December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010

Yup, holiday shopping events are in full swing. But maybe you’re still stumped on what to get your partner in pork, your co-dependent boozehound friend, or your roommate who doesn’t drink your last beer? The ‘hopper is here to help.


The easiest, most affordable, bang-for-the-buck, one-size-fits-all, and under-$20 item is my book. HELLO! And check this out: I just launched an online store, so you can get a SIGNED and personalized copy of The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco sent to you, or your friend, or whoever! It’s a total win-win, because you also end up supporting a local author, yes, yours truly. And you even stand to gain a little something something, because from now until December 31st, anyone who buys three or more copies of my book from me will be entered in a drawing to have dinner on the town in January with me! Yup, all expenses paid (within reason, of course—I’ll be in charge of ordering, ahem).


Um, who wouldn’t be totally thrilled with a holiday gift box from Humphry Slocombe? Exactly. The 2010 “Get Topped” gift box includes their toppings, and more: frosted peanuts, roasted almonds, bourbon caramel sauce, a $5 gift certificate, bacon peanut brittle, the new Tahitian V*nilla Marshmallows in their signature coffee mug, the new Ginger Black and White Bark (Guittard 70% dark and white chocolate with gingersnap crunch), a new pack of Jake’s “Best Butter Cookies Ever!”, and a Humphry Slocombe holiday card. Yeah, you could totally get freaky with your lover with what’s in the box. Anyway, it’s $60 and will be on sale starting Friday!


Since we’re on the gift box theme, I also thought these “locavore boxes” (the other “L” word) from Calico Gifts were pretty clever: they are actually planter boxes made of reclaimed wood, and you can use the enclosed seed packet to plant yourself a little garden in it. As for the treats contained within, the boxes hold everything from Sightglass Coffee to salts from All Star Organics to spirits from Sutton Cellars. (Thanks to for the tip.)


How rad would it be to find a box of chicharrones under your tree? Exactly. 4505 Meats has launched their online store, and you can order everything from fresh sausages to a six-pack of chicharrones ($18) for your favorite carnivore (you will need to swing by the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market to pick up the goods, however). There’s also a Holiday CSA pack ($75), with three types of fresh seasonal sausage (black trumpet cotechino, duck and nutmeg sausage, and boudin noir). Also included is a Christmas pork terrine, Farr family eggnog, and rosemary lard shortbread cookies. Yeah, who’s ready to play Santa now with that big ole belly? Or you can just give your honey a gift certificate for a sausage making class, and I’d confidently say you’ll have some sausage in your future, guaranteed. (Please, help me in my attempt to refrain from making a naughty sausage joke there. Really, I’m trying very hard.)


Okay, one more meaty present. I’m sure there’s someone in your life who would appreciate a “San Francisco is for Carnivores” poster from Drywell on Etsy. (Loving!) And there are other original and quirky pieces of art, from “Inside a Cappuccino” to “Carrot Meat”. And all at a friendly price point.


Sure, chocolates are grand, but let me tell you, getting a box of petit fours in the mail was pretty damned awesome. And decadent. You can order them from Dragonfly Cakes in Sausalito and send them anywhere—they come with a little ice pack, so nothing melts. Let them eat cake!


So, you were wondering when I was going to get to the booze, right? Right. Look, I don’t think any bar is complete without some Carpano Antica Formula, a fantastic vermouth that is part of my favorite Manhattan recipe, among other cocktails. It’s even amazing by itself, or as my friend likes to serve it in the winter, with muddled blood orange. And it comes in a groovy tin. Pure class and the original vermouth (from Turin), made since 1786. You can pick up a bottle at Cask Spirits or John Walker & Co. for $30.

Nothing says “I love you and want to keep you nice and warm this winter” like some special bourbon. Now, sending you on a wild goose chase to find some Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year isn’t cool (besides, I think I got the last bottle at BevMo), so just swing by Cask Spirits, see what they have in stock, and engrave that bottle of whatever you decide on for an extra $20. Classy!


A wine sock monkey. Just because.

Champagne is a very personal thing—some love it toasty, others want it dry, or sweet, or full of red fruit. Whatever, the Henriot Blanc Brut Souverain (a blanc de blancs) that I tasted last week at the Arlequin Champagne tasting totally rocked my world. And I was told it would taste even better in the small 375ml size. Meow. See, I call it the single girl split—sometimes you just want some bubs, but you don’t want to open a whole bottle. And besides, the small size is always more expensive to purchase. So here’s an idea: be a stud and buy some 375ml bottles for the Champagne lover in your life. Arlequin Wine Merchant has an admirable selection to choose from. Cheers.

