December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009

~SOUTH FOOD + WINE BAR~ in SoMa has some big changes underway. It will be closing after dinner service this Saturday December 19th, and when it reopens in the New Year, it will have an entirely new concept and a new look (from designer Kendra Nicholas). The targeted opening is sometime in February. Partner Luke Mangan will no longer be involved in the project, and is focusing on everything he has going on in Australia. Current partner Anna Weinberg is staying on and is going to be working with a new partner: Dave Stanton, an owner of Tres Agaves. As for what’s going to be on the new menu, executive chef Jennifer Puccio (most recently at Cortez) will be offering a “fresh spin on classic French bistro cuisine.” I’ll keep you posted on new menu items (and the new name!) as the reopening gets closer. The hours will also be the same, offering lunch and dinner service. As for why South is closing, Australian products were incredibly expensive to procure and ship, and suppliers were also becoming scarce, which was really making it hard to turn a profit at the restaurant. And in this economy, we need to earn every little bit that we can, right mate?

Thumbnail image for tacolicious.JPG

There’s another morphing happening on the other side of town: ~LAÏOLA~ in the Marina is going to become Tacolicious in the New Year. The last night of service will be New Year’s Eve, and the plan is to reopen at the end of January. The interior is getting a fresh paint job, the walls resurfaced, new tables and chairs, and will feature photographs of food in the Mission, plus a seven-foot image of a luchador.

Owner Joe Hargrave is working closely with his chef and collaborator Antelmo Faria (previously at Tropisueño)—executive chef Ron Pei will not be part of the new venture (he’s currently on his honeymoon until the end of the year—congrats!). The new menu will feature seven tacos (you’ll be able to pick three for $10), plus six or seven ceviches and cold salads, shrimp coctel, made-to-order guacamole, and soups like pozole, albondigas (meatballs), a vegetable soup, and tortilla soup. The $10 special will continue (a shot of Don Julio Reposado, a can of Tecate, and the taco del día), plus look for an all-you-can-eat $15 Sunday special of “back-in-the-day” tacos (you know the ones: hard shells, ground beef, grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream). Hours will be noon to midnight daily, so it’ll be an easy place to swing by when hunger strikes at any time. Tacolicious will continue to be a part of the Thursday market at the Ferry Building, FYI.

Things continue to be tweaked at ~FIFTH FLOOR~, starting with Jacques Bezuidenhout’s new cocktail program which is in soft launch mode until 2010. The restaurant will be closing from January 1st—10th, and when the doors reopen, the bar program will be up and fully running. The new program focuses on classic cocktails, including gin-, rum-, tequila- and mezcal-, scotch-, rum-, Armagnac-, pisco-, and vodka-based beverages. There will also be a bar cart rotating through the bar and lounge, serving five classic cocktails (just flip the hazards on and pull on over to my table, thanks). Another addition to the floor: there will be a new GM, Bryan Lascarro. His background includes AQUA, and he was most recently the assistant general manager of Michael Mina Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Thumbnail image for donpistos_fishtaco.jpg

Fish taco.

~DON PISTO’S~, the new Mexican street food restaurant in North Beach, is having its grand opening this Friday December 18th from 6pm—1am. To recap, the menu features authentic Mexican street food from various regions of Mexico. You’ll find five kinds of tacos, including confit-ed Niman Ranch carnitas, fish tacos (you won’t find any farm-raised fish here), Fulton Valley Ranch chicken, carne asada made from beef from Little City Meat Market in North Beach, plus ceviches, tortas, and classic side dishes like elote, Yucatecan white rice, and more. There will also be shrimp Veracruz, a hamburguesa topped with guac, and a rib chop al pastor. The salsas and guacamole will be made continuously throughout the day, so they’re always fresh every half hour. Plus there are churros for dessert. The rustic decor that remains from the former restaurant, El Raigon, works really well—namely, the brick walls, and hefty wood tables and chairs. The plan is to serve dinner nightly from 5pm—12:30am. Pete Mrabe, formerly a manager at Betelnut, is behind the project.


