March 25, 2008

March 25, 2008

Big congrats to all the local nominees for the ~2008 JAMES BEARD AWARDS~! Here are a few highlights of the local chef nominees:

Boulevard and the Slanted Door for Outstanding Restaurant

Nate Appleman (A16/SPQR) for Rising Star Chef

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bakery) and Nicole Plue (Redd) for Outstanding Pastry Chef

Terra (St. Helena) for Outstanding Service

Douglas Keane, Cyrus (Healdsburg); David Kinch, Manresa (Los Gatos); Craig Stoll, Delfina (San Francisco); and Michael Tusk, Quince (San Francisco) for Best Chef: Pacific region.

And big congrats to Fritz Maytag of Anchor Steam Brewery, Anchor Distilling Company, and that delicious Maytag Blue cheese, for his 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The awards are Sunday, June 8, 2008, in New York.

I recently wrote a piece for San Francisco magazine on secret menu items at local restaurants (you can check out the story here) and while I was doing my research, it really made me want to return to ~POLENG LOUNGE~. Since I'm writing up both O and Monk's Kettle this week as places to equally get your drink and your dinner on, I also wanted to mention how delicious chef Tim Luym's food at Poleng Lounge continues to be. The crispy adobo wings really are some of the city's best; did you know you can get them during happy hour for .50 each? It's a six-wing minimum, which isn't difficult to rack up. Happy hour is Tue–Fri 4pm–5:30pm, with well drinks and beers for $3.

Ok, back on Luym's food: the sizzling sisig, a medley of pork with onion, pepper, coconut vinegar, and citrus served on a sizzling plate is ridiculously good, but the off-the-menu version to order for you total carnivores is the pig's face variation, with a fried egg that you mix in. Oh yeah—porkalicious—don't be afraid. The poached marrow bones are interestingly served sliced lengthwise, you'll scarf the kalbi short ribs, and the butterfish ceviche has a tantalizing balance of flavor (coconut!). With relative newcomers like Namu and Poleng Lounge on the scene, I'd say we have some hip places to get some excellent modern Asian/eats. It's pretty much the kind of food I like to get when I'm in New York. The service can be a little unprofessional/young (uh, for the record, never comment to a guest "whoa, you guys really ate a lot of food!")—but a meal here is such a great deal (most dishes are $7–$10) so I can overlook the rough edges a little bit. Pull a seat up at the bar, enjoy some sake, and graze your way through the utterly delicious menu that reads fresh and interesting. 1751 Fulton St. at Masonic, 415-441-1751.

~PLUMPJACK CAFE~ has found a new executive chef: Rick Edge. The official bio isn't out yet, but this is what I found online: he has worked under chef Ken Oringer while at Silks and Clio in Boston, with chef Laurent Gras as a sous at Peacock Alley in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and with Michael Mina as a sous at Aqua. He was also the chef de cuisine of the Pacific's Edge restaurant at the Highlands Inn, Park Hyatt Carmel, and chef de cuisine of Club XIX at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. Most recently, he was at the Culinary Center of Monterey as executive chef instructor of the junior and senior class, and was executive chef of Lattitudes Restaurant in Pacific Grove. If I missed anything, I'll mention it next week! He's reportedly starting in mid-April. 3127 Fillmore St. at Filbert St., 415-563-4755.

Things at ~SENS~ continue to rattle—first there was pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon's departure, and now chef Michael Dotson and Moira Beveridge have left. The official statement from Dotson and Beveridge goes like this: "The ownership's vision for Sens Restaurant was no longer compatible with that of executive chef, Michael Dotson, and event manager, Moira Beveridge. The parties decided to go their separate ways, and the split was amicable. Dotson and Beveridge are currently looking for a space to open a restaurant on the Peninsula." Taking Dotson's place is Dane Boryta, who was the opening sous chef and worked with Dotson the first four months. A new springtime menu will be coming out shortly, but the concept is remaining the same. 4 Embarcadero Center at Drumm, 415-362-0645.

