January 18, 2011

January 18, 2011
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One of Kronner’s amazing salads.

Well, the talented man behind some of my favorite salads (and burger) in the city, chef Chris Kronner, is leaving ~BAR TARTINE~ to accept a big, new, exciting offer elsewhere. In fact, he’s leaving the Bay Area entirely for said project. Now, I have taken a pinkie swear to not say a peep, so I won’t. But let’s just say I’m really excited for him. It was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up, and Bar Tartine’s owners, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, wish him well.

Taking his place will be Nicolaus Balla, previously at Nombe and O Izakaya Lounge. Balla will be starting March 1st, and the new direction/slant that Nick will bring will be revealed in coming weeks (and no, Bar Tartine will not become an izakaya). There’s also the expansion into the space next door, daytime service that will be added, and an expanded bread program coming, so there’s lots to look forward to in coming months.

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I heard through the grapevine that chef Jason Tallent of ~GLOBE~ is leaving the restaurant, and moving to Austin, Texas, with his wife and two-year-old twins. He said it’s just too expensive to raise a family here, and he’d also like to be able to have his own place, which he’s more likely to be able to afford in Austin. His last night is on Sunday January 30th, which will also be his last farmer dinner at the restaurant. And it’s quite a legacy—he’s been there since 1999. Tallent’s replacement has yet to be announced, but it sounds like Joseph Manzare is on the hunt. 290 Pacific Ave. at Battery, 415-391-4132.

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The rear dining room at Atelier Crenn. Photo by Brian Smeets for Grub Street.

Opening this Friday January 21st for dinner is Dominique Crenn’s ~ATELIER CRENN~, and guests will have a chance to check out the Euro-spare interior (including bare teak tables) by designer Nancy Nielsen (Grub Street has a slideshow here and Eater does here). As I noted last week, here’s a link to a PDF of the winter menu, which is offered at $59 for a three-course meal, and $95 for the chef’s tasting menu. Chef Dominique Crenn is working closely with Gouge Eye Farm in Pleasant Grove ranch for produce; you can read more about the partnership here. And yes, there will be peacock on the menu. Along with ground cherries, and other exotics. The wine list will feature limited-production, organic, and biodynamic wines including approximately 35 bottles, primarily French, Italian, and California wines. Additional players are managing partner/owner Michele Astorian, GM and wine director Akop Paronyan, and pastry chef Juan Contreras. Open for dinner Tue-Sat.

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Photo from Thrillist.

Opening on Monday January 24th is ~STRAW~, a 30-seat carnival-themed restaurant (complete with a creepy carny in the building’s mural/sign, and a booth made from a vintage Tilt-a-Whirl). In fact, everything you see was made, sanded, painted, wired, installed, and restored by partners Ari Feingold, Maura Feingold, chef Naomi Beck, and Greg Kaye.

They are also going to make you wonder whether your new fatty physique is due to their menu, or here’s hoping it’s just the funhouse mirrors. Anyway, some brunch highlights include play with your food: Jenga-stacked French toast with maple syrup ($6.50), ode to j’s: pumpkin pancakes with honey-whipped butter and maple syrup ($8—a tribute to the former owners of the place, J’s Pots of Soul, and their incredible pumpkin pancakes), and the rocky mountain madame: egg in the hole sourdough toast with prosciutto, béchamel, home potatoes ($10). As for the lunch/dinner menu, appetizers include the gimme some lovin’: corn dog hush puppies with drawn butter ($6.75), and a variety of salads, like even cowgirls get the bleus (organic mixed greens, tomato, blue cheese, egg, avocado, buttermilk dressing $7), with the option to add chicken, shrimp, or beef to any of them.

There are around 18 different “carny” sandwiches to choose from, like the sure-to-be-discussed the ring master: a Krispy Kreme doughnut with a Niman Ranch burger sandwiched inside ($9.50), and the fire breather: wasabi tuna salad, jalapeño, sesame oil ($8.75), along with another 18 “classic” sandwiches, like the grilled pb&j ($6.75); all come with house-fried potato chips or organic green salad. You can also get side dishes like tater tots with blackberry-BBQ sauce ($4). All poultry is free range, beef and pork are sustainably raised, the mixed greens are organic, and all dressings, sauces, and reductions are housemade. Hours will be Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 9am-10pm, and Sun 9am-9pm.

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Photos provided by The Grove.

