Chow down: Part deux

Henri and K.B. give their own ‘Best Ofs’

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Editor’s Note: The following is the second part of a series of e-mails between two of our Chow writers—leaked to the Chico News & Review in late September. We have since learned that Dennis Hastert knew long before we did about their ongoing correspondence.

Dear Henri,

Clearly, some of the CN&R’s Best Of readers’ picks are in desperate need of—what would Henri call it?—a “redux.” To relieve our festering indignation, we should set things right. And while I’d suggest we get together—with an amusing Bordeaux, of course!—your rejection of my last two offers, besides riddling me with self-doubt, leads me to assume you would rather spend your time with Miss Marilyn and Charles Trenet.


P.S. I’m sorry that the onset of autumn has cast gloom upon your spirit. Personally, I’m looking forward to Osso Bucco, squash bisque and chewy red wines.

Mon Ami,

“Chewy red wines"? “An amusing Bordeaux"? Charles Trenet? Tres bon! And Henri would love nothing more than to set things right. For starters: Miss Marilyn and I are still in shock that one of our very favorite restaurants, Spice Creek Cafe, didn’t even get a mention. Certainly one of Henri’s “Best Ofs.” Maybe even “Overall,” right up there with the Red Tavern.

Bon apetit,



I agree. My picks for Best Overall: Red Tavern, 5th Street Steak House and Spice Creek … in that order. RT and 5th Street are nearly masters of their genre. Spice Creek, with its eclectic menu and vibrant flavors, is excellent; however, it’s too “all over the place” for me to grant it more than a “show.” Best Local Restaurant? Same as above, although, the category should be expunged altogether. If our readers ever picked a nonlocal restaurant as best overall, we’d be better off moving to Redding.

Two other categories that deserve realignment: Best Italian and Best Burger. Here the spoils went to the Italian Cottage and (yawn … ) Burger Hut—two establishments coasting on blind tradition and oozing complacency. Clearly, readers have not had Sicilian Café's lobster cannelloni or the Black Crow’s BC burger with applewood-smoked bacon and sautéed ‘shrooms.


Dear Mr. K.,

Realignment? Or just some instructions. Sacre bleu!

Spice Creek genreless? Perhaps. But that’s part of its charm, at least for moi. While Henri likes a well-defined bistro or steakhouse, he also appreciates a menu that features Thai, paella and meatloaf.

Puzzling, isn’t it, the Best Local Restaurant category? I suppose many readers might have voted for the French Laundry were they not so restricted. Henri also agrees with you on the BC’s burgers. Divine. Particularly with a side of garlic fries and a couple of glasses of that suprisingly, well, amusing Rosso Claret. Also, Mr. K., a little confession: Henri finds the burgers at the Oasis Bar and Grill superb. Nothing fancy—just big, juicy, handformed patties. And Monday nights, they’re two for one. I was in there one evening this summer and some nice boys in tops with numbers on them tried to explain to me what designated hitter means.

Best Italian? I wonder if voters go by name only, assuming that an Italian cottage must serve the best Italian food. Perhaps two of my favorites should change their names: to the “Sicilian It’s-a-Part-of-Italy Café” and “Caffe It’s-Italian-for-Café Malvina.”


Dear Henri,

Agreed! “O burgers” are great. Perhaps the burger category should be expanded to reflect different styles, prices and atmospheres. Also, many glorious taco trucks fail to get a nod for similar reasons: One has great carne asada, the other great al pastor, etc. However, not a one does anything so well to earn a “Best Of.”

I could go on, Henri, but I need to let the pain subside. I suggest next year’s Best Of include a tasting panel—a culinary electoral college rather than a popular vote. Like the votes cast for Bush … we know what’s best for everyone, right?


P.S. By the way, I’m just over 6 feet tall. Why?