June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010
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Chef’s table. Photo by Mark Leet.

Reopening tonight is ~SAISON~, the newly upgraded and remodeled fine dining restaurant in the back of Stable Café. What’s exciting is the temporary “one night a week” restaurant that started in July of 2009 grew to three nights, and will now be serving dinner five nights a week (Tue-Sat). Chef Joshua Skenes is now cooking on his dream stove: a Molteni, the only one in the city. There are eight seats in the kitchen, including a four-seat chef’s counter ($200 per person), or the two-seat chef’s table, offering a landmark dining experience of up to 20 courses (the menu can be customized for meals clocking in at $200 to $500 per person—yes, you read that right). Meanwhile, the main dining room has new Danish modern dining chairs and semi-circle banquettes, offering a view of the kitchen and the patio. An eight-course meal is $98, paired with regional French wines chosen by sommelier Mark Bright for an additional $75-90. And since there’s only one seating per night, you can plan on lingering with your group without a server dropping a check on you as soon as you finish your last bite of dessert.

There is also a new hearth on the brick outdoor terrace for whole-animal cooking (both meat and fish), where the kitchen will additionally be cooking and roasting items in the embers and ashes. You will be able to swing by and just drop in for a meal in one of the 15 or so seats on the Terrace at Saison. This section will break from the prix-fixe menu format, offering a more casual experience and an à la carte menu. Look for this option in a couple weeks.

The cuisine is centered around top-notch ingredients, from herbs procured from a local forager to poussin from Four Story Hills. Saison is cultivating its own biodynamic garden of edibles just a few miles from the restaurant as well. Check out this photo album from Grub Street for a sneak peek of the space (and kitchen).

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Photo from Eater.

A new restaurant called ~SONS & DAUGHTERS~ is now (suddenly) open near Union Square, in the former (and 31-year-old) Cafe Mozart space. I’ve been attempting to track details on this one for a while, in spite of the not-very-responsive/forthcoming owners—thankfully Eater caught and informed us about the actual opening last Wednesday. The restaurant is from chef-owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara, who in an earlier email to me said, “Our experience ranges from an industrial kitchen for burrito carts in Oregon, Michelin 3’s throughout Europe and America, and lots in between. We are going to be doing 2 services…Morning will be fresh baked pastries, Verve coffee, and a few rotating lunch plates. Our dinner will be us cooking the food that excites us: unique, seasonal and refined combinations in a casual environment.”

For now, it’s all about dinner. There’s a four-course menu on the site for $48, with four wines paired for $32. Stylistically it has the same menu minimalism vibe that Conduit had, leaving guests to play what I call “flavor visualization games” (e.g. “sweetbreads pork crisp grapefruit purple potato”). You can also order à la carte. The wine list definitely runs at a mid-range price point. The room looks spiffy enough, with black and white photographs and hardwood floors: you can view Eater’s interior pics here. Open Wed-Sun 6pm-11pm, and reservations are only for parties of 6 or more.

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Was sorry to get a call last week that the Gypsy Kitchen duo, Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher, will no longer be doing their awesome Southern cooking and ‘cue at ~BRUNO’S~. Sniff. Their last night will be this Saturday June 26th. It’s an amicable departure—unfortunately it was just another attempt at a food-based business at Bruno’s that couldn’t be sustained. In the meantime, Kat and Ryan will be doing some stages around town, checking out the local scene since they’re not chained to the kitchen, and hopefully some travels, too. They really want to find their own spot this next time and have their very own place—and Kat is really hoping to get back to doing more desserts. Here’s wishing them a new dream house soon.

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Photo by Katina Papson.

Chef Jamie Lauren’s last day at ~ABSINTHE BRASSERIE & BAR~ is this Saturday June 26th. They have not yet hired a new executive chef, so the Absinthe kitchen team will continue to run the show until a hire is made (last I heard, the executive chef will also be overseeing Boxing Room, the name of the sister project that will be opening in the former Citizen Cake space). Meanwhile, Jamie is off to LA; she was mentioned in this recent LA Times article about a test kitchen space, where she cooked for dinner guests Steve Levine (Wilshire restaurant owner) and Richard Drapkin (Grace).

Little did I know the delicious piccola meringata I had at ~ZUNI CAFÉ~ last week was going to be the last one I was to have by pastry chef Jennifer Grantham. A tipster writes in that after 3 1/2 years, she is moving to San Diego to start her own restaurant with her husband, Burke Grantham, called Pizzeria Zingari (but first, they have to find a location). Grantham’s last day will be June 26th, so she will be showcasing some of her favorite desserts on the pastry menu this Saturday. Her assistant for the last year, Annie Callan, will be replacing her as pastry chef.

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Yelp photo from Carlos A.