The sushi happy hour rockstars, ICHI Sushi, are the latest business to join the Bernal Heights ~331 CORTLAND MARKETPLACE~ opening in late January 2010. Their contribution to the space will be ~ICHI LUCKY CAT DELI~, a full-service shop specializing in market-fresh fish, sushi to go, Asian sandwiches, Japanese salads, and sweet treats. Salads include edamame, shiso pesto somen, and wakame (seaweed), with the possibility to order larger catering-sized amounts with 24 hours notice. There will be sushi boxes, plus vegan sushi, and Asian sandwiches on homemade bread, like pork tonkatsu sliders with homemade katsu sauce, an Asian club sandwich with Coca-Cola braised pork belly and local chicken, and nasu: marinated Japanese eggplant and seasonal pairings. There will also be sushi-grade fish for the at-home chef, a selection that will change based on seasonality and availability, but can include maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), albacore white tuna, Loch Duart salmon, saba (mackerel), oysters, and more, plus sushi-making kits. All the sushi and Asian sandwiches will be made to order, featuring many of their homemade Japanese sauces.

To recap, confirmed tenants include Paulie’s Pickling, Bernal Cutlery, and Della Terra Produce; plus a few new tenants, like El Porteño Empanadas (these Argentinian empanadas are made with Prather Ranch beef, Fulton Farms chicken, and organic/local produce and dairy whenever possible) and Wholesome Bakery (vegan, low-glycemic, wheat-free, soy-free, and yeast-free baked goods that only contain healthy fats). Also available are Desiree Salomon’s DEZYS DRINKS: chais, café de olla, juices, and kombucha, all made from scratch daily using mostly organic fruits, vegetables, and spices. 

~KASA INDIAN EATERY~, the casual Castro place with delicious kati rolls (imagine Indian burritos) and thali plates (pictured) are due to open their second location (“K2”) this Friday December 18th—but call before heading over because the date keeps shifting! The menu will be like the original’s, with everything cooked from scratch and featuring local and naturally raised ingredients. The space used to be a furniture store—designer Gi Paoletti is integrating more of an Indian and rustic look to the space, with textured walls and wood frames. While it will be a little more raw-looking than the Casto space, the color scheme of chocolate brown, dark purple, and magenta will remain, with stainless steel elements, and there’s also a steel sculpture. (And it’s also fifty percent larger than the original location.) There will be banquettes, communal seating, and a counter, convenient for solo diners. The large windows facing the street and outdoor seating will also bring an airy feeling to the space. Sommelier Mark Bright chose six wines for the list, and there are beers on tap, plus “Indian sangria,” chai tea, and mango lassi. Kasa will be open for lunch, dinner, and open late: hours are Sun—Wed 11am—11pm, and Thu—Sat 11am—2am.

The short-lived Pickles (42 Columbus Ave.)—previously Clown Alley—in the Financial District has closed and is up for sale. Lingba Lounge (1469 18th St.) in Potrero Hill is also reportedly closing due to a rent increase (according to Eater). Lingba’s last night is supposedly this Saturday December 19th, although a commenter says, “I was at Lingba Lounge last night and was told that the lounge/bar would stay open for another month or two…” When I hear back from Lingba’s owner and can confirm details, I’ll let you know.

As for an opening, ~MISSION MINIS~ has a kiosk open at 524 Union St. at Grant. You can pick up some of their charming little cupcakes (say hello to horchata) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10am—6pm.

Locals have been eagerly anticipating the opening of ~BARBACCO~, the casual neighbor to ~PERBACCO~, but it looks like the opening will be pushed until January 2010 due to electrical issues (it also means their beer and wine license should be in effect by then).

Another push: ~GRACIAS MADRE~, the vegan taqueria in the Mission, will now be opening on Saturday December 26th.

