December 23, 2008

December 23, 2008

Okay, before we dive out of holiday happenings, I had to forward this ~CUTE AND CLEVER HOLIDAY NOTE~ I received from Sent Sovi in Saratoga:

‘Twas the holiday season of 2008 and all through the house, many creatures were stirring, but definitely not a mouse. (They cause problems with the health department.)

The settings were placed on the tables with care with hopes that our guests would soon be there (in this economy, hope is a good thing).

The wine was nestled snugly in the cellar, aging gracefully, hopefully becoming better (or tempting me to transfer it to my “personal cellar”).

With me in my coat and Khin in her dress, we settled in to serve our wintertime best. (She looks a lot better in a dress than I do in a chef coat.)

The rain pounded, the pots did clank, but by five o’clock it was all in shape. (Yes, our staff does read this - 5:05 is not 5:00, actually 4:50 is 5:00.)

Through the door came with such a quiet sound a steady stream of people that wanted to sit down! And down they did, and down they will, at first one couple, and then the room did fill.

The people feasted and laughed all in good cheer; I smiled in thanks and hope to see everyone again in the New Year.

Happy holidays to our loyal customers, staff and vendors. Thank you for all of your support.

Josiah Slone
Chef/Owner, Sent Sovi

Many of you in or who follow the food blogging community are already aware of this, but for the rest of you, the ~FIFTH ANNUAL MENU FOR HOPE~ has started! It’s an inspiring worldwide fundraising effort by food bloggers for a designated charity. This year the charity of choice is the United Nations World Food Programme, with the funds specifically going to an important school lunch program in Lesotho. Menu for Hope is hosted by Pim of Chez Pim, and is the annual major fundraising event for food bloggers. Last year, the event raised over $90,000 for the Lesotho program. This year’s amount is currently at $20,000.

The event is a raffle, with each ticket costing $10. There are a bunch of prizes this year, broken into areas of the world so everyone can participate, from the West Coast to the East Coast to Europe to Asia to Canada. Yup, some tickets make a great last minute holiday gift!

Many of the prizes are rather amazing, and how you strategize is up to you. One year I won tickets to the TASTE3 conference, my first time to attend, so I was beyond stoked. And some companies match charity donations, so be sure to look into that. Winners are announced on January 12th. Best of luck, and please consider buying some tickets to this fantastic raffle, and wonderful cause!

I was bopping around the Mission yesterday, running a few last-minute holiday errands when I really needed to be home writing my column, but at least I turned the outing into research! First stop: I managed to visit ~PHAT PHILLY~ on their first soft opening day! Okay, I know we’re all getting fat (NOT with a ph) on Bûche de Noël and fried fish and latkes and panettone, but upon my first bite of my classic Philly cheesesteak (made with Niman Ranch beef, caramelized onions, Whiz, and topped with hot cherry peppers), I had zero guilt. Why? Because it was so delicious that my brain stopped paying attention to calories. Well, maybe I felt a little guilt, because I also tried their criss-cut waffle fries with their house-made cheddar sauce made with Newcastle Ale, topped with sweet caramelized onions ($4). Sorry, my heart: hurts so good!

The 7" Amoroso rolls are flown in from Philly (the “phat” 12" size will be start arriving in early January) and are super soft. And let’s hear it for a quality beef sandwich for only $5.95 (the phat size will be $9.25). Until the 12" rolls arrive, the owner was talking about offering a “buy one get one half-off” deal or something like that—if your appetite is being demanding like that, ask and find out. There are some vegetarian options, eleven kinds with meat, plus chicken wings (BBQ or Buffalo), Italian beef sandwiches (even the giardiniera comes from Chicago), salads, and milkshakes! East Coast treats like Tastykakes, Herr’s Pretzel’s and Chips, and Just Born Peanut Chews are coming soon. There are lots of homemade sauces, like the marinara, cheddar beer sauce, and BBQ. Beer (Pilsner Urquell, Blue Moon, and Newcastle) will be on tap any day now—just waiting on permits. Oh, and there are free refills on sodas! Enjoy. Open daily 11am–10pm, and late-night weekend hours are coming soon—hopefully. 3388 24th St. at Valencia, 415-550-PHAT (7428).

