The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
December 16, 2014
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The dining room at Burma Superstar on Valencia. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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The bar area. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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The bar. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Eastland. It has been almost three years since we first reported on ~BURMA SUPERSTAR~ coming to Valencia Street, and after numerous check-ins with the staff (and Karl Hasz for construction updates!), we’re happy to say the opening will be just after Christmas. This is the fourth location for the local chain, joining the original on Clement Street, in addition to outposts in Oakland and Alameda.

The space is polished and comfortable, with a wall of warm-hued scallop tile in the dining room and bar. The scallop motif is repeated in a metal open-work wall against the back wall that separates the kitchen from the dining area without completely closing it off. The tables and chairs are made of warm, smooth wood, while the banquettes are a cool gray leather and the floor is a gray poured concrete. There are some Burmese antiques and objects throughout the space, as well.

The menu doesn’t differ from their other locations, but there is the exciting addition of a full liquor license and therefore a cocktail menu. Cocktails are all priced at $10 and are not overly complicated. Check out the Green Point (rye, sweet vermouth, yellow Chartreuse, and Angostura and orange bitters) or the Momo (tequila, lime, fresh tamarind juice, and Cointreau). There is a separate bar area off to one side, which is certainly welcome given the restaurant’s popularity and famously long wait times.

They’ve begun with some friends and family dinners this week while the kitchen ramps up for an opening planned just after Christmas. Some finishing touches are still being added to the space, as well. When they do open, hours will be 5pm-11pm daily, and lunch will be added in a few months. We’ll let you know! 211 Valencia St. at Duboce.

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The interior of Hogwash. Photo by Michael David Rose Photography courtesy UrbanDaddy.

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The impressive taps at Hogwash. Photo courtesy Hogwash.

A report by Dana Eastland. ~HOGWASH~, a new beer hall downtown, became the latest place for suds when it opened on Saturday December 13th. As we first mentioned in September, this beer bar comes from owners Nick Rothman and Paula Thompson, and offers a major selection of beers on tap (Rich Higgins assembled the list). There are 30 in all, from far and wide, including Hitachino White Ale (Japan), Fuller’s London Porter (London, believe it or not), and Monk’s Café Sour (Belgium). There are also lots of domestic taps on offer, including locals like Almanac, Lagunitas, and Magnolia. Here’s the whole list, with a handy glassware guide, too. The beer selection will change often, but the goal is to make sure that it is well rounded and that there is something for everyone, from the intense beer nerd to the casual sipper. Thompson emphasized that they are focused on hospitality and welcoming everyone, because really, beer is all about socializing, right?

The space was designed by Lauren Geremia of Geremia Design and has a modern, sleek feel, with warm touches. Eater snapped some great pictures last week, if you’d like to see a slideshow. There is a lot of oak and steel, as well as some warm brick touches and mod white paneling on the walls that keep it from falling into the ubiquitous reclaimed-everything trap we see so much of. The stunning high ceilings have been stripped to reveal exposed timbers, with modern globe light fixtures and wall sconces keeping the space geometric and clean. The taps behind the long wood bar are backed with marble, too, which is one of the touches that makes the space feel more sophisticated than the average beer hall.

There’s food, too, mostly in the form of housemade sausages and snacks. Morgan Hamm of Le Beau Market crafted the menu, which includes a breakfast-style pork sausage served with a fried egg, a lamb sausage, and even a vegetarian option made with squash and barley. There are also salads and a few snack bites like fries, pretzel bites, and fried pickles. Check out the menu right here. For now, they are open daily 6pm-1am, but plan to add lunch service soon. 582 Sutter St. at Mason, 415-361-5500.

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Justin and Jerad Morrison of Sightglass Coffee. Photo: Michael O’Neal.

The Divisadero Corridor is about to have another icon of our local coffee roasting scene join the coffee klatsch: ~SIGHTGLASS COFFEE~ is going to be opening a café in the former KJ Produce Market on Divis at Page. I spoke with brothers Justin and Jerad Morrison, who just returned from a sourcing trip to Ethiopia, and they confirmed the news—they just secured the space a couple of months ago. They have actually been talking to the landowner for more than a year and are so excited to be opening one of their cafés so close to where they live (they both live nearby).

Their plans for the 2,000-square-foot space (it’s double the size of their recently opened Mission location) are still being fine-tuned, but one thing they are very sure of is they want to maximize it as much as they can. They are keen to create a space that will accommodate as many people as possible, giving the community a place to hang out and enjoy getting together over a cup of something delicious—which means there won’t be roasting on site. Justin alluded to a couple of fun features that will be coming, but they can’t reveal just yet what those things are. #teaser

Boor Bridges will continue to be their architect of record for this location, and it looks like they will have access to the space in early February—it’s currently being structurally upgraded. Realistically, we can hope to enjoy a shot of Owl’s Howl around the end of summer. Hoot! 301 Divisadero St. at Page.

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The exterior at Weaver’s. Yelp photo by Susie W.

Hoodline reports that the Castro has yet another spot for caffeination, ~WEAVER’S COFFEE & TEA~. It’s the second location from the San Rafael-based roaster John Weaver, who was a roaster at Peet’s before starting his own company. The glassy space is in the same building as Fitness SF and also has a patio out front that should be open in the spring. Hours are Mon-Thu 5am-12am, Fri 5am-11pm, Sat 5am-10pm, Sun 6am-9pm. 2301 Market St. at Noe, 800-328-1178.

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The interior of Lale. Yelp photo by Cherylynn N.

Hoodline reports that the former Villa Romana, which closed earlier this year after almost 60 years, has reopened as ~LALE~. The fabulously vintage space has been completely redone, sadly, and the result is rather generic, though reportedly the enclosed back patio has been revamped, which is nice. The owner is Suzan Sarikurt, who is looking to her Turkish heritage for inspiration. The menu offers breakfast dishes like omelets and eggs Benedicts, as well as Turkish-inspired lunch options including wraps and flatbreads. They are also doing a lot of baking in-house, with many daily specials on offer. Recently, housemade English muffins and jam were on the menu. Hours are 8am-3pm daily; dinner service should be coming soon. 731 Irving St. at 9th Ave., 415-566-8814.

David Lawrence and Monetta White of ~1300 ON FILLMORE~ have a new project in the works, according to ABC license activity. Scoop reports that details are slim (there’s not even a name yet), but that a barbecue project is rumored (considering the name on file is Black Bark, it makes me hope for some brisket). We do know that the location is across the street from 1300 on Fillmore, and they hope to open in April. 1325 Fillmore St. at Ellis.

As reported last month, the Tenderloin’s ~BURMESE KITCHEN~ had to close after a landlord dispute. In an interesting turn of events, it looks like Burmese Kitchen will now be opening in the former To Hyang space, which closed earlier this year, also due to landlord issues. The Burmese Kitchen website calls the move a temporary pop-up, but they’ve also applied for a liquor license, which seems to suggest a more permanent situation. 3815 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave.

Here’s some very unfortunate news: it seems that the Fire Department had to pay a visit to ~TBD~ twice last Thursday. Eater reports that their fire suppression system went off during a corporate holiday party around 7pm in the evening, spraying the kitchen with foam and setting off lots of alarms. The Fire Department came and gave them the all clear, though they did have to send all the guests home. Then, around 1am, employees at AQ saw smoke coming from the building. It looks like there was a fire between TBD and neighboring De La Paz Coffee Roasters, and both buildings sustained significant fire and water damage. TBD is closed until further notice, though they hope the repairs will only take a week (though it’s a big week, with holiday parties and festivities). De La Paz is also closed, but will be roasting at Four Barrel in the meantime, so there shouldn’t be any issues with their bean distribution. 1077 Mission St. at 7th St., 415-431-1826.

This one just came through just in time for inclusion today, and it’s an inspiring one. ~HULI HULI HAWAIIAN GRILL~ is opening in Bayview early next year. The project is run by Project Bayview, a residential ministry committed to helping people in the neighborhood stay on track and building community within the neighborhood. Director Shawn Sanchez, who hails from Bayview, says they wanted to fund the ministry’s projects through work, so the idea for the restaurant was born. They’ve been working on the back garden of their building (it’s more than 100 years old), as well as the interior, and plan to open in February 2015. The food is Hawaiian-style barbecue, using high-quality meats and produce. They’ll also be offering healthful vegetarian options, including a kale salad. To keep everything accessible, they’ll keep menu prices around $8. Sanchez said that though they do have a good story, they want to be known first for their excellent food and inclusive atmosphere, and the story is secondary. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this project’s opening! 4100 3rd St. at Hudson.

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The pulled pork sandwich on farmerbrown’s new lunch menu. Photo from Facebook.

~FARMERBROWN~ is now open for weekday lunch, Monday through Friday from 11am-2:30pm. It’s really nice to see them get some daytime action, after holding down that corner for so many years. On the menu, you’ll find their seasonal soul food, including the famed fried chicken and waffles, and salads and sandwiches including a pulled pork sandwich and a burger. This also means that the bar will be open all day, beginning at 11am until closing, serving drinks and snacks like barbecue chips, pickled okra, and spiced nuts. In April, they plan to add weekday breakfast, too—score!

Looking for a good brunch spot for groups? ~THE HALL~ is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-2pm. All the vendors have special brunch menus on offer, with dishes like baked Moroccan French toast, a goat cheese and egg tagine, and classic eggs Benedict. They’ve also got bottomless mimosas, micheladas, and shandies for $10.28, and live music. Fun! 1028 Market St. at 6th St., 415-558-8293.

~RAMEN SHOP~ is now open on Tuesdays from 5pm-10:30pm, which means they can now take care of your noodle-slurping needs seven days a week.

Things really are changing around here. ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ is now accepting reservations, according to a tweet.

December 12, 2014
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The colorful and old school calendars from Roosevelt Tamale Parlor.

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Sweet dreams are made of these pepperoni.

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The fully loaded gift box from Luke’s Local.

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The very sexy Gabriel-Glas universal wineglasses.

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Sherry the book and sherry the beverage. Photo from Merchants of Beverage.

If you are looking for some ideas on what to get the gourmand in your life (or just a sibling who happens to be bonkers for pizza), here are a few holiday gift ideas that have caught our eye (and fancy).

Our main man Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books did an excellent roundup of holiday cookbooks for you to check out (and don’t forget: tablehopper readers get 20 percent off—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout, either at the store or online, for your discount). Shop local!

One more book to add: there’s a new companion to last year’s Arts & Eats book by Susan Kay and Teri Hauswirth: the Arts & Eats Oakland Cookbook. This clever book with a mission features recipes from 25 Oakland restaurants, including A16 Rockridge, Cosecha, Dopo, Flora, Fusebox, Hawker Fare, Juhu Beach Club, Kronnerburger, Miss Ollie’s, Pizzaiolo, and Ramen Shop, paired with art from Creativity Explored artists.

All proceeds from the book will benefit Creative Rescue, an organization devoted to rescue animals, and Creativity Growth, an artists’ organization for developmentally disabled adults in Oakland. Copies are available online, at some local bookstores, or the Creative Growth Art Center. A steal for $20.

Good news: The ~ROOSEVELT TAMALE PARLOR~—which has served Mexican food since 1922—has brought back their colorful calendars, and they’re just $10. It’s a fun way to show and share local (and Mission) pride. 2817 24th St. at York.

Pizza bed? Pizza bed! For your ultimate pizza-lovin’ fanatic, all you need to do is contribute to this Kickstarter and you can preorder a pizza bed set—with a duvet cover, sheets, and pillowcases—which will be delivered (in a pizza box, natch) a couple of months later. Now eating pizza in bed can hit an entirely new level. So meta.

