October 28, 2008

October 28, 2008

Folks have been wondering what chef ~MELISSA PERELLO~ (formerly of Fifth Floor) has been up to these days. While she's finalizing plans and honing in on the space for her upcoming restaurant, Frances, she is going to be hosting a fun and yet-to-be-named dinner series on Monday nights at Sebo restaurant in Hayes Valley, the night the restaurant is normally closed. Nope, you can't keep a chef from cooking! The first dinner kicks off on Monday November 10th. As Perello states in her announcement, "The idea is to bring friends and family together for a fun evening of food and wine. A chance to catch up with old friends and an opportunity to meet new ones. I'll be serving a four-course dinner of autumn's best ingredients, featuring dishes like hearty soups, slow braised meats. One could call it beta-testing for Frances' future menu. The evening's four-course menu will be priced at $45 per person. A nightly wine pairing will be available to enjoy with your menu or you can also choose from our list of wines. However, please feel free to bring a special bottle of your own; corkage will be just $10. The plan is to continue serving up these dinners on most Monday nights throughout the winter at Sebo. I will notify you of scheduled dinners up to two weeks in advance, via email."

You can find out about future Monday dates by signing up for the mailing list at monday_night [at] me [dot] com. You'll need to reserve your spot in advance at that email--please do not call Sebo directly; reservations will be accepted via email only. There will be two seatings for the evening; the first at 6pm and the second at 8:15pm. Please specify your choice of first or second seating. (Your prompt arrival will be much appreciated.) Seats will be limited, so be certain to respond early if you would like to attend. The menus will be crafted from the Saturday and Sunday markets' best, so she doesn't intend to post menus in advance, but please advise her of any dietary restrictions you or guests may have in advance when reserving your table. The preferred method of payment is greenback, but Visa and MasterCard will be accepted. Street parking can be tricky, but there is a handful of public lots in the neighborhood. Sebo, 517 Hayes St. at Octavia.

More Monday action: Americano at Hotel Vitale is featuring ~AMERICANO MONDAYS~, starting on Monday November 3rd. For three consecutive Mondays, chef Paul Arenstam is offering an Italian-inspired appetizer and entrée, paired with a half carafe of wine, for $20. So Monday the 3rd is escarole and pear salad with candied pecans and Gorgonzola, and orecchiette with braised Meyer Ranch beef cheek, and don't forget the vino! The 10th is Sausalito Springs watercress salad with Fuyu persimmon, and ricotta gnocchi with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage. The 17th is Americano minestrone soup with fresh spaghetti and Prather Ranch meatballs. 8 Mission St., 415-278-3777.

A few weeks back I mentioned Bushi-tei was opening a second restaurant in Japantown this winter. Here's more from the press release: "The casual dining spot, to be named ~BUSHI-TEI BISTRO~, will include a wine bar and seating for 80 on the ground floor of the Kinokuniya Building, just a block and a half west of the original location and near the intersection of Post and Webster streets. The restaurants will complement each other with the bistro offering a more casual menu with affordable prices. The average check will be between $30 and $35 per person," says owner Takumi "Tak" Matsuba, partnering with Eiji Miwa. The bistro's menu will reflect the same French California Fusion theme..." 1581 Webster Street Ste. 100 at Post.

What do chefs do on their last night working at a restaurant? Well, if you're ~RYAN FARR~, you cook your staff a turducken! Saturday was his last night at Orson, and in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps you'll be inspired to follow his how-to instructions on his personal website. Farr is currently in New York cooking up a private dinner feast, and when he returns, you can hire him for your holiday parties or private events through his catering outfit, Ivy Elegance. Heck, hire him to make you your very own turducken! It can be the new "it" item this year on every bona fide-gourmand's holiday wish list.

Spoke with Gino Assaf of North Beach's Ristorante Gondola, and his new 100-seat Mission restaurant, ~SPECCHIO~, is close to opening. He had a private party for some NBA stars last week, and plans to open for a soft opening next week--look for the grand opening by the weekend of the 8th. To recap, the restaurant is opening in the former Blue Room Gallery space, next to Cha Cha Cha. The menu will feature modern Italian dishes with some Venetian influences, with five­-six antipasti and salads, five pastas, five-six entrées, and three pizzas. Dinner to start, Tue-Sun 5:30pm-11pm, and lunch and brunch will follow later. 2331 Mission St. at 20th.

