December 29, 2009

December 29, 2009
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Passion Café exterior; photo provided by Passion Café.

With one look at the new ~PASSION CAFÉ~, and you will agree: it takes a lot of passion to restore a place to this level of grandeur. What was formerly housing a pawn shop and liquor store on gritty Sixth Street has been transformed into a French café-bistro, due to open the second week of January. Owners/partners Steven Barton and Jacques Andre fortunately have as much of a background in general contracting as they do in cooking, because the restoration of this 100-year-old space has been painstaking indeed. The brick building is full of reclaimed materials, like the floors of long redwood planks that were taken from the old bakery’s walk-in fridge next door (yup, it had redwood walls, amazing). They tried to use as many of the building’s original materials that they could, and the woodwork on the doors is gorgeous. The original historical façade has also been restored. Even more marvelous, there is a rooftop area with vines and trellises designed for outdoor dining, and room for 20 (heat lamps will eventually be added). Barton says, “When you walk through the doors you feel as though you’ve been transported back through time.”

The menu will feature espresso and coffee in the morning (at 7am), with tarts, tartines, and items baked on-site available at 8am. Lunch and dinner will be served daily, featuring classics like boeuf bourguignon (chef Andre is from Paris, and also cooked in restaurants in Guadeloupe). Yeah, it’s a tough street, but they are hoping to entice the theater crowd for dinner (they will serve until 9pm, and possibly later, TBD), and I think any fan of historical architecture and preservation is going to want to check this gem out as well.

The rumors are true: ~COI~ has brought on Bill Corbett (formerly at Michael Mina) as the executive pastry chef. Corbett will also consult on the pastry menu at ~IL CANE ROSSO~, and he will serve as the executive pastry chef of Bracina, which will open in Oakland in spring 2010.

There is also a new chef de cuisine, Evan Rich, who was chef de cuisine at Quince, and when he was back east, he worked at The Stage House Inn and was the executive sous chef at Bouley; he also opened Sumile, a French-Japanese restaurant in Tokyo.

Dave Sha and his partner Danel de Betelu recently took over ~BAKER STREET BISTRO~ in Cow Hollow. Danel (who is a Basque from Biarritz) started as the executive chef there last year. The space has been redecorated (it’s now a bit more homey) and the menu is largely the same, although chef Danel has made a few changes and additions, like oysters, tuna tartare, and steak tartare, plus daily specials. Favorites like steak frites, duck confit, and the $16.50 four-course prix-fixe menu still remain—and the same goes for the local fave French toast during weekend brunch!

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Photo from Flickr: Anomalous_A.

Coming in late January or early February will be a new coffee bar called ~GRAND COFFEE~ in the historic Grand Theater building in the Mission. The coffee bar will actually be in the old concession area of the theater (a 99¢ store is in the main theater part). The café is from Nabeel Silmi, a bartender at Foreign Cinema who has been there for almost three years. He’s going to be integrating a bartending approach to the barista craft, like shaking the iced coffees in a cocktail shaker. The coffee will be from Four Barrel, the machine is a La Marzocco paddle group, the tea is from Red Blossom Tea, and I also hear Silmi has an egg cream in the works, using seltzer from the Seltzer Sisters. It’s a tiny space, with a bar and counter inside, but there will also be a window on the street for quick and easy ordering. Silmi is excited to offer his spin (and shake) on coffee to the neighborhood. You can keep track of the café’s progress on their Twitter feed.

~CAFÉ LA TAZA~ has opened a third location in the city, this one in the Castro in the former Bullshead and Tallula space on 18th Street (dang, I miss Tallula—it was the best date place ever). The breakfast menu is full of options, from bagels to omelets to scrambles to a Monte Cristo or beef brisket Benedict, while lunch has soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. Dinner brings a few more main dishes, with nothing shockingly over $10 (so don’t expect to see the word “organic” on the menu). And of course there’s every kind of coffee you could imagine. Looks like it will be an affordable addition to the neighborhood, especially with free Wi-Fi.

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Photo from Flickr: flyhoof (http://www.flickr.com/photos/skeffto/).

Just a little reminder that some restaurants like to close for a much-deserved winter break during the first week of January, so call before heading over. A few examples: ~SEBO~ (closed through January 4th, except for New Year’s Eve), ~CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN~ (closed Sunday January 3rd through the 5th), ~INCANTO~ (January 5th through the 12th), and the ~DINING ROOM AT THE RITZ-CARLTON~ (from January 1st through the 14th).

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to a unique concept that opened in Berkeley: the restaurant is called ~GREEN PAPAYA~ and features Thai vegetarian cuisine. It’s reportedly friendly, tasty, and affordable. Open lunch and dinner daily. 2016 Shattuck Ave. at University, Berkeley, 510-845-1658.

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I thought this would be an awesome get-together to celebrate the New Year with culinary cohorts (darn, I just wish my apartment was bigger, and my wallet was overflowing): Fork and Spoon Productions has organized an Asian feast that can be prepared in your home with Saveur contributing editor and cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen, who is celebrating her new cookbook, Asian Dumplings.

From January 15th-February 28th, 2010, you can have a full-tilt banquet, dumpling demonstration, and book signing in your home. With a minimum commitment of 10 guests, dinner will include: poached vegetable and pork wontons in spicy oil; baked curried chicken bao; shrimp and pork pot stickers; crispy vegetable spring roll with sweet and sour sauce; Peking duck with pancakes, spring onions and hoisin sauce; steamed Pacific bass with young ginger; fresh lo mein with seasonal greens and Asian mushrooms; yangchow fried rice; and tangerine pot de crème with sesame tuile. Andrea will be on hand to mix and mingle, discuss Lunar New Year traditions, and then teach your party the art of dumpling making. Signed cookbooks will be available at a special “friends of the family” price. (The hostess will receive hers free as a hostess gift.) $185 per person, not including tax and gratuity. For more information or to make reservations, call Fork and Spoon Productions at 415-552-7130.