October 14, 2008

October 14, 2008

So yesterday morning there was a small media get-together in the Macy’s Cellar for the reveal of the ~2009 SAN FRANCISCO & WINE COUNTRY MICHELIN GUIDE~ winners. Jean-Luc Naret was there to announce them, so feel free to imagine me saying these in a French accent to you:

THREE STARS (***)

The French Laundry

TWO STARS (**)

Aqua
Coi (Congrats to Daniel!! What a wonderful year, of stars, AND a new baby!)
Cyrus
Manresa
Meadowood (Make the trip there if you can!)
Michael Mina

ONE STAR (*)
Acquerello
Ame
Auberge du Soleil
Bistro Jeanty
Bouchon
Boulevard
Chez Panisse
Chez TJ
Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
Fifth Floor (like I said, people, chef de cuisine Jennie Lorenzo is rocking it over there)
Fleur de Lys
Gary Danko
La Folie
Madrona Manor
Martini House
Masa's
Murray Circle (new)
One Market
Plumed Horse (new)
Range
Redd
Terra
Trevese (new)
The Village Pub (new)

Now, the big gasp is what happened to Quince and its star? While people around town are saying, “Oh goodness, Quince lost a star!” it’s actually not the whole story. I spoke with chef/co-owner Michael Tusk and he said that when Michelin caught word that Quince was going to be moving into their new location in the former Myth space, they approached the restaurant and said their star would be suspended for this year during the transition, and they would visit Quince again in the new location. So for those of you sending condolences to the folks at Quince, no need—they knew it was in the cards. I just don’t understand why the guide couldn’t say as much since the Octavia Street location is still open, alive, and as fabulous as ever. Seems La Toque suffered the loss of a similar “transitional” star.

I was sorry to not see Spruce in the lineup, but they scored big with Esquire (see below), and a huge congrats to the Village Pub, and chef Dmitry Elperin, who has been the chef there for the past year-and-a-half! Oh, and Sushi Ran lost its star as well, but chef Mitsunori Kusakabe just won the Sushi Awards 2008 (see below), so there’s that. And hey, where was Ubuntu? I also would have liked to see Rubicon get the star I imagine they would have maintained, but as we all know, that treasure is no longer with us. Speaking of, the Rubicon space is still on the market, so I will let you know when someone takes it.

Oh, and this year Michelin is hosting a “Discovery” contest, where anyone who submits a 150-word description of the discoveries they’ve made using the Michelin guide on www.michelinguide.com can enter to win a $150 gift certificate to try a new restaurant, as well as have his or her discovery featured on the site. One new winner will be selected each week through December 31, 2008. One grand-prize winner will be selected from all of the weekly winners to create a “Design Your Own Michelin Discovery Weekend in New York City,” including all meals and accommodations.

So, on to the next exciting announcement: the winners of John Mariani’s ~20 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS OF 2008~ for Esquire: on the local scene, both Spruce and Luce were included! And Dominique Crenn of Luce won Chef of the Year! The Restaurant of the Year is L20 in Chicago.

The other winners in the top 20 were: Scarpetta, NYC; Convivio, NYC; Bar Boulud, NYC; Bar Blanc, NYC; Kampuchea, NYC; Scampo, Boston; Voice, Houston; Restaurant at Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas; Takashi, Chicago; Mercat, Chicago; Plumed Horse, Saratoga, CA; Palate Food & Wine, Glendale, CA; Corbett’s—An American Place, Louisville; Pacific Time, Miami; Zahav, Philadelphia; Distrito, Philadelphia; Terra, Tesuque, NM. Mariani also included a rant about why New York’s Ko wasn’t considered/included: they couldn’t get in! You can read it all in the current issue of the Virtual Gourmet.

