November 25, 2008

November 25, 2008

Attention drinkers, eaters, bartenders, and chefs: on Tuesday December 9th, I will be putting on a chocolate and cachaça cocktail-and-food competition at Rosewood in North Beach from 6pm–8pm. The event is celebrating the final month for entry submissions for Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and's ~CHOCOLATE ADVENTURE CONTEST~. To inspire beverage adventures, they’ve partnered with Sagatiba Cachaça, which is co-sponsoring this special event.

Next week I’ll be announcing how to RSVP for the party since there will be a limited number of spots for guests—look for it in the tablehopper column on Tuesday December the 2nd!

In the meantime, in the spirit of chocolate adventure, we need four teams to compete at the party, each comprised of a chef and a bartender. Yup, this is a different kind of cocktail competition! Since this event is generously co-sponsored by Sagatiba Cachaça and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, bartenders will need to make a cocktail using Sagatiba Pura cachaça (Dominic Venegas can get you a bottle to play with), and Scharffen Berger chocolate (you can use anything from cachaça infused with nibs to a dark chocolate rim, as long as the chocolate contains anywhere from 41% to 99% cacao), and one of the following adventure ingredients:

• Basil (Thai, Japanese, or garden Basil)
• Mustard seeds
• Coriander
• Black sesame seeds
• Black or pink peppercorns
• Chili pepper (fresh or whole dried)
• Coconut milk
• Kaffir lime leaf
Matcha tea
• Mango
• Plantain
Tapioca pearls (any size)
Tamarind (or tamarind paste)
• Cacao nibs
Popping candy (unflavored or flavored)
Palm sugar

Meanwhile, chefs (from sous chefs to cooks to executive chefs to pastry chefs) are invited to create a bite to accompany their team’s cocktail. Chefs will need to use Scharffen Berger chocolate (it must contain anywhere from 41% to 99% cacao), and an adventure ingredient (listed above) in their bite. It can be savory or sweet.

Best cocktail wins $200, best bite wins $200, and the best pairing means $400 goes to the winning team. Think about it: if your team is that good, you could even do a complete sweep, walking out of the party with $400 in your pocket. But don’t sweat it—even if you don’t win or get to compete, you can still enter the Chocolate Adventure Contest for a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize in the categories of sweet, savory, and beverage.

Our fab judges include Elizabeth Falkner, chef and owner of Orson and Citizen Cake; Lisa Schiffman, founder of; Brad Kintzer, Master Chocolatier of Scharffen Berger; and Jordan Mackay, wine and spirits editor of 7x7, wine and cocktail contributor to, and author of the upcoming book Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America's Pinot Noir Country.

A few things to note:

    • All bartenders and chefs must be currently working in a restaurant or bar in the 415 or 510 (so no caterers, private chefs, etc., sorry).

    • Chefs can choose a bartender who works elsewhere, and vice versa: you don’t have to be from the same establishment. So choose your teammate wisely if you want a good shot at winning best pairing!

    • You’ll be preparing a total of five drinks and bites for the judges.

    • Chefs: you are responsible for any heating elements/induction burners/equipment you will need to prepare your bite. We just provide the power and the space. Small plates for you to serve your bite on for the judges will be provided—if you need bowls or something else to serve your bite, please bring it.

    • Your drink and bite will be judged on the following criteria: taste, appearance, creativity, use of ingredients, and finally, how does it pair with the bite or cocktail.

    • The first four bartender and chef teams to register with me will be the ones to compete. Once you get your team finalized, email me ASAP to enter!

    • Are you a bartender and need a bottle of the Sagatiba Pura cachaça to practice with for the contest? Contact Dominic Venegas: domvenegas [at] gmail [dot] com.

So, you’re not a chef or bartender… but wondering if you can come to the party? Of course, there is going to be room for partying guests! The party is free, and we’ll be serving complimentary Sagatiba Velha cachaça cocktails (offering a sneak peek and taste of this soon-to-be-released aged cachaça!), plus some mole sliders and sweet treats from La Cocina. Since the guest list action will be limited, please watch for details on how to RSVP in tablehopper on Tuesday December 2nd. You’ll want to act quickly!

Lastly, anyone can enter the and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest. You can submit sweet, savory, or beverage recipes—in fact, not many people have entered beverage recipes thus far (hint hint). One first-place prize will be awarded in each category (sweet, savory, and beverage). Winners receive: $5,000, a mention in Saveur magazine, and more! Submissions to the contest end on January 4th, 2008. Read more here.

