December 16, 2008

December 16, 2008

Last Tuesday’s Scharffen Berger and ~CHOCOLATE AND SAGATIBA CACHAÇA COCKTAIL-AND-FOOD COMPETITION~ and party at Rosewood was a blast—sorry for the crunch at the beginning, y’all were a thirsty bunch! (My kind of people.) And thanks to everyone who participated—so much talent. Let’s just say our judges were stoked. Here are the results of the cocktail and cookin’ competition:

The best cocktail was won by Jen Ackrill (Rye), who did the “São Paulo Sin,” a combination of Sagatiba cachaça infused with Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs and Thai chiles, plus some allspice dram, cherry heering, and a flamed orange. Jen has the cocktail on the menu at Rye right now if you want to check it out! Deeeelish.

Scott Youkilis (Maverick) won best bite for his dish of crispy pork belly with a tamarind, ancho chili, and blood orange barbecue sauce, topped with coriander-dusted plantains, and shaved Scharffen Berger dark chocolate.

Best pairing went to Jen Ackrill (Rye) and Jane Tseng (A16), who did a milk chocolate panna cotta—the cream for the panna cotta was infused with cocoa nibs, plus there were chocolate crispy clusters (chocolate, feuilletine, peperoncino, cinnamon), crema fresca, dried Morello cherries (poached in pomegranate and Senise pepper syrup), and fresh mint. Yeah, I make that at home all the time, har. But if you’d like to check out Jane’s faboo dessert, she has it on the menu at SPQR, starting tonight! In fact, you can go to Rye, and then SPQR to experience the winning pairing!

Check out some party pics from the Bunrabs, who did a fun photo recap of the evening. And just a final reminder: anyone can enter the and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest. You can submit sweet, savory, or beverage recipes. 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 all about it here.

Now, let’s talk holiday. I have a bunch of ideas for fun gift giving, and of course, they involve food and booze and books. Let’s attempt to make some of the calories I’ve consumed while tasting and trying things not completely in vain, mmmmmkay?

Some holiday gift ideas from the tablehopper:

479° Popcorn
Since I feel (slightly) guilty buying this spendy but oh-so-addictive popcorn, I can imagine other folks would be beyond stoked to find a box of 479° Popcorn in their stocking. I just checked the site and they even have sampler packs, so you can get into all kinds of trouble. J’adore (especially the truffle and cheddar, and pimentón de la Vera flavors!). Consider yourself warned.

Voyant Chai
Okay, this is kind of a slu*ty liqueur, but man, it has holiday all over it. Creamy, with nice chai spice. My whole family liked it, but my grandma really liked it. BevMo reportedly carries it… If you want a spicy switch from the usual holiday line-up of liqueurs, check this one out.

Cowgirl Cheese Safe
Yup, it’s a little pine box with a sliding lid that you can store your cheese in! (Cheese safe sounds much better than cheese casket.) And it comes with cheese wrapping paper, too. I love this gift idea, just $25, especially since most folks don’t have cheese-head items like this (unless you’re Laura Werlin). My current “cheese safe” is nothing more than a tragic plastic box that could double as an insect cage—time to upgrade.

Restaurant Gift Certificate
With all this depressing recession business, it’s obvious people aren’t dining out at often. So why don’t you give a gift certificate to one of your favorite restaurants? It’s a win-win: the person getting the cert will be stoked to have a night out on the town they aren’t paying for, and it helps support your local restaurants, which we need to help insure that they stick around, right? Right.

Food Bank Donation
Trying to get something for someone who is impossible to buy for? Or perhaps someone who will appreciate a generous gesture? Make a tribute donation to the San Francisco Food Bank!

Bixology by Eve O’Neill and Doug Biederbeck
This spiffy little book is coming out any day now, and it’s totally “in the pocket.” It’s about the culture and history of Bix, full of drink and appetizer recipes, notes on jazz, stories from Doug, illustrations, and lots of other good stuff. Would appeal to either the gent or lady in your life.

Tiny Bubbles by Kate Simon
I’m already mad for champers, and rarely think to put anything in it—unless it’s flat or just not very good. This little book of fizzy cocktails, however, has me looking forward to my next dinner party or petite soiree so I can mix some of these numbers up. Cheers, darlink. (I’d give this book with the item listed below.)