As I was riding my bike past the former Gustofino space on Church Street last week and saw the sign for ~THOROUGH BREAD AND PASTRY~. This bakery is an extension of the San Francisco Bread Institute, and will have students, graduates, and interns employed there, all under supervision in order to maintain consistency. There is a big variety of breakfast pastry, cookies, cakes, and the breads include sourdough, baguette, ciabatta, multigrain, semolina, and a rotating special variation. Some of the items are baked on-site, and others come from the institute—eventually 100% of the selection will be baked on-site. There are also some simple sandwiches, and coffee, too, so swing by for a bite and enjoy the cute back patio in this delicious springtime weather we're having. There are plans to add dessert in the evening later on. Hours are Tue–Sat 7am–7pm, and Sun 7am–3pm, closed Monday. 248 Church St. at 15th, 415-558-0690.

If you're cruising in the North Mission/Hub area and feel a hankering for some primo coffee coming on, you can now swing by the new ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~ location for an espresso—the actual café isn't up and running, but co-owner Jeremy Tooker has a kiosk set up, with the La Mistral machine in effect. Just enter the alley (Caledonia) off 15th Street—it's east of Valencia. See, just like a crack deal! Open Mon–Fri 8am–4pm, and 9am–5pm Sat–Sun.

Update on some projects around town: ~DOMO~ in Hayes Valley opens today. 5:30pm. Release the sushi. 511 Laguna St. at Hayes, 415-861-8887.

The first San Francisco location of ~UDUPI PALACE~, the South Indian restaurant moving into the Firecracker space, won't be opening until late April. 1007 1/2 Valencia St. at 22nd.

~ON THE CORNER~, the jazz café coming to the Western Addition/Nopa neighborhood, is now looking at a hopeful mid-April opening. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak.

Another project bites the dust in North Beach: the proposed retail wine shop, ~VINO DIVINO~, will not be moving into the space a couple of doors away from the former Gold Spike—the Telegraph Hill Dwellers don't want any more businesses that include alcohol. Yup, it's beginning to feel like Prohibition again over there.

Ever wonder about the legendary ~BALBOA CAFÉ~ burger? Now's your chance: they will be dishing out a free Balboa Burger to anyone who donates a pint of blood aboard Blood Center of the Pacific's (BCP) bloodmobile parked outside on Thursday, April 3, 1pm–6pm. To donate blood, one must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds or more (you hear that, tiny Marina girls?). To schedule an appointment time, please contact Emily Thrasher, e_thrasher [at] plumpjack [dot] com or 415-346-5712. Walk-in donors will also be accepted. To make an appointment online, visit and enter the password PlumpJack. 3199 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

Are you aware of the ~WORLD WILDLIFE FUND'S EARTH HOUR~ taking place this Saturday, March 29, from 8pm–9pm? It's a worldwide movement to encourage everyone to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour on March 29 to raise awareness about climate change and what we can do to help. San Francisco is one of four major US cities participating in the worldwide event. Aside from the large number of businesses that will be shutting off all unnecessary power, the following restaurants have agreed to participate in Earth Hour through a variety of individual activities ranging from sustainable menus, to shutting off all unnecessary lights and turning off their exterior lights for the evening:

• B Restaurant and Bar in Oakland

• Westfield San Francisco Center Restaurant Collection (Zazil Coastal Mexican Cuisine, LarkCreekSteak, Straits, 'wichcraft)

• PlumpJack Restaurants (Jack Falstaff, MATRIXFILLMORE, PlumpJack Café, Balboa Café)

• Edible Love – Un Amour a Croquer

• Modern Tea, Tea Lounge

• Market Bar

• Chaya

• Bistro Boudin

• Ghirardelli Square

Winos: this Thursday, March 27, Raphael Knapp and Rue St. Jacques's chef Eric Lanvert have teamed up to let you tour the wines of France without the airplane ticket. They are appropriately calling the event ~LE TOUR DE FRANCE~. Here's the lineup: les huitres Point Reyes en gelée saffranée (Point Reyes oysters in a saffron gelée) with a glass of Pouilly Fumé Claude Michot; la daube de boeuf á la Provençale (Provençale style short rib), with a glass of Gigondas; la salade frisée et sont Brillat Savarin (frisée Salad with Brillat Savarin cheese) with a glass of Listrac Médoc; le soufflé au chocolat (chocolate soufflé) with a glass of Banyuls. You will also have the opportunity to purchase the featured wines at very reduced prices. $65. 1098 Jackson St. at Taylor, 415-776-2002.

