September 2, 2008

September 2, 2008

You tired of hearing about ~SLOW FOOD NATION~ yet? I know, I know. It’s definitely been the hot topic burning up all the blogs and papers this week. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful event for its first year. Ambitious, that’s for sure. Friday I visited the full-tilt bountiful Victory Garden, which was charmingly a kid magnet, and is actually going to be with us until November! Awesome—thanks for letting it stay, Gavster. Now we just need it to become permanent. What’s next? Alice is allllll fired up on getting a garden planted on the White House lawn. She cannot be denied.

What was not to love about lunch in the Civic Center at Slow On the Go? It looked very Burning Man-esque, with the food kiosks set up on lo-fi scaffolding and planks, and folks cooking and prepping outside in the baking sun. Busy people working hard. I even saw some vendors barter for sandwiches! The only thing missing was some sandstorms.

Highlights: the ridiculously scrumptious Scott Peacock biscuit with Benton County Ham and raspberry jam, and I also liked the bastard muffaletta, which was more a good sandwich than a resemblance of anything I ate in New Orleans, but tasty nonetheless. Speaking of NOLA, bless Blue Bottle for the massive supply of iced New Orleans coffee they made in advance, it was appreciated on that hot day. It was also a kick to see all kinds of people sitting on hay bales, eating their lunch, and talking to strangers.

I also enjoyed buying and trying some produce and products from all the vendors in the special Farmers’ Market—my only question, where were the eggs? But there were some killer peaches from Healdsburg, plus dry-farmed Early Girls that were pure sugar, and wickedly affordable strawberries, yay! I bruised some of my produce on my bike ride home, not so yay. (Oh, and thanks SFBC for the bike valet so I didn’t have to worry about my seat getting jacked while I was in the Civic Center.) Also had a good time that night hitting up non-official events, like the drop-in party at the Cheese School, followed with a Magnanimus wine house party. Wanna see some pics of all the action? Here’s my flickr set from the day.

Saturday I went to a Food for Thought panel discussion, with the oh-so-eloquent-and-self-effacing Wendell Berry (current winner of my favorite drawl contest), the ever-animated Carlo Petrini, the compelling and no-nonsense Vandana Shiva, smarty pants writer dudes Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, and naturally, Alice Waters. While a few lamented this session of “preaching to the choir,” my kvetch is that I just wish it was held in a larger venue so more people could have attended, especially those who made the trek to the Bay Area from afar. The demand was there. Or at least project it on screens outside so people could watch the entire thing if they had the three hours to spare.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Be there, be there, be there. The much-anticipated Taste Pavilions. (Thank you SFBC for the bike valet action again! Woot.) I prepared myself for the long lines friends who had attended the day prior warned me about (advice: hit charcuterie and pizza first!). First, I have to commend everyone who donated their time and expertise in pulling these pavilions off—it looked like a LOT of work. To wit: the army of folks making pizzas; the mind boggling amount of hours that went into the pavilion designs, like the ceiling of the pickle pavilion; all the food preparation; and whoa, the charcuterie pavilion was so cool (kudos to tablehopper and Meatpaper designer Sasha Wizansky who did a brill job on the meat scans/panels, and custom butcher paper!). Another lovely thing in the charcuterie pavilion (besides the crazy delicious prosciutto from Col. Bill Newsom’s Hams in Kentucky) were the “meatrines”—the large wood display boxes holding hanging salumi.

I was ready to set up camp in the pickle pavilion—what a treat to taste pickles from all over the U.S., and don’t get me started on the country ham on cornbread topped with Appalachian-style sour corn made by farmer’s daughter in Carrboro, North Carolina.

The seafood pavilion display was remarkable, ugly monkfish and all. There was also some good opportunity for education while hanging out and eating in this pavilion. And a big UP to Foreign Cinema’s dish of cured local sardines with heirloom summer panzanella—more of that, please.

Had an engrossing walk-through of all the historical artifacts on display in the cocktail pavilion thanks to John Burton while sipping some delish Bloody Marys and Marias, a veritable tomato-vaganza. And a Ramos Gin Fizz with a little hint of honey, purr. Here’s a video of me all fired up in the cocktail pavilion, filmed by roving reporters Carla Borelli and Beth LaDove, who snagged me for an interview for the SFN website.

I can’t believe the time the people staffing the coffee pavilion dedicated to teaching about single origin coffees—it was practically decadent. And a lovely discovery in the honey and preserves pavilion was the coffee honey, sign me up. I got all sticky from the fruity jams, too.

I had a good laugh over someone walking by who said, “Oh yeah, I am all about cheese today.” I could only concur, standing in the ice cream line while finishing off my cheese plate—talk about a total dairy overload. Really, not a pretty picture. Can you say good, clean, and fat? And definitely not the place to be lactose intolerant.