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Open as of this morning is ~THE GROVE HAYES VALLEY~, right on the corner of Franklin and Hayes. Yup, it’s your new place for meetings, meals, and more. A unique addition to this 110-seat location will be a variety of specials available after 4pm, like seared skirt steak ($12.50), meatballs ($11.50), and a roasted vegetable plate ($10.75); all created by executive chef Jeffrey Saad, who is overseeing the menu at all The Grove locations. This location will also feature coffee from Verve, with the baristas receiving training at the Verve facility.

As for the décor, designer Anna Veyna Zankel has integrated a variety of furnishings to fuel the eclectic-reclaimed look, like a seahorse bench from the Waldorf Astoria in New York, Moroccan burnt-orange leather fireside chairs, a “pavilion” made from Utah timbers, a stone fireplace, wood-topped stone benches, Caribbean-colored pillows, and iconic Grove white oak chairs. Wi-Fi should be up and running in about a week. There will also be 35 outdoor seats with heating very soon. The Grove will open Mon-Fri at 7am, and at 8am on the weekends, staying open until 11pm or 12am. 301 Hayes St. at Franklin, 415-624-3953.

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Photo by Misha Vladimirskiy.

Here are some more details on ~THE BRIXTON~, which just opened in Cow Hollow. It has 135 seats, with a menu of homey American fare like pretzel twists with Fresno chile and cheddar cheese dip ($6); grilled flatbread pizza ($11); main-dish salads like grilled steak with warm fingerling potatoes, green beans, and bacon ($14); classic sandwiches like a French dip with smoked Gouda and beef jus ($12); a Prather Ranch burger ($13); and a roasted half chicken with chicken sausage-cornbread stuffing ($18). For dessert, there’s the exclusive Humphry Slocombe maple-bourbon ice cream studded with gingersnap cookie crumbles ($5).

When weekend brunch launches next month, there will be poached pear-stuffed French toast ($8), a Monte Cristo sandwich ($12), and The Brixton Benedict with pulled pork and salsa verde ($13). The menu was put together by consulting executive chef Michelle Mah (Midi, Ponzu) and chef de cuisine Jon Hara, who will serve as executive chef once the kitchen operations are dialed. The same menu is served all day, along with 13 different craft cocktails, brews (10 on tap, 10 by the bottle), and 40 different bottles of wine.

Partners in the venture are Andy Wasserman (Otis Lounge), Hugo Gamboa (Mas Sake), and Adam Snyder (Taverna Aventine, The Ambassador). As for the name, it’s after The Brixton Academy, a rock music venue in South London. Designer Chris Stokes (Woodhouse Fish Company, Fraiche) incorporated a variety of both new finishes and vintage materials to bring a modern rock-and-roll vibe to the 4,200-square-foot space, like a black-and-white tapestry-print velvet wallpaper designed by Shepard Fairey, a cracked paint ceiling, and a black crystal chandelier. There are also brown leather booths and banquettes, and dark oak flooring.

The Brixton is closed to the general public this evening due to the private opening party, but will be open starting with lunch on Wednesday at 11am, and will be open late into the night (until 1am). 2140 Union St. at Webster, 415-409-1114.

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Chef David Bazirgan; photo by Meigan Canfield.

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Butter-poached lobster.

Executive chef David Bazirgan is now ensconced at ~FIFTH FLOOR~, debuting his new menu of creative and polished New American cuisine. Some highlights include a Mendocino uni flan ($16); roasted kiri squash soup ($12) with fried chestnuts, cranberry, ras el hanout, and celery leaves; Maine diver scallop crudo ($14) with Satsuma mandarin, yuzu, fennel, radish, mint, and ice wine vinegar; slow-cooked squab ($32) with black trumpets, house-cured pancetta, root vegetables, confit leg, and salmis sauce; and butter-poached Maine lobster ($35) with white beet, radishes, Meyer lemon, braised baby savoy cabbage, nigella seeds, and fines herbes. You can check out the entire menu online here. There’s also a sample PDF of the tasting menu here, which is $85 for the tasting menu, $50 for beverage pairings.

