On the list of things I’d like to eat for breakfast, I’m with the Vietnamese. I’m a fan of pho any time of day, but I love it for breakfast. But, I’m not talking about the kind made with instant broth from a seasoning packet. I asked one local establishment if their pho noodles were gluten free (as in, traditional rice noodles without added wheat product) and they said, “I don’t know, but here’s the packet of instant broth we use, you can read it to see if it’s gluten free.” That’s the same instant I decided they could pho(k) off.

Good beef stock is not impossible to make. Bro, you put some moose knuckle beef shin in a pot with water, skim the fat, then add vegetables and herbs (although the seasonings vary with the cuisine). It practically makes itself. Plus, you can have a stock making party and make a large amount, then freeze what’s left in small containers for quick soups later. So, why are we doing this? Why are we dumbing down our food culture? Settling for broth packets?

Some people would say, in this economy, restaurants just can’t afford to use quality ingredients because customers would be unable to pay higher prices.

Lies! When the economy is down, only the best restaurants should prevail. If we’re going to expect people to spend their hard earned money from jobs they probably hate and are likely underpaid for, you want them also to sacrifice pleasure and substance for some MSG-filled, overcooked, packet slop? That makes no sense.

Let me just qualify one thing: when I say only the best restaurants should prevail, I do not mean the most expensive ones. I’m talking about the ones where you can taste the difference. The ones serving real food. The ones you may visit a smidge less often because they’re a dollar or two more a plate.

Here’s another idea: learn to cook, chum-buckets. That’s how you can afford to eat well. Eat out for pleasure and socialization, not for convenience. If we compared food to sex (appropriate because the two are closely related), eating bad food daily is like taking home a random girl every week. Sure, it gets the job done, but what are you really experiencing? Eating well is like making love to someone you actually care about who is actually good in bed. You know all the good spots, and lay in their embrace afterward. See the difference?

Anthony Bourdain calls good pho a “Textural Disneyland” and I agree. The hot, silky broth, chewy rice noodles, invigorating spices, tender and rare beef that cooks only in the time between being dropped into the hot broth, and the time it reaches your mouth, along with cilantro, basil, and bean sprouts – it’s cause for salivation.

Visit us at and tell us where you go to find good pho in Chico. Ask the establishment how they make their broth. That’s the first step to good pho.

Jen Cartier misses Chico! However, she has taken to the great beyond (er...The Bay Area) to be some kind of chocolate maven while simultaneously figuring out how the hell to navigate her long-ass work commute, and still kick ass at raising three munchkins, loving one soon-to-be husband, and keeping one rascally Brittany Spaniel in the damned yard. She loves Nutella, red wine, and American Spirits. She takes her dog along on runs to wear him out (sometimes he shits in someone else's yard - bonus!) and also to balance her own general consumption of all the fine tasty things life offers, ciggys included. Follow her blog at