December 1, 2009

December 1, 2009
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A big topic on the food scene has been what’s next for ~ACME CHOPHOUSE~, since Traci Des Jardins will be closing the restaurant on December 31st. It’s a hefty space, so the next incarnation will actually have a floor-to-ceiling wall that will divide the location into two. On one side (the 3rd Street side), Des Jardins will be opening a second Mijita (a brilliant addition to the area, I must say). There will be some new features, like a tequila bar, a private dining room, and more indoor/outdoor seating.

On the other side, the new concept’s current working name is Public House, and will be more like a beer hall in style. On the menu: bar food like burgers, onion rings, and local hot dogs that will continue chef Thom Fox’s commitment to using sustainable ingredients. Some ACME classics will remain, like the mac and cheese and butterscotch pudding. The interior will be gutted, and a large beer bar will be going in, with a wall made of floor-to-ceiling kegs, and lots of TV screens. There is also going to be an open plaza bar with roll-up windows, so guests can order and enjoy a cold one while sitting on the patio. Frost Tsuji Architects, who also did Jardinière and Bar Jules, are behind the new design. The plan is to open both spaces at the end of March.

In the meantime, Traci is going to be busy in Lake Tahoe over the next couple weeks launching Manzanita at the The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe (located mid-mountain in Northstar resort). It opens December 10th, just in time for ski season. It’s a 94-seat restaurant, along with 71-seat bar and lounge, and the menu will feature her signature French-inspired California cuisine, with a “regional mountain resort influence.” It’ll be nice to come off the slopes and dig into a Five Dot Ranch grass-fed hamburger and pommes frites ($15) at the bar or rotisserie chicken with chanterelle mushrooms, parsnips, and pears with a crispy farm egg ($26) for dinner in the dining room.

The local culinary scene is about to get one restaurant richer: chef-owner Melissa Perello is opening her first very-own restaurant, ~FRANCES~ tonight (Tuesday December 1st). The intimate restaurant is a bit off the Castro cruising path (it’s where the short-lived Palencia was), and will be bringing a comfortable but classy style to the neighborhood. The modern California menu will change daily, with seasonal and local ingredients. Tidbits on the opening/test menu included an appetizer of roasted chestnut soup with cipollini onions and house-cured pancetta ($9); a main of ling cod crusted with Boccalone lardo, plus Manila clams and fingerling potatoes ($23); and vegetarians will be happy to see the lacinato kale and crepe cannelloni, with wild mushrooms, leeks, and Gouda ($17). There’s also a section called bouchées, with savory bites like duck liver mousse with pickled currants, cress, and grilled levain ($6.50 each). The wine list from Paul Einbund has around 100 global selections, including two house-blended wines on tap using grapes from the central coast region of California (both are in the $6/glass price range). The designer is Michael Baushke of Apparatus (he also designed Ubuntu)—there are 48 seats total (34 in the dining room, 14 in the bar), ecru-toned walls, solid walnut table tops and counters with ebony finish, and a monotype B&W series by Katie Van Horne. Dinner is served Sun, Tue—Thu 5pm—10pm, Fri—Sat 5pm—10:30pm. Many will agree it’s great to have Melissa back on our culinary scene, and even better, running her own show.

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Impressively on schedule, ~BAKER & BANKER~ is opening tonight (December 1st) in the former Quince space (and before that, Meetinghouse). Owners and couple, pastry Lori Baker and chef Jeff Banker, are going to be offering a New American menu with delicious-sounding items like cauliflower soup with vadouvan curry and toasted local almonds; house-smoked trout with celery root latke, horseradish crème fraîche, pickled beets, and shaved fennel; Paine squab and crushed liver crostini with arugula, apples, and Villa Manadori balsamic; striped bass and Spanish chorizo with cockles, bouillabaisse broth, and Meyer lemon aioli; and braised Ponzi Farm lamb stew with crunchy lamb sweetbreads, Anson Mills polenta, and salsa verde (main courses are $17—$25).

More stomach grumbling: Baker’s opening dessert menu includes pumpkin cobbler with cinnamon brittle ice cream; huckleberry brown butter tart with whipped crème fraîche; and peanut butter caramel fudge brownie with roasted banana ice cream and salted peanut brittle (she is known for her ice creams, so get ready). There will also be house-made breads, like soft potato rolls and buttermilk herb. Wine director Collin Casey (most recently the on-site sommelier at La Mar under master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji) has put together an initial list of 60 bottles; most will be old world, priced between $40 and $60. The 49-seat restaurant used to be an apothecary, which inspired designer Michael Brennan to highlight details like the molding and woodwork. There will also be light caramel walls, Edison bulbs in the light fixtures, a visible ceiling pipe system, and banquettes upholstered in espresso leather. The room will also sport a bar with six stools, and a back bar with woodwork from the 1940s.