There are gift baskets (i.e., a random hodgepodge of rose-scented body lotion and bath salts—no, hopefully not that kind—with a porcelain swan to put next to your bathtub) and then there are gift baskets (see these below). If you have an office you need to send a thank-you to, take a look at this year’s baskets from Nana Joes and Luke’s Local. The Nana Joes basket is packed with Michelle Pusateri’s awesome granola, fab cookies, Tony’s trail mix, granola bars (love them), and orange-spiced mixed nuts (and everything in the basket is vegan and gluten-free). You can order it on Nanajoes.com ($40) and Goodeggs.com, or pick them up at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Mateo Market, and Temescal Farmers Market.

The folks at Luke’s Local artisan food delivery service are offering three curated gift boxes, and they come in a handmade redwood box. What’s great is you can have them delivered too (serving San Francisco, South Bay, and the East Bay)! The boxes come with an array of locally made goodies, like Nosh This Almond Crack, 4505 chicharrones, and there’s some seasonal fruit in there too (move over, Harry & David). Take your pick from three different boxes ($40-$80); available now through Friday December 19th.

Have you had a chance to check out ~LES CLOS~ yet and enjoy a glass of wine? Because if you have, you probably freaked out over their gorgeous Gabriel-Glas wineglasses. (I sure did.) It ends up Les Clos is selling two-pack gift boxes of these mouth-blown “universal” Gabriel glasses, the “One for All” lead-free crystal wineglass from Austria. $110. (Hey, at least you can use them for everything.)

The folks at Merchants of Beverage are also offering some great gift packages, like this set of two Zalto flutes with a bottle of 2000 Krug (ohhhh yeahhhh) or with a bottle of André Clouet rosé instead (another fabulous bottle). I also dig this Celebration of Sherry package, with three sherries curated by Talia Baiocchi and her brand-new book, Sherry.

If you’re looking for ideas on new spirits/beer/bartending books to gift, my pal Camper English at Alcademics had this handy recap of recently published books.

For the burgeoning wino in your life, Charlotte Chipperfield of The Wine Key (you can read her wino piece on tablehopper here) is offering a new online wine course starting in January, The Wine Foundations. It’s a four-week virtual wine course designed to be an introduction to the world of wine, covering everything: the vineyards, winemaking, how to taste, food and wine pairings, and more. It’s designed for individuals who love wine and want to learn more, but aren’t aspiring to become wine professionals. $125. And you can drink from home while “studying.”

Lastly, if you’re thinking of gifting someone a gift certificate to a restaurant, please consider buying a Sharetable.org restaurant gift certificate. These $50 gift certificates result in a $5 donation (enough to feed 15 people!) to the SF-Marin Food Bank.

You can get gift certificates to these restaurants: Ame, Aziza, Bar Agricole, Boulevard, Camino, Coi, Commonwealth, Cotogna, Delfina, Foreign Cinema, Frances, Humphry Slocombe, Ichi Sushi, Jardinière, Locanda, Mission Chinese Food, Namu Gaji, Nopa, Nopalito, Outerlands, Pizzeria Delfina, Prospect, Quince, Rich Table, and State Bird Provisions. They can be ordered online (Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery are available online only) or you can pick them up at Linea Caffe/Lt. Waffle (3417 18th St. at San Carlos).

Happy Holidays, everyone!

December 9, 2014
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Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Friends and family dinner service in full swing. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Busy plating in the kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chef Stuart Brioza leading staff lineup. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The salted plum Negroni. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The dining room’s booth seating. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A view of the steel-backed booths. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Banquette seating and skylights. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The view looking out from the chef’s table mezzanine. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The intimate chef’s table. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The second mezzanine (opening at a later date). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Configuring, plating. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A plate of snacks. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The radicchio and ricotta dish. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The sunchoke roti dish, freshly plated in the kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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“Treasures” hiding in the bowl before a pork broth is poured over. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Lamb scaloppini. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Jasmine-poached fruits, greengage plum jam, and ricotta whey, and honey-cocoa ice cream. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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General manager and wine director Jason Alexander. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

The second album. In the world of music, it can come with a sort of curse (the sophomore slump) if your first was the breakaway hit, the chart burner, the soundtrack to the summer. In the restaurant world, things are a bit more open-ended. The second can be better, faster, stronger than your first (thanks, experience). Or it can be the moneymaker, the pet project, the homage to your heritage, or the casual little offshoot. Or in the case of ~THE PROGRESS~, it can be the concept you originally wanted to launch with, but strategically held on the back burner for some years, letting it steep and develop until the time was right.

This space has been sitting vacant the last couple of years, quietly waiting for its close-up, while State Bird Provisions blossomed and blew up next door. Owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski have been busy tending to their culinary wildfire. But slowly and surely, the entire building has become an integrated whole, with The Progress to the left, State Bird Provisions to the right, and now above, a new butchery room, pastry room, and a (distant) future event space.

The fortuitously named Progress Theatre opened in this Fillmore location in 1911, and now, a different kind of theater is unfolding: a poignant, flavor-saturated viewing (in CinemaScope!) of Part II of our NorCal New Wave (NorCal Nouvelle Vague?), starring Stuart Brioza as our Jean-Luc Godard (or maybe our Jean-Paul Belmondo), so our dear Nicole Krasinski can be our Jean Seberg, because they leave so many of us breathless.

The alchemy these two create is potent, and it isn’t something you can pin down like a butterfly. It doesn’t want to be boxed and classified (“Blue Morpho”). Ask them for details about The Progress and you can have a circuitous conversation for 20 minutes. You almost feel guilty for prying. But later on, Stuart will drop in with this: “The menu is about the enjoyment of what we want to cook.” He mentions past travels, past meals: “We are cooking from our past, while informing the future.” Progress.

And Stuart and Nicole also don’t really want to talk too much about themselves—they want you to talk to their team, their partners in the work. In my 12 years of interviewing chefs, it’s so rare to have someone shove the light off themselves so authentically. Stuart and Nicole are proud of who they craft and create with; it’s like they don’t want to be the obvious favorites in their family.

Is it the new California culinary commune? Their restaurant house does have an air of bohemianism to it all, but with a firm foundation of expertise and insight—and drive. A love of tinkering, improving, pushing. Collaboration. Talent. Good people. Soul. Progress, powered by curiosity and creativity and play. Pretension is not invited.

Walking into The Progress, you’ll see the first new addition to the house: the inviting and quietly elegant bar. There are some seats and tables flanking the front window, made of a milky glass that refracts the lights outside and the silhouettes of passing cars and people into an ambient cinematic backdrop. The bar manager is Bryan Hamann, most recently at Monsieur Benjamin, and previously at Starbelly and RN74. His menu exhibits the same zeitgeist as the kitchen: experimental and handcrafted and creative, from his Negroni made with umeboshi vermouth (the salty notes bring an aperitivo-like vibe to the drink, whetting your appetite), and The Mezzanine, an homage to the space’s former theater incarnation that brings mezcal, housemade banana liqueur, a nocino rinse, lime, and allspice into a smoky yet unexpectedly bright cocktail.

He will be there at 5pm daily with his talented and friendly bar team, before the dining room opens, ready to greet you with cocktails that are either twists on classics or original creations ($10-$12). There are 12 seats at the bar, plus plenty of counters where you can stand (meet your new waiting room) and a little niche with two tables.

The main dining room has 54 seats, and the 23-foot vaulted ceiling makes such an impression. On the right is a wall of exposed lath, with a curving portion in the middle that resembles the hull of a vintage ship. The ceiling is a lacquered and bright white, charmingly revealing the imperfections of its century-old surface. To the left are banquettes and tables, and to the right, four booths with curving steel benches tucked under the “hull.”

In the back is the kitchen, open and alive, with some softly smoky notes coming from the custom J&R wood-fired grill (Stuart had J&R turn its rotisserie into a kind of smoke box, where ingredients can bask in the wafting smoke from the grill for hours, without being traditionally smoked).

Above the kitchen is a mezzanine with a round chef’s table that seats eight—kitchen staff will serve the initial courses to those diners. There’s another mezzanine in the front of the restaurant with two tables (seating 16-20 total) that will be opened in time. It’s apparent that they’re looking forward to serving large groups.

Like the kitchen, the dining room is all about craftsmanship (and like State Bird, Wylie Price is behind the interior design). The notable woodwork, by Kelly Best, includes the bar and curving-edge tables made from a cypress tree that fell in the Presidio (of course sourced by Evan Shively) that feel so good to touch. The wine table is another beautiful piece, with such soft edges and the grain masterfully matched down its center seam. Best also made the angular chairs that have a good heft to them, the white oak floors, and the bannisters, with posts whose tops mimic the curving shapes of the ceiling.

The entryway has textured walls (Stuart carved a pattern into the plaster with a trowel), and the metalwork is by Luigi Oldani (he’s behind the bar stools). Counterpoints to these industrial touches are the terra-cotta-esque tiles reminiscent of an old French farmhouse kitchen floor, and smoky topaz lights blown by Alex MacDonald (Palanquin). The crane neck lamps curving off the steel beams in the dining room are originals made by Luigi and Wylie, plus they made the bases to the tables. Every element reminds you we live in a community of craftspeople, and there’s nothing like custom work. And then you go to the restroom, and you are transported to a glitter galaxy. Whoa, I just took a left at Albuquerque. Fun!

Are you ready for dinner? Let’s do this. Where State Bird is all about feeling like a culinary cocktail party of your dreams, with waves of canapés, The Progress is more like an adventurous family meal. Your table can choose from five dishes ($54 per person), seven dishes ($68), nine dishes ($82), or the imperial menu ($108). There are three different sections (plus dessert), grouped by lighter to meatier dishes, around 15 in all; and there are add-ons too, like oysters.

You’ll need to form a quorum at your table about which dishes to order (you will check off little boxes on the menu) since they will be served in a communal fashion. Yes, it’s the next generation of share plates, since the kitchen will be paying keen attention to how many people are dining at your table and tailoring your dishes accordingly. They will be portioned and plated, beautifully so, designed to visually inspire (without too much tweezering) and be an easy interaction. There will be no cutting of an ingredient into a little bite and trying to get the garnish divvied up just so before you pass a tiny share plate. Because that’s not fun. And it’s not like a tasting menu, with one dish (often tediously) coursed at a time—dishes will come out together in waves. And they will come out with urgency.

The meal starts with an opening salvo of snacks that will set the tone for what’s to come. On the first friends and family night, the abundant plate included a potato croquette with garlic aioli, housemade lap cheong sausage with toasted peanuts, pickled and raw turnip with whipped goat cheese, and a squid ink cracker with smoked trout. You can eat that turnip with your hands, or you can scoop it up with a little spoon, or spear it with a fat toothpick. It isn’t about everyone having their own dainty plate—it’s about your table getting in there together. It’s about breaking down barriers at the table with a shared experience. Stuart says: “It’s about the simple act of joy when you’re sharing food.”

And it’s also unabashedly about pleasure that’s a bit gleefully gluttonous. Nicole charmingly notes: “We don’t like to have people wait for food. We want to hit it fast and let you taste right away! It makes you excited for the rest of the menu.”

My first dish at the friends and family night was a bowl of different radicchios, golden beets, watermelon radish, and fresh housemade ricotta with a surprise of jalapeño-spiked mandarin gelée at the base, topped with popped amaranth and chervil, which segued quickly to a geoduck clam “cocktail,” cool and lively with the bright notes of carrot.

While State Bird Provisions is known for its savory pancakes, The Progress plunked down its own weapon of mass deliciousness: their version of roti, with tender and elastic and lightly blistered folds, insouciantly placed on the plate (actually very carefully) like crumpled sheets on a bed. It comes showered in black truffle from Burgundy, with sunchokes (both pickled and raw), a truffled buttermilk ranch dressing, and rosemary oil—it’s earthy and frisky and demands to be eaten with gusto. The food was so vibrant, with texture apparent in every dish.