I got a press release announcing that on Monday October 6th, seven of the world’s best sushi chefs battled it out at the ~SUSHI AWARDS 2008~ for the Sushi of the Year 2008 Award (now THAT is something I’d like to see!). Congrats to local winner Mitsunori Kusakabe of Sushi Ran, whose dish “Seven ‘Rice’ Samurai” was the winner, which featured seven executions of rice: fermented, deep-fried, grilled, roasted, boiled, frozen, and extracted. The competitors were: Takayuki Nakamura Otaru Masazushi, Hokkaido, Japan; Bryan S. Emperor Mr. Jones, New York; Mitsunori Kusakabe Sushi Ran, Sausalito; Denis Yun Yakitoriya, Moscow, Russia; Pontus Johansson Sushibaren, Malmö, Sweden; the first ever female chef to contest the Sushi Awards, Silla Bjerrum Feng Sushi, London, UK; and Shinya Ikeda Yumi, London, UK. You can read all of their proposed dishes here.

Oh, and I got another report of the ~purse-snatcher~ that is on the loose—he actually stole a tablehopper reader’s purse off the back of her chair at The Irish Bank a few weeks ago. He fit the description posted last week, but then there was also a report of a pick-pocketing female at the Butler & the Chef in South Park—and with her bright pink pants, she wasn’t very subtle in the attire department. Again, dear readers, please keep a close eye on your wallets, purses, and bags. Â


And now, some chirpier news. Much more chirpy, in fact. Coming to SoMa will be ~BAR AGRICOLE~, a spiffy new bar and restaurant project from Thad Vogler, who many of you may know from Slanted Door, Coco500, Presidio Social Club, Jardinière, and most recently, Camino. (He is going to be winding down his bar manager duties at Camino since this new project is ramping up quickly.) This bar-restaurant is opening on the ground floor of the city’s first LEED-certified commercial building, and will have 17-foot ceilings, exposed wood beams, artisanal plaster, natural light, and will be outfitted with salvaged and found wood materials—kind of like Four Barrel Coffee’s urban-rustic design aesthetic.

The concept is inspired by the elite rums of the French Caribbean, highlighting an agricultural theme across the board, from the seasonal California fare (think Zuni, Chez Panisse, and Camino) to the organic and biodynamic wine list by wine director Mark Ellenbogen—they will even be roasting coffee on premises. And following Thad’s passionate cocktail philosophy, the spirits for the craft cocktails will come from small-batch producers who farm sustainably. In fact, Bar Agricole will be the only bar in the world that does not serve industrially distilled liquor. Eric Johnson, who hails from Bourbon and Branch and most recently from Beretta, is going to be the head bartender.

Bar Agricole will be open all day serving food and drinks, kind of like Cesar in Berkeley. The food will be Californian with a bit of French-Caribbean flair—for example, the sample summer menu included white corn and summer squash soup, and plantains with house-made crème fraîche. The kitchen will serve a light lunch during the day, bites in the afternoon, and will ramp up for dinner service, but don’t look for structured courses—it will be a bit more freestyle. And since the hours will be 10am–1am, the late-night crowd will soon have another opportunity for good food after the clock strikes ten. Vogler is still talking to chefs, so if there is someone out there who is fired up with this concept and is ready to design their own kitchen, here’s your shot.

The dining room will have 80 seats, plus outdoor seating. There will also be an organic raised-bed patio garden providing fresh herbs and greens for the drinks and restaurant. The opening is slated for March 2009—in case you can’t tell, I’m super-excited about this one. 355 11th St. at Folsom.

Here are some recent openings around town:

I neglected to mention the opening of ~BOULANGE DE POLK~ (in the former Petit Robert space) is official. 60 seats. Open Tue–Sat 7am–6:30pm, Sun 7am–6pm, closed Sun. 2310 Polk St. at Green, 415-345-1107.

The ~MEDICI LOUNGE~ in SoMa has been doing some trial runs. I’ll have more deets about the space, menus, hours and more next week—the official opening is still in the air. 299 9th St. at Folsom, 415-863-6334.

Ditto on the ~RAMEN CLUB~, which just opened in the former Kwanjai Thai spot in the Marina. Since they’re trying to slog through their soft opening, I’ll entice you with more details next week. 3243 Scott St. at Chestnut, 415-346-8882.