Back in February when I was at a winemaker dinner at ~CONDUIT~, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my readers, Adam Mesnick, who styled me with a couple bottles of ballpark mustard from his personal stash after we started discussing mustards (no, he wasn’t carting the mustard around with him—he lived upstairs). Well, I was happy to learn Adam has moved from mortgages to meats, because he recently launched his new catering business called ~DELI BOARD~. I normally don’t mention catering outfits on the hopper, but since I’ve been following this one from the beginning, I had to do a shout-out. And besides, the guy brought me a ridonk-a-donk pastrami sandwich to try. Yeah, look at that bad boy. Now imagine your next office meeting with a table full of ‘em—it’ll be a good meeting, indeed (although I’d hold the tomatoes until they’re back in season). Plus Deli Board makes tasty soups, salads, even Buffalo wings, plus house-made sauces. And why have boring chips when you can have bagel chips with whitefish dip (a rarity in this town) or garlic and chive dip? Exactly. And he delivers. Not an office of 20? Call to see if your order is big enough to merit a delivery—you might be surprised. The breakfast options also look good for meetings: a smoked salmon platter with bagels, or breakfast burritos. Almost makes me wish I worked in an office again. (Almost.) If you’re a cafe or deli that wants to look into some wholesale options, there’s always that too, FYI.

~THE FRONT PORCH~ has kicked in lunch service Wednesday through Friday from 11:30am—3pm. The menu includes a variety of po’ boy sandwiches (including oysters, shrimp, fried catfish, fried chicken, a slow-cooked meat of the day, or veggie special), side dishes from salad to gumbo, plus beignets, and tall boys on the porch. You can dine in the restaurant or order food for take out.

Also thought you’d like a few of the Porch’s nightly specials on your radar: Sunday is rib night, featuring Carolina dry-rubbed, slow-smoked barbecue; Monday is New Orleans-style red beans and rice with house-smoked andouille sausage; Tuesday night is jambalaya night; Wednesday is all about slow-roasted meats; and Thursday there’s a three-course farmers’ market prix-fixe dinner for $26. Yup, all perfect wintertime vittles.

The recent newcomer to the Castro, ~PANAM~, has kicked off weekend brunch service with bottomless mimosas or Bloody Marys for $10. Also on the menu: eggs Benedict and Florentine, French and American omelets, French toast (of course), fresh fruit, and naturellement, croissants. There is also a croque monsieur or madame (a personal fave of mine), smoked trout salad, a French club sandwich, a signature burger with fries (oui, French ones!), and chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream for dessert. You can view the entire brunch menu here.

~E&O TRADING COMPANY~ is already a popular after-work hangout for the Union Square workin’ set, and now it’s offering a tempting happy hour deal: executive chef Arnold Wong has put together a fresh take on the traditional pu-pu platter for only $18, and it’s enough to serve 4-6 people. The spread features many of the restaurant’s signature favorites, including Chinese five-spice chicken rolls, short rib sliders, hoisin-coffee ribs, chicken satay, Indonesian corn fritters, and taro chips.

This Thursday December 17th, ~FOREIGN CINEMA~ is hosting Clark Wolf, author of the newly published book American Cheeses. The evening will feature dishes celebrating American cheeses, and Clark will discuss his favorite cheeses, answer questions from diners, and sign copies of his new book, American Cheeses, which will be for sale throughout the evening. The menu will include special dishes such as Private Reserve Fondue with Sonoma Toast, Marion Burro’s macaroni and cheese, and goat cheese cheesecake, among other dishes, and will particularly highlight cheesemakers in the Bay Area, including Soyoung Scanlan from Andante Dairy. Dishes will be priced à la carte. Wine director Zach Pace will be on hand to offer wine pairing options with each dish. Foreign Cinema’s full dinner menu will also be available.