It was tremendously insightful to be present at lineup, when the kitchen describes and walks the staff through the complex dishes before service. The technique and number of ingredients that go into each dish are staggering. I could barely keep up with my pen as Stuart walked the staff through the preparation of the (Don Watson) lamb scaloppini and every component on the plate—the pea greens, the sauce, the cipolline, the crumble on top—let alone be able to commit it to memory to recite to guests later.

Stuart’s right-hand man in the kitchen is chef de cuisine John Becker, who worked at Boulevard and helped open Prospect with Ravi Kapur. But John has spent the bulk of his time in New York (nine years) cooking with Michael White’s group (Ai Fiori) and Alain Ducasse (Gilt and Alain Ducasse at the Essex House). It ends up he was a culinary fixer of sorts for Stuart and Nicole whenever they had New York appearances, helping them find kitchen space and cooks for their events.

John is inspired by the creative process of making The Progress’ menu approachable and scalable and is enjoying the new scope of ingredients he gets to utilize after being in such a strict Italian pantry (how’s it going, sake lees). He says it’s good to be back in the bounty of California seasonality.

I asked him if he had a favorite dish on the opening menu, and he tells me how their creamy pork broth (with miso sausage meatballs, pumpkin mochi, kimchi, fresh-grated pumpkin, black butter, fresh pumpkin oil) was inspired by a late-night meal in New York’s Midtown at Pocha 32 almost two years ago. He brought Stuart and Nicole to try the boodae jungol, which comes terrifyingly loaded with kimchi, spam, hot dogs, pork, ramjun noodles, rice cake, mushrooms, vegetables, and the kicker: mozzarella cheese on top. Stuart was justifiably suspicious. But after that bowl hit the table, everyone started digging in, each bite or spoonful yielding a new surprise. They ended up calling it treasure chest soup, and wanted to transport some of that joy and delight of finding little treasures in your bowl to this new dish of their own.

Like its name, the cuisine at The Progress is meant to be an evolution of State Bird—symbiotic, but different. Of course you can note the bloodline. There are no regional specifications, and each dish is massively layered in flavor—even the simplest ingredients are always touched in some way, whether they are lightly pickled or lingering in the smoke box by the grill all day. The menu will evolve hour by hour, this week, now, and forevermore. It’s what they do.

Expect more composed desserts at The Progress—Nicole and Mikiko Yui (who has been promoted to co-pastry chef) will be assembling smaller tastes and garnishes that play well together, and riffing on themes like honey. Nicole wants the desserts to be an easy landing pad after experiencing so many flavors during dinner.

You’ll have your choice of ice cream or sorbet for dessert (you’ll actually have your very own bowl, no more sharing), with a plate of accompaniments. The friends and family menu featured a prune poached in jasmine tea syrup that is tempura-fired to order, slices of a buckwheat honey and yuzu-poached pear, and agar jellies (including a poppy seed and ricotta whey jelly), with greengage plum jam, and a sabayon-like dollop of creamy goodness on top. It was sophisticated, fascinating, and the many notes (like sweet, acidic, earthy, floral) and flavors combined to form a love letter to fall (while reminiscing a bit about summer).

The ladies are so fired up about their new ice cream machine—we tried a haunting honey-cocoa ice cream, resting on a base of huckleberries poached in rose hips, with a touch of olio nuovo and a final flourish of gold leaf. (Because why not? Decadence is fun. And Nicole likes sparkle.) I also got a taste of persimmon sorbet, so beguiling, which has me eager to have my own bowl—it’s like Nicole is a forest nymph who has private conversations with fruits and gets them to divulge their secrets.

And the dishes! The platters! The bowls! It’s a big part of the experience. Such beautiful pottery, all handmade by Mary Mar Keenan (MMclay), who shares a studio with Loring Sagan (and Stuart made his pottery there as well), just behind the original Blue Bottle kiosk/garage on Linden. The five glazes are all in natural tones, like dove gray and taupe (actually, the much-more evocative moonshadow and white chamois), and everything was fired at a really high temperature (I was schooled about cone 10), creating durability and a unique texture and pattern. They hold temperature so effectively. It has become a collection of tableware called The Progress Collection, which you can purchase, and here’s a great interview with her about it.

We need to round out this epicurean experience with a bottle of something special. As mentioned previously on tablehopper, wine director and general manager Jason Alexander has emerged from the wine world and returned to the restaurant floor with this project. He has been friends with Stuart for 13 years, and they are both grooving on recently entering their 40s—Jason is keen and ready to contribute his perspective on progress in the world of wine.

Obviously it’s an exciting time in California right now, and his list will reflect that, with about 50 percent of the selections pulled from our crop of Californian winemakers who are pushing boundaries and exploring new expressions. The remainder of the list will look worldwide, to places like the Loire (and even the Canary Islands), where young winemakers are doing their own thing, and highlighting exciting wines, unusual wines, and personal wines with a story and soul.

For now, there are about 120 selections, which will grow, with lots of bubbles, and some racy rieslings that finish bone dry. There will be a tight by the glass selection, with nightly selections poured en magnum, likely a sparkling and a red, and other fun presentations. Value is important, with bottles mostly ranging in the $30s, $40s, and $50s. But considering Jason’s polished background (Cyrus, Gary Danko), there’s also going to be a curated list of cellar selections, featuring great properties and vintages, and yes, some values there too. (You can’t have progress without some classics.)

Joining him on the floor is Betsy Ross (Jardinière, Aveline) and Diana Peschel. Warmth and genuine hospitality are hallmarks of this house, and you’ll be in the best of hands for this new experience.

Dinner service begins nightly at 5:30pm (the bar opens at 5pm), and will run until 10pm Sun-Thu and until 11pm Fri-Sat.

The opening is targeted for Tuesday December 16th, or possibly sooner, it’s hard to pinpoint. You can keep an eye on The Progress’ website to see when their OpenTable reservations open (people, please, don’t crash the system). Follow along on Twitter for updates.

A sincere thank-you to Stuart and Nicole for allowing me to document and experience the first meal at The Progress. It was so personal, and a privilege to witness their process.

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The interior at SOMA Eats. Photo courtesy SOMA Eats.

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A bowl of ramen from Odang. Photo from Facebook.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, SoMa is getting a new café in the form of ~SOMA EATS~. The project comes from husband and wife Oussama Mannaa and Shirley Azzghayer, who have owned neighboring SOMA Wines and Spirits for years. The café will be open for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour, and has actually absorbed the spirits shop as an accompanying bottle shop. The café offers Sightglass coffee, along with menu choices for dine-in or takeout. The menu has classic café offerings, many with an international spice element, including za’atar and sumac. At breakfast, there’s a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, or a Greek yogurt parfait with housemade granola and fresh fruit. Lunch selections are primarily in the salads and sandwiches vein, including a slow-roasted lamb sandwich with date almond relish and arugula. Take a look at the menu here.

As for the bottle shop component, you’ll find more than 200 beers, including local suds like Almanac saison, as well as local wines. There is also a “liquor library” with special spirits, including Sonoma rye whiskey from Sonoma County Distilling. Beer and wine can be purchased at the shop and then consumed at the café, though spirits can only be purchased and then taken home. Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-10pm and Sat-Sun 9am-10pm. 186 2nd St. at Howard, 415-543-7662.

There are some very positive Yelp reports for food truck ~ODANG UDON~. They’re at the Duboce Truck Stop Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11am-2pm, serving noodles that are made fresh daily. A sample menu shows a few different udon choices, including one with marinated steak and a Japanese curry style bowl. 55 Duboce Ave. at Woodward, 510-701-1701.

In Noe Valley, ~BOM DIA~ is now open. It’s an updated, more upscale version of a corner store, with artisanal products sharing the shelves with the usual staples. In addition to the retail side of things, they’ve also got Four Barrel coffee, tea drinks from Samovar, plus a deli counter with dishes inspired by the Mediterranean. Hours are 7am-10pm daily. 1598 Sanchez St. at 29th St., 415-801-5519.

For those who work downtown, there is a new location of ~PEASANT PIES~ in the Financial District. Their savory hand pies are available with a variety of fillings, including vegan and vegetarian options. Their combo meals are a pretty good deal too: you get one pie plus your choice of soup or salad for $7.10. Here’s the menu. 303 Sacramento St. at Front, 415-576-1176.

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Troya on Fillmore’s new sign. Photo from Troya.

There have been some changes at ~TROYA FILLMORE~, as well as at the Clement Street location. From now on, Troya will only have one location, on Fillmore Street; the Clement location has become Kitchen Istanbul and is now headed up by a former Troya partner. The Fillmore restaurant has a larger kitchen and will allow the owners to expand the menu and the wine list over the next few months. A new menu will launch in late January, with a renewed focus on regional wines and dishes from the Eastern Mediterranean, instead of offering almost exclusively Turkish cuisine. Brunch hours will be added on Saturdays and Sundays; they’ll be open all day, from 10am to 10pm on weekends. They will also be making some renovations to the space with the help of the Bon Vivants, with the exciting addition of a new brick oven for baking flatbreads and other items. At this time, they aren’t anticipating any closures for the renovations.

If you’d like to check out some of the new direction they’re taking the menu, you can at a five-course pop-up at Naked Kitchen on Friday February 13th from 7pm-10pm.

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A dish from Woodward’s Garden. Photo by John Clayton via Woodward’s Garden.

After closing their Mission location this summer, Margie Conard and Dana Tommasino of ~WOODWARD’S GARDEN~ have been popping up around town. Their next series of dinners is happening at Black Point Café on Thursday December 11th, Friday December 12th, Saturday December 13th, Friday December 19th, and Saturday December 20th. The three-course dinners offer your choice of seasonal dishes, including appetizers like chicken liver toasts with sage, capers, and chicory salad; a fish stew with fennel, leeks, tomato, crostini, and smoked saffron aioli for the entrée course; and a Tcho bittersweet chocolate torte with huckleberry for dessert. Check out all the menu choices here.

Tickets for the Fri-Sat dinners are $65 per person and include food, tax, and gratuity (walk-ins are also welcome). Beverages are BYO. On Thursday December 11th, they are co-hosting the event with some special holiday shopping items; call 415-621-7122 for reservations and more information. 882 North Point St. at Larkin, 415-621-7122.

Jay Porter, owner of ~THE HALF ORANGE~ in Oakland, also has a project in the works called Salsipeudes (we’ve reported on both in the past). Salsipuedes is still a work in progress, but you can get a taste of what he’ll be offering on Sunday December 14th at The Half Orange. He’ll be serving a seven-course tasting menu of the type of food they plan to serve once Salsipeudes is open, including a koji-marinated Pacific octopus, dashi, jalapeño-mint sauce, and Ensenada olive oil. Take a look at the menu here. Seatings are at 5pm and 7:30pm, and tickets are $45 per person, with beer and cider pairings available for an additional $25. 3340 East 12th St. at 33rd Ave., Oakland, 510-500-3338.

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Charles Phoenix and a recent holiday project: the light-up Jello Christmas tree. Photo from Facebook.

Local drag superstar Peaches Christ has teamed up with Charles Phoenix, the Ambassador of Americana himself, to bring you a very special holiday fest on Sunday December 14th. The evening is a celebration of all sorts of holiday kitsch, with a retro holiday slideshow and live comedy from Mr. Phoenix. He’ll also be sharing some outrageous selections from his test kitchen and some of his best flea market finds, all of them with an eye toward the hilarious and iconic style of Americana from the 1950s and ’60s.

This celebration of all things schlocky and American is happening at the ~EMPRESS OF CHINA~, itself a bit of an over-the-top icon from 1966. This marks the last event at the Empress, which is closing at the end of this year, and it should be a fitting tribute. Drinks will be available for purchase, and of course your finest retro holiday wear is highly encouraged.

There are two shows, one at 6pm and another at 9pm. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door, though advance tickets for the 6pm show are sold out. 838 Grant St. at Clay, 415-434-1345.