Three tidbits about places around town: SF Foodie noted that ~DYNAMO DONUT AND COFFEE~ has finally opened its back patio (and how quaint, you’ll be able to enjoy your Four Barrel coffee and chocolate spice donut in the midst of a garden of herbs and flowers). 2760 24th St. at York, 415-920-1978.

Meanwhile, over in the Marina, the new ~SUSIECAKES BAKERY~ (an import from Los Angeles) has opened in the former Miette space, and is going to throw a 1950’s Sock Hop this Saturday June 26th. There will be 50s tunes, kid-friendly activities, samples, prizes, and of course, some poodle skirts. 2pm-5pm. 2109 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-474-CAKE (2253).

SF Foodie also mentioned ~KINGDOM CAKE~ now has a window open in North Beach, Thu-Sat 11am-6pm. The menu “features 50 items: cupcakes, cheesecakes, and other treats of the sweet, savory, and vegan varieties. Sample flavors include mimosa, Thai tea, basil lemon blueberry, and pancakes ‘n bacon.” 524 Union St. at Grant, 415-860-1142.

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Yelp photo from Jennifer W.

~THREE TWINS ICE CREAM~ in the Lower Haight is going to replace all their normal flavors with ALL GAY FLAVORS from Friday June 25th through Sunday June 27th for Pride! So, what are LGBT flavors? How about: Rainbows Are Gay Sherbet, Pink Triangle, Hot Cookie (with cookies from the Castro’s favorite cookie shop), Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (vanilla ice cream with military ration desserts mixed in), Rice Milk Harvey Milk and Cookies—and let’s not fail to mention Salted Nuts (this is what a weekend in leather chaps can do to you). They are also having a “Gay as a Three Dollar Bill” promo, with retail pints running for only $3 (normally $5) with any purchase of $3 or more. Available flavors will include Madagascar Vanilla, Bittersweet Chocolate, Mint Confetti, Cookies and Cream, Mocha Difference, Vanilla Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Dad’s Cardamom. Open Mon-Thu 12pm-10:30pm, Fri 12pm-11pm, Sat 11am-11pm, and Sun 11am-10:30pm. 254 Fillmore St. at Haight, 415-ITS-TWIN.

I had a chance to catch up with Brenda Buenviaje of ~BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD~ on Polk, and got an exciting update on the expansion of her little shoebox of a restaurant. She said they’re just wrapping things up with the architect, then on to getting all of the permits (they want to do things in phases so they don’t have to shut down during any part of the expansion). Once the permits are issued in a couple of weeks, they will begin remodeling the ex-laundromat next door (which is just a huge gutted space right now) into a new dining room and brand-new kitchen that will be about four times larger. Once the new side is all done, they’ll move into it while they completely overhaul the “old” side. The architect is targeting five months from now, so we shall see! In the meantime, SF Shines, a city-run façade improvement program, will be completely remodeling and updating the façade—Brenda’s won a grant to do so. How cool is that?

~THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA~ in Noe Valley is open as of today in the former Bistro 24 space (or Miss Millie’s for you old timers). The Mexican taqueria dishes made with sustainable ingredients will be the same as the Divisadero location (say hola to their salsa bar, and their excellent plantain burrito). The 42-seat space will be joined by another 16 seats on the patio soon enough. Hours through Thursday are 11am-3pm, followed by the regular hours of 11am-10pm, starting on Friday. Brunch will be coming later on. 4123 24th St. at Castro, 415-648-4157.

I have received countless emails asking me, “Wassup with ~GRUB~ on Valencia?” (This is what happens when you have a business on Valencia at 19th Street). The current targeted opening date is July 21st. Partner Erik Reese (Mayes Oyster House on Polk) is creating a sit-down, table-service establishment (don’t let the casual name throw you), with a menu that will allow you to create your own burger combo (all-natural beef, buffalo, ahi tuna, etc.). There will also be a build-your-own mac ‘n’ cheese option, so you can request anything from Grana Padano breadcrumb topping to sharp cheddar to broccoli and ham, along with English peas, applewood bacon, lobster, white truffle, or Stilton. Nothing will be over $15, and the wine list will feature 35 bottles, with nothing over $49, and glasses priced $6-$11. Hours will be 6pm-1am, with the kitchen open until 12:30am nightly. Weekends will have brunch 10am-2:30pm, with, of course, bottomless mimosas. I’ll keep you posted on the opening date and more. 758 Valencia St. at 19th St.

This upcoming Bay Gourmet/Commonwealth Club panel, ~EATING LOCALLY ON A BUDGET~, is on Wednesday June 30th. The panel of experts will discuss how to eat locally without breaking the bank, and includes: Deborah Madison, author, What We Eat When We Eat Alone; Leda Meredith, author, The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Locally on a Budget; Jessica Prentice, author, Three Moon Feast; and moderator Temra Costa, author, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat.

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Photo of a sample box from County Line Harvest.