I also trucked over to ~HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE~, the ice cream shop off 24th Street that is slated to open either Friday or Saturday, but of course that date could slip—especially considering all the hell owner Jake Godby (formerly of Coi, Fifth Floor, Boulevard) has gone through to get this place open. You’ll be able to try 10–12 flavors, and during the soft opening period they will only be serving one size—a single serving—and no sundaes yet. But check this out: during the first few days of opening, Jake will be offering “pay what you want/can,” a la Radiohead. Sweet. Some of the opening flavors will be secret breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes), coconut sherbet, and balsamic caramel. Check out the entire line-up of creamy culinary concoctions here—I foresee restaurants ordering the foie gras and black walnut flavors (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part). The space has red Woolworth’s swivel chairs that date back to 1947, a bright blue awning, and looks cheerful and modern. 2790 Harrison St. at 24th St., 415-550-6971.

While we’re in the Mission, I finally had a chance to check out ~MISSION STREET FOOD~ last week, the Thursday night event with rotating cooks that takes over Lung Shan. It was such a cool scene, with all kinds of ages, from little kids to Mission hipsters to couples to industry folks to groups of friends out for a bite. The servers were so kind, the vibe was fun, and hello, let’s hear it for the poutine from Carlo at Piccino! Yeah, Marin Sun Farms beef and marrow gravy, with Cowgirl Creamery cheese curds, and Kennebec fries, holla! Some of the best $7 I’ve spent this month. I was also communing with the house special, the gooey cheesesteak (oh jeez, what is up with all the cheesesteaks in my life this week?) with pasilla peppers in a homemade flatbread, with onion and cheese ($6.50). $2 Tecates, oh yeah. Kudos to cook Anthony Myint from Bar Tartine for keeping this going—it feels like such a unique and authentic San Francisco thing. Be sure to check it out in the New Year.

Some downtown news: while I was doing some holiday shopping last week, I noticed a note in the window of ~MORROW’S NUT HOUSE~ that is was closing at the end of year. That place has been around for ages—sorry to see it go. It’s always been one of those kooky little SF spots to me. To be honest, I didn’t stop to get the whole scoop because the owner is quite a chatty character (see the name of the business). But for you warm nut lovers, get ‘em while they’re hot… 111 Geary St. at Grant, 415-362-7969.

Also got notice that ~SELLERS MARKETS~ has opened its third location. Plus there’s a new item on the menu: Niman Ranch cheddar cheeseburger sliders, and salt and pepper fries. Open Mon–Fri 7:30am–7:30pm, and Saturdays until 3pm. 721 Market St. at 3rd St., 415-615-0341.

Meanwhile, back in my ‘hood, Kathmandu Cafe has morphed into ~SAFFRON GRILL~. On the menu: North Indian dishes from chef G.S Bankoti, who has been in San Francisco since 1984, cooking at restaurants like Gaylord and New Delhi. Most dishes are around $11, you can check out the menu on the site. 1279 Fulton St. at Divisadero, 415-567-5100.

Also in the 94117, ~NOPA~ has a brand-spanking-new website, and has launched both a food and a spirits blog, check it all out here.

Set that dial: on New Year’s Day while you’re recovering on the couch, tune in to Iron Chef America on the Food Network to watch ~NATE APPLEMAN~ (A16, SPQR, and upcoming Urbino) battle it out against Iron Chef Michael Symon! 9pm.

Details are still sparse on this project, but out in Potrero Hill, ~HORATIUS~ is opening in the old Khyber Pass location. Here’s what I managed to get from owner Horacio Gomes of Head Quarters Advertising: “Horatius will be a Market Gallery featuring rare and gourmet products from local and international vendors as well as a Horatius store brand. Inside the Gallery there will be a bistro which uses some of the products from the Market Gallery in the dishes on the menu. The venue will also be available for corporate and private events. We expect to open in the first few days of March 2009.” When I get some menu details/more info, I’ll be sure to share. 350–360 Kansas Street at 16th St.