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If you’re looking for gift ideas for someone on your list (or, hello, yourself), cookbooks are a great way to go. Especially signed, beautifully photographed, locally written ones. On Saturday December 13th from 3pm-4pm, catch Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~. They’ll be discussing their new cookbook, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes, and signing copies. The event is free, and books will be available for purchase. For a review of this book and many others, check out our holiday cookbook review from last week. Omnivore is also hosting a number of other special book events next week, if you can’t make this one. Check their calendar here for details.

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The veranda at Le Colonial, a perfect place for escaping holiday crowds. Photo courtesy Le Colonial.

The Mexican tradition of Las Posadas commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter in Bethlehem. It is typically celebrated December 16th through the 24th. ~LA URBANA~ is honoring this festival of community and hospitality in their own way, by hosting guest chefs each evening during the traditional Las Posadas dates. In addition, 5 percent of the proceeds from every tasting menu sold will be donated to a local food bank. The dinners will be seven courses, and guest chefs include Melissa Perfit of Bar Crudo on Tuesday December 16th, Cyril Bermond and Michelle Hernandez of Le Dix-Sept Pâtisserie on Wednesday December 17th, and Shawn Naputi of Prubechu on Sunday December 21st. It will all culminate in a special menu from La Urbana’s chef, Julio Aguilera, on Wednesday December 24th; get all the details here. The dinners are $65 per person. They are expected to sell out, so call to reserve soon.

On Friday December 12th and 19th, ~LE COLONIAL~ will be open for a special holiday lunch from 11:30am-2:30pm. The space is perfect for taking a break from downtown shopping or other busyness. The more casual service will include dishes like a soft-shell crab and pomelo salad with yogurt vinaigrette, and pan-roasted salmon with a sweet chile glaze. 20 Cosmo Pl. at Post, 415-931-3600.

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Wine and warm woods at Downtown Wine Merchants. Photo from Facebook.

There’s a new wine bar in downtown Oakland, just across from City Hall: ~DOWNTOWN WINE MERCHANTS~. Berkeleyside Nosh reports that the project comes from owner Susanne Breen, who was born and raised in Germany, and chef Edwin Cabrilla. The menu offers wine bar staples like charcuterie and cheese, as well as some Continental-style dishes like coquelete, a roasted game hen with Alsatian slaw, and Käsespätzle, a Bavarian egg noodle dish with Gruyère and Emmental. The wine list boasts more than 130 wines by the bottle and 25 by the glass, including an extensive selection of European selections and some local ones, as well. Unfortunately, Eater reports their windows were smashed and Cabrilla sustained a cut during protests last week, but they are now back in business—though calling before heading over wouldn’t be a bad idea. 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at Broadway, Oakland, 510-250-9110.

Need some mac and cheese on the fly? Well, now you can get your cheesy gooey noodles on in no time, with ~HOMEROOM TO GO~. The takeout-only spot from the Homeroom team is now open, Berkeleyside Nosh reports, and they are not only serving their famous mac and cheese, but also selling beer, wine, housemade dressings and sauces, and desserts. Order online for maximum efficiency. Hours are Tue-Sun 11am-10pm, closed Monday. 4007 Webster St. at 40th St., Oakland, 510-597-0400.

~SMOKE’S POUTINERIE~, a Canadian poutine chain, has opened their very first outpost in the United States, right here in Berkeley. Berkeleyside Nosh caught the news of their arrival back in September, and Eater confirms that they are now open. The menu is highly customizable, with lots of meat options, combinations, and even a vegetarian choice. Hours are expansive, too: they’re open 11am-4am every day. (Note that the location is also near many of the current protests, so keep that in mind before heading over.) 2518 Durant St. at Telegraph, Berkeley, 510-540-7500.

December 5, 2014
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The Family Meal menu. All photos: Wes Rowe Photography).

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Boulevardier punch and Sbagliatos in carafes.

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Spoonfuls of Mote Caviar (on our wrists) and chilled SKYY vodka shots (thanks Campari America!).

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Chef Anthony Strong and his amazing crew.

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Shenanigans at the table.

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Host Craig Stoll and his famous spaghetti.

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The magnificent croquembouche!

Nope, it’s not every day you get to throw your dream party. This past Tuesday evening (December 2nd, 2014), I was so honored to co-host a special event with Sosh called The Family Meal. Sosh approached me about throwing a special event for chefs, and we wanted to do it before the holiday season as a big thank-you to all our chefs who work so hard to feed us during the holiday season (oh so many dinners!). Fortunately Sosh loved the idea I’ve been keeping in my back pocket for at least the past five years: holding a spaghettata.

When I lived in Italy, I (hazily) remember these late-night spaghetti feasts after a night of drinking with my friends. We’d all sit (and stand!) around someone’s kitchen, inhaling steaming bowls of hot spaghetti. Spaghetti never tasted so good, trust. So who better to host a spaghettata than the man himself, Delfina Restaurant Group’s Craig Stoll, who has wooed so many diners with Delfina’s classic spaghetti al pomodoro over the years?

We actually held this chefs-only after-hours party in the chic back room at Locanda, and with wingman Anthony Strong also behind the menu, things got ridiculous. They set up an abundant raw bar, complete with a kilo of Mote Caviar, chilled SKYY vodka shots (a generous donation to the chefs from Campari America, grazie!), and at least five kinds of shucked oysters. There were passed apps like arancini with black truffles and others with Dungeness crab, foie gras torchon on warm gingerbread (whoa), uni, and fried coppa di testa.

Passed Negronis, carafes of Sbagliatos, and a punch bowl of Boulevardiers made with Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon and topped with Cinzano Prosecco got the party going, plus beverage director Sally Kim pouring prosecco and Italian wines en magnum.

At 10pm, the room started to fill with some of SF’s finest chefs just getting off service, from the old guard to the up-and-comers, including Daniel Patterson and many chefs from the Daniel Patterson Restaurant Group, the Frenchies (Roland Passot, Hubert Keller, Dominique Crenn, Gerald Hirigoyen!), Charles Phan, Melissa Perello, Jason Berthold, Bruce Hill, Evan and Sarah Rich, Ravi Kapur, Suzette Gresham, Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, Mark Dommen, Hoss Zare, Mark Sullivan, and more. It was great to see everyone milling around, talking, eating, doing caviar and vodka shots, and not having to work for a change! The event was designed to be chefs only, and it easily could (and should) have been twice its size, but room size limitations were in charge. And of course some chefs were still working too late to make it (we missed you!).

Eventually it was time to sit down (“Tutti a tavola!”), so the next wave of food could come out: radishes and anchovy butter, puntarelle “Californese” salad, plates of La Quercia prosciutto, charcoal-grilled shrimp “in porchetta” (so outstandingly good), and Locanda’s famed (and fried) Jewish-style artichokes. The main event, the famous spaghetti, came out piping hot and gorgeous, and Craig was running around the room grinding Parmesan over everyone’s bowls.

The showstopper for dessert was a croquembouche, lovingly made by pastry chef Jessica Sullivan, who filled the profiteroles with chestnut cream. Magnificent! I also made sure everyone got a digestivo shot of Averna or Cynar before their way out the door (so good with a little lemon rind and a couple of espresso beans in there). Everyone also got a “hangover helper” takeaway bag stuffed with chicken pho from Turtle Tower, a bottled Negroni for a little hair of the dog, and Advil (thanks Sosh!).

This event was a rare one for chefs, because they didn’t have to work an event first before going to the after-party. More than anything, it was so great to see a room of happy people hanging out, eating family style, laughing, and being taken good care of. It’s so important for any community to get together and break bread, and it was long overdue for this particular industry. As Acquerello’s Suzette Gresham so poignantly stated in a Facebook post: “Way too much fun! Makes me wonder why it’s taken us so long to actually gather like this? Imagine how enhanced our culinary community could/would be, if we simply spent a little time together.”

Mille grazie to Sosh, the Delfina Restaurant Group, and Campari America for letting me throw one hell of a party—here’s hoping there will be more in the future. I think I see a new holiday tradition forming.

A donation was made to CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), our local organization championed by many of the chefs in attendance. Here’s a photo album of the night on Sosh’s Facebook page (pics by the talented Wes Rowe). Baci a tutti! And Happy Holidays!

December 2, 2014
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The entrance to Cockscomb has a rooster to greet you (naturally). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A look into the updated space, with the communal table to the left and wood-burning oven in the open kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

As we mentioned last week, the opening of Chris Cosentino’s latest project, ~COCKSCOMB~, is here. Dinner service at the SoMa restaurant started last night. The appealing menu includes updated interpretations of San Francisco classics, ranging from celery Victor to tetrazzini (prepared with quail), and you’ll find Green Goddess dressing on Little Gems with crispy pig’s ear and radishes. Another SF classic: oysters, which you’ll find a variety of at the raw bar.

Since the space’s original wood-fired oven is still blazing, expect some dishes to have that special smoky kiss as well. The menu is not Italian, but you will find Cosentino’s extensive background in butchery and his love of offal apparent (yup, there’s a wood oven-roasted pig’s head on the menu). There are also some playful dishes, including Eggs, Eggs, Eggs (with chicken and duck eggs, trout roe, and tarragon aioli). Vegetarians, fear not: there are Cali-influenced dishes like toasted oats, with mushrooms, kale, and a poached egg.

This detail remains unconfirmed, but based on some social media tips, it looks like Ross Wunderlich—who was most recently the chef de cuisine at Charles Phan’s The Coachman (previously a sous at Hard Water)—is also in the kitchen. Cosentino’s business partner is Oliver Wharton, whose extensive background spans both back of house and front of house on both coasts, including director of restaurant operations for Michael Mina’s Aqua Development Corporation, and most recently partnered with José Andrés in Las Vegas for the opening of his two restaurants at The Cosmopolitan: China Poblano and Jaleo.

There’s a full bar, which includes Negronis on tap (and wine) and a focus on local gins, plus a dozen beers on draught and some ciders on the list (you can check it out here). And how handy, there are two bars: one is on the main floor, and there’s another on the upstairs mezzanine (there are 109 seats total). The loftlike space (designed by Celano Design Studio) has a clean and eclectic look, with an open kitchen and a long wood counter flanking it, artwork from local artists Jeremy Fish and Sam Flores, plus plenty of taxidermy, from roosters to a buffalo head. It’s great to see a new chapter for this special location. When it was Zuppa, and prior to that, Monk, it always had such a cool feeling—industrial and a bit edgy. Dinner is served Mon-Sat 5pm-12am. 564 4th St. at Brannan, 415-974-0700.

One more thing to note: a reader wrote in to let me know that ~PORCELLINO~, owner Mark Pastore and Cosentino’s replacement for Incanto in Noe Valley, has closed. 1550 Church St. at Duncan.

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Monsieur Benjamin. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

Corey Lee’s ~MONSIEUR BENJAMIN~ has added brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2:30pm. Chef Jason Berthold’s menu offers a section entirely dedicated to seafood, including oysters ($3.75-$4.25), poached shrimp ($14), and a Dungeness crab rémoulade ($16). Main courses offer French bistro-inspired fare, including grilled Paris ham with poached egg, gem lettuce, maple glaze, and hollandaise ($19) or a chicken croquette with fried egg, gribiche sauce, haricots verts, and fines herbes ($18). There are also vegetable and fruit juices, cocktails, and espresso. Check out the menu here.

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The interior of Indochine. Yelp photo by Minji W.

The Richmond Blog caught the news on a new pizza place in the Inner Richmond, called ~GRINDERS PIZZERIA~, and it looks like it’s now open, according to Yelp. It comes from the husband-and-wife team of Joe Irick and Amanda Petrowski (Irick used to write a column on pizza for the Chicago Tribune), and they are offering both Chicago-style deep dish and a “California thin crust.” The toppings are definitely unique, especially on the thin crust, with specials including a “crab Rangoon” with cream cheese, crab, scallion, wonton crisps, and sweet and sour sauce. The deep-dish choices are a bit more classic, with a meat combo and Hawaiian. They’ve also got grinder sandwiches, salads, sides, and a massive chocolate cookie for dessert. Oh, and they deliver anywhere in the Richmond. 448 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-933-6700.