Lastly, one of my favorite gifts I receive each year is from my literary agent, who makes a donation on my behalf to the local food bank. For every $1 you donate, the Food Bank can distribute $6 worth of food! (Here’s the tribute donation page.) And while you’re at it, you can also take the awesome SF Food Bank quiz right now, and Absinthe Brasserie and Metromint Water will each donate $1 for each quiz taken!

In case you want to check out some more ideas, The Feast did a Bay Area Gastronome Gift List. And yes, my book is in the lineup, thankyouverymuch.


Photo of the SF Grill stand from Yelp.

Wow, we’re getting an ~UMAMI BURGER~. Yup, the Los Angeles mini burger chain that has chefs and food writers all in a tizzy over their deliciousness is going to be opening in the former Noodle Theory space in the Marina. Inside Scoop promises more deets soon. 3242 Scott St. at Chestnut.

But one burger place opening much sooner is going into the old Annie’s Bistro on California Street: ~BISTRO SF GRILL~, a brick and mortar location from the SF Grill folks (you may know them from the Sunday Divisadero Farmers’ Market). Owner Seni Felic always cracks me up with his effusive manner, brightly colored pants, big sunglasses, and amazing Bosnian accent. He’s going to be joining two fellow Bosnian friends in opening the gourmet burger spot, which will feature the in-house seasoned/mixed meats he’s known for. He uses local and free-range Sonoma meat (except the bison, which comes from Wyoming), and makes everything from jalapeño turkey burgers to patties with chicken, wild salmon, lamb, boar, and venison (all priced $6-$10). Some newcomers on the menu will be halal and American Kobe beef options. There will also be a few sandwiches, including a grilled chicken, smoked trout, and vegetarian version made with mushroom, plus a few salads as well, milkshakes, and dessert will include ice cream from Bi-Rite (he mentioned a snickerdoodle sundae). And maybe French fries mixed with fresh herbs and roasted garlic will appear—Seni is very focused on eating healthfully, but knows his customers will want fries.

They’re currently busy painting and reupholstering—the space will have an eclectic look, with a color scheme of Moroccan red and black. The soft opening is from 3pm-8pm on December 23rd, and they’ll open again for a few days with reduced hours after Christmas, with the official full-time hours launching after New Year’s Day. Beer and wine will be coming soon. Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm, and Sat-Sun 10am-11pm. 2819 California St. at Divisadero.

Urban Daddy is first to announce that ~PUDONG~ is now open on Market Street, in the former Mecca space. To recap: the chef, Jason Xu, formerly at Shanghai 1930, has created a menu with Shanghaiese dishes (including some dim sum and dumplings, and Shanghai chicken), along with some more familiar Chinese-American dishes, like hot and sour soup, Mongolian lamb, and sesame beef. You’ll also see some French brasserie dishes on the menu, like beef tartare and chicken roulade (you can read the entire menu here, via The Inside Scoop). The atmosphere includes marble floors, and the famed circular bar (surrounded by large booths and tables) remains. And it’s open late: Tue-Sun until 1:30am, with a late-night menu served after 10pm.


A bass at Lers Ros that escaped the Super Bass-o-Matic ‘76.

When I saw the pending liquor license for ~LERS ROS~ in Hayes Valley, I was like, huh wah? And then when I read the confirmed details in Inside Scoop, I was like, hurrah! Lers Ros will be opening a second location (it’s in a new development near the new location for The Grove, which is coming soon), and is slated to open in May or June. The menu and number of seats will reportedly be about the same as the Larkin Street location, with an expanded wine program. Fortunately delivery and lunch will also continue to be available with this location. Hot damn. Literally. 307 Hayes St. at Franklin.

In SoMa, the LiveSOMA blog reports ~DADDY O’S ~ is finally open in the former Schnitzelhaus space after some challenging electrical issues with the building. On the menu: Southern soul cooking (yup, fried chicken, red beans and rice, and more). If you have really good eyes, you can read the menu on Yelp. The hours for now are Mon-Fri 7:30am-3pm, and Sat 8am-3pm. Dinner should launch in eight weeks or so. 294 9th St. at Folsom, 415-558-9988.


The Réveille Coffee Company truck (photo from their website).