Who better to tour the chocolate pavilion with than Elizabeth Falkner? Serendipitous indeed. Finished the day with some soon-to-be released Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Winter Solstice seasonal ale in the beer pavilion (and what a gleaming tap wall—I want one in my apartment). I wish I had come both days—I hardly had enough time in the beer, tea, and wine pavilions.

I snapped some pic of my debauched day at the Taste Pavilion; some are not my best work, but oh well. Check out my flickr set of the bounty here.

I know the Taste Pavilion was not meant to be a commercial event, but I really wanted to have more info about how to reach some of the purveyors and producers, and even the opportunity to buy some of the items we were all tasting. Besides, it’s a great way to support these folks and insure they stick around and keep doing the voodoo that they do. That sour corn would have sold out in one day, mark my words. Anyway.

The lines were a bit tedious, but it was a nice way to hang out and talk with cohorts, watch for friends, and digest. Literally. I appreciated the no-plastic stance, instead of selling water bottles, the organizers had municipal tap water available for free at stations throughout the event. And thank heavens for my long bike ride home, with plenty o’ hills to assist in burning off at least a few bites of the day’s bounty, yet another reason why I was so glad this event was held in San Francisco. And next time I’m going jump on tickets early for the various events before they sell out, including the farm tours! There was no lack of demand, that’s for damned sure.

Oh, and there is a fantastic exhibit in Fort Mason’s Museo ItaloAmericano called ~SLOW: LIFE IN A TUSCAN TOWN~ by award-winning Italian American photographer and cinematographer Douglas Gayeton. Just take one look at the arresting image in the linked flyer, and expect to see another 35 or more like it. Great stories in each image. The show is wrapping up on the 10th, this is one not to miss.

Okay, to the news. Over the weekend, ~O'REILLY'S HOLY GRAIL~ served its last chalice o’ beer. I couldn’t get a comment from owner Myles O’Reilly, who is in Ireland. Stand by for more on the new tenant. 1233 Polk St. at Bush.

Speaking of closures, here’s one in the “not yet” category: I was incorrect about the closure of ~KOOKEZ CAFE~ in Noe Valley—they were just on vacation, and expect to return and reopen on September 3rd, staying open until the new mystery owner takes over. 4123 24th St. at Castro, 415-641-7773.

~PAUL K RESTAURANT~, an intimate Mediterranean venue in Hayes Valley, has a new chef in place, Shawn Bayless, who has also revamped the menu. He’s a local boy from Martinez, and was a sous chef at Incanto for the past two years. He was also at Troya and Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Hawaii. He was also the executive chef at Fly Trap for a year, and has worked at One Market, Farallon, and more, Some tasty-sounding items on the menu include a meze of lamb riblets and kebabs, and starters like seared albacore crudo with pickled Fresno chilies, radish, and orange oil; pan-fried summer peppers with lime salt; and Little Gems with fried chickpeas, avocado, and Niçoise olives. Mains include a seafood tagine; eggplant and spinach moussaka; and Syrian spiced-duck breast with spelt, roasted figs, hazelnuts, and watercress. You can check out the entire menu here. Just in time for the symphony season! 199 Gough St. at Oak, 415-552-7132.

Was sorry to learn ~MISTRAL ROTISSERIE~ in the Ferry Building Marketplace will be closing at the end of October. I spoke with co-owner Betty Marcon, and she said it’s due to a combination of things, but primarily because of a complicated situation with a business partner, and the way to get out of the partnership was to leave the Ferry Building. Betty and husband Fabrice are currently looking for a commissary-like space, where they can get a catering kitchen going, providing food for farmers’ markets, wholesaling, and potentially a café (they are also looking for a new business partner/investor). Marcon stated it was time for them to move on, and said things at the Ferry Building Marketplace definitely aren’t like how they were in the beginning. She cited, “It’s a difficult environment to work in, it’s competitive,” and the numbers of tourists can be challenging. Will let you know how things map out for them.

Also in Ferry-land, ~BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE~ is opening a second coffee bar in the former Oak Hill Farm space this fall; the Tuesday and Saturday farmers' markets stands outside will remain, but look for shorter lines for sure. I’ve heard some musing that the lines at Peet’s will probably be a little shorter, too.

Okay, ex-Chicago residents and hot dog fans: last week I did a little recon on a new Chicago hot dog outpost in the city, and my report is YUM. ~DA BEEF~ is a new cart open in SoMa, serving Chicago-style hot dogs, polish sausages, and in a few weeks, Italian beef! I had a fully loaded Vienna Beef dog, topped with feisty sport peppers, celery salt, atomic green relish, mustard, onion, and some honking pickle wedges. Word. The stand is open Tue–Sat 10:30am–6pm, and the ladies running the cart are thinking about opening on Mondays if enough folks start coming by. Make it happen. 300 7th St. at Folsom.