Seems the response to the ~COUNTY LINE HARVEST ROGUE FARMERS MARKET~ at Spruce was so good that they’re going to host it 

every Thursday! Each week, produce boxes will be filled with a delicious selection of hand-picked and super-fresh produce; $25 each. You are encouraged to pre-order by emailing Zoe, but a limited number of boxes will be available for those who did not have a chance to pre-order.

 3:30pm-5:30pm. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce.

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A couple street food events are happening this week. Friday June 25th in Fort Mason is ~OFF THE GRID~, a for-profit market of Asian and Latin entrepreneurs who are partnering with Fort Mason Center, La Cocina, and the SF Cart Project. Participating and confirmed food vendors for this Friday include Chaac-Mool, Azalina’s Malaysian, El Huarache Loco, Kung Fu Tacos, Onigilly, Peko Peko Catering, Hapa SF, Soul on Wheels, Soul Cocina, Chairman Bao Truck, El Porteño Empanadas, Curry Up Now, and Global Soul. (Others may join the list later—keep up with it on Facebook.) Yeah, that is quite the lineup! Live music will accompany the food, and beer and wine will be available for purchase at the event (for those 21 and over). The event is 5pm-8pm, and will be happening each Friday going forward—hours may extend into the summer. I totally want to check this out. Fort Mason.

Then on Saturday June 26th is ~OUTSIDE IN 5~, from Soul Cocina, SF Cart Project, and Hands-On Gourmet. This street food crawl in Dogpatch will feature both brick and mortar locations (like Piccino, Yield Wine Bar, Serpentine) and a variety of carts, like Chile Lindo, Pizza Hacker, and Hapa Ramen (check the event Facebook page for a complete listing). It starts at 5pm, with the majority of food vendors kicking off at 6pm, followed by an outdoor film at sunset. The event is a benefit for the SF Food Bank. Various Dogpatch locations.

Rancher Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch is going to be supplying the pig for the second annual ~MEET THE WINEMAKER, RANCHER, AND CHEF DINNER~ at Kuleto’s on Tuesday June 29th. Chef Bob Helstrom’s whole hog menu will be paired with wines by Mac McDonald from Vision Cellars. The menu includes: Kuleto’s house-cured salumi; crispy pork conserva; roast pork loin; and baked goat cheese ricotta with chestnut honey and fig crackers. Wines include: 2008 Napa and Santa Lucia Highlands California white wine sauvignon blanc-pinot gris blend; 2008 Mendocino County riesling; 2007 Chileno Valley Marin County pinot noir; and 2008 rosé blend.

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Photo from Waterbar.

Well, you better if you win this contest. ~WATERBAR~ is quickly approaching the sale of its half millionth oyster since the restaurant’s opening in January 2008. The guest who orders the half millionth oyster will be rewarded with a year’s supply of oysters at Waterbar: one dozen oysters a week for an entire year. And as a bonus for everyone there, when the restaurant hits the half-million mark, all the guests at Waterbar will be treated with a round of Champagne for everyone. You can try to time your visit by following the countdown on Waterbar’s Facebook and Twitter pages over the next week. As of today at high noon, the count was at 498,674.

Seems appropriate that a restaurant called ~SLOW~ will be opening in Berkeley this July from chef/owner Kyle Anderson. Chef Anderson, 28, has worked with Daniel Boulud in New York and for Charlie Trotter in Chicago; he is also working with Christopher Blue of Chocolatier Blue, along with general manager Rose Grabow. The counter-service menu will highlight California cuisine with European influences made with what I call SLO (sustainable/seasonal, local, organic) ingredients. Some examples on the menu: braised short ribs, a pulled pork sandwich, confit of salmon, and a caprese sandwich. Items will range from $6 at lunch to dinner items at $12.

There will be a takeout option with curbside pickup, as well as grab-and-go lunchtime selections. Once their liquor license kicks in, beer and wine will be available. The look will be rustic country, with lots of natural light, a polished cement floor, an exhibition kitchen, and tables and seating made with wood reclaimed from an 1822 railroad tunnel. The dining room will have room for 30, and there is also outdoor patio seating—weather permitting—for up to 30 guests who can enjoy views of a competition-level rose garden (take THAT!). Hours will be Mon-Sat 11am-9pm. 1966 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley, 510-647-FOOD (3663).

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A new addition to the West Berkeley food scene is ~THE BEEHIVE MARKET~, a Saturday affair that features an organic food court, farmers, and food manufacturers, as well as locally made, eco-friendly lifestyle products (transportation, personal care, pets, kids apparel, garden). Neither a farmer’s market nor a flea market, you can find all kinds of unique items each week, from coffee, to Argentine barbecue from Primo’s Parilla, to a free wheelbarrow of compost—you can check out the mix of vendors on the website, which seems to be growing weekly. Every Saturday from 10am-2pm. 1701 San Pablo Ave. at Virginia (in the parking lot at the Berkeley Adult School).

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