See you at the partay!

And now, the news!

Lots of chef switcheroos and departures around town: I was sorry to hear Mark Denham is no longer the executive chef of ~LAÏOLA~—his sous chef, 27-year-old Ron Pei, has assumed the role of executive chef. Starting December 1st, look for more casual tapas, and a paella-only night on Mondays. Lunch service will start January 1st. As Pei stated, "Mark [Denham] is one of the best chefs in the city," says Pei. "He launched Laïola to a fantastic start and I intend to make sure we maintain Mark's integrity." I spoke with Denham, and he said, “Ron’s a terrific guy, I wish him the best of luck.” Will keep you posted on Denham’s next kitchen, which I hope happens soon, because I dig his cooking and philosophy. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-346-5641.

~LA MAR CEBICHERIA PERUANA~ has barely been open for two months, and now the executive chef, José Luis de Cossío, is leaving and returning to work at Andina in Portland. His last day at La Mar is today. He actually opened Gastón Acurio's first La Mar in Lima, working there for two years, and then came to the U.S. in 2005 to work at Andina in Portland for 2 ½ years. After speaking with de Cossío, it seems he missed the creative freedom of working at Andina, and said of opening La Mar in San Francisco, “It was a great opportunity, but it’s not for me.” He wants to start a family with his wife, and wants a backyard and a dog, which we all know is rare to make happen in San Francisco. He is looking forward to the challenge of running his own show in Andina, and will start at the end of December. As for his replacement in SF, that remains to be seen (another chef might be starting in a couple months), but he said there is always staff from the original La Mar in the SF kitchen, maintaining the La Mar vision and style. Pier 1 ½ on the Embarcadero, 415-397-8880.

Executive chef Alex Marsh is no longer at ~BRICK~ due to some personal reasons—assuming his role is sous Nathaniel Cooper, who has worked with Marsh for over a year. At ~SOLSTICE~, Jorge Romero, who has been there for over three years, will be in charge of the kitchen. Co-owner Matt Sturm expressed, “Both kitchens are in very capable hands.” GM Matt Budesa, a trained chef who has been with the group for the past five years, will supervise both. Brick: 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232. Solstice: 2801 California St. at Divisadero, 415-359-1222.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire! Well, it certainly was at ~NOPA~ this Saturday, when there was an unfortunate fire in the shaft connected to the kitchen (for the record, the hood has been cleaned diligently and on schedule—it was just one of those things). The good news: no one was hurt, it was before dinner service, the fire was isolated and put out quickly, and woo hoo, Nopa will be reopening this Friday. Nopa held a staff pre-holiday party Sunday night to use up some of the food that wasn’t going to be consumed this week while they’re closed, and they donated a bunch of food to the Food Bank and Walden House. You can read more on Richie’s line cook blog. Here’s to their quick return to business… And on a more somber note, everyone raise a glass (and a gorgeous organic vegetable) in memory of Diane Joy Goodman, the lovely mother of NOPA co-owner Allyson Woodman, who tragically and unexpectedly left us a couple weeks ago. You can read a touching tribute to Diane and her passionate work in last week’s CUESA newsletter. Sending much love and sympathy to the Nopa crew, and all the people who knew her. 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes, 415-864-8643.

A small update on additional happenings in the neighborhood: Nopa’s baby offshoot, ~NOPALITO~, is coming along nicely, and should be open by January 1st. 306 Broderick St. at Oak.

Up Divisadero, ~B'S BBQ & GRILL~ has finally opened. Well, kind of. They’re definitely in what I’d call soft opening mode with erratic hours, so try calling before heading over. The sign said they were going to be open this week today and tomorrow (Wednesday) and then be closed for Thanksgiving. Seems the brisket is the meat to order, according to some Yelpers who have managed to have a meal here (I have been less successful). The space is no frills and pretty small. It’s supposed to be open for lunch and dinner, from 11am–9pm. 855 Divisadero St. at McAllister, 415-525-3419.

Not too far away, ~DOSA ON FILLMORE~ is holding their official opening next Monday December 1st. I got a sneak peek at the space last week, and let’s just say that big kitchen has owners Anjan and Emily Mitra all excited about the expanded menu—look for even more dishes hailing from the Southern Indian states.