Here’s a little grab bag of news tidbits: a reader let me know a new café called ~FLYING PIG BISTRO~ is moving into the former South Side Café space in the Mission. Unfortunately, details are currently sparse. 433 S. Van Ness Ave. at 15th St.

There’s a new coffee truck called ~RÉVEILLE COFFEE COMPANY~ from brothers Tommy and Christopher Newbury, according to Eater. Nice, there’s a La Marzocco on board. As of yesterday, you can find the truck parked in the parking lot at Pacific Avenue and Sansome. Here’s what’s on board: Four Barrel Coffee (and beans that you can purchase), and a limited selection of pastries (starting with croissants) from Pâtisserie Philippe. Open Mon-Fri 6:30am-5:30pm, and cruising around elsewhere on the weekends (you can follow them on Twitter).

Another reader let me know ~BIRLEY SANDWICHES~ in Four Embarcadero (100 Drumm Street) is reportedly becoming Breaking Bread Sandwiches (there’s a new owner), but the other Birley at 100 Pine Street will remain as is.

As for closures, ~HOLLY’S COMEDY CLUB~ above the AMC Van Ness is closed after just six weeks, and the Scoop mentions ~DIGS BISTRO~ in Berkeley is closing after their New Year’s Eve service. 1453 Dwight Way, Berkeley, 510-548-2322.


After a series of delays, ~CONTRABAND COFFEE BAR~ should be finally opening (if they pass their final inspections). The project is from Nathan Wyss, barista Josh Magnani, and photographer Ron Starr. If all goes well, you’ll be able to come by the 30-seat cafe this Thursday—it’s opening in the former John Barleycorn space. They have a Hydra espresso machine, and will be doing single origin espresso grinding on their Versalab grinder. The coffee is roasted in the East Bay with their roasting partner, Vincent Virzi (there will be both coffee blends and single origin espresso). The focus is on fair-trade and organic beans (whenever possible), and they are very attuned to tracing the beans to specific micro-lots. There will also be a coffee lab starting in January on Saturdays, when anyone can come by and experiment with brewers, beans, side-by-side tastings, and more.

The space features a communal table with room for 8-10, window seating, and a European-style walk-up bar. The art will rotate each month, and is starting with photographer Patrick Lee. While the focus is primarily on coffee, you’ll be able to eat empanadas, Peasant Pies, pastries from Mission Beach Cafe, and donuts from Dynamo Donut. Hours are 7am-10pm. 1415 Larkin St. at California, 415-839-7388.

~EOS RESTAURANT & WINE BAR~ has hired a new executive chef, Michael Roon (he is replacing executive chef Daniel Guerrini who was at EOS for over 10 years). Roon has been mentoring under chef Guerrini for two years, and was the former chef de cuisine. 901 Cole St. at Carl, 415-566-3063.


~DIRTY DISHES~ is going to be hosting their final event this Thursday December 16th: it’s going to be a combination holiday benefit for the Boys & Girls Clubs of SF Culinary Arts program and a grand finale. Proceeds from the special pre-sale only ticket package will go to the Boys and Girls Club, in addition to any money collected that evening. It’s only $9.99 for the cover, a food item of your choice, and a specialty shooter (plus a donation will be made)! Buy pre-sale tickets here. Otherwise, admission is $3 at the door.

The evening will also mark the debut of the TASTY Fried Chicken Cart, serving up Mama Reyes’ Famous Fried Chicken, along with Kitchen SideCar’s pork belly banh mi and Dulceria’s handmade ice cream sandwiches. Plus DJs, and if you stick around until midnight, the DD crew will be giving away some special treats (sounds like “late night eats”) to all the good girls and boys who’ve stuck around!


The Underground Market. Flickr photo from kewzoo.

The Underground Market is turning one, and celebrating with a double-play of events in San Francisco and Oakland. On Saturday December 18th, swing by SomArts from 11am-4pm for take-homeables (jams, produce, soaps, desserts, etc.) and gifts, and then from 6pm-midnight for hot food and music. Please note the indoor market will be closed from 4pm-6pm for an intermission and the vendor changeover. There will be drinks and some hot food outside. Admission: $5, plus sign up to be a member here (it’s free). Drinks will be available for sale. SomArts, 934 Brannan St. at 8th St.

And then on Sunday December 19th, it starts all over again, at Soundwave Studios from 11am-4pm for take-homeables and gifts, and then from 6pm-midnight for hot food and music. Again, the indoor market will be closed from 4pm-6pm for an intermission and the vendor changeover. There will be drinks and some hot food outside. Admission: $5, plus sign up to be a member here (it’s free). Drinks will be available for sale. Soundwave Studios, 2200 Wood St., Oakland.

