December 22, 2009

December 22, 2009

After doing their best to fill a huge restaurant during a nasty recession, owners Sean O’Brien and Patricia Hughes-O’Brien have decided to close their restaurant ~ZINNIA~ after dinner service on New Year’s Eve. With the infamous slow months of January and February looming, and tax time coming up soon thereafter, they decided to close up shop now instead of continuing to wait for things to turn around. They’re talking about possibly opening a smaller project on the Peninsula—we will have to see what the New Year holds. Best wishes to them. To see details about Zinnia’s New Year’s Eve dinner, take a look in the socialite.

The revolving door at ~BACAR~ continues: Douglas Bernstein, previously at the now-closed Eccolo, is the new chef (a sous chef and pastry consultant also came over from Eccolo). Chef Bernstein has been overseeing Bacar’s kitchen for two months, finalizing the dinner, brunch, and bar bites menus. Many of his new dinner appetizers will now be available on the bar bites menu; during happy hour, you can try them for only half price (daily from 4:30pm-7:30pm, including Sundays).

Those evil geniuses at ~HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE~ have introduced the latest in savory-sweet wonders: duck fat pecan pies. Yup, that’s Muscovy duck fat rendered for your pie-stuffin’ pleasure (that would be your face). These little mini wonders of badness are $5 a hit.

Call it the Christmas miracle: ~GRACIAS MADRE~ is opening this Saturday December 26th.

Good news: ~NOMBE~ now has their liquor license, so you can get your fill of sake (there are 75 brands to choose from), plus eight Japanese and local beers on tap. Also been hearing people are digging the late-night window for to-go containers of ramen and other izakaya-style eats (Fri-Sat 11pm-2am).

weird fish.jpg

Exterior shot (from Weird Fish).

Some changes over in the Mission: chef Alex Jackson, formerly of The Corner, is the new chef at ~WEIRD FISH~. There was a split in the partnership at The Corner, so Timothy Holt is no longer involved with the project, and will be focusing full-time on Weird Fish (although Jackson will be doing double duty at both places). He’s certainly busy enough: he’s been working hard on a farm-to-table practice, using produce from his farm up north in Healdsburg (Roshambo Farms). You’ll notice the new farm-to-table section on the menu, plus a classic section, and finally, raw oysters! You’ll also see a new brunch menu. FYI, Weird Fish is now closed for lunch during the slower winter months, and the change may become permanent.

An old-fashioned ice cream and sweet shop is coming to the Dogpatch called ~MR. AND MRS. MISCELLANEOUS~. It’s moving into a former sandwich spot that is now gutted, just across the street from Serpentine. And although the shop is quirkily named, it will actually feature eight classic flavors at a time (but a few will have a twist). The small-batch ice cream will be made with organic, seasonal, and local ingredients, and there will also be hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, ice cream cakes, fudgesicles, pudding pops, root beer floats, and homemade toppings like butterscotch, hard sauce, pineapple, sour cherry, strawberry, and toasted marshmallow. Just imagine the treats you loved as a kid, without any fake stuff in them. The sweet part of the shop will offer house-made brittle, toffee, caramels, nougat, pâtes de fruits, marshmallow, divinity, and gianduja. There will be around 20 seats, and coffee will also be served. Annabelle Topacio and Ian Flores, the couple behind the project, both have a pastry background, working at places like Spago and CUT in Los Angeles, and locally, at Postrio and Brick Maiden Breads in Pt. Reyes. They hope to open in March, with tentative hours from 11am-8pm, and staying open until 10pm on the weekends.


How do you like to hear it? Okay, first, the bad news: I was sad to hear the lovely couple that have been running the restaurant in the Metro Hotel (previously Metro Kathmandu, and now Metro Cafe) on Divisadero have decided to close. They worked so hard the last three years. As the co-owner Roshan stated in an email to me, “I am proud to be a part of a neighborhood that is very compassionate for small businesses like Metro Cafe. Having said that, I am not sure what my next venture would be. As of now, my wife and I look forward to having some weekends off after many years.” Indeed. All the best to them.

Okay, you ready for some good news? You can now take your pick of 12 flavors of the wild and wonderful ice cream from the Mission’s ~HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE~ at a walk-up counter at the DeLessio Market on Broderick. You’ll find the same cones, cups, and rotating flavors as you would at the Mission location.