A few updates in the Tenderloin dive bar-gentrification scene: first, the sketchy OSB (O'Farrell Street Bar) is now ~800 LARKIN~. Thrillist reported that there's a "30ft mahogany bar, plush leather armchairs and couches, and a new, gray-felt pool table." And a cocktail menu. Well. 800 Larkin St. at O'Farrell, 415-567-9326.

I also heard some bartenders from the Tunnel Top have taken over the previously skeevy ~KOKO'S~ in the TenderNob. I tried to swing by last Sunday night but it was closed, so no report on the décor, but it's supposed to have some flair. If you like, let some Yelpers fill ya in. 1060 Geary St. at Polk, 415-885-4788.

More booze news: ~SAN FRANCISCO COCKTAIL WEEK~ is returning, running from May 13–19. You can read an initial line-up of very cool events on the site, which will include some cocktail dinners at bacar, The Alembic, and Conduit in San Francisco, and Flora in Oakland; a discussion on Literature and Drinking Culture in San Francisco with David Wondrich; a Save the Sazerac event at Elixir, and I might, might, be co-hosting a bar crawl of some sort—stand by!

In the meantime, H of Elixir (and his new biz, Cocktail Ambassadors) is hosting his first ~MIXOLOGY 101 CLASS~ at the Bay Club tonight from 7:30pm–9pm. In this 20-person class, you'll learn some entry-level techniques, and do some shaking and stirring (Manhattans and martinis), plus muddling of mojitos, and juicing for a proper margarita. The class is open to the public, but costs $120 for club members, and $135 for non-members—tablehopper readers get the non-member fee waived, so it's only $120—just click to order here and read more on the Elixir site. I know it's last minute, so if you can't swing it, he will be doing these classes quarterly with a seasonal spin (plus some thematic changes) at all of the Western Athletic Clubs in Northern California (San Rafael, San Francisco, Redwood City, Santa Clara and Los Gatos).

Then on Thursday at Elixir, there's the ~GREAT WHISKEY DEBATE~, an event as part of H's Cocktail Club series. Join Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig and Ardmore single malt scotches, as he goes head to head with Jim Beam Whiskey Professor David Mays about which is the greatest whisk(e)y on earth: bourbon or scotch. Scandal! It is $20 per person for four whiskeys (two scotches, two bourbons) and you'll get some entertainment, history, education, slideshow, Q&A, and cocktail specials. Wow, all that in one night. Things kick off after the last basketball game (should be 9:30pm-ish). Buy your ticket here. Capacity is limited to 50. And lastly, next Thursday, April 3 at Elixir, there will be a Maker's Mark tasting with Master Distiller Dave Pickerel. 3200 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-552-1633.

East Bay folks, you are lucky ducks, because ~OLIVETO'S~ first spring favas have just come in from Bolinas. Spring fava season is brief, and there's nothing like the first wave of tender beans—chef Paul Canales and many other fava lovers know only the first few pickings yield beans tender enough to serve raw, with the delicate skins still on. So swing by tonight through Thursday for fresh favas with Il Frantoio olive oil and sea salt, finished with a fresh shaving of pecorino and cracked black pepper. This first wave of favas comes from Star Route Farm on the Marin coast. (The first crops of local asparagus and English peas are also on the menu now.) Oliveto, 5655 College Ave., 510-547-5356.

I also was reading about a cool ~BUTCHER'S DINNER~ at Café Rouge this Thursday—looks delicious. $80 per person, with a menu of red meat provided by the following growers: Heritage Farms, Magruder Ranch, McCormack Ranch and Niman Ranch. 1782 4th St., Berkeley, 510-525-1440.

You'll be able to read up on ~O IZAKAYA LOUNGE~ in this week's fresh meat, but I wanted to make sure you sports freaks knew you can swing by tonight, March 25, for the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox's season opener in Japan. O will broadcast the game in high definition on their seven flat-screen TVs at 6pm, and you can enjoy chef Nicolaus Balla's signature happy hour menu items and drinks from 6pm–8pm. (Stay late to watch the second game live from Tokyo.) Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St. at Laguna, 415-614-5431.

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