I got an email flyer this week about what Nick Fasanella, formerly but no longer the Nick behind Nick’s Crispy Tacos on Polk Street, has decided to open in the Underdogs space in the Sunset. One guess. No, not hot dogs. Tacos, baby! Duh. Hence the new name: ~THE TACO SHOP AT UNDERDOGS~. Tacos will be in effect starting this Thursday September 4th in honor of the Giants NFL game, and will be served 5pm­–10pm daily. Since it’s a bar, you can get margaritas or your beers or whatever until 2am. There will also be breakfast burritos (with house-made chorizo) starting at 9am on the weekends. My original benchmark for Baja fish tacos returns! 1824 Irving St. at 19th Ave., 415-566-8700.

Yay, another classy place to add to your list of Sunday dinner spots: starting Sunday September 7th, ~CHEZ SPENCER~ will be open for dinner from 6pm–10:30pm. Just in time for Indian summer on their glorious patio. 82 14th St. at Folsom, 415-864-2191.

Found out the San Francisco outpost of ~IL BUCO~ in the 54 Mint space won’t be happening. Bummer. Stand by for more on who the new tenant will be.

~AVENTINE~, the new FiDi place from Nate Valentine, Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo, Todd Palmerton, and Gian-Paolo Veronese, you know, the joint with the booze lockers, is opening in a few weeks or so. And they found their chef, David Faro, who was formerly in charge of the lunch menu at Campton Place. 582 Washington St. at Hotaling (between Montgomery and Sansome).

A birdie told a birdie who told me that the ~MOSS ROOM AT THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES~ will be taking reservations on OpenTable starting September 20th for the September 27th opening. This is totally unsubstantiated, so I guess we’ll have to wait until the 20th to see if the game of telephone was true.

It’s not quite our version of Top Chef Harold Dieterle’s Perilla (which is in New York), but Thrillist noted a new Vietnamese joint called ~PERILLA~ opened in the SoMa/Financial District area. The menu includes classic rolls, some salads, and affordable vermicelli or rice plates (or pho or garlic noodles for a little extra) with your choice of meats (charbroiled beef, prawns, five-spice chicken, or pork). Check out the menu here. 510 Mission St. at 1st St., 415-777-1893.

Got a note that after seven years, starting this month, both locations of ~DELESSIO MARKET~ are moving to sustainable, local, and organic products. We’re talking about over 350 products in all, including bakery and prepared foods. Here’s more from their newsletter: “Recently we began to notice that […] products were coming from further and further away, often from foreign countries. We no longer recognized the farmers or producers; nor were we confident how these products were grown or produced. Even products labeled ‘organic’ did not offer real assurance because we knew little about the certification process. Frustrated by this increasing disconnection from our food supply, the need for a radical change to our purchasing methods became apparent.” 1695 Market St. at Valencia, and 302 Broderick St. at Oak.

Calling all cookin’ beginners. Nothing to do tomorrow night? Phillip Gums, “just a regular guy who loves food and has some secrets to share about how easy home cooking can be” will be at the ~MACY’S CELLAR~ in Union Square. You’ll be able to watch the demo, munch a sample, and swig some Stella Artois beer. For free! Wednesday September 3rd, 6:30pm at The Cellar Demonstration Kitchen. 170 O'Farrell St. at Stockton.

Here’s another freebie event: a kickoff event on Monday September 15th for ~CURRY CELEBRASIAN~, featuring a Southeast Asian bazaar at The Blues Jean Bar in Cow Hollow. Starting at 6pm, there will be free Tiger Beer and curry pairings, Thai massage, and CurrySimple.com’s Mike Moran offering advice (on curry, I suppose—not sure if he’ll be offering relationship, decorating, or fashion advice). Curry CelebrASIAN will be continuing through October 15th, with several participating restaurants offering special curry dishes. 1827 Union St. at Octavia.

Just got more details about the ~OPEN CITY 2008 RESTAURANT EVENT~ on Saturday September 13th that I mentioned last week in the socialite: this time around, as a way to include as many people as possible, the dinner will be held in two parts. The first part is by reservation only, a three-course dinner for 50 people at $65, with reservation times at 7pm and 7:30pm. For reservations, subscribe to the New Langton Arts email list. New Langton will start taking reservations for the first seating on Wednesday September 3rd.

The second part is an open seating, no reservations are required, after the first seating starting around 8pm. Tapas-style smaller plates will be served, at $5 each, available to anyone throughout the restaurant. They encourage everyone to come by, dining or not, starting at 6:30pm. The bar will be open, serving beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks, plus plenty of extra seating in the bleachers all evening. 1246 Folsom St. at 8th St.