We’ve been trying to get information on ~INDOCHINE~ for a while, and it sounds like they opened over the holiday weekend, according to a tweet. It’s in the former Mariachi space on Valencia, next to Sunflower (which remains closed, by the way), and has a menu of pan-Asian vegan dishes. The menu includes Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese dishes like bibimbap, wonton soup, and clay pot—all of it vegan. There are also Americanized choices, like teriyaki and “fish” and chips. Hours are Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri-Sun 11am-10pm. 508 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-701-0700.

Apparently, it’s a good week to be a vegan! Or even just someone taking a break between Thanksgiving and the holidays. Anyway, it looks like ~GOLDEN ERA~ has reopened in their new location after closing last year. They are still in the Tenderloin, and the menu includes vegan Vietnamese dishes including clay pot, noodles, and rice plates. Yelpers report that the space has gotten an upgrade, as well. 395 Golden Gate Ave. at Larkin, 415-673-3136.

Way back, more than two years ago, we wrote about a new project from the Lefty O’Doul’s team moving onto Polk Street. Well, it’s opening in a week, and the name is ~SPINNERIE~. It appears to be a fast-casual spot, with a focus on meats cooked in the rotisserie with international flavors, and their website states they “are changing the way the world eats chicken.” Okay then. The menu lists wraps, salads, sides, and different protein types, including salmon, tofu, and two flavors of that chicken (Mediterranean and piri piri, if you were wondering). They’ve got a beer and wine license, as well. 1401 Polk St. at Pine.

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The bar at Bix. Photo from Bix.

Celebrate the short days and cold weather with choucroute garnie at ~LE P’TIT LAURENT~ on Tuesday December 16th. The classic wintry Alsatian dish is made with sauerkraut, cured pork (including rib, bacon, and sausage), juniper berries, onions, potatoes, and white wine, and will be served along with a selection of wines from the Alsace region, as well. The dinner is $25 per person, and includes all the choucroute you can eat (pace yourself). Beverages can be purchased separately. 699 Chenery St. at Diamond, 415-334-3235.

If anyone knows about the short days of winter, it’s Scandinavians. ~PLÄJ~ is bringing the holiday spirit with their series of Julbord Holiday Dinners every Sunday until Christmas—December 7th, 14th, and 21st from 5pm-10pm. The five-course dinners begin with a traditional glogg, or spiced wine, and also includes a caviar course, as well as cured fish and meats such as gravlax and chicken liver mousse. The main course offers a pretty astonishing spread of hearty dishes: meatballs, prince sausage, Christmas ham, and a chanterelle and shrimp omelet, to name just a few. Check out the full menu here. The dinners are $65 per person, with pairings available for an additional cost; reservations can be made by calling 415-294-8925.

From now until December 23rd, ~BIX~ will be offering lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm for their Holiday Lunch Club. The à la carte menu includes offerings like the Bix burger (a hopper favorite), braised beef short rib on polenta with winter vegetable ragout and preserved tomato, and a Dungeness crab cocktail. Don’t miss it!

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Who wouldn’t want a cheese platter this pretty at their party? Learn the tricks at The Cheese School of San Francisco. Photo from Facebook.

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Chocolate and cheese, ready for a tasting at Dandelion. Photo courtesy Dandelion.

By Dana Eastland. Ready, set, cook! And bake. The holidays are here, and that means there’s a lot of cooking to do, if that’s your thing. Here are some great holiday cooking classes to try, and be sure to get your tickets soon, because they do sell out.

On Sunday December 21st, Viola Buitoni returns to ~18 REASONS~ with her Paste di Natale class. She’ll show you how to prepare classic Italian holiday classics, including spaghetti alla spoletina in black truffles and anchovy sauce, tortilla di magro made with spinach and chard, and a Neapolitan pasta pie (yes, timballo!). The class goes from 4pm-8:30pm and includes all instruction plus a dinner with food and wine. Tickets are $95 per person or $85 for 18 Reasons members, and there are only two left, so snatch them up!

For another take on an Italian-style holiday, check out Maria Capdevielle’s Italian Holiday Cookies and Confections class in Berkeley on Saturday December 13th from 3pm-6pm. She’ll demonstrate how to make five different cookies and candies from different regions of Italy, all of them ideal for gifting to friends, family, and as host gifts for all those parties. Tickets are $75. Playing Life Academy/Footfire Soccer, 1645 4th St. at Virginia, Berkeley.

Join Reem Assil for a class on sweet Arabic treats, or helou, for the holiday season, or really any season. There are actually two parts to the class: the first on Saturday December 13th and the second on Saturday December 20th, both from 11am-2pm. On the 13th, learn all about baklava, including how to get the phyllo sheets just right and experimenting with some different fillings. For the second class, learn about ma’amoul, semolina cookies with nuts and dried fruit. Both classes take place at the ~ARAB CULTURAL AND COMMUNITY CENTER~ and cost $33 each for the general public or $30 for center members. 2 Plaza St. at Laguna Honda, 415-664-2200.

Always wanted to offer a beautiful cheese plate to your guests or host? The San Francisco Cheese School has just the class for you. Taught by owner Kiri Fisher, Bounty & Beauty: How to Build a Dazzling Cheese Platter will teach you everything you need to know about cheese, accompaniments, and plating to make sure your holiday platters are gorgeous and delicious. Plus, you get to take the platter you make home with you, and the class includes wine. Hic. Tickets are $75 per person. 2124 Folsom St. at 17th St., 415-346-7530.

To learn how to make cookies like a pro, check out the Holiday Cookie Swap class at ~THE SAN FRANCISCO COOKING SCHOOL~ on Saturday December 13th from 10am-2pm. Not only will you make lots of cookies, including sugar cookies with icing, English toffee shortbread, and peppermint pinwheels, but you’ll also learn some great techniques for making sure your cookies turn out just right every time. The class includes a light lunch, wine, and a cookie swap at the end—plus you get to take lots of cookies home! Tickets are $160 per person. 690 Van Ness Ave. at Turk, 415-346-2665.

Master some of the dishes for the Jewish holiday table at Not Your Grandma’s Latkes at the ~JCCSF~ on Monday December 8th from 6:30pm-9pm. In addition to latkes, instructor Michele Pfeifer will teach you how to prepare other dishes for Hanukkah, including brisket and applesauce. Tickets are $95 per person or $85 for JCCSF members. 3200 California St. at Presidio, 415-292-1200.

This isn’t exactly a class, but it is a good guide for those vegans out there, or those who are cooking for a vegan. Jerry James Stone of Cooking Stoned is offering his book, A Vegan Survival Guide for the Holidays, for free. It includes lots of recipes, and all you have to do is sign up for the Cooking Stoned newsletter here to receive a digital copy of the book.

There are also lots of great events to help celebrate the season, including the 12 Nights of Chocolate at ~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~. Starting tonight, Tuesday December 2nd, you can check out a different chocolate-themed event with lots of different guest chefs and restaurants participating. The full schedule of events can be found here, but highlights include an event with Marla Bakery and Sean Ehland on Wednesday December 3rd from 7pm-9pm, with a buffet of sweet and savory chocolate treats and bubbly from Chris Deegan. Tickets are $50 per person. On Saturday December 6th, learn all about pairing cheese and chocolate with Alex Ourieuf of Vagabond Cheese and Jenna Nicolas of Dandelion from 7pm-9pm; tickets are $45 per person. Check out a full list of collaborations and details right here. Ticket prices vary, and all proceeds benefit the SF-Marin Food Bank, which needs as much support as possible this time of year. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-349-0942.

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Mushroom and tofu ramen at The Ramen Bar. Photo: James Carriere.

12/11/14 UPDATE: POSTPONED! Need a break from all the holiday madness? ~THE RAMEN BAR~ has declared Thursday December 11th Godzilla Day, which means they’re throwing a party (though apparently there is a real Godzilla Day, but it’s on November 3rd. Who knew?). The original Godzilla movie from 1954 will be playing, and happy hour specials on food and drinks will be available all night long. Plus, a special “King of the Monsters” menu will be on offer for the monstrously low price of $30 that includes a glass of Kirin, gyoza, your choice of ramen, and a green tea parfait. And try your hand at Godzilla trivia, with prizes! The party runs from 3pm-9pm. 101 California St. at Davis, 415-684-1570.

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The Good Food Awards podium. Photo from Facebook.

It’s that time of year again, when we celebrate producers of good food from all over the country at the ~GOOD FOOD AWARDS~. The 2015 awards will take place from Thursday January 8th until Saturday January 10th, starting with the Gala Awards Ceremony on Thursday January 8th at the Palace of Fine Arts. The ceremony begins at 5:30pm and is hosted by none other than Alice Waters. It’s followed by a delicious reception, where the winning products will be served. There will also be cocktails (made with the winning spirits, of course), beer, and plenty of opportunities to chat with the people who make our world so delicious. Tickets to the gala are $120 per person. 3301 Lyon St. at Bay.

Then, on Saturday January 10th, check out the Winners Marketplace at the Ferry Building from 9am-2pm. More than 70 winners from 25 states will be serving their goods for you to try, plus you can check out the Cider, Beer, and Spirits Garden at Gott’s Roadside from 11am-2pm. Tickets to the event are $5 at the door, or spring for VIP tickets for $16 and access at 8am. Tickets to the Cider, Beer, and Spirit Garden are $16 and include five tastes plus general admission to the marketplace. 1 Ferry Plaza at Embarcadero.

November 25, 2014
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The utterly incredible oven at Montesacro. Photo courtesy of Gianluca Legrottaglie.

Just around from the Dottie’s (on Stevenson at 6th Street) will be ~MONTESACRO~, an open-all-day-and-night enoteca from Gianluca Legrottaglie, a partner and the wine director of nearby ~54 MINT~ in Mint Plaza. Legrottaglie worked for six years in the Montesacro quarter, a Roman neighborhood that was a bit hardscrabble and reminds him of this part of the Tenderloin/SoMa, so in a way, his project will be his homage to post-World War II Rome.

The location is fascinating: for the past 20 years, it has been a Nepalese meditation center, but appears it was previously a bakery about 100 years ago—there’s a brick oven that is 15 feet by 8 feet high that Legrottaglie found behind a wall (the landlord had no idea it was even there). Sadly the oven maker stopped manufacturing in the 1950s, so Legrottaglie is busy combing through city records trying to get some history on the space (it’s connected to the neighboring Windsor Hotel). Anyone have any ideas? Was it a bakery? In the meantime, he is going to use an electric oven that he’s importing from Italy while the vintage oven will remain in a nonfunctional state (well, for now).

Legrottaglie is bringing over a pizzaiolo from Rome, who will be making nine different kinds of pizzas. But it’s actually not pizza—it’s pinsa, a type of oval flatbread you can find in Rome. The pinsa will be the first of its kind in San Francisco, using a dough that is a combination of three flours, a spin on a recipe that dates back to ancient Rome. Instead of the classic 00 flour, this will be an organic and GMO-free dough of Italian soy, rice, and frumento (wheat) that is imported from Rome. It rises for three days and is then stretched and baked to order—this version will be crisp and light. Toppings will include the Montesacro (stracciatella, kale, chile, anchovy), a capricciosa (artichokes, mushroom, olives, lardo), and gorgonzola e radicchio, all $15.

Since there isn’t a kitchen, the 49-seat enoteca will also be serving a variety of sott’olio (“under oil”) house-marinated vegetables, a classic Roman preparation, like eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and other vegetables. There will also be some salumi (culatello!), cheeses, salads, and desserts (including coffee granita with whipped cream, a Roman favorite!).