You can’t go wrong, ever, with a bottle of bubbly. Let me tell you, when a bottle of Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour showed up at tablehopper HQ last week, I was one happy cat. Pop and purr. (Lather, rinse, repeat.) We have some fabulous wine shops here in the city (my favorite stops include Biondivino, K&L, The Jug Shop, Swirl, William Cross Wine Merchants, Arlequin, Golden Gate Wine Cellars, and CAV) so go ask some questions and get tastin’.

La Cocina Gift Baskets
This is an organization I simply adore—and yay, they have put together some holiday gift baskets that are literally good enough to eat. And with your purchase, you end up supporting these fantastic emerging businesses, many of them female-run. There’s even a basket for just $23, loaded with tasty edibles. Hey, nice basket.

Gift Box O’ Donsuemor Madeleines
Still haven’t carted something into the office? Figuring out what to give the UPS guy? I was gifted a box of these, and I gotta say, it was pleasant having these individually wrapped (and locally made) madeleines around when my afternoon sweet tooth would strike. Lemon zest one day, traditional the next. They totally keep, I like the cake-meets-cookie texture, and the new dipped chocolate flavor is tops.

And one more for good measure…

Wine Class at CAV
Have you thought about giving away a wine class to your favorite wino? CAV is doing some good ones, like this one, Introduction to Wine, which is perfect for the beginning imbiber (on Saturday January 17th or February 21st). $45 per person.

Okay, so that’s enough of Culinary and Cocktail Santa.

Let’s look at what’s going on out there. One weird thing I heard is a bizarre ~MARK DENHAM IMPERSONATION STORY~. Someone claiming to be chef Denham called Manresa, asking for David Kinch and Jeremy Fox (who is now at Ubuntu), in addition to calling Laïola, locked and loaded with a convoluted story about a car getting towed, and needing money wired immediately to retrieve his car from a tow lot in Oakland. No one wired the money because there were too many things that didn’t jive. Looks like some shyster took the names from the recent piece about Denham’s departure from Laïola in the Chron’s Inside Scoop column and tried to hustle the people mentioned in the piece for money. No idea if this might happen again, but in case any of you industry types hear a similar story or hustle, it’s just that: a hustle.

Looks like the sausage-and-beer project in the Mission, Zweibar, won’t be happening (one of the partners, Fra Kepler, dropped out due to an already intense workload). But taking the reins will be Christiane Schmidt of Walzwerk and her boyfriend, furniture designer and architect David Pierce, who will together be launching ~SCHMIDT’S DELI~. The combination German deli, bar, café, restaurant, and store will be serving German beer (both bottled and five–six on draught, with more later), wine, coffee, baked goods, and yes, sausages—eventually ten kinds in all. The shop will sell authentic German items, like chocolate and jams. The deli/restaurant will open for lunch first, serving items like schnitzel, onion cake, salads, soups, spaetzle, and three–four kinds of sausages, and eventually for dinner (probably 11am–11pm). There are about 49 seats, with ten spots at the bar. Initial hours are looking like Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm, and the opening is slated for mid-January. 2400 Folsom at 20th St.

Meanwhile, ~EBISU~ in the Sunset has gone full-tilt on the remodel, and gutted the entire restaurant. They are now gunning for a reopening at the end of January. Meanwhile, I have also heard that it is nearly 90% final that Ebisu will be opening a third location in the Financial District. The new location will be more of a lunch place and will be the home for all of Ebisu’s catering. I’ll share as details emerge.

More sushi news: I have some intel on the second Tsunami location that’s opening in Mission Bay: it will be called, appropriately enough, ~TSUNAMI MISSION BAY~. The opening is currently slated for January, and will be similar to the Fulton Street Tsunami in its sushi and extensive sake offering. A new addition is a huge bar with a communal table, and will feature a number of gin cocktails (over 40 gin offerings in all), in addition to other spirits, plus a nice selection of hard-to-find spirits. Cocktails will range from $6–$9. 302 King St. at 4th St.

I got word from a tablehopper reader that when she tried to make a reservation at ~FRISEE~, she was told the restaurant closed last Tuesday, and that they are working on a new concept for 2010. Best of luck to them. 2367 Market St. at Castro.

