April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

I was surprised to discover a new permit for Alexander’s Steakhouse in the ~BACAR~ address, and sure enough, the upscale and award-winning Cupertino restaurant is opening a San Francisco location—it ends up they have been targeting the city for a couple of years. Chef Jeffrey Stout will head up the kitchen, and wine director Eric Entrikin, a Master Sommelier, will ramp up the location’s wine collection, which was previously one of the best in town. They hope to open by the summer after a quick remodel/refresh. And after ten years of being a part of the city’s culinary landscape, Bacar’s last day of business is Friday May 7th.

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Photo by Jeff Dow.

Franck LeClerc’s businesses on Claude Lane have some changes to report: first, Bridget Batson (TWO, Hawthorne Lane) is the new executive chef of ~GITANE~; she will be working alongside opening chef Lisa Eyherabide and will assume the reins completely by June 1st, when Eyherabide will head back to France. Since Batson was most recently working at Pizzeria Delfina with Anthony Strong, it should come as no surprise she is considering adding flatbreads to the Mediterranean menu.

More Claude Lane plans include a dedicated art gallery (called 5 Claude Lane) and Claudine, a shop in the former Golden Gate Perk space that will sell gourmet food products and food packaged to go. LeClerc got in touch with chef Alain Rondelli (my parents still bring up the family birthday meal I held there, back in the ’90s), who is collaborating with Batson on the “takeout” menu of prepared meals that reflect a restaurant-grade quality level (I wonder if that includes all the butter?). Rondelli will also offer a custom collection of meals created especially for Claudine: Rondelli Deli for Claudine.


As you may already know, the Calvo-Perez family, known for the local Fresca restaurants, took over the former PJ’s Oysterbed location in the Sunset. But instead of opening a fourth Fresca location, they’re opening a new restaurant called ~PASIÓN~. As son and chef Jose Calvo-Perez told me, the style will be “modern Nuevo Latino small plates and tapas, with Peruvian soul, but also Caribbean, Central and South American influences. And there will be a ceviche bar.” They are currently targeting July, and the 55-seat restaurant will have a full bar, plus there will eventually be an upstairs deck/patio that will seat 30 (it will also do double duty as a tented private dining room). Consultant Tony Kzaz will be overseeing Fresca locations while Jose will oversee the launch of Pasión, and eventually a chef de cuisine will be hired as well. I’ll reveal menu items as they make their way to me.


Interior photo from Ottimista.

There’s a new chef at ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~, Daniele Volpi of Vivande Porte Via on Fillmore Street, as Glen Tinsley heads back to Italy to run the kitchen at the La Parrina wine estate after his stage there last summer. Volpi was raised in Denmark, but spent two months every year in his father’s hometown of Cremona, Italy, and he spent a year cooking at Palazzo Ravizza in Siena, and two years in Sicily at Ristorante Bye Bye Blues. You won’t find Ottimista’s menu drastically changed, but look for an expanded selection of small bites and seasonal contorni, with dishes like cauliflower fritti, swordfish involtini, flash-roasted mussels, and house-made focaccia. Also launching soon is an expanded lunch menu, with more panini, pizza, and salads.

Since a number of projects have been delayed with a few snags here and there, I thought a quick update was in order: first, ~SOCIAL KITCHEN & BREWERY~ is still waiting on the ABC to give them their license, so here’s hoping it’s any day now (you can follow them on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news). The opening of ~CITIZEN CAKE~ on Fillmore has been pushed to May 17th. Another May opening is ~PICA PICA MAIZE KITCHEN~ in the Mission, on May 8th. And the ~COMSTOCK SALOON~ is looking like May 20th, stand by.


Yelp photo from Genevieve Y..

According to some reviews on Yelp, ~TERRA BAKERY AND CAFÉ~ is now open in Hayes Valley in the former Essencia space. Two of the partners are Philip Roland and Jennifer Westmoreland, formerly of Roland’s Bakery, which unceremoniously closed in the Lower Haight after a landlord dispute. You’ll still be able to find Roland’s delish bagels, plus sandwiches and more. The corner location also has some outdoor seating. 401 Gough St. at Hayes, 415-863-2233.


Members of ~18 REASONS~, and those who attend their cool events, will be happy to learn they are moving into a larger space, the former Jivano’s Cutlery space, just a couple of doors down from Bi-Rite Creamery. The new venue will not only be twice as big, but will also be a more flexible facility, with access to a full kitchen and allowing for a more diverse range of events and programming (they hope to be able to seat 30+ for dinners)! Since they have just broken ground, they hope to be in the new space by the end of the year. Things will continue business as usual in the current 593 Guerrero Street location. 3674 18th St. at Guerrero.

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Della Terra produce. Photo by Kelly Kozak.