Looks like the lines at the Thursday night ~MISSION STREET FOOD~ truck won't be getting any longer. According to a few online posts, a crank-pot at Vanguard Properties (where the truck is parked in front of) raised some ruckus, and then there's that impending rainy season. So now here's the new dealio, according to the Mission Street Food site: "We're announcing a new format for Mission Street Food: each week, we'll feature a local guest chef/cook, who will offer his or her own dishes in addition to our regular menu. To make this change possible, we'll be moving from the truck into an actual restaurant. We've been talking with some local restaurants about sharing space, and we'll announce the details in a few days. We'll be closed this week for planning and will re-open somewhere in the Mission on November 6... Ideally, this will be part of an indie cooking movement that will let talented cooks reach the public without the risks of opening a conventional restaurant--and let the public enjoy great food without the costs of dining at a conventional restaurant." If you're a local chef or line cook and want to be a guest chef, check out the site for more details.

If inspections go well this week, ~CHILAYO~ will be opening in the old Andale spot on Chestnut this coming weekend. You can read more in this past issue of the tablehopper. Lunch and dinner will be served daily 10am-10pm, with breakfast on the weekends. 2150 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-674-1814.

I am digging this new wave of Taqueria 2.0: coming in early 2009 will be ~GRACIAS MADRE~, the first 100% organic and vegan taqueria in the Mission. The 75-seat project is from the Café Gratitude crew, and will feature a stone grinder and tortilleria (tortilla press/cooker) from Mexico, plus organic heirloom varieties of corn, also from Mexico. They will also get some corn and other produce from the BeLove Farm in Fairfield, also owned by Café Gratitude. Look for dishes like two kinds of guacamole, seasonal tamales, a pupusa, torta, enchilada, mole, and of course, tacos, like shiitake with purslane, or butternut squash and caramelized onion. There will also be lots of vegetable side dishes, rice, beans, and a chocolate plate, plus organic beer on tap from Eel River, and look for a Sunday brunch with Latin DJs. The look will be a rustic ranch style, with murals from local muralists. Hours will be 11am-11pm daily. The owners look forward to working with Mission High, and offering organic and vegan options for those who love taqueria eats, but don't want to compromise for non-organic choices. It's a complete build-out (the former space was a children's bookstore and press), so look for a February opening. 2211 Mission St. at 18th St.

Since we're talking Mexicano, did you know ~BURRITOEATER.COM'S 2008 SLAB SCRUM~ is coming up? Here's what Señor Burrito Eater has to say, "It's an eight-taqueria tournament field: both 2006 champ Gordo Taqueria and 2004 gold medalist Papalote are back, and they're in it to win it. Same goes for local stalwarts Taqueria San Francisco, Taqueria El Castillito, and El Burrito Express. The other three entrants--Taqueria Can-cún, Taqueria Reina's, and El Norteño--are first-time Scrummers, so we'll see if they suffer from any main-stage jitters. Look for the single-elimination tourney to get going on (or just after) November 1. It'll run five-six weeks." I'll report back on the SCRUMptious results in December!

A tablehopper reader wrote in to say, "~CABLE CAR PIZZA~ in the Mission looks closed, replaced seemingly overnight by a burger place called ~THRILL OF THE GRILL~." But then he went back to double check, and reports, "I stopped by tonight and there are TWO signs: Cable Car Pizza and Thrill Of The Grill. I asked inside and the guy said they were both. What?" What, indeed. 535 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-431-8880.

This rock star tablehopper reader also passed along this tip: "~ROCKIN' JAVA~ in the Haight has been transformed into Park Mini Mart Café, which looks to have a similar menu that now includes some Dreyer's froyo. But the café feeling is gone--the back seating area now houses fridges and shelves with food. There are still a few chairs near the front to linger." 1821 Haight St. at Shrader.

San Francisco is wicked cool for many reasons. Here's yet another reason--check out this email I received from David Stockhausen, and the related project he needs help with: "I founded a garden, with help from Peter Hood, Phillip Bellber, and Carolyn Blair (Boogaloos, Spaghetti Western, Weird Fish, CHA CHA CHA) called ~AMYITIS GARDENS~. I started it with the intent to grow as much food as possible for these places. While the garden space we have is beautiful and functional, in reality we need more. I am looking for ways to spread the word about what we are doing as to hopefully get others with passion for food to help us out. We are looking for people to donate space we can garden in exchange for some benefits at participating restaurants, discounts, gift certs. etc.