Moving into the former Fuzio space on Chestnut is ~DELAROSA~, the latest project from the Beretta and Starbelly team: Ruggero Gadaldi, Adriano Paganini, and Deborah Blum. The all-day eatery is open continuously, plus there’s late-night dining. The menu has a strong focus on the item of the year (yes, pizza): but these will be Roman style, very thin, and 14 inches (there are ten to choose from). There are also variety of antipasti, like meatballs or arancini, plus panini, salads, pastas (like cannelloni or the interesting-sounding olive gnocchi), and bomboloni for dessert.

While Beretta is cocktail-focused, Delarosa is going to be primarily a birreria, with a list of over 14 beers on tap and 15 in bottle chosen by Rich Higgins—he designed the beer menu at Starbelly. Ten seasonal and handcrafted cocktails are also be available. Jim Zack of Zack/de Vito Architecture (Starbelly, Bacar, Globe, Manresa) is behind the modern tangerine and dark grey space, which will have diners tucked in at communal tables and a 12-seat bar. One look at the Lambretta-esque logo, and you’ll get a feeling for the zippy style. Delarosa is open daily (and continuously) from 11:30am—1am.

Potrero Hill neighbors didn’t have to mourn the closure of Eliza’s for too long, since the restaurant’s replacement, ~PERA~, has already opened in its place. The Mediterranean menu is focused on Turkish and Greek dishes, including meze starters like dolmades, an eggplant dish called satsuka, and zucchini cakes (all $5.50—$13 for a platter), with main dishes like lamb shish kebab, and lamb chops ($13—$21). Lunch is also served, with wraps and more affordable main dishes. Owners Irfan Yalcin and Sherry Wilson have two experienced Turkish chefs in the kitchen, who are using local and organic ingredients when possible, and the breads and baklava are made in house. The beer and wine license should be up and running in a week or so. Yalcin named the restaurant after an elegant shopping neighborhood in the heart of Istanbul. Since there are a lot of families in the neighborhood, it’s kid friendly, and take out is available. Brunch is also coming soon. Open for lunch daily 11:30am—2:30pm, and dinner Mon—Sat 5pm—10pm (until 10:30pm Fri—Sat), and Sun 4:30pm—9pm.

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A cool project should be opening by the beginning of the year in the Mission called ~HEART~. Owner and manager Jeff Segal is opening a wine bar/shop, bistro, and art gallery in a spacious 1,600-square-foot location. It’s designed to be an easy place for Mission residents to swing by, take a seat at the communal tables or bar, and order off the list of obscure and largely European varietals (although there will be some New World wines on the list that are “from small producers and full of character”). To eat, there will be small plates with a twist, but Segal told me he was going to have to fill me in later on the collaboration he has underway. Locals will also be happy with the retail component of Heart, making it easy to swing by and pick up a bottle or two to bring home or to a party. It’s also going to be a great event space, for private parties or movie nights. Hours will be six nights a week, from noon—10pm. Will keep you updated.

I heard about a wine bar coming to Pacific Avenue, directly across from Quince, and sure enough, a recent permit reveals the project is called ~THE BARREL CELLAR~. I learned the partners are local (ish): one is in the wine business in Sonoma, and the other is from the city. They’re keeping a tight lid on it for now, but the projected opening is early 2010, and Gi Paoletti will be designing the space. Will share more details as they’re revealed…

Did you miss getting your coffee in the back of ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~, in that dingy alley off Caledonia? Well, alley coffee is back, and according to their Tweet, it’s where you can get a coffee off their Slayer machine. Or anything else you like to drink from their crew o’ baristas. Hours are 8am—1pm.

Looks like executive pastry chef Bill Corbett is leaving ~MICHAEL MINA~. I’m hearing rumors that Corbett is talking to Daniel Patterson of Coi, but the only confirmation I could get at the moment is “no comment.” Taking his place at Michael Mina is Catherine Schimenti, coming from Tom Colicchio’s Craft in LA. Prior to LA, she was the opening pastry chef at Craftsteak in NYC. Obviously Mina classics like the root beer float and cookies will remain.

Just in time for the sweet-laden holidaze, there is an ~COMMONWEALTH CLUB INFORUM EVENT~ titled “The State of Pastry in SF” tonight (December 1st). The panel of “the Bay Area’s premier pastry provocateurs will expand your sweet-smarts and your waistlines as they share the secrets of their custom confections and discuss the art of dessert design in the city. Join the sugar rush as these San Francisco pastry chefs from the likes of Quince and Citizen Cake dish on their incredible, edible art and serve up some pastry pointers that will last you longer than Grandma’s fruitcake.”

Panelists include: Luis Villavelazquez, Executive Pastry Chef, Absinthe Bar & Brasserie
William Werner, Executive Pastry Chef, Quince
Elizabeth Falkner, Executive Pastry Chef and Owner, Orson and Citizen Cake
Bill Corbett, Executive Pastry Chef of Michael Mina
Jessica Battilana, Associate Eat + Drink Editor, 7x7 - Moderator

Cups and Cakes

via Cups and Cakes

A new sweet shop opened in SOMA over the weekend, ~CUPS AND CAKES BAKERY~. The project is from Jennifer Emerson, who was formerly a teacher known for making the best cupcakes. And who said cupcakes were just for chicks having a birthday party? Because now we have breakfast cupcakes: according to the Monday morning menu, a “pancake breakfast” cupcake (maple bacon cake with maple butter cream and bacon) and candied sweet potato cupcake were available. You can follow flavor news on their Twitter feed. Every day there will be five or six flavors available, but chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet will always be standards. There is also a gluten-free cupcake and a vegan cupcake each day, plus cookies and scones, and brownies are forthcoming. Opening hours are Wed—Mon 8am—6pm; look at their homepage for Thanksgiving week hours.