I was pleased to learn ~331 CORTLAND MARKETPLACE~ in Bernal Heights is currently in its soft opening phase. Contained within the solar-powered building are six vendors (some Bernal neighbors), including: El Porteño Empanadas (organic Argentine empanadas); ICHI Lucky Cat Deli (a neighborhood Japanese deli specializing in market-fresh fish, sushi to-go, Asian sandwiches, Japanese salads, and sweet treats); Paulie’s Pickling (hand-crafted pickled vegetables featured in an array of sauces and relishes, sandwiches, and salads); and Wholesome Bakery (vegan baked goods), including freshly made DEZYS DRINKS and Sour Flour, (naturally fermented and hand-made bread); as well as organic fruit and vegetables by Della Terra Organics; and professional knife sharpening services by Bernal Cutlery. Neighbors, rejoice. The culinary marketplace will be open daily from 10am-7pm, with bakery hours starting each morning at 8am.


A tablehopper reader tipped me off that the Pasta Pomodoro space on Union Street was getting a new tenant: ~UNWIND~. Fortunately the owners, Kai Vance and Todd Slosek, respond to their email on their website (how novel). They will be offering Cal-Med and American dishes in a casual atmosphere, ranging from $8-$14, plus a good program of affordable wine by the glass. Lunch, dinner, and brunch will be served. They are targeting a mid-June opening. Eater had some additional details about a new Food Network show, The Opener, that will be filming an episode at the restaurant. 1875 Union St. at Laguna.


Richie Nakano, a sous chef at nopa and well-known blogger, is now adding ramen-making badass to his list o’ talents. On Saturday May 8th is the public launch of ~HAPA RAMEN~, a pop-up evening event at Coffee Bar. Nakano’s partner in the venture is Kitty Gallisa, a bartender at nopa. I’ve been lucky to attend one of his ramen test dinners, and let me tell you, there’s nothing like it in the city. He uses Becker Lane pork necks for the stock that he cooks slowly for four days at a low temp, which yields a unique broth since the flavor is right where dashi and pork meet in the middle: it’s meaty and smoky, yet delicate and balanced. As Nakano explains, it’s not meant to be overly rich, but still has a satisfying mouthfeel. The noodles are handmade (with the dough rested in vacuum bags), with sous-vide chashu pork shoulder from Llano Secco, an organic product from Chico. And then there’s the slow-cooked egg: no hard and blue yolk in this batch, oh no. Everything is organic, oh you know it. Be sure to read more about how he makes his ramen (and more) in this on-point article from The Bold Italic.

At the event, there will be a regular porky version and a vegetarian version offered for around $12 a bowl, and seats are first come, first served (no reservations). The buzz on this upcoming event has been steady, so come prepared for a busy one. Kitty will be doing beer and wine pairings, and DJ Denizen will be on the decks. Follow Hapa on Twitter for more details, including upcoming events.

It ends up Hapa Ramen is going to be part of the Thursday farmers market lunch clan (starting in mid-June!), and, big news, Nakano is leaving nopa in late June, after doing an amazing job there the past two years as a sous chef. While looking for a space to launch Hapa in the city (let’s wish them luck and I hope that it’s in my neighborhood, ahem), they will be doing more pop-ups in the future at other kitchens. And I love this statement from Hapa: “In the interest of contributing to our craft, Hapa Ramen will be an entirely ‘open source’ endeavor: every recipe will be shared freely.” Nice.

Oh, and as for the “hapa” name, here’s more on Wikipedia, but in a nutshell, it’s a Hawaiian term for someone of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander background—Richie is half-Japanese (his father is Hawaiian), so the name is an homage to his family ties. He said island culture and cuisine were a big part of his upbringing, in addition to his time working with Kelly Degala (another Hawaiian) at Pres a Vi. See you there, let’s slurp!


Farmerbrown fried chicken; photo by DJ Wallstrom.

A couple places have launched lunch service. First is ~FARMERBROWN~, with dishes like broccoli and cheddar soup, a Cobb salad ($10.95), and a variety of sandwiches, like pressed herb-roasted turkey and pimento cheese with smoked paprika mayonnaise on multi-grain toast ($9), a fried catfish or fried chicken po’ boy ($10), and a burger ($10), plus healthier options like The Garden sandwich ($9), with avocado, cucumber, sprouts, shaved red onion, asparagus, and green goddess dressing on toasted baguette (all sandwiches come with choice of potato salad or steak fries). Or you can go for a bigger plate, like meatloaf ($13.95), chicken pot pie ($12.95), and a fried chicken plate ($13.95). Lunch is served Mon-Fri 11am-2pm.

Meanwhile, over in Jackson Square, ~5A5~ just opened for lunch service, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm. The menu includes a Kobe burger ($17) with a variety of additional toppings, steaks, salads, plus there’s a “Philet” sandwich ($15) with diced filet mignon, bell pepper, and onion, or a lobster sandwich ($19)—either come with a choice of fries or onion rings. You can read the entire menu here.


The DIY/urban homesteading events just keep coming: this Thursday April 29th, Karen Solomon of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It is hosting a third gathering, Jam It Salon 3 at 18 Reasons. Bring a taste of your favorite kitchen projects and meet other food crafting enthusiasts on the block. If you’ve ever made your own condiments, crafted your own candies, brewed your own beverages, boiled your own bagels, or fermented your own anything, come show off the splendor you’ve created at this neighborhood DIY show and taste. Meet other like-minded home crafters, share tips, resources, and techniques, and help inspire the community looking to think outside the mass-produced confines of aisle six. Sliced baguettes, vegetables for dipping, and basic cutlery will be provided.