And there’s some action brewing in the Outer Sunset-Outerlands-Outside Lands-Judah Beach-End of the N Line neighborhood, whatever you want to call it: ~JAVA BEACH CAFÉ~ opened their second location right by the San Francisco Zoo. Coffee, breakfast, beer, their famous hot subs, and more. 2650 Sloat Blvd. at 45th St., 415-731-2965.

And then a couple blocks away, ~OUTERLANDS CAFÉ~ will be opening in the former Feel Real Organic Café space that closed a year ago. Although the name says café, they’re actually leaving the java to nearby Trouble Café, and will be more food focused—owners (and couple) Lana Porcello and David Muller envision a café-meets-restaurant for the style and vibe. Outerlands will open for dinner first, and perhaps some weekend brunch will kick off at the same time, or soon thereafter. The fare will be seasonal and made with local and organic produce (they are big farmers’ market-goers): think satisfying salads, good soups, and some hearty baked and vegetable dishes that are built for the foggy weather out there. Guests will order at the counter, and there will also be beer, wine, and tea to warm you up.

The space will have a rustic-meets-elegant-beach shack-look, made with almost exclusively recycled materials. There will also be a strong art presence, with food-and-gallery events every month or so, and music, too. The owners are excited to offer a community space, building on (and feeding) the scene that nearby Mollusk started with its surf-and-art crowd. The café will have 25 seats, with another 12 outdoors. The opening is slated for a couple months out, and hours will be dinner Tue–Sat (possibly 4pm–10pm), brunch Sat-Sun, and lunch to potentially be added later. 4001 Judah St. at 45th St., 415-661-6140.

Out in the Mission, I got more info on the mysterious ~GEORGE'S BBQ~. Back in July, I was wondering about this restaurant opening in a former bakery space in the Mission, and now, poof!, I have some info. George Prokopos, who has been entertaining customers while at Pete’s Barbecue in the Mission for the past 24 years (you know, the rotisserie chicken place with dinners priced at 1988 levels) finally has his own place. This casual hofbrau should be opening around November 1st, serving rotisserie chicken sporting George’s family spice blend, plus carved ham, roast beef, pastrami, turkey, and sides like salads and baked potatoes. Carved sandwiches will be $5.75, so it’s more about value than highlighting organic meats. George will be up front cutting up the meats and putting on a show (he’s a character). There will be 40 seats, with lunch and dinner daily. 3231 24th St at Mission, 415-550-1010.

Looks like ~LUNA PARK~ is trying to appeal to the booze-happy weekend crowds that flock to the Mission, offering a menu for night owls called “Happy Hour (and a Half).” The new executive chef, Nick Cobarruvius, will be serving discounted appetizers, including city street-inspired “Mission St. Dogs”—mini hot dogs wrapped in bacon and topped with caramelized onions and peppers ($4.95) and North Carolina-style pulled pork sliders topped with horseradish coleslaw ($5.95) from 11pm–1:30am on Friday and Saturday nights. There will also be some discounted cocktails (still hovering around $9, though). 694 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-553-8584.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off that ~YIELD WINE BAR~ in Dogpatch has recently added a menu of tasty and flavor-forward items to go with their selection of biodynamic and organic wines. The idea is to be complimentary to nearby Serpentine and Piccino, by being either a place for a pre-dinner bite or late-night snack. The chef is Kevin Schuder, who was formerly a cook at Millennium, and so you shouldn’t be surprised that the menu is vegetable-centric, but fish also makes some appearances. While the menu is rotating almost daily on the chalkboard, here are a few sample items: oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans and orange-browned butter ($7); artichoke dip with crispy Parmesan pecan topping; and chevre-stuffed Medjool dates with pomegranate paint and ancho chili oil ($6). Don’t fret, the Poco Dolce chocolate remains! Yield is open Mon–Fri 4:30pm–12am, and Sat 6pm–12am, with food served until 10:30pm. 2490 3rd St. at 22nd St., 415-401-8984.

