, you can’t let anything—consideration of others, global warming, whatever—get in your way.

A Bi-rite employee walked up. I closed the door.

“Seasonal,” said the cashier, by way of explanation. How can that even be possible? I could see where strawberry or peach ice cream could be seasonal. But chocolate and peanuts?

Well, it turns out the Hazelnut is good. But it isn’t perfect.  Still, nobody said this would be easy.

Until next week.

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I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

I provide editing support for Mission Local from New York, about 2500 miles away from SFO. (I just looked it up.) This allows me to retain my journalistic objectivity and fussy adherence to East Coast standards of punctuation. I got involved with Mission Local a few years ago through Lydia, whom I met in the early 1980s at The New York Times, where I was a business reporter. Since then I've been in and out of journalism and nonprofits, and have also tried my hand at fiction. A couple of years ago I contributed Mission Local's first fiction series, a comic novel called Love in the Middle Ages.

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