Coming up on Saturday May 1st is this special AIWF (American Institute of Wine and Food) ~WHOLE BEAST WINEMAKER DINNER: THE LAMB~ at One Market. Executive chef Mark Dommen will be creating a five-course dinner, plus wine pairings and a discussion with winemakers and husband and wife Whitney Fisher and Nile Zacherle, who will be pouring wines from Fisher Vineyards and Zacherle Wines.

The menu includes: Lamb Tongue & Cheek Terrine (lamb sweetbread “ravigote”) with 2007 Zacherle Rosé; Lamb Neck Cannelloni (Parmesan purée, carrot emulsion) with 2007 Fisher Mountain Estate Vineyard Chardonnay; Roasted Lamb Loin (braised shoulder, mushroom, ramps) with 2005 Fisher Coach Insignia and 2006 Zacherle Mt. Veeder Cab Wall Vineyard; Spit-Roasted Leg of Lamb (coffee rub, chickpea purée, sesame-cocoa reduction) with 2007 Zacherle Syrah Chalk Hill; and Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Tart (strawberries, sheep’s milk yogurt ice cream) with Zacherle Sparkling Rosé.

To honor San Francisco Bay Area teachers, Lark Creek Restaurant Group will celebrate its third annual ~TEACHER APPRECIATION MONTH~ throughout the month of May in nine Bay Area restaurants. Participating Bay Area restaurants include One Market Restaurant and LarkCreekSteak in San Francisco; The Tavern at Lark Creek in Larkspur; Lark Creek Walnut Creek; and Yankee Pier in Larkspur, Santana Row in San Jose, Lafayette, and at San Francisco Airport. 

Every teacher or school employee who presents their teacher or school employment identification at a participating restaurant will receive $10 off their bill, excluding alcohol and gratuity. 
There is no limit to the number of times a teacher can visit a Lark Creek Restaurant Group restaurant and receive the discount; there is no minimum purchase necessary. 


Photo from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.

And for you East Bay folks, here’s another DIY event with ~HAPPY GIRL KITCHEN~: a Spring Canning Fling to kick off the Food Preservationists*. Bring your favorite preservation recipes to swap (and jars of what you preserved last season to taste) while connecting to the Bay Area canning community. Sip cocktails featuring Happy Girl products, nibble on tea snacks (including the famed bottomless pickle platter), and get revved up with a barn hoe-down featuring bluegrass bands. If you missed the Harvest Party last fall, now’s your chance to check out the coolest Victorian in Oakland. And it’s free! No canning experience is necessary.

*The Food Preservationists is a program that provides home canners with access to quality produce at a reasonable cost. Throughout the summer and fall, Happy Girl sends out weekly offerings from its network of local organic farms. Past offerings have included 30 pounds of pickling cucumbers, a flat of strawberries, and 20 pounds of heirloom tomatoes. There is no commitment—just order as much or as little as you want each week, and then pick up at a location near you. This season there will be eight locations from San Francisco and Oakland down to San Jose.

I caught up with Sol Hernandez of the ever-popular Sol Food in San Rafael, who filled me in on some expansion details. They are currently building out another place next to their existing “big space” on Lincoln that is going to be called ~SOL FOOD LA BODEGA~. The bigger kitchen means they’re adding a rotisserie oven for chicken. You’ll be able to walk in and order food to go at a counter (there’s no seating), plus there will be a small retail space, the La Bodega part, where they will sell their hot sauce, salad dressing, and a few other items. The timeline is TBD, probably three months out.

Once this larger kitchen is established, it will act as a commissary of sorts, because they are currently thinking about expanding to another nearby city, like South Marin, Sausalito, Mill Valley, or even San Francisco and opening a small Sol Food for take-out and delivery (I am holding my breath, and crossing my fingers and toes). I’ll keep you posted on all developments… 903 Lincoln Blvd. at 3rd St., San Rafael.

Scott Howard is back to running his own show—after opening ~FIVE~ in Berkeley, he has left to move into the now-closed Izzy’s Steak & Chops space in Corte Madera. (Banks White is the new executive chef for FIVE, and Howard will continue to work as the creative consulting chef.) Howard has named his new place ~BRICK & BOTTLE~; he has two partners, Blake Andros and Marc Sebastian, and the plan is to open on May 28th.

On the menu: classic comfort food with a fresh and modern touch, local ingredients, and affordable prices. There is indoor and outdoor seating, plus a bar for the adults; lunch and dinner will be served, plus weekend brunch. There will also be Sunday Suppers with family-style dishes that can be purchased as take-out, and child-friendly options, including a pizza counter for children. And since Howard was known for his time cooking at Fork in San Anselmo, some locals are sure to be happy to have him back on the scene. 55 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 415-924-3366.

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