Food history buffs, take note: a new digital book available for the iPad through Apple's iBookstore takes a behind-the-scenes look at some of the city's oldest restaurants that opened in the years after the 1906 earthquake. In Tables From the Rubble, author Denise E. Clifton steps inside five iconic San Francisco restaurants -- Swan Oyster Depot, Liguria Bakery, Sam Wo, The Palace Hotel, and House of Shields bar -- and tells their stories through historic and new photographs, menus, recipes, stories, and more.
Clifton got the idea for the book during a moment of inspiration at Swan Oyster Depot. "Swan has a little card on their counter with a couple of sentences about how it first opened in 1912, and as I sat there at the counter, I started imagining what San Francisco was like in those booming recovery years after the 1906 earthquake," she says. "I thought, there must be more places like this around the city - places where diners can have essentially the same food experience in the same physical spaces that opened after the quake."
She wrote a small story in the travel section of the Seattle Times, but felt that she hadn't done the material justice. "I knew the visual elements -- the historic photos, the menus, the opportunity for videos, the old map -- were rich and I wanted to tell the story as much through those images as through my writing," she says. Right around the same time Apple released the software iBooks Author, and Clifton knew what she had to do. So she took a leave of absence from her job as Director of Visuals at the Seattle Times and started spending time with the owners and families of these restaurants, crafting a narrative.
The result is an in-depth look at the city in the years after the quake, as well as a snapshot of where the restaurants are today. You can navigate through an interactive historic map, check out menus and photos from the restaurants a century ago, and also watch videos from the restaurants today. Watch foccacia being made at Liguria, see the oyster shuckers at work at Swan, and vicariously savor Manhattans at House of Shields, which didn't start serving women until 1972.
It's all pretty interesting, but best of all are the recipes, which include Green Goddess dressing from the Palace Hotel (both the original 1923 recipe and the 2012 update), a Boothby Manhattan from House of Shields, and the crown jewel, clam chowder from Swan.
"I was deeply honored that the Sanciminos gave me their Swan Oyster Depot clam chowder recipe," says Clifton. "Like everything they serve, t's simple and delicious and the key is the freshness. And they very rarely give that recipe out."
Download the ebook for iPad ($6.99) through the Apple iBookstore.