September 5, 2006

September 5, 2006

Attention cheeseheads. (And I don't mean Green Bay fans.) We can enroll in a number of schools in our life: culinary school, dental school, driving school (that's what you get for rolling stop signs). Now, how about the dreamiest of them all, Cheese School! Sara Vivenzio, a cheese buyer (and former cheese monger) for Cheese Plus at 2001 Polk St. has opened ~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ just around the corner, offering a variety of classes each month that are focused on particular topics, from "Farmstead Cheesemaking" (yes, you get to make your own in class) to "Cheeses of Italy" with Judy Creighton. The monthly classes that originally started at Cheese Plus were so popular that Vivenzio decided to open the school, offering a whole range of classes, dedicating it to cheese education for the curious, the enthusiast, and the pro. (Classes will average around $60.) The space is in the former Oakville Grocery (that's some good provenance), and will feature wine and cheese from Cheese Plus, where Vivenzio is still the buyer. You can sign up at Cheese Plus, or online. Check out the upcoming classes, like the Basic Cheese Primer this Thursday the 7th, and the very unique ACS (American Cheese Society) Winners showcased in the class on Friday (there were 980 cheese entered in the competition!). There are also drop-in nights where you can talk to a cheese pro and fellow Epoisses-obsessed whilst nibbling on some pecorino pepato (for $25). 1555 Pacific (2nd floor), between Polk and Larkin, 415-346-7530.

Some big changes are in store at ~HAWTHORNE LANE~: after eleven years in the biz, it will be closing at the end of the year, and reopening as TWO (or potentially some other moniker), playing on the address of 22 Hawthorne Lane, and this being the second incarnation of the restaurant, and a culinary collaboration of two creative chefs. Owner David Gingrass has noted how much tastes have changed over the past decade, including his own, and has decided to do away with the formal dining atmosphere and create a more casual environment, but with the same focus on the well-prepared food made with quality ingredients that is a hallmark of Hawthorne Lane. Gingrass says, "I started to feel like I was running my dad's restaurant," and it wasn't reflecting how he likes to eat out (and other people too). He wants folks to feel comfortable swinging by for pasta on Monday night, and doing away with the notion that it's a restaurant you'd only go to for a birthday or anniversary.

Executive Chef Bridget Batson will still be leading the kitchen, but Gingrass will be putting more of his touch and culinary voice on the menu, introducing his signature charcuterie items, house-made sausages, and handcrafted breads (also available two-go, ha ha, clever clever). Gingrass's vision is for food that is approachable and isn't overwrought—the menu will feature small, ingredient-focused appetizers, including traditional-style pizzas, a variety of pastas, and entrées with grilled, roasted, and braised items. Gingrass also mentioned desserts will become decidedly more rustic.

For those who are curious about the menu changes, you can't beat the upcoming "dinner in the kitchen" events; on Thursday and Friday evenings during October and November, twelve people can sit at their family table in the kitchen at Hawthorne Lane, and Batson and Gingrass will prepare and serve dishes from the new menu. Jeff Creamer, the beverage director, will be there to suggest wine pairings from a newly assembled list of fifty-under-fifty. Guest participation with plating and serving, sort of an extension of their very successful cooking class format, will be optional. In honor of their birth year, the menu for each "dinner in the kitchen" will only cost $19.95 per person. At the end of dinner, you'll have to answer a detailed questionnaire about the food, and where you normally like to eat, so don't get too wasted. If you'd like attend any of those "dinner in the kitchen" evenings, contact Christianne Barrow at 415-777-5667 during regular business hours, or email her at Christianne [at] hawthornelane [dot] com.

The new menu, called TWO, will start being offered as a secondary menu in the dining room in December. Gingrass also plans on closing for a remodel after Christmas Eve for a couple weeks, extending into January. The bar will become the focal point of the front room, with seats that will go all the way around, plus expect some changes in the dining room, with a private dining area being added. As if all of this wasn't enough, TWO will also offer a box lunch program that is ordered via their website and picked up "drive-through" style in the courtyard. Sweet.

For those who want to follow all the changes, Gingrass will be building an HTML essay documenting the entire process of re-concepting an established restaurant; it will be in development over the next week or so, and then posted online as soon as there's something to look at.

A month or so ago I reported on Patisserie Philippe opening in the Metro Showplace Square, near the turnaround at 8th St. and Townsend. (It looks like the beginning of October for that opening.) Showrooms like Roche Bobois (just opened) and others, from home theater to window treatment showrooms, will soon have some restaurants in the mix. Just next door to the patisserie will be the ~HOLY GRILL~, opening by the end of September, serving burgers, fries, chicken, salads, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner (11am-9pm daily). They also will offer beer and wine. This is a project from Mission Bay Foods, who also own Dos Piñas Taqueria at 16th and Rhode Island. 659 Townsend at 8th St.

Another eatery opening soon will be the ~SAFFRON LOUNGE~, a tiny Mediterranean joint offering Mediterranean classics (expect some dolmades and hummus). They will be open for lunch only to start. 685 Townsend St.

Then there's the slightly upscale ~GRAND PUH BAH~, a Thai restaurant that will be open for lunch and dinner, with furnishings from Thailand, white tablecloths, and a good wine list. The Grand Puh Bah should be holding court by the end of the year. 88 Division St.

A couple little tidbits: ~SOCIALE~ is celebrating their fifth anniversary—swing by from now until the 9th for some old faves on their menu, and complimentary prosecco.

After the fire they experienced, ~PICCADILLY FISH & CHIPS~ has (somewhat) remodeled and is now open again. No big changes—just a new counter and a few other details. 1348 Polk St.

According to my calculations, ~MYTH CAFÉ~ should be open for dinner and serving their new menu of affordable and tasty bites tonight. Release the sliders. (But call and confirm first: 415-677-4289.)

Bruce Cole of Edible San Francisco has launched a blog, ~EDIBLE NATION~, the official blog for Edible Communities. Check it out.