"It is becoming more and more clear to me and Jessie that we simply need more space. After all, more space = more food. While being eternally grateful for the space we were given, it is simply not enough to really make the kind of dent we're hoping to make in the restaurant alloy. With that now said, I do know that there is a way to make this happen without becoming a full-scale farm. With our garden project we intend not to sustain a restaurant entirely, but merely HELP to sustain a restaurant. I have yet to be convinced that we need to move to the sticks. All around me, in this city, there are spaces. There are unused spaces that need food, and lots of food. What if we all changed the way we thought about usable space? What about tearing up that inedible sod for a little arugula? I am sure that there are many San Franciscans with un- or underused spaces. All we really need is a little more than we've got to really make things cook! So now we're putting out our feelers and looking for space. We ideally would like to find people that have unused space that they would be comfortable donating. I mean hey...free landscaping anyone? Not to mention front row seats to the ever-expanding food sustainability movement. In exchange for the space, the donors would have a weekly share of veggies and potentially some deals at the restaurants we serve. Now that is community! A direct link between producers, farmers, and restaurants. So help us out. We need all the community we can get. IF you have space you'd donate, or know of space that is up for grabs, email us at david.stockhausen [at] gmail [dot] com."


I love me some tableside cart action. And now ~AQUA~ is doing a unique late-night spin that involves cheese, wine, and spirits. Every evening, from 9:30pm, they will be serving artisanal cheeses from their cart, alongside traditional and unique pairings. Bar manager Marko has developed cocktails specifically for pairing, and the sommeliers have found unique wines and liqueurs. Here are a few examples: Hudson Valley Camembert with a Calvados and apple cider cocktail, or Sierra Mountain Tomme with Nocino Della Christina walnut liqueur. Check out the entire menu here. You can choose from a three, five, or seven cheese-and-pairing flight. Three cheeses, $15; five cheeses, $22; seven cheeses $30. For the sommelier-selected wine and spirit flights: flight of three, $14; flight of five, $21; flight of seven, $29. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Noe Valley has a few new happenings: as I previously mentioned, ~BELGANO~ was going to reopen as ~TUTTIMELON~, but as a tablehopper reader notes, "The menus are different, the coffee is gone, but gelato is now being offered as well as parfaits (which I love, so I always notice them on the menu)." So I guess that means you can do gelato, or yogurt, or both. 3901 24th St. at Noe.

Attention bookworm cooks: due to open in Noe Valley on November 8th will be ~OMNIVORE BOOKS ON FOOD~. You'll find cookbooks, rare books, signed books, all kinds, covering food, wine, agriculture, and cocktails. The owner is Celia Sack, who some Noe Valley residents may recognize from Noe Valley Pet Co. Looking forward to checking it out, and seeing what kinds of guest events and signings they have in the future! Like Clark Wolf and Soyoung Scanlan on December 13th! Sign up for Omnivore's mailing list on their website to keep up with all their events. 3885-A Cesar Chavez St. at Church, 415-282-4712.

More in book-land: ~TYLER FLORENCE~ will be at the Cost Plus World Market store for a book signing on Sunday November 2nd from 11am-1pm. Reservations not required; a limited number of books will be sold at the San Francisco store. 2552 Taylor St. at Bay.

And then we have books with food: The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco is hosting a ~LUNCHEON WITH ELIZABETH FALKNER~, celebrating the release of her first cookbook, Demolition Desserts. The event will be held at Citizen Cake on Tuesday November 11th at noon. JCCSF members $45, general $55. Tickets must be purchased in advance; they will not be available at the door. Order online at www.jccsf.org/arts. Citizen Cake, 399 Grove St. at Gough, 415-861-2228.

This Sunday November 2nd is the ~BOSS OF THE SAUCE~ event, basically a big tomato sauce showdown. Restaurants will present their sauce to the attending general public in elimination rounds, and then a panel of celebrities for final judging. Last year's people's choice winner and judges' winner was Joseph Manzare of Zuppa. Will Joseph continue to rule? Noon-5pm. Tickets are $20 and up, and proceeds from the event benefit Saints Peter and Paul Church, and FIERI, in preservation of the Italian Culture and language. Saints Peter and Paul Event Center, 666 Filbert St. at Stockton.

A few weeks ago I listed the annual ~ONE NIGHT, ONE HEART~ fundraising event for Zen Hospice, and I just had to do one more mention of it because the location where I'll be co-hosting the dinner is just so darned cool: the new Stable Café on Folsom in the Mission! Elizabeth Falkner and Ryan Scott are cooking the dinner that night, we'll be drinking wine from Murray Street Vineyards, and we'll be seated in the urban chic gallery space in the back of the café. I've totally fallen in love with the space--I hope you can come. The dinner is on Sunday November 9th, one of nine intimate dinner parties being held that night in the Bay Area. Details about each of these nine unique dinners can be found at www.zenhospice.org. I hope to see you there!

