"To me, what's new and exciting is finding tomorrow's strawberries; I don't feel the need to foam them." — Judy Rodgers
Judy Rodgers ran her successful restaurant for 25 years, consistently producing great, memorable food year after year. No fancy magic tricks or conceptual tom-foolery, just the best roast chicken, the best Caesar salad, the best pillowy gnocchi you will ever have. Somehow, the restaurant managed to remain comfortable and reliable without becoming stodgy or boring, only getting better and more refined with time.
I lived just up the hill from Zuni Cafe for over 13 years and while I didn't dine there often, I did have several memorable meals tucked in one of the many nooks and corners of its wedge shaped building. I remember riding the bus past it in the evenings, when the restaurant would glow with a rich golden light and I would watch the waiters in their crisp white aprons polishing glasses and snapping tablecloths in the air. Seeing the Zuni Cafe all aglow was always reassuring, somehow.
A bigger influence for me was The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which I wrote about here last year. It's an amazing cookbook, consistently one of my top favorites for how it truly teaches the art of cooking, rather than slavish recipe following. Like the food at Zuni Cafe, like its author Judy Rodgers, it is generous and accomplished. It does not disappoint.