May 15, 2007

May 15, 2007

As many of you know, I was away for the inspiring ~TASTE3~ conference last week up at COPIA. All I can say is cool yo, what an interesting group of speakers, and attendees. I heard 31 engrossing 20-minute presentations on a slew of topics, like restaurant design from the principal of AvroKO, wine counterfeiting, preparing food for a mission to Mars, how to create fizzy gin, the wonders of mushrooms (yes, they have many charms), heard a love story/saga from Dan Barber of Blue Hill, and even Eleanor Coppola spoke on the dazzling array of food created for Marie Antoinette (while we all got to sip on little pink cans of Sofias, my favorite thing to bring to the beach). In between all these sessions, I got to hang out with fellow writers, meet lots of folks in the food and wine industry, and talk more with the various presenters. Dreamy networking, and I came home with some new ideas, connections, and cohorts. Plus there were some fun dinners (molecular gastronomy reigned supreme at the finale event) and late-night booze-fueled events (cheers). Yes, it’s spendy, but for those who want to commit for next year’s conference (July 17-19, 2008), there is a swell two-for-one deal until July 31: two passes for $1950. Hopefully they will be posting videos of the various presenters soon—take a peek at some from last year’s to get an idea.

So I want to share something that makes me really grateful for all of you readers paying attention out there—because I learn important things through feedback, or at least sharpen my awareness. In last week’s missive, I returned to the topic of the ~PURSE-SNATCHER~ who has been stealing while at restaurants all over the City, and mentioned that at one locale she was “with another African American woman.” The point I was trying to make is that sometimes she has hit places solo, and other times has been spotted with accomplices, a man or a woman. I mistakenly made an assumption that people have been reading/following the story and remembered the description of the suspect I ran two weeks prior. The last thing I would ever want to do is make any woman of color uncomfortable about going to restaurants while this purse-snatcher is on the loose, and for that I am gravely sorry. My sincere apologies for my miscommunication.

What I should have done was repeat the description of the suspect that was provided to me when I first ran the item in tablehopper a couple weeks prior (to repeat: she is an African American woman, 5' 9" or 10", heavy set, braided hair, pleasant smile and nicely dressed)—and based on another report I received this week, it was amended to this: 5' 6"-5' 8", Wt: 190-210 lbs.

She pick-pocketed someone’s purse at Ame’s lounge, and also was in the Mission, hitting up Bar Tartine and Pizzeria Delfina, and in Hayes Valley, at Sauce. At Pizzeria Delfina, she reportedly, “came in [and] said she was there for a pick-up order; gave her name as Sylvia. She sat down between two people (one of them being one of my co-workers) to wait. After a few minutes she got up and offered to pay for her order because it was late and didn’t want them to have to wait for her to close out. Then fumbled around and said she needed to go to an ATM to get cash. She left and got into a car. There was a police car outside who saw her. But she got away. My co-worker was fortunate, her purse was intact. The person next to us was not as lucky. The one other thing about her was that the way she was dressed seemed a little out of place in the Mission. She had a gold lame top on.”

She also hit up the bar Elixir, so it’s not only restaurants: “Apparently she came in, asked for a soda and a minute later she was gone with X’s wallet. She was wearing a purple t-shirt style matching outfit, shirt and pants and a dark sweater.”

Ladies, I have had some readers recommend you keep your purse between your feet, while another said she keeps her purse between her chair and her back while seated. Or, if you want to invest in the Luxe Link purse hook, here’s a better link than the one I offered last week, and a representative from the site contacted me and said, “In sisterhood with all the gals who are worried about their purse while dining I'd love to offer your readers a 15% discount on the Luxe Link. You can use the code “tablehopper” through the end of May (it's also good for anything else on” Nice.

In other news, things continue to be busy for the Maktub Group, the group behind Chez Papa, Chez Maman, Baraka, Sutra, and now a couple more new spots. First, coming to the former Buzz 9 space in SoMa will be ~BOSSA NOVA~, a Brazilian hotspot that is going to be one part chill-out lounge, one part casual restaurant, and one part hip bar. The upstairs will be open in the middle of June, and will have a funky 70s favela vibe, with blue, green, and yellow colors, and a large communal table with room for 15-16 in the middle. (The designer is the same one who also did the swank Sutra space.) People can just hang out and drink (there will be a full liquor license), or come to munch on some Brazilian small plates, including some churrasco (BBQ) dishes—the focus is on preparing good, simple, consistent food. The chef is almost finalized, but not at the moment. It will be open on evenings Tue-Sun, with the kitchen open until 11pm or so, and the bar open until 2am. The plan is to open the downstairs area in September. 139 8th St. at Minna.