Now for the underground dining part: chefs Ted Fleury and Jordan Grosser, formerly co-executive chefs at The Alembic (Jordan is now on his own) are debuting their Stag Dining Group this Friday and Saturday, December 17th and 18th. The evening will begin at 7:30pm with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner at 8pm. To view the menu and make reservations, click here. This week’s gatherings will take place at a venue in Cole Valley, FYI. $80; BYOB. Tickets and menu for December 17th, click here, and December 18th, click here.


Brad Lev and Martin Brock.

Coming up on Sunday December 19th is a new kind of show: ~STUDIO GOURMET~, a combination talk show, live cooking demonstration, and cocktail reception with host Brad Lev at Cellar360 in Ghirardelli Square. His first guest will be chef de cuisine Martin Brock from Gary Danko.

It all starts at 12:30pm with a complimentary glass of bubbly and some small bites provided by Cellar360, and then the live demo and interview will take place in another room. Following the 45-minute interview, there will be some small bites provided by chef Martin and Gary Danko, with paired wines by Cellar360. There is quite the array of bites—some will include: new potatoes stuffed with caviar, paired with Greg Norman sparkling; star anise-cured salmon with curry rémoulade, paired with Beringer Leaning Oak sauvignon blanc; lobster and shrimp fritter with hummus and pepper aioli salad, paired with Etude pinot gris; and bacon and apple sausages with shallot chutney and lemongrass, paired with Penfolds Bin 2. Guests will also get 20% off all wine and merchandise from Cellar360 day of show, and other deals on neighboring shops.


Adult hot chocolates. Photo by Daisy Chow.

An event recap by Daisy Chow, tablehopper editorial assistant.

Last Wednesday, I got a chance to visit the pristine kitchen of Seasons restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco for a ~HOLIDAY DESSERT TASTING~ and hands-on pastry demo with their new pastry chef, Jeffrey Wurtz. Even though I don’t remember the hotel’s carpet actually being red, it sure felt like it was the way they wined and dined us.

We started off with signature drinks from bar manager Oliver Lee, who was shaking up pumpkin martinis and pouring Wassail, a hot, house-spiced organic cider with Kraken Spiced Rum (a great way to warm up on this rainy night). Both drinks are part of the holiday cocktail lineup at Seasons Bar & Lounge. Then executive chef Mark Richardson and executive sous chef Alex Le Motte brought out a trio of beautifully plated appetizers that included Dungeness crab with avocado purée, beets with hazelnut brittle, and foie gras with curry granola. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the sweet hazelnut brittle worked in a savory application. And where was that piano music coming from? Oh, I see, they had rolled a piano into the kitchen for our entertainment.

Next, chef Wurtz showed us how to make and assemble a chocolate mousse bûche de Noël with layers of raspberry compote, feuilletine, almond-chocolate cake, and a dark chocolate glaze. It was a bit like watching the magic of a television cooking show since chef Wurtz made the whole process look so easy (he had already prepared each component beforehand). Then came the fun part: each invitee got their very own bûche de Noël to decorate using the delectable array set out before us: handmade chocolate decorations, marzipan figurines (super cute penguins and snowmen), meringue mushrooms, and perfect little pink French macaron cookies. I’m proud to say my bûche de Noël tied for second place (but let’s not mention that there were only six contestants, ok?). Check out my pics here!

Of course, the fun didn’t end there. The uber-hospitable Four Seasons crew then brought out three samples from their adult hot chocolate bar. It was like sipping straight up melted Valrhona chocolate, the drinks were so incredibly rich and thick and not at all sticky-sweet because they retained the palate-cleansing bitter notes of the cacao. Each drink was paired with a flavored marshmallow to match its liqueur component, vanilla marshmallow with Navan vanilla liqueur, raspberry with Hangar One Fraser River raspberry vodka, and peppermint with Peppermint Schnapps. (Grand Marnier and Godiva dark chocolate are also available.)

Then the desserts came out: poached-pear pithivier (French puff pastry cake) with honey ice cream, chocolate mousse cake with salted caramel ice cream, and to top it all off, chocolate truffles. Sure, I was up to my eyeballs in sugar by now, but that didn’t stop me. This was the most fun I ever had eating dessert for dinner—wouldn’t mind doing that more often.