One thing I noticed is a special four-course tasting menu for $39 per person, which your entire table would need to order. You can also do an additional wine pairing for $16 (one half-glass with each course). The courses are a starter, a mini dosa, a South Indian curry, and dessert (which includes some vegan and vegetarian options). Will it be red beet cumin soup, or fried prawns rubbed in ground lentils and chiles to start? There are a bunch of dishes in each section to choose from, and there are à la carte selections, too. The wine list is from Dosa Valencia Street’s wine director and manager Todd Smith, who put together an even more extensive list, with many small producers and often organic and biodynamic wines from around the globe.

Jonny Raglin (Absinthe Brasserie & Bar and Nopa) is the consulting mixologist behind the “Spice Route” cocktail program. The list of 10 original cocktails will highlight house-made bitters and syrups (like coriander nectar), plus spices like cumin and saffron, fresh tropical fruits, and exotic garnishes (like lime-flavored curry leaves). For example, there’s the Juhu Palm, made with DH Krahn Gin, coconut milk, lime juice, Kaffir lime leaf, and bird’s eye chili, served up with a spanked (ouch!) curry leaf ($10) and the Faux Swizzle, with El Dorado Rum, St. Germain elderflower, chicory bitters, served over crushed ice with a sugar-dusted mint sprig ($9).

The Mitras and Jim Maxwell of Architects II were very committed to sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives for the restaurant, including solar-powered water heaters, and recycled glass for the bar tops and faces. The room is spacious and has high ceilings, with lots of shimmery details and colorful elements. There’s a bar, a lounge area and communal table, room for 82 in the dining room (with some booths), and an upstairs mezzanine that’s perfect for private parties (room for 50). Dinner will be served nightly 5:30pm–midnight, and lunch will start a week later, Mon–Fri 11am–3pm, and then brunch Sat–Sun 11:30am–4:30pm. 1700 Fillmore St. at Post, 415-441-3672.

Just in case you’re jealous of my turducken experience, you can try one at ~MAGNOLIA~ this Wednesday. Chef Brandon Jew is making turducken for his monthly three-course dinner that’s held on the last Wednesday each month, and this one will feature butternut squash soup, turducken (with Modesto Farm chicken in a Liberty Duck in a heritage turkey) plus giblet gravy, Firebrand brioche stuffing, and pomegranate sorbet. Beer pairings TBD. All for $33! Starts at 5pm. 1398 Haight St. at Masonic, 415-864-7468.

And then over at ~ALEMBIC~, there’s a new happy hour Mon–Thu from 5pm–7pm, and on Fridays from noon–6pm, with half-price nibbles (Togarashi popcorn, pickled quail eggs, shishito peppers, goat cheese croquettes, among others). All righty! And mark your calendar because on Sunday December 7th, Alembic is hosting a Sutton Sunday Supper, from 3pm until they run out of the whole pig they’re roasting for the event. Winemaker Carl Sutton will be on hand to talk and entertain, and will be pouring four wines. Each dish will be around $15 paired with a half glass of wine. Alembic will post the menu on their blog as soon as the chefs finalize it. 1725 Haight St. at Cole, 415-666-0822.

Fan of brunch? ~THE TERRACE RESTAURANT AT THE RITZ-CARLTON~ just launched a new Sunday brunch this past weekend, blending buffet and à la carte selections for $55 instead of the former mega-buffet jazz brunch for $78. There’s now a smaller breakfast buffet which includes fresh breakfast pastries, seasonal fruits and berries, house-smoked salmon, build-your-own omelet station, breakfast meats, and potatoes—you then choose your main course, which includes a variety of Benedict variations, French toast, Belgian waffle, New York steak and eggs, corned beef hash, a vegetable sandwich, and more. And then there’s the dessert buffet, with a choice of assorted European-inspired desserts. There’s also the option of ordering a shared seafood platter for the table, or caviar and blini. $55 (includes a glass of sparkling wine, freshly brewed coffee or tea, choice of orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice). Sundays (excluding special holiday brunches) from 11am–2:30pm. 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-773-6198.

Over in the East Bay, Chowhound had a posting about French-country ~JOJO~ in Oakland closing. They are celebrating their ninth anniversary in December, and will then go out with a bang on New Year’s Eve with a cassoulet dinner. According to the goodbye note, here’s what the owner had to say, “Many of you have expressed interest in our future plans. Besides a little time set aside for some skiing, we'll be moving into event planning, taking on endeavors both large and small.” 3859 Piedmont Ave. at Yosemite, Oakland, 510-985-3003.