Also in the Castro, the Mediterranean/Moroccan ~CAFÉ MYSTIQUE~ opened this past weekend in the former Welcome Home space. As Eater noted yesterday, the service is getting reamed on Yelp, so I’d let this spot settle in a bit more. 464 Castro St. at 18th St.

And now, mysterious liquor license updates and businesses:

is opening in the Richmond in a former Cable Car Pizza spot. 4724 Geary Blvd. at 11th Ave.

~JONES~, the sporty Marina Steakhouse, is coming under new ownership: the crew behind Bin 38. Here’s more from Don Davis, “The working name is Scott Street Bar & Grill, though that may change. We’ll be doing an upscale neighborhood bar & grill, a new take on a classic. Expect lots of dark wood and leather with a fresh, modern take. We’ll have a wood-fired grill and pizza oven to put out the best bar classics in town. The drink list will focus on our twist on classic American cocktails and the largest American craft beer selection in town. Additionally, we’ll introduce the sports lounge concept, providing the only upscale place to watch sports in town.” They are imagining Jones will close in mid-February, and after three–four months of remodeling, are hoping for a June/July opening. 2400 Lombard St. at Scott.

And now, it’s time to get spicy with some Indian-related news. ~NAAN N’ CHUTNEY~ in the Lower Haight should be serving beer and wine in a few weeks. 525 Haight St. at Fillmore, 415-255-1625.

~DOSA ON FILLMORE~ is now open for lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30am–3:30pm, and brunch Sat–Sun 11am–3:30pm. I can already taste the pani puri… 1700 Fillmore St. at Post, 415-441-3672.

Also wanted to make a clarification since the Western Addition had two restaurants within five blocks of each other with the word Kathmandu in their names. To repeat, the one that closed and is becoming Saffron Grill, ~KATHMANDU CAFÉ~, was on Fulton at Divisadero. The charming ~METRO KATHMANDU~ down the street on Divis is alive and well, with momos in effect. In fact, why don’t you swing by for their happy hour (5:30pm–7pm) for some half-priced wine and selected beers? Oh, and in case you need a place besides a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, FYI, Metro Kathmandu will be open. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

And now for something sweet: after months of watching and waiting, ~CANDY DARLING~ is opening in the Lower Nob Hill this Friday. I had some brief contact with one of the owners, Carla Stacho, who some may remember from the Candy Jar on Jones. There are truffles, house-made peanut brittle, English toffee, bonbons, wrapped candies, caramels, and more. Let’s hope they offer an Andy Warhol truffle or something (Candy Darling was a tranny in NYC who starred in a few of Warhol’s films). It’s a retail space, so there isn’t room to hang out and linger. 796 Sutter St. at Jones, 415-346-1500.

A tablehopper reader wrote in to rave about the rice pudding at the newly opened ~LOVING CUP~ on Russian Hill—there are flavors like chai and vanilla, plus some holiday-inspired flavors. There is also frozen yogurt (the toppings get mixed into the yogurt), smoothies, coffee, and baked goods. Open Mon–Fri 6:30am–9:30pm, and Sat–Sun 11am–9:30pm. 2356 Polk St. at Union, 415-440-6900.

More sweet news: ~LOTTA’S BAKERY~, named after Lotta Crabtree, famous for entertaining refugees from the 1906 earthquake, is going to be hosting Mani Niall tomorrow, Wednesday December 17th, from 6pm–8pm. Niall will be signing copies of Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener, and cookies and hot chocolate will be served, all recipes made with exotic sugars from the book. 1720 Polk St. between Clay and Washington, 415-359-9039.

Okay, it’s snowing in SoMa, and I’m not referring to what’s happening in the bathrooms at after-hours clubs. Apparently, ~SUPPERCLUB~ is bringing in a snow machine for the week of December 15th, turning their interior into a winter wonderland. The walls will be covered with mirrors and will have laser shows projected against them, and a bridge has been constructed above the bar, which will act as a stage for live performance and a video “screen.” The Ricochet Project has joined as resident performers. The best part is this would be the week to check it out, because supperclub just lowered their prices for this Tuesday December 16th AND Wednesday December 17th: the three-course menu is only $35 per person (normally $55—this Thursday the menu is $55, and $65 on Fri–Sat). Suggested attire? Après après-ski. Rawr. 657 Harrison St. at 3rd St., 415-348-0900.