Legrottaglie will also be featuring a variety of quality well-priced wines and beer. He wants it to be a place where people will be comfortable hanging out, whether they’re playing Scopa at the bar or just enjoying a long afternoon over glasses (plural!) of wine. If you need to grab a quick lunch to bring back to your desk, there’s that option as well—you’ll find panini at lunch, like mortadella e provolone (pistachio mortadella, provolone cheese).

The space will feel rustic, old-fashioned, and dimly lit, with elements like wood mixing with industrial materials, like cement. Look for an opening in the end of February, we’ll keep you posted. Hours will be 12pm-12am. 510 Stevenson St. at 6th St.

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The dining area. Photo: © 2014, AubriePick.com.

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Just a small section of the amazing garden. Photo: © 2014, AubriePick.com.

Last week I attended the preview party of the new ~STEM KITCHEN & GARDEN~, which we mentioned awhile ago. It is in Mission Bay, very near where the new Warriors event center will be built. The 120-seat restaurant is now open and serving breakfast and lunch, plus happy hour. It’s a spacious location on the second floor (Engstrom Design Group designed the modern interior, with an open kitchen, a lounge area, a bar, and plenty of seats). In the back, there’s an expansive garden and patio that looks out onto the bay, complete with fire pits, a bocce ball lane, and a heated seating area too. The patio is going to be a huge hit on sunny game days, and since cocktails are allowed out back, you have a spiffy new happy hour destination.

It’s a Bon Appétit Management Company project, with executive chef Brent Johnson leading the kitchen. You can look at the opening menu here. The most prominent component to the project is the fact there’s a huge and abundant garden (managed by Farmscape), with the kitchen incorporating 100 percent of the produce into the Cal-Med menu. Some ingredients in the numerous raised beds include Castelfranco radicchio, Chioggia beets, broccoli di cicco, and bronze fennel. You don’t want to miss a look at it.

Open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm for now. 499 Illinois St. at 16th St., 415-915-1000.

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A booth at Hapa Ramen. Photo by Erin Conger.

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A bowl of ramen at Kirimachi’s previous location. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Ramen shops continue to open at a breakneck pace in SF. The two latest shops to join the fray are ~HAPA RAMEN~ and ~KIRIMACHI RAMEN~. Hapa just opened this past Sunday November 23rd, serving three flavors of ramen (ranging from the classic Hapa version for $16, ratcheting up to a duck ramen for $24), plus steamed buns (filled with items like buttermilk fried chicken or slow-cooked pork belly with kimchi and plum) and a rotating list of market-driven small plates, like delicata squash and Blue Lake bean tempura, or a special of Dungeness crab poached in dashi, ponzu, and umami crackers. You can look at the menu here.

There are 11 Polynesian-inspired cocktails (by Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo, previously of Future Bars), featuring ingredients like wasabi honey syrup and Huli Huli pineapple-infused rye, while beers include Hitachino Nest white ale and Calicraft’s “The City” on draft, plus there are wines and sakes too. Geremia Design is behind the design of the 60-seat space, which includes traditional Japanese materials, modern light fixtures, wall murals, and a red ceiling, and you can still see the 99-cent store signage (intentionally) on the facade. Hours are Sun-Wed 5:30pm-12am, Thu-Sat 5:30pm-1am. No reservations. 2293 Mission St. at 19th St., 415-202-6333.

We were the first to report on ~KIRIMACHI RAMEN~ reopening in the Embarcadero Center (after shuttering its location on Broadway), and now we’re happy to say it has opened, according to Chowhounders. Right now, it’s in a bit of a soft opening phase—owner Leo Gondoputro is still waiting on their noodle machine, so noodles aren’t yet made in-house, though they will be. Yelpers report miso, tonkotsu, and shoyu ramen are on the menu, along with an appetizer called the natto taco, go for it. They’re open all day Monday through Saturday, for both lunch and dinner, plus some happy hour specials will be available in the afternoon. Sundays are dinner only. Hours are Mon-Sat 10:30am-9pm and Sun 4pm-9pm. 3 Embarcadero Center, Clay St. at Davis, 415-872-9171.

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The beet burger at Seed + Salt. Photo by Aubrie Pick.

~SEED + SALT~ is a new restaurant from owner Mo Clancy and executive chef Ariel Nadelberg (Al Di La in NYC) that’s scheduled to open in the Marina on Sunday November 30th. It’s all about healthy and plant-based eating, so this is the place to find vegan, gluten-free, and cane sugar-free foods that are still focused on flavor. They’ve also made sure nothing contains GMO products. The space (designed by G. Paoletti Design Lab) is small, with only 14 seats inside and benches outside, and the menu will be available for dine-in or takeout.

In addition to their afternoon menu, they will also be serving breakfast. Because of the unique quality of the menu, most items are made from scratch, including spreads, dips, “cheeses” made with nut milk, and a gluten-free seed and nut loaf. Clancy and Nadelberg have been collaborating on recipes and refining techniques for a year. They are also making gluten- and cane sugar-free pastries. For breakfast, check out a chickpea frittata or their housemade granola. In the afternoon, check out a beet burger, seasonal salads, and a “BLT” made with smoky eggplant in place of bacon. Hours are Mon-Sat 7am-8pm, Sun 10am-8pm. 2240 Chestnut St. at Avila, 415-872-9173.

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The sign at Cockscomb. Photo from Cockscomb’s Instagram feed.

According to a Craigslist ad, Chris Cosentino’s latest, ~COCKSCOMB~ is opening in SoMa very very soon. We couldn’t confirm anything, but test dinners (or a soft opening) appear to be under way. They are currently seeking a “shuck and swallow champion…the best oyster shucker” to join their team within the week, and reservations are available for Monday December 1st, so they definitely sound super close. 564 4th St. at Brannan, 415-974-0700.

Somebody call Meg Ryan: there’s a new Mexican restaurant coming to the Castro, with the distinct name of ~TACOGASMICO~. Hoodline reports that it’s moving into the former Blue Restaurant space on Market, though no other details are available, except that a sign in the window promises to offer “simple Mexican pleasures.” Gross. 2337 Market St. at Noe.

Okay, all you New Englanders who miss that taste of home: Dunkin’ Donuts is officially opening outposts in the Bay Area in 2016. The company’s westward expansion has been slow, but The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the orange and pink will be opening 13 locations in the San Jose area, along with 26 in San Francisco and surrounding areas. So we traded Pablo, and all we got in return was a bucket of iced hazelnut coffee? Actually, that sounds pretty good right about now…make it a regulah.

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The slip of a space that was Sam Wo. Photo from Sam Wo’s website.

According to a very exciting post on their Facebook page, closed Chinatown institution ~SAM WO~ is reopening. They’ve reportedly secured a location in Chinatown and are hoping to open sometime after the Chinese New Year. To recap, the original Sam Wo building (which was built in 1907) needed at least $300K in upgrades, and the restaurant was unable to come to an agreement with the building owner, so they had to close. While nowhere could be quite the same as the original location, this is wonderful news. We’ll keep you posted on their new location and opening!

Back in August, we reported that ~MINAKO ORGANIC JAPANESE CUISINE~ in the Mission would be moving this fall. Well, we had a chance to follow up with them, and it turns out that their landlord has extended their lease six months. So, for now, the search for a new location is on hold until spring. 2154 Mission St. at Sycamore, 415-864-1888.

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A look at Red Door Coffee’s new lounge area at 505 Howard. Photo via @reddoorcoffee on Instagram.

Three new places join our coffee scene: first is ~RED DOOR COFFEE~, which we wrote about a few months ago. This project is the second location of the Red Door Coffee that founder Eiming Jung runs out of 111 Minna (and will continue to do so). He partnered with David Mabry and Michelle Delaney on this new location, which features a lounge area and small kitchen (1601 Bar & Kitchen will be offering lunch items).

They are serving Four Barrel coffee, which you can enjoy in a designated public space in the building and an open-air plaza. There is also Wi-Fi (and outlets). Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-5pm and Sat 8am-1pm; once the application for a beer and wine license goes through, there will be happy hour Mon-Fri from 5pm-8pm or so. They’re in soft opening mode right now, and Monday will be full throttle. 505 Howard St. at 1st St.

Opening on Monday December 8th downtown is the new ~MAZARINE COFFEE~. It’s named for Paris’ oldest public library and comes from owner Hamid Rafati. They’ll be serving Klatch Coffee, a roaster from Southern California, along with Ritual. In the morning, there will be a breakfast menu, and then an all-day menu of sandwiches and salads. You’ll also find pastries from Starter Bakery, beer on tap, and wine. The space was designed by Boor Bridges Architecture, who also did The Mill and Sightglass (they’ve got a bit of a coffee niche, it would seem), and they are using a special line of indigo dishes by Heath.

If you’d like to check Mazarine out at a special opening party, you can: there will be two on Wednesday December 3rd and another two on Thursday December 4th, from 8am-11am or 12pm-3pm. They’ll be serving free sandwiches and salads, and all coffee will be $1, with wine and beer for $3. To attend, send an email with your name, day you’d like to attend, number in your party and preferred time to save your spot. Once open, hours will be Mon-Sat 8am-5pm. Eventually, they’ll expand to 7am-7pm. 720 Market St. at Kearny, 415-398-7700.

Meanwhile, over in Cow Hollow is the third ~ESPRESSAMENTE ILLYCAFFÈ~, which is scheduled to open Monday December 1st in the Metro Theater building on Union Street (i.e., the Equinox gym building). There are 49 seats, with a variety of espresso drinks, brewed coffee, and food items, ranging from panini to salads to desserts based on recipes inspired by Joyce Goldstein. Free Wi-Fi. Open daily 6am-9pm. You can come by throughout the scheduled opening week for a complimentary illy espresso. 2055 Union St. at Webster.

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Blake Askew, the new executive chef at Aveline and The European. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

After the news that executive chef Casey Thompson left ~AVELINE~, we’ve got an update on who is moving into the executive chef role at the restaurant and attached bar, ~THE EUROPEAN~. Blake Askew (who might win a prize for best name) had been the opening executive sous chef and will now be stepping into the new role. He and Thompson worked together at Shinsei in Dallas previously, and his résumé also includes stints at various Wolfgang Puck outposts, including Washington D.C.’s The Source.

As for Aveline’s menu, you can take a look at the current offerings here. 490 Geary St. at Taylor, 415-345-2303.

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Jook from Trilogi. Feel the healing powah. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

~TRILOGI~, an Asian-inspired catering company, is popping up at Nabe in the Inner Sunset on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am-2pm. Their delicious jook saved the ‘hopper during a bad bout of food poisoning last week, and a sample menu also lists a fried chicken sandwich with egg salad (whoa) and a fried tofu salad. Keep updated by following their Facebook page. 1325 9th Ave. at Irving, 425-829-7254.

For a cool new brunch pop-up option, check out ~ĀINA~ at 903 Cortland restaurant space. On Saturdays and Sundays from 9am-2pm, Bernalwood reports that the team of Jordan Keao and Jason Alonzo will be offering Hawaiian-inspired dishes like a kalua pork omelet over furikake rice with baby arugula pico de gallo. 903 Cortland St. at Gates, 415-500-5118.

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The chicken and waffles at Hog’s Apothecary. Photo courtesy Hog’s Apothecary.

~HOG’S APOTHECARY~ is now serving weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10am-2:30pm. The menu, which will change seasonally, showcases their house-butchered meats in their full glory, with dishes like a the butcher’s breakfast (that’s an egg, grilled quail, scrapple, a choice of pork or sausage, polenta, rapini, and “animal juice,” $19). Less hearty appetites (or simply the less hungover) can try the chicken and waffles ($17) or corn porridge with dates, yogurt, cinnamon, and almonds ($8). They are also going to be open between brunch and dinner service for drinks and football games, from 2:30pm-5pm. 375 40th St. at Opal, Oakland, 510-338-3847.

