This week's tablehopper: suite judy blue eyes.

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40th birthday oysters and Billecart-Salmon. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Welcome back from your holiday weekend. How wonderful to have a couple of extra days off, I swear. Am currently enjoying a huge batch of jook I made with our leftover turkey, a simple and warm dish I will enjoy this week as the temperatures drop. Brrrrr.

So December is here (seriously, how the hell did THAT happen) and it’s time for some holiday cheer. I had fun as a guest of KRON4’s Vicki Liviakis in this special Dine and Dish holiday episode—I mention downtown places where you can grab a festive drink while shopping, plus holiday teas, and who is serving a seven fishes dinner for Christmas Eve this year (always one of my favorite meals of the year).

Just a little reminder: This week Quince is celebrating 10 years with a bunch of very special anniversary dinners from now until December 10th. There are available spots here and there; check out the amazing lineup of guest chefs here. I had a phenomenal meal there last week, and tried the new Quince tasting menu—the option to taste wine director Chris Baggetta’s wine pairings blind is a lot of fun, I recommend it.

Today, the culinary world has a heavy heart with the knowledge that our beloved Judy Rodgers, chef-partner of Zuni Café, has tragically left us. She was only 57 years old, and had been suffering from a rare form of cancer. I was discussing with a friend last night, as Alice is to Berkeley, Judy was to San Francisco. She gave us perhaps our most quintessentially San Franciscan restaurant, one that continues to bring us so much pleasure. A touchstone of quality, and style, and soul. Simplicity done right.

When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I made sure I was going to be at Zuni at the exact time of my birth, sitting outside in the sun, eating a half-dozen oysters and later some shoestring fries, with a glass of Billecart-Salmon in my hand, the smoky tinge in the air from the brick oven. I was happily by myself, just wanting to properly honor my own little landmark moment. I had so many memories in that space already. Dinners with past loves, drinks with past lovers. Where else would I go but Zuni?

All of us have such indelible memories of eating at Zuni—the silky ricotta gnocchi, the trademark anchovies and celery, the epic Caesar, and of course the famed roasted chicken with the warmed bread salad, a dish many San Franciscans would say would be one of their last if they were leaving the city. I know it’s one of mine. And yes, there’s that burger. Even watching Judy in this video making the Zuni burger with Martha Stewart, she is so full of information and tips. She has influenced so many cooks, and so many diners. Her legacy will live on, but right now, her death is such a terrible loss. Deep condolences to all her family and dear friends and colleagues, to everyone she touched. May they find some comfort in the fact that the gift of her many talents to our city is eternal.

Marcia Gagliardi

View tablehopper Newsletter from Tuesday, Dec 3 2013