According to a permit, ~CITY KEBAB~ is moving into the now-closed (sniff sniff) Tajine space on Russian Hill. 1338 Polk St. at Pine.

Over in a Marina, a bus-ridin’ tablehopper reader writes in: “From my rainy day travels on the 22: ~RAMEN CLUB~ in the Marina closed (looks like it has been open for all of two months).” 3243 Scott St. at Chestnut.

Last week I mentioned an upcoming event on January 6th, ~OPENRESTAURANT WITH SLOW FOOD NATION~. There are a few tweaks to the event: the organizers and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts have increased ticket capacity so they can serve more people, and $20 will now buy you a meal and glass of wine. Attendees are invited to come and participate in the discussion for free. Here’s the new event announcement: “Engage members of Slow Food Nation and the urban farming community as they join OPENrestaurant, a socially engineered informal dinner created by a collective of restaurant professionals. Participants will share a simple meal while chewing on the question: How can the urban landscape be productive? Meal ticket buyers will be able to enjoy dinner and a glass of wine while learning more about urban farming, foraging, and gleaning from people directly involved in these practices. Entry to discussion is open to everyone. Meal ticket is $20 general/$15 YBCA Members; discussion is FREE. For tickets, please call the box office at 415-978-2787 or www.ybca.org. The event begins at 7pm. YBCA Grand Lobby and Room for Big Ideas, 701 Mission St.

~A.G. FERRARI~ is hosting a series of free cheese-pairing parties on Sundays in their 13 stores. Next Sunday December 28th (2pm–4pm) is prosecco and cheese; January 11th you will taste six regional pecorino cheeses paired with Italian mostarde; and January 25th is a tasting of fresh Italian cheeses, like burrata. All cheese tastings are complimentary! Click here for locations.

Tonight, Tuesday December 23rd, at 18 Reasons is ~CHANUKAH PARTY: SPIN AND FRY!~ As the event announcement states, “Feast on gourmet latkes and local wines, spin dreidels and enjoy festive music. BYOM (Bring your own menorah).” 7pm–9pm, $5–15 suggested donation to benefit 18 Reasons. 593 Guerrero St. at 18th St.

Meanwhile, this afternoon I am making a trek down to Princeton to check out my dad’s Southern Italian buddies’ new café, ~CAFFÈ MEZZA LUNA~. The same owners of nearby Mezza Luna have opened this Italian style caffè, serving coffee (the espresso is Mokarabica Caffè President), panini, piadine, a hybrid style of pizza/focaccia a taglio, and eleven kinds of homemade gelato. But here’s the part I’m most excited about: they brought Domenico Spadafora from Fuscaldo, Calabria, to be the pastry chef, and he is making traditional Southern Italian pastries, like cakes, cookies, and tortas (he also makes the gelato). I even requested they make Southern Italian pesche (peaches), and guess what, they are doing them (here’s a pic of a batch I learned to make at one of Rosetta Constantino’s classes)! I am going tonight to pick up my dad’s birthday cake (shhhhhh), so I will regale you with delicious details soon. Open 6am–8pm daily. 240 Capistrano Rd. at Prospect, Princeton. 650-560-0137.

Up in Marin, Heidi Krahling of Insalata’s is planning to open her new Mexican and Latin restaurant, ~MARINITAS~, on February 2nd in the former Eat space. About the name, “This is my playful Spanish interpretation meaning ‘people of Marin,’ ” says Krahling. Heading up the kitchen will be Frank Villas, the chef de cuisine at Mamacita for three years, and prior to that, he was the sous chef at Sausalito's Sushi Ran for five. More info on the menu, hours, and background on the restaurant will be available soon. 218 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. at Bank, San Anselmo.