The Mission’s ~LA MOVIDA~ is now open for Sunday brunch from 10am-2pm. They’ve got waffles in two versions—with fried chicken, or served with a sampler of butter flavors including Philz Coffee and maple bacon—plus vegetable hash with eggs, biscuits in housemade chorizo gravy, and steak and eggs. Check out the menu here. Oh, and there are bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys in addition to the regular beer and wine list too. 3066 24th St. at Treat, 415-282-3066.

Looking for a cozy Sunday dinner? Check out the Sunday Pairings option at ~MASON PACIFIC~, where you can get a set menu paired with wines, starting December 7th. The menu selection will change weekly; follow along on Facebook for updates.

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Craaaaaaab. Flickr photo by Jill Siegrist.

If you’re still needing a crab fix after last week’s roundup, never fear! The crab events just keep coming. Isn’t Northern California the best? First, check out Slow Crab from Slow Food San Francisco on Sunday December 7th from 5pm-8pm. The all-you-can-eat supper includes crab, of course, side dishes, and dessert, all for $50. Wine from Sutton Cellars will be available, as well as beer. Tickets here. 1555 Burke Ave. Suite A, at 3rd St.

~STARBELLY~ is throwing their annual crab feast on Tuesday December 2nd. The feast offers a set menu, including crab chowder, simple whole crab, Caesar salad with garlic croutons, and apple cobbler for dessert. Oro en Paz chardonnay will be poured all night long, as well. Tickets are $99 per person and include dinner, wine, tax, and tip. Reservations can be made for 6pm or 8pm. 3583 16th St. at Pond, 415-252-7500.

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The chop salad at Veg 388. Photo from Facebook.

~CLOVE & HOOF~, the whole animal-focused butcher shop and restaurant we mentioned in April, has now opened in Oakland. The project comes from Analiesa Gosnell (previously a butcher at Cafe Rouge) and chef John Blevins (previously at Gather and Lalime’s) and is all about whole animal meats that are butchered in-house. Each day, they’ll offer a lunch menu, highlighting offal and unusual cuts of meat, mostly in sandwich form. Look for a burger, of course, plus meatballs, sausages, and fried chicken. You can also purchase cuts of meat and prepared products from their butcher case, including turkeys and dry-aged beef roasts. Hours are Wed-Sun 11am-7pm. 4001 Broadway at 40th St., Oakland, 510-547-1446.

In Albany, Jon Guhl of Little Star and Ryan Murff of Northbrae Bottle Shop have opened ~BOSS~, a burger joint on Solano. They’re slinging patties made with Five Dot Ranch beef ground daily in-house. Patties are smaller, but available as doubles for those with a beefy appetite. They’ve also got a fried chicken sandwich, a vegetarian patty, and milk shakes; here’s the full menu. Of note: all of their frying is done in beef tallow, so be aware for vegetarian types. 1187 Solano Ave. at Cornell, Albany, 510-526-2677.

Moving away from the meat-centric offerings, let’s talk about Veg 388, a pop-up from chef Kevin Schruder at his Oakland restaurant ~KITCHEN 388~. It’s happening Tue-Thu from 6pm-9pm, Eater reports. The menu has lots of options that will make vegans and gluten-free diners happy, too, like a wild fennel and scallion fried rice cake with Brussels sprouts, maitake mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and black garlic gravy; check out the menu here. 388 Grand Ave. at Staten, 510-893-3005.

November 18, 2014
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Chef Aaron London. Photo: Daniel Dent.

We have been patiently waiting to release the news for the past month about former Ubuntu chef Aaron London’s upcoming location for his restaurant, and now that the ABC wires have rippled with some transfer information, it’s time to say where: the current location of the South End Grill ‘n’ Bar on Valencia. While London was known for his sophisticated touch with vegetables, this new project will not be a reprise of what he was doing at Ubuntu—there will be some seafood and meat, too, on the mostly vegetable-leaning menu. London does hint that since Ubuntu was such a big part of his life, there will be some reincarnations of favorite dishes on the menu. The targeted opening of the 49-seat restaurant in early 2015; construction is slated to begin at the end of this year. We’ll have more details to share soon. 1499 Valencia St. at 26th St.

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A feast at Hawker Fare. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Oakland chef James Syhabout is coming to San Francisco, Scoop reports. Specifically, he’s opening a second location of ~HAWKER FARE~ in the very large former Amber Dhara space on Valencia. The space comes with a full liquor license, as well as an upstairs mezzanine, so it’s possible he’ll end up doing two different things with the two spaces—think a bar/lounge upstairs, with the dining room on the main floor.

He’s also starting to think more about the roots of his food. After a trip to Thailand, when he spent a great deal of time in the northeastern province on Issan, near Laos, he’s shifted his culinary focus a bit. He’ll be exploring more of the regional flavors of Issan—som tum, larb, and sticky rice are some of the region’s more recognizable staples—and Laos. Right now, the opening timeline is still being worked out but early 2015 is the goal. 680 Valencia St. at 18th St.

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The view of Rintaro from the courtyard. Photo from Facebook.

As reported earlier this year, the former home of Chez Spencer (which was damaged in a fire) has been taken over by Sylvan Mishima Brackett of Peko Peko. Mishima Brackett, who also worked at Chez Panisse before moving to Japan to study the cuisine there, is calling the new restaurant ~RINTARO~, which means “woods boy.” The space has been completely renovated, with help from Mishima Brackett’s father, who runs a Japanese architecture and design company called East Wind. The front courtyard many will remember from the Chez Spencer days is still there, and the dining room features a bar on one side with open beams on the ceiling and booth seating in the dining room. The space seats 60 altogether, plus a private dining room that can take additional diners or be rented out for special events.

As for the food, Mishima Brackett is sourcing his ingredients impeccably, as one would expect from a Chez Panisse alum. The menu will change regularly, of course, but you can check out the opening menu right here. A significant portion of the menu is devoted to yakitori (individual skewers range from $5-$6), including many different preparations of chicken (gizzard, liver, and skin are on there, offal lovers), or you can opt for the chef’s choice six-skewer set ($15.50). There is also a section of the menu devoted to vegetables and fried items. For main or “final” dishes, check out the uni donburi, with uni from Santa Barbara, fresh wasabi, yuzu, and toasted nori ($8 for one person or $15 for two).

For now, they aren’t taking reservations, but should be soon. There are also plans in the work to open for lunch, but for now hours are Mon-Thu 5:30pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am. 82 14th St. at Folsom, 415-589-7022.

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The dining room at Crystal Jade. Photo by Drew Altizer.

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The bar at Crystal Jade. Photo by Drew Altizer.

We already covered quite a few details of the 20,000-square-foot ~CRYSTAL JADE JIANG NAN~ at Four Embarcadero Center in a previous piece, but we wanted to follow up since it’s now open. To recap, Ken Fulk designed the space (hello, $14 million renovation), which includes a huge outdoor terrace and multiple private dining rooms, plus the Liu Ling bar and lounge.

The menu features regional dishes from south of the Yangtze River (covering Szechuan, Jiangsu, Hunan, and Zhejiang cuisines) for lunch, cocktails, and dinner. You can look at the main menu here and the dim sum brunch menu too. Hours in the dining room are Mon-Fri 11am-3pm and 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun brunch 10am-3pm, Sat dinner 5pm-11pm, Sun dinner 5pm-10pm. Bar daily 11am-11pm, and Singapore To-Go hours daily 11am-8pm. Four Embarcadero Center, Drumm St. at Sacramento, 415-399-1200.

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The interior at Picnic on Third. Photo courtesy Picnic on Third.

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The counter and interior at Picnic on Third. Photo courtesy Picnic on Third.

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The interior at L’Emigrante. Photo courtesy L’Emigrante.

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A look into Tap 415. Photo courtesy of Tap 415’s Facebook page.

Way back in August of last year, we reported on ~PICNIC ON THIRD~, and now it’s finally open! It comes from partners Leigh Loper (formerly of Quince) and Natalia Bushyager (previously at Camino and Chez Panisse) and is offering lunch for dine-in or takeout and packaged dinners to go. The space is charming and cute in a vintage eclectic way, with nice wood floors, brass light fixtures, a pressed tin ceiling, and wooden tables made with pipe fittings. The kitchen has a neat storage wall of spices made by screwing Mason jar tops into the wall—it’s all downright pleasant.

The menu is inspired by a different place or theme every day, and three dishes are offered: two meats and one vegetarian. Here is a sample menu that shows the format, though note those dishes are no longer available. Tomorrow’s menu (Wednesday November 19th), for example, is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi and includes lamb and beef meatballs with barley mujadara and serpent cucumber salad; Ottolenghi’s chicken, roasted acorn squash, and roasted cauliflower; the vegetarian plate is composed of the barley mujadara, cucumber salad, acorn squash, and cauliflower. You can take a look at upcoming and past menus here. In addition to the composed “plates,” you can also order the components in larger quantities à la carte. They’ve got beer and wine too. Pour-over coffee from Chicago’s HalfWit Coffee Roasters and espresso from Contraband is available, along with pastries from Sandbox, Heartbaker, and Little Bee. Hours are Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, with lunch available beginning at 11am. 493 3rd St. at Bryant, 415-590-7121.

As reported on tablehopper last month, Irfan Yalcin of Potrero’s Pera has a new wine bar in the Mission: ~L’EMIGRANTE~. The new project, which is named after the Italian film, is now open! The wine list, which you can check out right here, is very affordable, with bottles ranging from $20 to $50, and 85 percent of them are less than $35. Most of the wines are also available by the glass, or in a 2 1/2-ounce pour for tasting. There are reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling options, plus eight beers on tap.

As for the menu, it’s all about casual snacking to go with that wine. There are bruschette with a variety of toppings to choose from, including kale with burrata and golden raisins. There’s a large selection of salads, or you can go the cheese and charcuterie route. There are also sandwiches and a larger plates section of the menu, where you’ll find the Pera Talas Böregi, smoked chicken and vegetables in curry sauce baked into phyllo dough. Take a look at the whole menu here. Hours are Sun-Thu 12pm-12am and Fri-Sat 12pm-1am. 2199 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-525-2284.

Now open in the Westfield Centre (near M.Y. China) is ~TAP 415~, the new project we mentioned was coming from Chad Bourdon and Matthew Dolan of Twenty Five Lusk. This modern beer garden (designed by Cass Calder Smith) features 18 beers on tap and two on-tap cocktails, plus adult milk shakes, like the Smoke in the Morning, with smoked Scotch, coffee ice cream, whipped cream, and hazelnut brittle. The American menu features 12 bar bites, so the next time you’re shopping and you need a snack, the Reuben tater tots should do the trick. There are also salads, burgers, housemade links, and sandwiches (like wild mushroom with smoked burrata and nettle pesto), plus some heartier dishes, like steak frites. There is also a kids menu. Hours for now are Mon-Fri 11:30am-9pm. 845 Market St., 4th floor, 415-266-7900.

Another week, another ramen shop. This time, it’s in Bernal and is called Coco’s Ramen. We called to find out who this Coco might be, but were unable to get any details. However, the menu looks good, with broth choices including tonkotsu, miso, shoyu, curry, and vegetarian. Chashu and pork belly can both be added as well. There is a small selection of appetizers, including grilled shishito peppers served with garlic sauce and chicken wings. Hours are Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:30pm-10:30pm. 3319 Mission St. at 29th St., 415-648-7722.

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Fab neon at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. Photo courtesy of Aaron Caddel.

Throwing open its doors at 7am this Saturday November 22nd will be ~MR. HOLMES BAKEHOUSE~, offering fans of Aussie Ry Stephen’s awesome baked goods a place to enjoy the full range (you have probably tried some of his baked treats at Saint Frank, Beacon, and other cafés around the city). He has been baking in this Larkin Street location since July, but now the retail portion of the biz is ready to be unveiled.