I’m trying hard not to chuckle at the headline on this one (I am so easily entertained sometimes), but as of last night, ~ZARÉ AT FLY TRAP~ is serving the Bay Area's largest meatballs on Monday nights! How big? According to the press release, chef and owner Hoss Zaré is offering “kufte Tabrizi, a meatball the size of a large grapefruit, stuffed with seasonal, fresh ingredients.” Here’s more on this Monday night monster: “each two-pound ball of Niman Ranch beef and veal incorporates fluffy Persian rice, ten herbs and spices such as saffron and savory and, the pièce de résistance, a surprise stuffing such as a whole small poussin, braised short ribs or duck confit. This dish is indigenous to Zaré’s hometown of Tabriz, the second-largest city in Iran.” I say get some friends together some Monday night and call it a party. I can’t wait to see this beast. 606 Folsom St. at 2nd St., 415-243-0580.

If you feel like flipping the economy a big bird, then you should probably mark your calendar for the beginning of white truffle season. In honor of the season, ~PALIO D’ASTI~ will be hosting a white truffle five-course dinner thanks to a supply from their exclusive Italian purveyor, on Saturday October 25th. The dinner will be $120 per person, with an optional four-course wine pairing for an additional $50. Just want a whiff and a small taste? Shaved truffles will also be available as an up-charge option on all menu items for both lunch and dinner throughout the season. Additionally, Palio D’Asti is discounting many of their Barberas and Barbarescos for the month of October by 30% discount. Go nuts. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

Heard some sad news that ~MONO~ in Oakland has closed as of dinner service last Saturday, on the 11th. Here is a note from co-woner Eloisa Castillo: “The bottom line is, we're a casualty of the current economic downturn. We're a "mom & pop" operation with limited financial resources. We've exhausted every available resource to keep our dream (the restaurant) going but in times like now when everyone is hanging on tightly to what little disposable income they have, we simply could no longer ride out this economic downturn. We're still relatively new and still building up our client base but we simply do not have the nightly cover counts that we need to keep it going. As much as we have some raving fans, there's just not enough of them coming to dinner night after night.” Here’s wishing them well—I know they had some loyal fans. 247 4th St., Oakland.

Coming up this Wednesday October 15th is a Commonwealth Club event at the Ferry Building: ~FROM FARM TO FEAST: HOW CHEFS, FARMERS, AND ARTISANS STRENGTHEN OUR COMMUNITY~ as part of Eat Local Month in the Bay Area. Here’s more: “Chefs, farmers, advocates and food artisans are crafting a new, localized food system through their businesses. From farm to pie shop, through working to convert county parks to places of food production, and by providing local food alternatives, our panelists will inspire you with their passion and dedication toward increasing our access and knowledge of local foods. Learn about the wonders of local food and sample the products of local chefs, farmers and artisans. There will also be a Local Food and Wine Feast from 6pm–7pm before the panel begins!”

Panelists:
Jered Lawson, Farmer and Owner, Pie Ranch
Ari Derfel, Back to Earth Catering
Dave Stockdale, Executive Director, CUESA
Sue Conley, Co-owner, Cowgirl Creamery
Joan Simon, Full Plate Restaurant Consulting – Moderator

Check-in is at 5:45pm, reception at 6pm, program at 7pm. Cost: $15 Club/CAFF (Community Alliance for Family Farmers)/Slow Food members; $25 non-members. Please reserve online or call 415-597-6705. For more information, click here. Ferry Building, Port Commission Hearing Room, 2nd Floor.

This Friday October 17th, there will be a ~BOOK SIGNING OF AMARCORD~, the new memoir/cookbook by Marcella Hazan. Marcella, the legendary author of six classic Italian cookbooks, is credited with teaching millions of Americans how to cook Italian food, changing the way we shop, cook, and eat. Meet her and hubby Victor during this rare Bay Area visit. The Pasta Shop, Rockridge Market Hall. 4pm–6pm. 5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-250-6005.

Then on Sunday October 19th, Book Passage is hosting an ~AUTUMN DINNER WITH MARCELLA HAZAN~ at Left Bank as part of their monthly Cooks with Books series. The price of the book and meal is $100 per person/$175 per couple. 6:30pm. Reserve tickets online or call 415-927-0960, ext. 1 to reserve a spot. 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur.

