July 15, 2008

July 15, 2008

Thank you all for the nice notes after last week's CHEFS dinner recap. I wanted to post this letter below from Russell Rummer, the executive chef of Roots and Daffodil, who hires a lot of graduates from the ~CHEFS PROGRAM~ in his kitchens. I'm hoping some of you chefs and managers out there will consider hiring some CHEFS graduates for positions like dish/pot washer jobs, prep cooks, jr. stewarding, salad prep, and some can do beginning pastry and desserts/plating. There are also some older grads who have gained more experience, so there is a wide range of possibilities for kitchens seeking employees. If you are interested in staffing options, please contact Bill Taylor, Program Manager, CHEFS Program at 415-487-3747.

From chef Russell Rummer:

"At Roots and Daffodil Restaurants, we are grateful to have teamed up with the CHEFS program. We currently have four graduates working full time as line cooks, and in the past two years, we have hired over fifteen graduates. Each semester, we also place three CHEFS program interns in either of our restaurants.

"The CHEFS program teaches their students the basic skills required to work in a professional kitchen. They underscore the importance of good sanitation practices and safe food handling techniques as well as preparation of stocks and sauces and the basics of good nutrition. These skills enable graduates to get back into the work force and have a trade they can carry with them for life. The graduates that I have hired are very thankful for their jobs and eager to learn.

"We believe that the CHEFS program is a wonderfully talented labor pool for San Francisco restaurants, I feel that a major part of sustainability is giving back to your community and this is a terrific way to do so. The CHEFS program provides eager employees and allows employers to help change lives for better and forever.

"My personal motto is: 'I don't give money to the homeless—I give them jobs!' I truly encourage all chefs to support the CHEFS program. I think a great teacher can take these willing graduates and turn them into great chefs."

Russell Rummer

Thanks Russell! And that contact info again in case any of you are interested in staffing options for your kitchen: please contact Bill Taylor, Program Manager, CHEFS Program at 415-487-3747. Industry folks, thank you for considering it!

And now to some news…

Many locals have been wondering what is going to be moving into the two vacant ~RESTAURANT SPOTS IN THE JCC~, where (415) Restaurant & Lounge and California Street Delicatessen & Café were located. Well, the JCC is getting rid of the restaurants completely, and going in their spaces instead will be a series of little individual "restaurants" from Joanna Karlinsky and her business partner Victoria Smiser. The lineup will include: hot/cold prepared gourmet foods (eat in/carry out), a gourmet pizzeria, a pressed sandwich spot, homemade ice cream, a coffee counter (with wine and beer), a homemade dessert place, and of course you'll be able to get Joanna's famous Meetinghouse biscuits (aka butter transmission devices), as well as on/off-site catering via The Meetinghouse. The JCC is doing some remodeling, and the businesses should be opening up in late September/early October. And good news—this part of the JCC is open to the public, whether you're a member or not. California at Presidio.

Just over the hill, I wanted to update you on ~NETTIE'S CRAB SHACK~, the project moving into the former Palmetto space in Cow Hollow. The new owners just took possession, so work is now underway. Co-owner Annette Yang is the Nettie behind the name, who many of you may know from Spruce (she was the opening manager), plus Jack Falstaff, and Gordon's House of Fine Eats, where she met Nettie's chef and co-owner Brian Leitner, who was working at Gordon's as an executive sous chef. More about chef Leitner: he was at Chez Panisse for five years, and was a co-owner in Living Room Events, a local catering company. He's putting together a menu of regional seafood that will not only highlight New England specialties, but places like New Orleans as well. And Leitner's Chez background will mean highlighting seasonal and honest ingredients prepared and presented in a way that they really shine, simply. Think pails of piping hot steamers and pots of bubbling chowder and fish stews made with the freshest local ingredients.

Jim Zack of Zack/deVito (Gordon's House of Fine Eats, Globe, Bacar, Tres Agaves, and Orson) is the architect who is transforming the front glassed-in area into an actual outdoor patio (hello sun!), and the bar and flooring are also being changed. The dining room will be filled with chunky, rustic wood tables covered in butcher paper, comfortable seating, and simple but genuine décor. There will be daily changing chalkboard specials, plus the full bar means pitchers of house cocktails, and buckets of icy cold beer. The opening is looking like fall, perhaps late September. Lunch Mon–Fri, dinner nightly, and weekend brunch. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan.

A BIG congrats to ~LAURENCE JOSSEL AND ALLYSON WOODMAN~ of NOPA, who just had their first baby: Riley! He is seven pounds, 12 ounces of precious baby boy! He's one kid that will certainly grow up to eat his broccoli since dad's grilled broccoli is one of the best presentations of broccoli that I've ever tasted.