The pizza man, the pizza meister, the pizza mack, Charlie Hallowell of Pizzaiolo has now opened his latest venture, ~BOOT AND SHOE SERVICE~ in Oakland on Grand Avenue near the Grand Lake Theater. No, it’s not where you’ll take your shoes for a buff and polish: the name is just a tip o’ the pizzaiolo cap to the space’s earlier incarnation—although some will remember it was most recently Di Bartolo. It’s a casual neighborhood spot, smaller than Pizzaiolo (around 40 seats), with tall ceilings, exposed brick, and a marble counter, plus cool art from Creative Growth. There’s also a bar in the back where you can kick back over a drink and a bite to eat. On the menu: a rotating selection of anywhere from 8—12 pizzas (some recent ones include Manila clams with garlic, parsley, and a white sauce; wild nettles and pecorino; potato, pancetta, rosemary, and Fontina; and the classic rapini-sausage combo), plus some appetizers like a fritto misto and three—four salads, local beers, wine, and the full liquor license means you get to take your pick from some small-batch beauties. No reservations, and serving dinner only. Hours are Tue—Thu 5:30pm—10pm, Fri—Sat 5:30pm—10:30pm.

The Claremont Hotel, Club & Spa property renovation means the restaurant (formerly Jordan’s Restaurant) has been completely redesigned as well. San Francisco-based Ziv Davis Design and Architecture Studio created a look for ~MERITAGE AT THE CLAREMONT~ that is both vintage and modern, and the main dining room has a wall of windows with an incredible view of the San Francisco Bay. The menu features California cuisine with local ingredients, and is under the direction of executive chef Josh Thomsen (Little Nell Hotel in Colorado, The Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, The French Laundry, and The Lodge at Pebble Beach). The menu is divided into two pages, a white wine page and a red wine page, each listing three categories of wines: sparklers, light whites, full bodied whites; and fruity reds, spicy earthy reds, and robust reds. Within each are three wine selections and three dishes paired to reflect the wine characteristics of that category. All dishes are available in either small or large plates, and the wines are in half or full pours. There is also a bar menu available at the mahogany bar, plus breakfast and weekend brunch (peek at all the menus here).

Eric Tucker of Millennium has opened his vegetarian project in Oakland, ~ENCUENTRO CAFE AND WINE BAR~, along with partners Lacey Sher (former owner of Down To Earth Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey), and Linda Braz. The Jack London Square cafe is open for lunch during the week and then for post-work bites or dinner Wed—Sat. The vegetarian menu includes small bites, bruschetta, salads, small plates, and sandwiches made with organic and local ingredients; you can check it out here. There is a variety of organic and sustainable wines available by the glass as well.

Yup, right on schedule, ~GATHER~, the new greener-than-green restaurant in the David Brower Center in Berkeley, opens tonight for dinner. Lunch, breakfast, and brunch will be coming in the New Year. You can read more in my original post.

How often does someone’s Italian mother fly in to cook a meal for a special event? Exactly. This Thursday December 17th, ~ACQUA PAZZA~ in San Mateo is hosting a reception and dinner with Slow Food San Francisco founder Lorenzo Scarpone to benefit the Galano Dairy Farm in Fossa, Abruzzo, decimated during the Abruzzo earthquake of April 2009. The Galano family needs help: Dina and Enzo Galano now live with their family in the side room of a barn that was left intact. Fifty percent of proceeds from the dinner benefit will be used to help build a temporary shelter for the Galano’s cows before the harsh winter snow and wind set in. The restaurant owners, Enzo, Tullio, and Valerio Rosano, are flying in their mother, “Mamma Carmela,” from Naples, Italy, to prepare an authentic Abruzzese menu for the occasion. There is an appetizer and sparkling wine reception at 6:30pm, and then guests will be seated for Lorenzo Scarpone’s presentation detailing the damage that was done to the Galano Dairy Farm. A four-course dinner will then be served with wine pairings: antipasti; homemade spaghettini with regional Abruzzo sauce; a choice of veal en croute with local truffles or branzino Acqua Pazza; and a dessert from the Collemaggio region.

Chef Peter McNee of ~POGGIO~ is once again doing his wintertime whole pig porchetta on Mondays, using milk-fed pigs from Mark Pasternak at Devil’s Gulch Ranch. Chef McNee prepares the porchetta from a whole pig, stuffs it with house-made rosemary sausage, and sews it up before spit roasting it over an oak-burning fire. It’s served with Iacopi Farms butter beans fagioli all’uccelletto, all for $16 every Monday night (and you can add a quarto of Chianti for $7.50.)