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This is a class sure to sell out: ~THE CLASSICS: MAKIN BACON AND SAUSAGE 101~. Led by Rick Abruzzo and organized by members of Slow Food, this intimate workshop will first focus on the basic bacon-making technique of flavoring, curing, and smoking your own slab of pork belly. They have selected a savory dry cure recipe, and Rick will lead a demo and tasting (yay, a bacon tasting) of two bacon recipes. Rick will base the second half the afternoon on sausage, blending several traditional recipes for your own sausage experiments, and showing you some useful stuffing tricks. Tastings will include several bacon recipes, and four unique sausage recipes, including a special variety with ginger and sage, perfect for the holidays. You will be grilling the sausages fresh in the Courtyard of Union SF. All participants will receive copies of the precise recipes used in class, and a mini stash of your very own magic pink curing salt, the key ingredient in making your own bacon. The pork comes from local, sustainable farms. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit Slow Food Berkeley, funding initiatives for School Lunch Reform. Complimentary parking provided, via garage with access on Bryant St. (visual landmark: http://tinyurl.com/ydlfjkj).

Yeah baby, it’s time for the first annual Butterfest ‘09 at ~18 REASONS~. The two-hour soirée will include a demonstration of how to make simple cultured butter from scratch by DIY cookbook author Vanessa Barrington; a blind tasting of seven-plus brands of butter with awards given to the top three spreads; a butter-centric potluck (please bring a dish to share that includes butter as one of the main ingredients—18 Reasons will provide something green and light to balance it out); and “Like Buttah!”—an informal, soap-box style sharing of any and all butter stories, poems, odes, memories, and tales. Hopefully no one retells the Last Tango in Paris scene. Please RSVP!

You know it’s the holiday season when ~BIX~ kicks in its holiday lunch during the week (normally lunch is only served on Fridays). Weekday lunch is available throughout the month of December. Treat your assistant to a burger (my favorite cloth-napkin burger in the city) and a martini (or two) for lunch. Or heck, sit at the bar and just treat yourself. Cheers.

So you have some family in town for the holiday, and they want to have some San Francisco seafood with a view? The normally spendy ~SCOMA’S~ is offering a three-course holiday prix-fixe menu for $35, which includes a choice of a few appetizers (I’d recommend their famed Dungeness crab cakes to start), four different entrées, including a lamb T-bone, and pumpkin cheesecake plus some other choices for dessert. Plus complimentary valet parking is included, score! Served daily until closing, from 5pm until closing, through December 30th, 2009. Price does not include beverage, gratuity, or sales tax, and there are no substitutions.

Out in the Richmond, the former Sake/Saka HOUSE is transforming to ~B B BOBS RESTAURANT~ (no, I am not stuttering). The owners are affiliated with the Bob’s Diner at 1601 Polk Street. They’ll be opening soon, with breakfast served all day, and classic diner fare for lunch and dinner, with burgers and the like.

Chronicle Books and ~PURCELL MURRAY~ (a cool kitchen showroom just minutes south of San Francisco) are hosting a special evening to celebrate the publication of ~Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook~. The evening will include cooking demonstrations, recipe tastings, and book signings by local Top Chef Cheftestants Jamie Lauren, Jennifer Biesty, and Ryan Scott, plus there will be pours of newly released Top Chef Quickfire Wines. At the end of the event, you get to walk away with a copy of the cookbook. And you won’t even have to draw knives, or make any weird appetizers using cactus and Gladware, or be judged by Penn & Teller. Space is limited, so please RSVP before December 3rd.

The Pasta Shop Fourth Street Market Plaza in Berkeley is hosting an ~AFTERNOON WITH LEADING BAY AREA FOOD WRITERS AND COOKBOOK AUTHORS~. They will discuss their work, the future of food systems, foodways, farming, and more. Authors include Novella Carpenter, FARM CITY: The Education of an Urban Farmer; Joyce Goldstein, TAPAS: Sensational Small Plates from Spain, and MEDITERRANEAN FRESH: A Compendium of One-Plate Salad Meals; Mani Niall, SWEET! From Agave to Turbinado: Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener; Nicolette Hahn Niman, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms; and Bryant Terry, VEGAN SOUL KITCHEN: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine.

Authors will discuss their work from 1pm—2pm, covering food traditions, farming, recipes. and trends. The book signing runs from 2pm—3pm. There will be sampling from recipes and ingredients, plus ongoing tastings of local and California artisan products, like new harvest olive oils, honeys, jams, condiments, meats, and cheeses.