Wasting Time With Terrible Tapas and Aunt Alice

We wish we had found Alice “You mean you don’t have a custom-made, wood-burning-oven in your home?” Waters’ talk at the Black Mountain Institute interesting and inspiring.

But instead, we were treated to chestnuts like: “All children want is to be told they are loved…” and “If only I could’ve revealed to Bill Clinton the beauty of a single ripe peach!” (insert joke here)

Listening to someone so firmly wrapped in her Berkeley bubble that the real world never intrudes just made us hungry and wishful for a good meal.

So we wished we would’ve found the tapas at Firefly afterward at least slightly above average.

But they were a little bit below that (except for the merguez sausages); all of the bread was terribly stale, and the baked tilapia was stricken with such a strange, bathroom-chemical, freezer-burn smell that we declared it inedible and they had to remove it from the bill.

Our meal of four tapas and hot tea at Firefly came to $28 + a $6 tip, and we should’ve stayed in bed.

14 thoughts on “Wasting Time With Terrible Tapas and Aunt Alice

  1. I’ve only been to Firefly once, and while it wasn’t bad, it didn’t live up to the hype. It has a great buzz about it, but then so did Applebee’s when it first went to Fresno.

  2. Wow, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! Last I checked, Berkeley is doing something quite innovative in serving healthful food to school kids thanks to Chef Alice Waters. Hell, if only the rest of the nation can learn how to stop shoving mega corporate junk foods down our throats!

    OK, let me get off my political soapbox to get back to Firefly…

    Next time, go to the Downtown location and try my suggestions. The manchego mac & cheese really is quite amazing. Skip the mushroom tart and head directly for the tomato bisque with grilled brie mini sandwiches. And if you have to have meat, my dad said he liked the fried shrimp.

    And no, Firefly is no Applebee’s. ;-)

  3. Sorry “Lefty” (seems apropos) banning soda and forcing healthy food down kids’ throats is just a precursor to banning potato chips in vending machines for grown ups. Which is now about to become law in Cali.

    Its just a matter of time before that same Berkeley insanity prohibits Ruth’s Chris from finishing their steaks with butter (not healthy, dear) or outlaws the serving of “rare” hamburgers ( oh yeah, they already passed that law.)

    Berekely is ground zero for fascist nut jobs. Im sure if the kooks that live there had their way we’d all be emasculated little vegans munching our soy nuts (cut with beano of course, to reduce greenhouse gas.)

  4. Dave-

    Give me a break. No one is banning potato chips. And no, Ruth’s Chris won’t be going away any time soon. What we are talking about is giving kids a chance to learn how to have a healthful relationship with food.

    Last I checked, this nation has a HUGE obesity problem… Oh yeah, and not to mention diabetes, heart disease, and many other health problems that emerge from Americans’ unhealthful relationship with food. We’ve been conditioned by the “Big Ag” corporations to shove all these synthetic processed products down our throats, and it’s about time that we learn what real food is all about.

    You want to talk fascism, how about Cal Poly SLO muzzling Michael Pollan by make him fight a bunch of Big Ag apologists just to day something? Or how we’ve been fed GMO foods for so long without us knowing it?

    Last I checked, not just vegans but just about everyone I know who eats sustainably is living a much more healthier life. Maybe we need to stop listening to the corporate powers that be that deceive us into eating all that crap.

  5. god damn food nazi’s in california!!!!! govenor outlawed driving and talking on cell phones while driving, next thing ya know his was if photo’d driving while talking on a cell phone!!! foie gras production banned in sonoma, trans fats out lawed! whats next????
    americans are FAT, but ya know what its the parents job to teach kids to eat healthy, not the governments! hopefully the big earthquake comes soon and ‘flushes them all away’ (MJ Keenan)

  6. Staff-

    Heh. If that’s “utopia”, count me out. ;-)


    What’s next? Maybe a little more sanity? Foie gras is just a fancy form of animal abuse. If puppies or kitties were fattened up to be led to slaughter, I’m sure there’d be a mighty uproar to stop it.

    And no one is saying parents aren’t responsible for their kids’ upbringing. It’s just that it’s incredibly difficult for parents to do that these days when schools are pumping Big Ag junk food into the kids while all the “family friendly” TV networks have all these ads on basically asking kids to defy their parents’ wishes and make them buy whatever new “hot product” is on store shelves.

    Government is already telling us what to eat, but unfortunately it’s been a pawn of the Big Ag companies for far too long in giving away ridiculous crop subsidies using our tax dollars. Why should our government be a tool of ADM, Tyson, Nestle, Unilever, Philip Morris, et al., and unfairly subsidize corporate crap “food” over local, family-owned, sustainable American food?