Things also continue to move ahead for the ~CHEZ PAPA DOWNTOWN~ project, which is going to be a major part of the upcoming Mint Street Plaza. Check out the site for more info about this awesome project that will be totally transforming the area—there will be lots of trees and planters, an arbor, two rain gardens, and an entirely new street and sidewalk surface. There are also plans for outdoor film nights, live music, and other creative programming. Jessie Street is due to be closed in July, and Maktub hopes to get Chez Papa open at some point between mid-August and Labor Day. There will be 150 seats, with 60-90 outside on the new plaza; lunch and dinner will be served daily, plus brunch on the weekend. The concept will truly be a downtown version of Potrero’s popular Chez Papa, with a South of France bistro spirit. Full liquor will be offered, plus valet parking, and did I tell you about all the sidewalk seating? 414 Jessie at 5th.

And now for the total unsubstantiated rumor section: it looks like ~BARAKA~ might be for sale according to this listing on Restaurant Realty. The description sounds just like it, especially the private room with space for 25. So I spoke with Jocelyn Bulow and he said “non!” but I have been hearing from other people “yes.” Anyway. In time all will be revealed.

Another group of folks who are supremely busy, like the freeway they are named after, is the A16 crew. Not only do we have babies galore over there (Shelley Lindgren is due any day now, and Nate Appleman and his wife Clarisse couldn’t be happier with their little Oliver), but there are also three more projects in the works. After an exhaustive search all over the city for a home for this new concept, coming up first will be ~S.P.Q.R.~, an osteria whose name is in reference to the initials you see all over Rome that signify “Senatus Populusque Romanus” (“The Senate and the Roman people”), and is also the stuff of many a joke, like “Sono porchi, questi Romani” (or pazzi), for you fellow Italian speakers.

S.P.Q.R. is moving into the Chez Nous space on Fillmore, which is slated to close at the end of May, and the hope is to open the new restaurant in the beginning of August. (This is the second Bay Bread property to sell in the past few months as they focus more on the Boulange side of their business—Platanos was the first to sell. More on Bay Bread following the A16 news…)

S.P.Q.R.’s Rome-centric menu will be gutsy and rustic, with a casual neighborhood enoteca vibe (no reservations). Nate Appleman will be manning the stoves alongside his best friend Daniel Holzman, who is a partner in the restaurant—the two met at culinary school back in ’98, and worked together at Campton Place under Laurent Manrique. Holzman was in L.A. for a bit, and has been in the kitchens at A16 since February; A16 hoped to have a location locked down in the Mission and had Holzman up here ready to rock, but the space ultimately didn’t work out, so fortunately this deal with Chez Nous happened quickly.

The potential menu items inspire great pangs of hunger. There is an array of cold plates (marinated salt cod with green tomatoes and endive), hot (sardines alla piastra with a breadcrumb salsa), and fried dishes (panzarotti, or mozzarella in carozza) that you can choose from to create your own sampler for $7 each or your choice of three for $16, five for $25. Pastas will include Roman classics, like cacio e pepe, aglio e olio, all’amatriciana, or what is sure to be a killer carbonara. And since people tend to disagree about what is the most authentic pasta for each of these preparations, you can take your pick from bucatini, rigatoni, or spaghetti. (I like my amatriciana with bucatini, thank you very much.) There will also be some fresh pastas, like tonnarelli. (Grumble grumble, be quiet stomach!)

The all-Italian wine list will have 20-30 by the glass and about 50 labels, which is rather significant considering the size of the place, and the sommelier will be acting as the bartender. (The new space will have a bar in the back that can seat around 15 people.) Expect an edgier, younger look, with a new exterior. S.P.Q.R. will be open for lunch Mon–Fri 11am–3pm, and dinner nightly 5pm–11pm, with brunch Sat–Sun 9am–3pm.

Then there is the ~DOGPATCH PROJECT~, which I have been holding off on writing about for some time now because it’s all so preliminary, but the A16 folks are currently incubating a concept that they hope to launch next year in the Esprit Park complex, a project from developer Build Inc. at 900 Minnesota. The concept is still quite up in the air (like which region they even want to focus on—I cast my vote for Calabria) and they are working out preliminary permitting matters, so stand by for more later.