Laïola exterior (photo from Laïola).

I thought this was a cool way to handle (and celebrate) a restaurant’s transition: before ~LAÏOLA~ transforms into Tacolicious, they will be hosting a series of dinners with the original chef, Mark Denham, and some of the original crew will be returning to cook as well. The dinners will stretch four nights (December 28th-31st), offering an à la carte menu that reflects both the restaurant that Denham created at Laïola, as well as a sneak preview of his upcoming animal-to-table restaurant concept called Bishop (more on that in a sec). Here’s a look at Denham’s menu for these special evenings, and it includes his signature chickpeas with house-made blood sausage; a brussels sprout salad with almonds, Serena cheese, and Meyer lemon; an esquiexada of local hamachi, celery, radish, and chopped egg; local petrale sole a la plancha with winter greens and crispy trotters; and roasted Napa Valley lamb, celeriac purée, and watercress. (Did your stomach just grumble? Mine did.) There will also be a New Year’s Eve menu ($75 for four courses).

So here’s more on Denham’s upcoming project: it’s tentatively named Bishop—an homage to his Chez Panisse mentor, Willy Bishop. And while Denham doesn’t have a location locked in yet, he sure does have a clear concept. It’s going to be a Mediterranean-inspired menu with local ingredients, with a special emphasis on his whole-animal program. Denham said in an email to me, “This time around I will not cave on serving anything I cannot procure whole.” (You can read more about using the whole animal in an article I wrote for meatpaper a while ago.) He also said the style will be modest, intimate, tavern-y, with a heavy focus on beer, all wines by glass/carafe/bottle, etc. Denham’s dream location will be in the Mission/Noe Valley/SoMa/Upper Market area, with occupancy around 65 to 75 seats. Let’s hope 2010 helps Bishop find a church!


Photo from Peko-Peko.

Want to start the New Year with something besides Hoppin’ John or cotechino and lentils? Try this on for size: osechi bento! Here’s an explanation from Peko-Peko in Oakland: osechi bento are filled with auspicious foods to be eaten on New Year’s day. Traditionally, these bento were prepared at home in the final days of the year and now they are sold (for a small fortune!) in department stores throughout Japan. Peko-Peko’s version includes foods from Japan, including shiny black kuramame [sweet black beans] for robust health, sweet tatsukuri [sweet dried fish] for wealth, and rolled kombu-maki [kelp rolls] for happiness in the coming year. And they have included lots of foods from here on the West Coast as well: spot prawns from Santa Barbara, steelhead salmon roe from Washington, black sugar-cured duck from Sonoma, and herring roe on kelp from British Columbia! You need to place your order by December 26th. The boxes will be available for pick up the afternoon of December 31st or can be delivered directly to your house for an additional charge. The two-level, full osechi ($150) serves 4-5. The one level, half-osechi ($75) serves 2-3. Quantities are limited. Visit the website for a PDF version of the poster with menu details.

Here’s another option from ~NOMBE~, and their site offers some more explanation: “osechi ryori is Japanese New Year food. Traditionally, we make the food at the end of year so that the wives don’t have to cook for three days in the New Year. Originally, it was taboo to cook for three days and all the stores were closed for three days. Now, not only many stores are open except New Year’s Day but also osechi can be purchased from many different restaurants and bento box makers. Osechi is packed in layered boxes.

“Traditional osechi includes the following items: kobumaki (herring rolled in kelp); kuromame (cooked sweet black beans); datemaki (sweet egg rolls); kuri kinton (chestnuts and yam); tazukuri (candied small fish); namasu (daikon and carrot sunomono); nimono (veggie stew); kazunoko (herring roe); grilled prawn; kamaboko (white and pink fish cakes); and grilled tai. All of them are meant to bring good luck for a year.”

Nombe’s osechi comes in a two-layer box, which includes Mari Takahashi’s New Year family recipe of salmon ceviche, duck roulade, and gindara kasuzuke instead of tai. You can reserve a box to enjoy at home by calling Nombe at 415-681-7150 by 12/29. It needs to be picked up on 12/31. $99 (including tax).