  7. cattle are ‘fattened up’ and led to slaughter by the MILLIONS every year, dont see that being banned???!!!
    i am a proponent to sustainability, and the use of organics where possible. but then again we live in a DESERT, uhhhh not exactly the fertile cresent!!!! good food is out there and available, for anyone to say ‘poor me im brainwashed by big ag companies’ is pretty weak, people have a mind of their own and if they are too dumb to use it, then they get what they deserve!!!! as long as parents are the ones buying the groceries, ITS THEIR FAULT

  8. John, If the Alice Waters panel was so horrible then why did you bother to get up and ask a question? Did the curmudgeon, in front of you in line, wear off on you?

    Yes, Chef Waters is from Berkeley and Berkeley has a history of leaning far left, but her influence on the farm to table movement is unbelievable as is her influence on students in the Bay Area (and beyond) with regards to her Edible Schoolyard program. As a member of the education community we see on a daily basis that many parents are not teaching their children healthy eating habits or healthy life decisions. By introducing children, at a young age, to healthy eating, it is Chef Waters’ hope, as is the hope of many in education, that we can help these children (and maybe help out the state of heathcare in this nation.)

    I honestly do not know if you and I were at the same panel!

    I feel that it is wonderful that both the Black Mountain Institute and Three Square were able to sponsor such an inspiring panel of intelligent, well-spoken, and influential foodies. I can only hope that Las Vegas is more open to outside views and does not close itself off as you seem to have.

  9. ELV tries to avoid commenting on comments, as he has plenty of public forums for his voice, and prefers to let his readers vent, hash and thrash in whatever non-libelous prose they which to write.

    And we don’t wish to libel anyone (and therefore, do not make these statement as assertions of fact), but was it us or did Alice Waters appear to be either in some kind of shock, or under the influence of C2oH25N3O? (Glazed look, fondling the radishes, quavering voice, constantly on the verge of tears — she seemed to be taking earnestness to nervous breakdown proportions.)

    So antithetical is Las Vegas to everything she holds dear in her rich-hippy world, we wouldn’t blame her a bit if she had to take a hit of Blue Microdot, before getting off the plane.

    Unlike the panelists at the lecture, ELV considers the whole diet-nutrition-fresh food debate to be far more complicated (and overwhelming) than simply getting people (children) to appreciate an artisanal peach, and planting gardens in elementary schools. While these are admirable goals, the economics (and politics) of weaning Americans off of cheap processed foods goes far beyond the naive musings of a Berkeley restaurant owner and a guy who grows produce for high end eateries.

    The lecture was a feel-good exercise in spooning preachy pablum to the converted. Winning the hearts and minds of the masses who really need convincing (and in whose economic interest it is NOT to be convinced), is going to take a lot more work, a lot lower down the economic rung, than anyone on that panel is willing to do.

  10. The bread is ALWAYS stale there. I’m not sure why they can’t fix this simple error. Your description of the tilapia sounds disgusting. The one “plus” about (downtown) Firefly is the view of the Fremont Street Experience.

  11. ELV-

    I actually mostly agree with you. The politics of food is far more complicated than growing vegetable gardens in schoolyards. But to be fair, some of Alice Waters’ Bay Area colleagues are making great efforts to make the food in San Francisco public schools much more healthful. I just wish we can take this nationwide. It will probably be a Herculean effort to get Washington and Carson City lawmakers to ignore their corporate contributors, as well as to get more people to realize that all that processed food they buy at the mega mart is crap, but we really do need to start somewhere.


    Really? Last time I did Firefly Downtown, the bread didn’t seem all that stale. Maybe that was because I was one of the first tables seated that evening. Hopefully they’ll be more consistent on the bread and store it somewhere where it can stay fresher longer. Oh, and skip the tilapia and the “mushroom tart”. Please, please, just try the manchego mac & cheese! ;-)

  12. I wasn’t at the panel, so I’ll resist commenting on the comments.

    Instead, I’ll say that I am a fan of Firefly and what they do. I am a regular, and frequent, visitor. Occasionally, I’ll get a plate of stale bread; I mention it to my server, they apologize, head to the back, have a word with the kitchen, and not only does a new plate come out, but they rid the kitchen of the old stuff (I’ve witnessed it as I typically sit at the bar). Occasionally, an item that is usually very good comes out less than average; I send it back, and it comes back better. I’ve even ordered a “regular” item and was told that something was wrong with that day’s batch and they were not serving it. They key was engaging the staff and not expecting perfection for a quick-serve restaurant.

    Most patrons of Firefly go because they like the bar scene of the place; the food is a secondary concern to them. I go because I like both, but I also know what I’m getting into when I go. And, I’m prepared to send something back if it isn’t quite right.

    My favorite items? Chicken skewers, warm spinach salad, grilled octopus … But there are a few “unfaves” as well, especially the Tortilla Espanola since they gringoed it down and make it “less spicy” (read: bland).

    I think managed expectations is the key to enjoying anything. Firefly is no Raku, but my check is usually 1/3 of what I pay at Raku, too.

    Happy eating!

  13. The technique of force feeding birds began around 2500 BC in Egypt. Beef are not force fed, they are fed the wrong feed. When cows eat corn, especially genetically modified corn, they are more susceptable to E. coli hence the use of antibiotics.

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