More in the good news department: a tablehopper reader passed on the word that the folks at ~PALACE STEAKHOUSE~ have decided not to retire! (Which is extra great news for chef Jonnatan Leiva, who adores the place.) Instead, the owners are going to take a much-needed vacation from August 1st–15th. And so, the kitsch continues. 3047 Mission St. at 26th St., 415-647-2011.

Also vacationing: ~LA CICCIA~ is closed from now through July 31st. You know, like good Italians, they have to take a summer month off. 291 30th St. at Church, 415-550-8114.

Wanted to also share this update on the ~MEDICI LOUNGE~ project in SoMa, which is looking like late-August or early September for the opening. It will be a restaurant, full bar, and nightclub serving conceptual Italian cuisine, with a wide selection of both imported and domestic wines, and an innovative cocktail menu. The entire exterior of the building facade has been restructured and renovated in keeping with its original early-1900's form (it was previously the sketchy Shadow Lounge). After nine months of construction, the roughly 2,000-square-foot interior will have a new bar, walls, bathrooms, ceiling, the whole kit and caboodle. To recap, the partners are Gregory Noto (he started both Abbondanza Catering and Place Pigalle), executive chef/kitchen manager Matthew Du Trumble (a chef instructor at the California Culinary Academy), and bar consultant/bar manager Sierra Zimei (the head mixologist at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco for over two years)—one of the interesting things Zimei will be doing is using mid-shelf liquor brands as the well drinks. 299 9th St. at Folsom.

Looking for some seriously cheap eats? This offer will be tough to beat: ~3 ½ COURSES FOR $3.50 AT CARÊME 350~ (at the California Culinary Academy). Yup, that's three and a half courses for $3.50, for lunch or dinner. Upcoming dates for this meal deal are: July 24th, and the second and fourth Thursdays in August and September. And/or here's another offer for you: on July 15th, 16th, 29th, and 30th, you can take 25% off your total bill at Carême 350 if you bring one guest, 50% off if you bring two guests, and 75% off if you bring three or more guests (for lunch only). Open Tue–Fri for lunch: 11:30am–1pm, and dinner 6pm–8pm. 350 Rhode Island St. at 16th St., 415-216-4329.

Anyone feeling creative? Nick Fasanella of the newly opened La Spiaggia deli in North Beach is taking over the ~UNDERDOGS SPORTS BAR AND GRILL~ in the Sunset, and is looking to you for a unique concept and name! The winner will get a $500 bar tab when the new place opens. This Thursday night, from 8pm–12am, there will be some live music from Brent Jordan, a singer and songwriter from North Carolina, plus $1 pulled pork sliders, and $1 Buds/Bud Lights and $2 bourbon and ginger (or bourbon and Coke) so Brent feels at home. Swing on by, approach Nick with your names and/or venue concepts, and good luck! 1824 Irving St. at 19th Ave., 415-566-8700.

Eater has been avidly tracking the opening of ~CILANTRO~ (be prepared for a website that reminded me of something from Geocities), a casual Mexican joint that is just across the street from KoKo Cocktails in the lower Polk area. You can check out a PDF of the menu here. The early and late hours should make both neighbors and drinkers who are just passing through pretty happy. Mornings bring huevos rancheros and omelets, while the main menu has standards like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, plus salads (one with nopales!), tostadas de tinga, Oaxacan chicken, and some other house specialties. Open Mon–Wed 8am–10pm, and Thu–Sat 8am–3am. 1035 Geary at Van Ness, 415-931-6065.

Over in North Beach, problems have arisen at the newly opened vegan and cabaret place, ~THE USUAL SUSPECTS CAFÉ~. MenuPages has documented the whole saga about the blowup between the owner and the kitchen in case you're really bored or curious or both. Let's just say "Vegan Russian Homestyle Cooking" is the new concept. Borscht, anyone? 450 Broadway St. at Montgomery, 415-434-4444.

In the non-vegan category, I wanted to do one more shout-out for the Meatpaper/Gastronomica party happening this coming Sunday July 20th at Perbacco called ~SUMMER FEAST~. Tickets are $25, and there will be a sea (and island) of meat and drink, thanks to local chefs and purveyors (chef Staffan Terje/Perbacco, chef Leif Hedendal, chef Chris Kronner/Serpentine, chef Scott Youkilis/Maverick, The Fatted Calf, Prather Ranch Meat Co.), as well as wine and cocktails (Verge Syrah, Meyer Family Cellars, Quixote, La Fee Absinthe, Rhum Clement, Bluecoat Gin, Trumer Pils, and more), an art exhibition, and live music from Gaucho. Sunday July 20th, 6pm–9pm. Tickets are $25 per person, and may be purchased online via credit card or PayPal. A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door. Perbacco Restaurant, 230 California St. at Battery.