You will be able to try a variety of goods—Stephen has been working on all kinds of goodies, like twice-baked almond croissants (that take three days to make!), doughnuts, tarts, cookies. There will be some Danishes too, either savory (like ham and cheese with mustard and béchamel, or mushroom and caramelized onion with sumac, za’atar, and fontina) or sweet (like sour cherry with custard). Yeah, it all sounds great. There will also be brewed coffee available. Oh, and for Thanksgiving, they are delivering pies on Thanksgiving morning. You can order them through the website ($44 for delivery and $34 for pickup).

Hours to start will be 7am-2:30pm; they’d like to eventually stay open until 6pm, but will need to see how it goes. 1042 Larkin St. at Sutter.

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Beets with burrata at Le Marais. Photo courtesy Le Marais.

Eater caught the news that chef Casey Thompson has left ~AVELINE~ in the Warwick Hotel in Union Square. According to a follow-up with Scoop, the split is actually between Thompson and the hotel—she’ll take the name Aveline with her, though perhaps not the concept. It sounds like the split was mutual, since she says, “We decided to go separate ways…It just wasn’t the right fit. For them, for me.” She may decide to open Aveline somewhere else—and we hope that’s the case, because those crab macarons are gonna be missed something fierce, damn it. Of course we’ll keep you updated on her next move and whatever moves in to the Warwick. 490 Geary St. at Taylor, 415-345-2303.

In the Marina, ~LE MARAIS BISTRO AND BAKERY~ has a new chef, Max Snyder, after the departure of Nicolette Manescalchi. Snyder has previously worked at Quince, Saison, and Coi in San Francisco, as well as Eleven Madison Park and Marea in New York and Qui in Austin. His bistro menu is a bit more classic, with a cheeseburger, black cod en papillote, and Caesar salad appearing alongside more contemporary dishes like beets with pomegranate, black olive, and burrata, or a chicken dish with smoked confit, chickpea, radicchio, and citrus. 2066 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-359-9801.

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The note at Chenery Park. Tipster photo from Emily A.

We were sorry to receive a note from ~LOCAL’S CORNER~ that they will be closing at the end of the month. After more than two years in business, the seafood-focused restaurant apparently struggled to stay busy, despite good reviews. The restaurant also became a bit of a lightning rod for concerns about gentrification recently, and clashed with an organization called the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Ensuing protests and vandalism certainly didn’t help, though the note cites those issues as taking more of an emotional toll than a financial one. Some key staff members are moving on, including chef de cuisine Timothy Malloy, who is headed to Seattle, and the combination of financial difficulties and staffing made it seem like the end of the line. The last dinner service will be Saturday November 29th. As for what’s next for the space, they hope to find a new operator to take over and will offer the space for pop-ups and special events in the meantime.

A tipster wrote in before we went dark to let us know that Glen Park’s ~CHENERY PARK~ has closed after 14 years in the neighborhood, and Scoop confirms the news. A sign in the front window offers little in terms of explanation. We’ll be keeping an eye on the space. 683 Chenery St. at Diamond.

As reported in September, there are some changes coming to Bernal: ~EMMY’S SPAGHETTI SHACK~ has moved to the former El Zocalo space. The previous location is now closed, but you can still get your spaghetti and meatballs in the larger space just down the street. As for the original location, they’re still deciding how to utilize it, so stay tuned. 3230 Mission St. at Valencia, 415-206-2086.

A reader tweeted us about this last week, and the Scoop caught some additional details: ~PASÍON~ in the Inner Sunset has closed, but not for long. Owner José Calvo-Perez will reopen it as the fourth location of his mini-chain, ~FRESCA~. The menu will be the same as the other three locations, with home-style Peruvian food, and there will be a full bar. They are currently closed for cosmetic updates and plan to reopen the first week of December. 737 Irving St. at 9th Ave., 415-742-5727.

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A look into the shiny, new La Capra Coffee. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Rosenthal.

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Photo courtesy of Hearth.

A few months ago we broke the news about the new coffee and café project from Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal (Town Hall, Anchor & Hope, Salt House), ~LA CAPRA COFFEE~. To recap, they partnered with Hanna Suleiman of Caffè Greco to create their own Italian-inspired roast. Well, the coffee has been finalized, and the café is now open in the Financial District (designed by Sagan Piechota Architecture), which has a little bit of seating.

You’ll also find a variety of baked goods and pastries from Starter Bakery and Neighbor, including kouign-amann, croissants, coffee cake, and chocolate-almond twists, and there are also freshly made salads (like smoked duck with fennel, baby kale, and a citrus-mustard vinaigrette) and sandwiches (including egg salad with pickled jalapeño, cucumber, radishes, and frisée). You can check out the entire menu here. Hours are Mon-Fri 6am-6pm; lunch begins at 10:30am. 50 Fremont St. at Mission.

Another new café has soft-opened, this time in the Castro: ~HEARTH COFFEE ROASTERS~ (previously mentioned here). The owners are Ariana Akbar and James Kafader, previously of Brown Owl Coffee. They are roasting their own coffee (special, single-origin beans on their Probat L12) and making their own baked goods as well (the head baker is Megan Bovis, previously at Fournée). One hundred percent organic pastries include a classic French butter croissant, plus baba au bourbon with coffee (bourbon-infused brioche with coffee-infused crème) and a chocolate-caramel mousse with a crispy brown butter cookie.

Instead of classic tea service, you’ll find coffee service, with items like a caramelized banana-hazelnut scone and a prosciutto, Brie, pickled fig, and arugula sandwich on a country loaf. There are also coffee flights (a sampling of single-origin coffees side by side) and coffee pairings (single-origin coffees paired with treats, snacks, or meals). Beer and wine and small plates start this Thursday November 20th, and since Ariana is a certified sommelier and James is an accomplished home brewer, expect good things. Hours (starting Sunday): Mon-Tue 7am-2pm, Wed-Thu 7am-9pm, Fri-Sat 7am-10pm, Sun 7am-9pm. 3985 17th St. at Market.

If you’re up in the North Bay, ~EQUATOR COFFEES & TEAS~ has opened a flagship café in downtown Mill Valley. There will be espresso-based drinks, batch-brewed drip coffee, and single-origin pour-overs, as well as some unexpected soju cocktails, including an Irish Coffee and Bloody Mary. Chocolate egg creams for the kiddies, check, and shakerato for mom, also covered (theirs includes almond butter and coconut milk, wow!). The food menu includes savory and sweet waffles, salads, and more. Boor Bridges Architecture designed the modern rustic space. 2 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415-485-2213.

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The brunch sandwich at Souvla. Photo by Luke Beard via Souvla.

~SOUVLA~ has kicked off its weekend brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2pm. Their Greek-influenced options include a breakfast sandwich on their pita, with lamb, scrambled eggs, radish, tomato, onion, avgolemono, garlic yogurt, and feta cheese, or “Greek” toast, a spin on French toast made with pita, sour cherry syrup, and frozen Greek yogurt. You’ll also find coffee, pitchers of Greek brunch punch, and carafes of Greek rosé. Take a look at all the offerings here.

Looking for a good Monday night supper? ~TOSCA CAFE~ is now open Monday evenings from 5pm-2am. Their menu is the same, and remember they take reservations now too. To recap, hours are now seven nights a week, 5pm-2am, with the kitchen open until 1am.

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Dungeness crab ready for the pot at The Hall. Photo from Facebook.

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Dungeness crab season is open, and that’s a wonderful thing. There are a couple of ways to celebrate around town, starting with an all-you-can-eat crab feast at ~THE HALL~ on Sunday November 23rd and 30th from 1pm to 5pm. The deal is pretty sweet: tickets are $70 per person, which includes all the crab you can handle, bottomless mimosas, micheladas, and shandies, along with garlic noodles, salad, and sourdough. 1028 Market St. at Golden Gate.

Don’t want to cook the day before Thanksgiving? Head to Oakland’s ~HOMESTEAD~ for a prix-fixe family-style crab feed. The menu includes grilled crab (one half per person), along with salad, Brussels sprouts, roasted potatoes, and housemade sourdough. There will also be lots of sauces and, for dessert, pomegranate sorbet. Reservations are available from 3pm-9pm, and the dinner will likely cost $45 per person (though it could fluctuate depending on market price), not including tax and tip. 4029 Piedmont Ave. at 40th St., Oakland, 510-420-6962.

As of November 9th, ~JACK’S OYSTER BAR & FISH HOUSE~ is offering a special Sunday seafood supper every Sunday evening. The prix-fixe three-course menu will change every week and includes choices of appetizer and entrée. Previous options have included Dungeness crab Louie, shrimp bucket with cocktail sauce, and sautéed sand dabs. The suppers are $34 per person, not including tax and tip. The special menu is available every Sunday evening beginning at 5pm, in addition to the regular dinner menu. 336 Water St. at Franklin, Oakland, 510-271-7952.

The only thing better than a crab boil is a boozy crab boil. And luckily, Aviation Gin, Imbibe Magazine, and ~ABV~ are hosting exactly that on Sunday December 14th, from 12pm-2pm. The brunch event includes a menu highlighting crab, as well as cocktails from Aviation Gin, including a Tuxedo (Aviation Gin, sherry, orange bitters) and the Red Snapper (Aviation Gin, tomato juice, lemon, spices). Tickets are $65 and include food, drink, and a copy of Imbibe’s new book, Cocktails for the Holidays: Festive Drinks to Celebrate the Season. 3174 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-400-4748.

And now let’s switch gears to chocolate lovers, who don’t want to miss the Fifth Annual Fall Chocolate Salon on Saturday November 22nd from 10am-5pm at Fort Mason. The annual event includes tons of producers and makers of chocolate confections to get you in the mood for the holiday season. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Fort Mason, Building A, 1 Fort Mason Blvd. at Laguna.

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A Farm Burger. Photo by Antoinette Bruno via Facebook.

Georgia-based chain ~FARM BURGER~ has opened their first West Coast location in Berkeley. As previously reported, the chain currently has three locations in Georgia, as well as one in North Carolina.

They serve relatively inexpensive burgers (starting at $7.50) using quality meats and salads and sides using local produce. For their first foray into California, they’ve partnered with chef Jamie Lloyd, who previously worked at Golden Gate Meats, and will be offering meat from BN Ranch. If you’re not feeling the beef burger, they also have a quinoa and bean patty, a chicken patty, and a pork patty instead. There are also fries, salads, lots of fun toppings, and milk shakes (the Doughnut Dolly Foster, made with ingredients from the neighboring shop, sounds like a must-try). (Our intrepid copyeditor reports it’s also kid-friendly, with a little tyke play area!) Check out the menu here; hours are Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm. 1313 9th St. at Gilman, Berkeley, 510-705-1485.

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The interior at Rasa. Photo from Facebook.

Manresa’s chef-owner David Kinch, head baker Avery Ruzicka, and partner Andrew Burnham have found a brick-and-mortar location for their ~MANRESABREAD~. The bread project, which has appeared at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmers’ markets as well as weekly pop-ups, will be opening in December in Los Gatos. When they open, look for bread loaves including levain, polenta sourdough, and cinnamon raisin loaf, as well as both sweet and savory pastries. In addition to the storefront, they will also be operating out of a nearby commissary kitchen, which clocks in at more than 3,000 square feet. With all that space and a new TMB Tag gas deck oven from Italy that can bake more than 100 loaves at a time, you can expect to see some additional locations crop up after this first one is open. You can still catch them at the markets; follow along on Twitter for updates. 276 North Santa Cruz Ave. at Bachman, Los Gatos.

~RASA~ has opened its doors in downtown Burlingame. The new restaurant, from Ajay Walia of San Carlos’ Saffron Indian Bistro, is focused on the food of Southern India. On the menu, look for dosas, of course, as well as seafood, uttapam, and myriad vegetarian options. There is also a selection of small plates, including their interpretation of idli chaat with steamed then fried rice cakes, whipped homemade yogurt, pomegranate arils, mint, and tamarind. Hours are lunch Wed-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. 209 Park Rd. at Howard, Burlingame, 650-340-7272.