Over in Oakland, opening the second week of December will be ~SIDEBAR~, a gastropub project from the husband-and-wife team of Barbara Mulas and Mark Drazek (Zax), with a new partner, Anne-Marie Adrain, acting as the GM. The space was formerly Trio Bistro, and overlooks Lake Merritt (outdoor seating is in the works). Jim Maxwell of Architects II is the interior designer, and mentioned there is a horseshoe copper-topped central bar--Jonny Raglin (Absinthe) is creating a concise cocktail menu that will highlight local spirits. The menu will be seasonal and local when possible, featuring food that is designed to work with the cocktails, but they aren't small plates. Look for neighborhood pricing, a relaxed and casual atmosphere, and no reservations. Lunch and dinner will be served Monday-Friday, and dinner only on Saturdays. 542 Grand Ave. at Euclid.

The OPEN Restaurant crew wanted to announce a ~FUNDRAISER HAPPY HOUR EVENT~ this Thursday October 30th that they are doing with Novella Carpenter for the BioFuel Oasis. Novella is "harvesting" her goat Bilbo to be made into tacos and more. The party is down at the Trumer Pils Brewery in Berkley. Some folks from Chez Panisse, urban homesteaders, biodiesel burners, all kinds of folks will be there. Plus there will be all-you-can-drink beer, beer tours, a bike-powered ice cream machine, and bites. How 510 can you get? 5pm onward. $10-$10,000 sliding scale. Trumer Pils Brewery, 1404 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-665-5509.

Craving truffles? Chef Peter McNee of Poggio is offering them a la carte in ten different dishes for one week: November 11th-15th at the ~ANNUAL FESTA DEL TARTUFO~. You can enjoy at least one course with truffles shaved tableside by the chef for a supplemental charge of approximately $35 to the a la carte menu. 777 Bridgeway at Bay, Sausalito, 415-332-7771.

And then ~OLIVETO'S~ annual Italian white truffle dinners are set for November 18th-21st. Diners at Oliveto pay by the gram according to the amount consumed. Truffles, the new cocaine. 5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356.

Now, I normally don't cover wine country events in tablehopper (I gotta draw the line somewhere, or I'll be covering Portland before I know it), but I had to do a shout-out to these two awesome big pig events. First, most pork lovers I know, and I know a lot, are all ready to hit ~AMUSE COCHON NAPA~! The event started in Atlanta, and is coming west! On Sunday November 2nd, a group of top chefs (Chris Cosentino, Incanto; Allan Benton, Benton Smoky Mountain Country Hams; Peter Pahk, Silverado Resort; Taylor Boetticher, Fatted Calf Charcuterie; Ryan Farr, Orson) will each prepare a heritage breed hog from head to toe for this competition. Guests and professional judges (including locals like chef Rob Lam of Butterfly SF, Dave McLean of Magnolia Brew Pub, Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite Market, and about 20 more) will determine a winner based on creativity, classic preparation, and overall best flavor. The winner will be crowned the "Prince of Pork." (Because I am already the Princess, ha ha!) In addition, five selected family-owned winemakers will showcase their wines: Palmaz Vineyards, Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyard, Hill Family Estate, Saddleback Cellars, and Thomas Michael Cellars. The event starts at 4pm, and is $100 per person. For tickets and info, visit www.amusecochon.com. Advance ticket purchase required. $20 discount for members of Slow Food and the restaurant industry--if you are one of these and need the promo code, please email brady [at] tastenetwork [dot] org. Silverado Resort, 1600 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa.

If you couldn't make it to Amuse Cochon, two weeks later is ~MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER WINE ESTATE'S 2ND ANNUAL WILD PIG PARTY~, on Saturday November 15th. Winery owner Jacques Schlumberger, winemaker Mike Brunson, and the rest of the winery team will be celebrating with wild blue grass music, wild pig, and wild zin! There will be an unveiling of their 2006 Estate Zinfandel "Cochons Sauvages" (Wild Pigs), plus roasted pig prepared by Geyserville's Santi Restaurant, which guests can feast on while sipping the first and second releases of the "Cochons Sauvages." Due to extremely limited allocations, the wine will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Michel-Schlumberger is also offering guests the opportunity to taste barrel samples and purchase futures on the 2007 "Cochons Sauvages" Zinfandel. $40 per person. For reservations and for more information, call the winery at 707-433-7427 or visit www.michelschlumberger.com. (This event sold out very quickly last year.) Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate, 4155 Wine Creek Rd., Healdsburg, Dry Creek.