And then next Wednesday July 23rd is a unique tequila and corn cocktail dinner at ~ORSON~, featuring Tequila 7 Leguas. The three-course tasting menu is $65, excluding tax and gratuity. Here's the lineup (and please note it includes their killer aged rib eye, like, yum):

In the Beginning chilled smoked corn soup
blue shrimp and tomato terrine
"margarita": blanco, lime, agave, fleur de sel

First seared skate wing
ham hock and corn hash, Sun Gold cherry tomato nage, chanterelle mushroom
tropic of cancer: blanco, curried corn nectar, grapefruit, ginger

Second grilled aged rib eye
summer ratatouille, corn ricotta gnocchi, olive and sage brown butter
prime meridian: reposado, tomato, lime, vermouth agave, chili

Intermezzo corn, tomato, truffle
ancho and black salt

In the End maple cornbread
tomato, balsamic, agave ice cream
solstice: anejo, fino, sherry, cream, huitlacoche foam

Reserve your spot by calling 415-777-1508 or emailing reservations [at] orsonsf [dot] com. You may also reserve online on OpenTable and just put "Tequila & Corn" in your note to them. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.

More seasonal food updates: first, the tomato cart has returned to ~BIX~. Or as they like to call it, the "Return of the Killer Tomatoes Cart." You can enjoy some heirloom tomatoes sliced tableside and served with hand-pulled mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and basil ($13.95) during dinner nightly, or for lunch on Fridays. 56 Gold St., off Montgomery St. between Jackson and Pacific, 415-433-6300.

Then, over at ~AQUA~, they have introduced their first-ever tomato menu, the first in a series of four menus that are all designed to celebrate the seasons. The seven-course summer tomato menu also comes with the option of wine pairings featuring specially chosen wines from Domaine Josmeyer, and includes: tomato and parmesan ice cream sandwiches with Pinot Blanc Mis de Printemps 2005; tomato and watermelon tartare with Riesling "Le Kottabe" 2005; chilled yellow taxi gazpacho with Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2005; seared foie gras with Pinot Auxerrois 'H' 2005; tomato-crusted Atlantic cod with Riesling "Le Dragon" 2005; crotin grilled cheese with Riesling "Les Pierrets" 2005; sweet candied tomato stuffed with dried fruits crème fraîche and vanilla sorbet with Pinot Gris Selection Grains Nobles 1995. The tomato menu is $95; sommelier-chosen wine pairing, $85. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Since I was just there, I thought I might as well do a shout out for the annual Tomato Dinner on August 13th at ~MARTINI HOUSE~, with paired wines from local winemaker Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards, alongside chef Todd Humphries' tomato tasting menu. There will also be two special guests, John DeBello, director of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Kevin Morrisey, his director of photography. Dinner and a movie will be in the garden courtyard—on screen, they will be showing the 1981 Killer Tomatoes Eat France. Arrival time is 6:30pm. Group seating with tables of 10 guests. Dinner event includes an exclusive sparkling wine reception followed by a four-course menu paired with wines and a movie: $165 (inclusive). Showtime is at sundown. The same menu will also be available inside and on the patio without a movie. Four-course menu $60, with wines paired $110 (non-inclusive). Reservation times from 5:30pm–10pm. For reservations, call 707-963-2233, ext. 1. 1245 Spring St. at Oak, St. Helena.

And now in the musique category, every Thursday night, ~O IZAKAYA LOUNGE~ will feature a KJ (karaoke jockey), a late-night karaoke dining menu until midnight (featuring chef Balla's pork belly yakimono, shashimi, burger with shichimi spiced French fries, crispy nori), and an all-night happy hour ($3 cocktails). The spiced chicken wings will be complimentary on kick-off night on July 24th. Thursdays, 9pm–midnight. 1625 Post St. at Laguna, 415- 614-5431.

Just down the street, the Bar Bistro on the ~SUNDANCE KABUKI CINEMA'S~ mezzanine level is hosting live music from 6pm–10pm on Saturday evenings, and next door, the Sundance kitchen is running happy hour drink specials Wed–Fri from 4:30pm–6:30pm. 1881 Post St. at Fillmore.

And the beat goes on: over in old Oakland, the ~COCK-A-DOODLE CAFÉ~ is now open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, with a mojito bar (serving blackberry, hibiscus, tamarind, or traditional mojitos) and an evening menu, plus upbeat Latin music from 5pm–10pm. The menu includes Belizean rice and beans with chicken adobo, Cuban pork sandwiches, ropa vieja (shredded flank steak with gallo pinto and sweet plantains), fried yucca, shrimp empanadas, Guatemalan tostadas, pupusas, ceviche, plus homemade flan, panna cotta, and sweet plantains with coconut ice cream for dessert. 719 Washington St. at 7th St., Oakland, 510-465-5400.

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