And now, here are some ways to get your farmer groove on.

How about a harvest supper in a barn? This event sounds awesome: executive chefs Mark Sullivan and Dmitry Elperin of Spruce and The Village Pub will be cooking for ~ARTFUL HARVEST~, a benefit for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program on this coming Sunday afternoon, October 19th. Both chefs will be on site to prepare a five-course harvest supper featuring just-picked organic vegetables and herbs from SMIP Ranch Produce—the event will be in the Artists’ Barn at SMIP Ranch in Woodside. There will be passed hors d’oeuvres and wine to kick-off the afternoon while you preview silent auction artwork from Djerassi alumni artists, and premium merchandise packages. Then guests will be seated for the savory supper with views out over the hills, a live performance by sound artist Pamela Z, verse from Al Young, Poet Laureate of California, a dessert buffet, and a sunset Champagne toast… plus a few surprises. Wines are from Ridge Vineyards and Groth Vineyards and Winery. The dress is “ranch elegant” (I think some cowboy boots made from Spruce’s leather upholstery should suffice). $225 per person. Make reservations at djerassi.org or call 650-747-1250. Reservations limited to 150 guests. 3pm–7:30pm. 2325 Bear Gulch Rd. West, Woodside.

And then ~MILLENNIUM~ is hosting a farm event at the farm Tierra Vegetables next Sunday October 26th, featuring wine selections from Preston Vineyard. Arrive early for a farm tour, and you can enjoy a hayride and carve a pumpkin. All you have to do is bring a plate, silverware, a glass for wine (and one for water, too), and the staff will keep them full and wash them for you when you are done. Bread, olive oil, house-cured olives, and of course wine will be provided by Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, and Millennium will prepare a five-course family-style supper featuring the best produce from Tierra Vegetables and other very small neighboring farms. Rain or shine! 3pm. $80/person, includes dinner and wine, excludes tax and gratuity. Call Erica at 415-345-3900 x11 and make your reservation. Space is limited so don't dillydally. Tierra Vegetables Farm Stand, 651 Airport Blvd. (just off Fulton Road & Hwy 101), Santa Rosa.

Can’t head out of the city? On Wednesday October 22nd, there is a party at the Rickshaw Stop to ~BENEFIT THE WONDERFUL ALEMANY FARM~ with Be Brown (progressive dance hop and Afro-beat-flavored house), Brass Liberation Orchestra (acoustic Balkan brass, New Orleans second-line jazz, and samba beats), and Afrolicious (Pleasuremaker & Senior Oz spinning Afro-tropi-electro-samba-dub-disco-funk with live drums, and guest artists). The party is an inaugural event by Party Corps, a nonprofit social network with members who volunteer to throw parties to spread education and raise money for good causes. The jams kick off at 6pm. $10 before 10pm, $15 after. Read more. 155 Fell St. at Franklin.

~CHEESE PLUS~
is hosting their fourth annual Fall Harvest Festival on Saturday October 25th. More than two dozen local Bay Area artisan food vendors will sample their handmade foods throughout the day. This year's event focuses on the California Artisan Cheese Guild and California dairies including: Cypress Grove, Redwood Hill, Bellwether Farms, Point Reyes, Three Sisters, and Franklin Peluso. There will also be offerings from Beehive Dairy from Utah, Jasper Hill Farms from Vermont, and more. Chuck Siegel, owner of Charles Chocolates, will lead an in-store chocolate mendiant-making demonstration, plus there will be tastes from Fabrique Délices all-natural pâté, salami, and sausages; Apollo organic olive oils; Kick's ice cream sandwiches; San Francisco Cheese Quake (Cheesecake); Manicaretti Foods–Imports of traditional Italian food; and Perfect Edge Knife Sharpening Service will be present (fee for sharpening). The free festivities begin at 11am and continue until sunset. Live music from Duo Gadjo. Cheese Plus will donate 5% of total sales that day to Feelgoodworld.org. 2001 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-921-2001.