In our opinion, you can’t claim to be a connoisseur of San Francisco dining if you haven’t partaken in the wild and wonderful experience that is Foreign Cinema.
An eclectic French bistro-style dining establishment open since 1999, it’s been a staple of the city since the beginning, particularly well known for its al fresco patio dining, nightly foreign films, and the unforgettable, inventive menu. Now, all that magic has been bound up into a cookbook, published by Abram’s and available wherever books are sold as of this month.
In the same way that Foreign Cinema is so much more than a restaurant, their recently launched cookbook so so much more than a mere collection of recipes.
Vibrant with gorgeous photography, shot by acclaimed Bay Area photographer Ed Anderson, “The Foreign Cinema Cookbook: Recipes and Stories Under the Stars” is chalk full of food aimed to inspire excitement.
Co-owner of the beloved SF establishment and co-author of the book, Gayle Pirie, said she wanted their cookbook to be accessible to readers—even those without an extensive cooking background. She explained she envisioned the book to be something people could sift through and think, I could make that—I want to make that. The vivid and evocative layouts help further that mission, with each page exploring the unparalleled energy and personality of Foreign Cinema. One of her favorite sections, Pirie said, is the “Rear Window” spread, which she explained starts off the corresponding chapter with an arsenal of flavors.
Along with a love of the restaurant and guests that have been apart of her life since 1999, Pirie cited her late father as inspiration for getting the cookbook off the ground. He worked in the restaurant for years and had a unique and meaningful rapport with guests, she said, and this memory of him was something she wanted at the heart of this project.
When asked what it is about Foreign Cinema that has driven the restaurant’s mission forward for nineteen years, Pirie said it boils down to a few things: “Love of food, diversity, and love of the unusual helps the restaurant become an institution,” she said. “As a San Francisco native, The Mission has always embodied renaissance where art and community take place. Art, the public’s support, a loyal staff—all of these things are a testament to the fact that we are apart of the fabric of this city. [It’s] apart of the magic.”
It’s this very magic that keeps people coming back to the restaurant in troves. And, more likely than not, will inspire readers and cooks alike to pick up a copy of their new book.
“It can be really hard to encapsulate a restaurant in book form,” Gayle Pirie told Bob Cut, “But we were able to put ourselves into this. It really feels like us, it feels like John and Gayle.”
And it does, it really does.
// 2534 Mission St, Mission; amazon.com. Photography courtesy of Foreign Cinema and inline imagery by Isabella Welch.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.