These recession specials flooding my inbox are not exactly what I’d call uplifting, but with this ridiculously inexpensive offer, I had to mention it: ~LUNA PARK~ has launched the (unfortunately named) “Blue Tray Special,” running Monday through Thursday nights, 5:30pm–10:30pm. For $12, guests will be able to order hearty comfort foods, like Painted Hills meatloaf with mushroom and red wine gravy; Niman Ranch beef stew; pumpkin sage risotto; and vegan Stella Artois chili. Served on cafeteria-style trays, the special is paying homage to the Depression-era soup kitchens that provided inexpensive meals on blue trays. For an additional $5, guests may have a select glass of wine or a specialty cocktail (mojitos or sangria), served in matching blue glassware. Yup, people will be like, “Hey, you, with the blue tray and cup! Sorry you lost your job!” 694 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-553-8584.

~CHEZ PAPA RESTO~ has dropped their prices about 20% since they opened, and are now offering some lunch tartines with a mixed green salad (the average price is $10), and launched a new winter dinner menu, with dishes like Liberty Farms duck breast with parsnip puree, Swiss chard, quince, and sherry jus. Don’t forget the happy hour from Mon–Fri from 5pm–7pm, with $6 cocktails and bar bites. 4 Mint Plaza (formerly Jessie St.) between Mission and Market near Fifth St., 415-546-4134.

There’s a new chef at ~PACIFIC CATCH~ on Ninth Avenue, Chandon Clenard, taking the place of Joanna Perel, who left the company to go travel the world. His background includes Spago Palo Alto, executive chef for Kimpton Restaurants in San Francisco, and he was the executive chef at the Border Grill in Santa Monica. Chandon is currently working on six new regional menu specials for 2009 (Alaska, Thailand, Australia, Peru, Singapore, and Costa Rica). 1200 9th Ave. at Lincoln, 415-504-6905.

These events fill up super quick, so I wanted to let you know RIGHT NOW: coming up is another ~OPENRESTAURANT EVENT~—this one is with YBCAlive! and Slow Food Nation, on Tuesday January 6th. Members of the Slow Food Nation community and OPEN (Stacie Pierce, Jerome Waag, and Sam White, all part of the Chez Panisse restaurant staff) are staging another socially engineered dining experience. Invited panelists will share a three-course meal that reflects what is possible to grow in an urban setting, along with all the problems and possibilities, while they ponder the question: should the urban landscape be productive? Ticket buyers will be invited to celebrate the “Slow” life while enjoying tapas-style plates and learning more about urban farming, foraging, and gleaning from people directly involved in these processes. 7pm, Grand Lobby, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. $20 general admission, $15 YBCA members. RSVP required. For reservations, please call the box office at 415-978-2787.Â

I’ve been getting some emails from numerous people about the petition at, asking Obama's transition team to consider six candidates for the ~SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE~ position who could potentially mend our broken food system. I know, I know, some of you get cranky when I bring up political issues in tablehopper. Hey, food is political—especially right now, at this very crucial moment. So please check this out: more than 52,000 people have signed the petition, including Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Wendell Berry, Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, Dan Barber, and Bill Niman, and the Obama transition team appears to be paying attention. For more on this, read Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed piece, "Obama's Secretary of Food?” Please read the petition, and consider signing it, blogging it, and/or forwarding this message to your personal networks and any listservs you are on. Thanks for spreading the word.

Over in the downtown Oakland, ~BANYAN14~ has opened its doors, serving Thai and Vietnamese street food with a healthy Californian approach, using fresh, locally grown, and organic produce whenever possible, as well as natural meats and wild or sustainably farmed seafood. The affordable menu includes a variety of soups, salads, wraps, noodle dishes, and curries. Open Mon–Fri 10:30am–3pm. 578 14th St. at Jefferson, 510-251-2753.

Word on the street is Dopo is opening a second location, tentatively called ~ADESSO~ on Piedmont Avenue and Pleasant Valley Rd. in Oakland. According to an ad on Craigslist, the space is slated to open in early February. There won't be hot plates, more about nibbles like salumi and cheese. More on this as details emerge…