For those who missed out the Slow Food Nation festivities and tours, coming up on Friday September 12th is an ~URBAN FARMING TOUR~, sponsored by The Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). Farmer David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms in East Palo Alto will take guests on a tour of his greenhouse and shade houses that are home to 30 of varieties of peppers, through his vegetable patch, and introduce visitors to his flock of chickens, ending the tour with a tasting of Happy Quail peppers. Next is Alemany Farm, the largest farm in San Francisco, for lunch and a tour by farm manager, Jason Mark, plus you will help plant whatever vegetable needs to get into the ground that day. The tour costs $25 and includes lunch made from farmers' market foods. Tickets are nonrefundable. Visitors will leave and return to the Ferry Building in a comfortable bus. There is no minimum age, but the tour is geared toward adults and not recommended for children under 12. Meeting place is in front of the Ferry Building (San Francisco), south of the clock tower. Please arrive between 9:45am and 10am. The bus leaves promptly at 10:15am, and the intended return time is 3:30pm, traffic permitting. Bring a water bottle, sun protection, sturdy walking shoes, and clothes that can get dirty. Buy tickets.

In case you are interested in attending ~A FOOD AFFAIRE~ on Monday September 22nd, tablehopper readers now get a special ticket price of $88 (the same as the industry ticket price). The code is Tablehopper; click here for tickets.

Chocoholics, the annual ~CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL AT LARK CREEK RESTAURANT GROUP~ is running throughout the month of September, with all of the restaurants in the Group offering a special dessert menu, including at least three extra chocolate dessert items. Local restaurants include: The Lark Creek Inn, One Market Restaurant, LarkCreekSteak, Lark Creek Walnut Creek, Yankee Pier in Larkspur, Yankee Pier in Lafayette, Yankee Pier at Santana Row in San Jose, and Parcel 104 in Santa Clara. One Market and The Lark Creek Inn are also doing chocolate tasting menus.

With the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival coming up, ~BAR MARCHÉ~ chef Brian Crawford has put together a six-course prix-fixe menu with wine pairings leading up to and throughout the festival (September 1st–7th), including chocolate in each of the dishes. $125 per person (includes wine pairings with each course), and a complimentary ticket to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival running September 6th and 7th. 900 North Point at Larkin, 415-359-0365.

And then for you mozzarella lovers, ~POGGIO~ is hosting their first-ever mozzarella festival from Tuesday September 9th–Saturday September 13th. Chef Peter McNee will be making fresh cheese up to three times a day, so it’s always soft and oh-so addictive. Release the tomatoes! Dishes will be priced from $9–$12. 777 Bridgeway at Bay, Sausalito, 415-332-7771.

So, we’ve got even more street fairs on the horizon. Coming up on Saturday September 20th in historic South Park is the very first ever ~A TASTE OF SOUTH BEACH AND MISSION BAY STREET FAIR~. The fair will feature favorite local restaurants and bars, including: 21st Amendment, Anchor Brewing Co., District, Hennessy’s Wines, Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant, MoMo’s, O’Neill’s Irish Pub, Paragon, Pete’s Tavern, Tres Agaves, and The Butler and The Chef Bistro—more are expected to be added in the coming weeks. There will be two stages of entertainment, bands, and DJs from Green Gorilla Lounge, Sunset, Supperclub, Get YER Freak on! and more. (Utz utz utz.) The event will benefit two local non-profit organizations, The South Beach/Mission Bay Merchant Association and The South Park Improvement Association. 11am–6pm.

Over at Terra in Rincon Hill on September 17th will be an evening of African, Latin, and modern ballroom dance performances, plus wine, and treats from Fifth Floor, Jack Falstaff, One Market, and XYZ. The event is called the ~NGOMA/DANCE SHOW~, and is a fundraiser for Mama Ngina Orphanage. Dmitri Chaplin from the show So You Think You Can Dance? will also be performing. Tickets are $50 advance purchase/$75 at the door (cash or check only), available online at www.mamangina.org or at the One Rincon Hill Sales Center at 511 Harrison St. The admission fee will be donated to the charity. 7pm–9pm. Terra, 511 Harrison St. at 1st St.

Sunday September 7th is a ~BOOK SIGNING WITH DAVID TANIS~ and then a week of special menus (Tuesday–Saturday) in the downstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse in honor of his new cookbook, A Platter of Figs & Other Recipes. Space is limited. Call 510-548-5525 for dinner reservations. Signing is 2:30pm–5pm. 1517 Shattuck Ave. at Cedar, Berkeley.