The third thing is Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren are collaborating with Kate Leahy (who worked at A16 before pursuing her Masters of Journalism, and was the Associate Editor of Restaurants and Institutions) to write the ~A16 FOOD AND WINE BOOK~, due to be released in Fall 2008 from Ten Speed Press. Half the book will be about the food of Campania (there will be an entire chapter on pig!), and the other half is about the wines of southern Italy and the islands (Sicily and Sardinia). Lindgren will be offering an overview of the regions and the varietals, and is really excited to share how special the wines from the south are—as she said, “It’s not just about Tuscany anymore!”

Oh wait, one more thing: Nate is going to be cooking at another ~OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD~ dinner on June 24, this time at Devil’s Gulch Ranch. It was literally one of my favorite dining experiences of the year last year, check it out.

Okay, so to pick back up on the Bay Bread topic. It looks like the ~BOULANGE~ in Hayes Valley is finally underway after some delays: construction just started last week. It should open at the end of July (at the very soonest). 500 Hayes St at Octavia St.

The other bit of Bay Bread news is chef and partner Robert Cubberly has left ~LE PETIT ROBERT~ on Polk. (It was reportedly a gentlemanly ending to the arrangement.) When Chez Nous closes at the end of May, the executive chef, Juan Romero, and the GM, Lisa Wentz, will be coming over (they have already been spending some time ramping up at Le Petit Robert). 2300 Polk St. at Green, 415-922-8100.

Yo winos—you will be seeing a new face on the floor at ~BACAR~ since Mickey Clevenger has come over from Frisson (prior to Frisson, he was a maitre d’ and wine buyer at Fleur de Lys). Clevenger just started yesterday (Monday night) but his exact role at bacar is going to be worked out in the coming weeks. A note about bacar’s upcoming renovation: they are closing from June 9-11, and two of the major changes will be that the kitchen will be enclosed, and the downstairs wine salon will be a lot spiffier. By the second week of June, the downstairs will be hosting a hip salon jazz club vibe, with live music Thu-Sat. A full menu will be offered (there are 50 seats), or you can have a drink at the bar and soak in the sounds. Groovy. 448 Brannan St. at 3rd, 415-904-4100.

On the new openings front, the nuevo/contemporary/Cali Peruvian restaurant, ~ESSENCIA~, is finally open as of yesterday. Lunch and dinner are available, Mon-Sat. 401 Gough St. at Hayes, 415-552-8485.

And just down the street, you pancake lovers should know ~STACKS~ is now open in the former Café Grillades space. Open 7am-3pm daily. 501 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-241-9011.

Opening today is ~RESTAURANT CASSIS~ in the old Winterland space. It’s going to be an easygoing neighborhood restaurant serving authentic Niçoise dishes and some Italian numbers, too. Dinner Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm; lunch will be launching this summer. 2101 Sutter St. at Steiner, 415-440-4500.

~DELANCEY STREET RESTAURANT~ just reopened on May 5 after a month-long renovation. The overall look got freshened up and modernized with new upholstery for the chairs and booths, a new paint job for the walls and chairs, new celadon tiles and carpeting were installed, plus a ton of “behind the scenes” touches. What’s amazing is the remodel was 100% handled by Delancey Street Foundation staff; some generous folks also offered their time and donated materials. Stanlee Gatti gave some design direction, and someone else donated equipment for the new walk-in. Read more on the site to learn how the entire operation works—it’s a good place to support with your brunch or din din dollars. 699 Delancey St. at Brannan, 415-836-5624.

Attention arty types and restaurant industry folks: ~SUPPERCLUB~ has launched "art industry" night every Sunday with a five-course gourmet dining experience that is 50% off food and beverage for all artists and resto/entertainment industry guests! Just bring your restaurant/bar industry pay stub or your freaky art-self (true expressions of art required) and receive 50% off food and beverage! And you non-industry folks, there is the supperclub lite program, with four courses for $45 on Tuesdays (normally five courses for $60, and $70 on Friday–Saturday). 657 Harrison St. at Hawthorne, 415-348-0900.

A small correction about the piece I wrote about ~COFFEE BAR~, the new venue moving into the former Arc Café. Things were a little convoluted in the info I received, so to clarify, it is not a venture by Mr. Espresso, but is a concept developed by Jason Paul and Luigi DiRuocco of Mr. Espresso, in partnership with Mike Richardson, their managing partner. Will share more info as the project develops and more details can be revealed.

This is most likely very old news for some, but I wanted to congratulate ~TRACI DES JARDINS~ (of Jardinière), the Pacific winner of the Best Chefs in America category at the 2007 James Beard Foundation awards. Rock.

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