There’s also a new GM, Scott Chilcutt, most recently at Restaurant Gary Danko. And Jacques Bezuidenhout (Kimpton’s “Master Mixologist”) and head bartender Morgan Young have some cocktails like the Sweet Peat Bowmore (Bowmore 12 year, port, black pepper syrup, and citrus) and Black Friar’s Pint (Plymouth gin, cardamom-spiced Guinness, East India Sherry, shaken with Angostura bitters and egg white)—and did you know the Fifth Floor also offers one of the best single malt scotch and bourbon selections in the city? Breakfast is served Mon-Fri 7am-10am, Sat-Sun 7am-11am; dinner Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm; and the bar stays open Mon-Sat 5pm-12am.

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Chef Adam Dulye; photo from Monk’s Kettle.

The new chef at ~MONK’S KETTLE~, Adam Dulye, has rolled out his new menu. And boy, it’s extensive and ambitious (see for yourself), but also sounds very delicious. It includes gastro-pubby dishes like buttermilk-fried rabbit, house sauerkraut, and apple mostarda ($15); and trotter and tail cakes, espelette aioli, and horseradish ($11); while other dishes spin more restaurant-y, like toasted farro, braised endive, spiced winter squash, and red onion ($17); and three-day-ale bricked chicken, cranberry beans, and harissa ($19). There’s a range of prices and options, from the pretzel for $4.50, to a burger for $13, and duck confit and sweetbreads clocking in at $25, or seared diver scallops for $27 (for those who want a higher-end meal and don’t mind the tariff). The menu is served from noon-1am daily.

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Future fruit fabulousness; Flickr photo from Bi-Rite.

I’ve been wondering why I haven’t seen any construction going on at Emblem Market (at 736 Divisadero St.), which was slated to become the next ~BI-RITE MARKET~. It ends up they are moving into the Divisadero Farmers Market space (550 Divisadero St.), next door to nopa. Owner Sam Mogannam is targeting the end of summer or early fall. Since there’s even more square footage in this new location, it also means they’ll be opening a Bi-Rite Creamery! Woot woot. As for what is going to happen to the Emblem space, Mogannam is undecided about whether they’ll rent or sell it.

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Spreads from Trentino, in the Manicaretti booth.

I only had one day to attend the winter ~FANCY FOOD SHOW~ this year, and it kind of felt like I was a photojournalist going into battle: camera at the ready (the ability to take pictures is a courtesy that is only extended to press), comfortable boots zipped on, and a knapsack slung over my shoulder (where I could place information sheets and postcards and samples that aren’t supposed to be given away, ahem). You have to surrender your palate to an onslaught of flavors, veering madly from a bite of prosciutto to caramel chocolate to a spicy pickle to an ice cream sandwich within minutes. There is so much to look at—it’s a staggering amount of visual information. There’s a lot of great packaging (and lots of really bad packaging as well). And there’s quite the confluence of smells, like the wafting of bacon from the Nueske’s table, and you always know when you’re near some cheese.

The people watching is epic, especially the Italians in their suits, always talking amongst themselves in the Italy section, taking turns to go find an espresso at the other booths. I think the folks at the Bolani table should teach a class on how to sample—they work lickety split, and manage to hand out more samples than I can even count.

The show always features the debut of products, like this year’s new headcheese from Fra’ Mani, or the new chocolate bars from Poco Dolce.

There are also so many products that I think restaurants and bartenders would both find intriguing, from a palate-cleansing water to tasty non-alcoholic beverage options for their patrons (besides the usual sodas), to interesting ingredients, like these vinegars, and this pine cone bud syrup. I could spend an entire day on the cheeses alone. And it’s great to be able to taste the entire line of some of the charcuterie producers. I was blown away with the quality of the salumi from OLLI Salumeria, based out of Virginia—delicious speck, in particular. And the new Iowa White spread from La Quercia, which totally tasted like spreadable lardo (dangerous).

The ingredients for home cooks are endless, from the Taste #5 Umami Paste to the new Thai wok oil from Tourangelle to yuzu chile sauces. And let’s not even talk about the Skillet bacon jam.

While you feel completely exhausted at the end of the day (the only thing I want is a beer and a salad), I always walk away from the show fired up about products I hope to see in local stores, restaurants, bars, and on my shelves at home.

Here’s a photo album I took of the tastes and products that stood out for me.

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Photo from Namu.

According to SFoodie, ~WOOLY PIG CAFE~ has opened in the Inner Sunset, serving sandwiches (like banh mi, and a pork belly sandwich with arugula, pickled shallot, and toasted garlic), fresh pastries, cream of roasted shiitake soup, and the like. Open daily 8am-4pm. 205 Hugo St. at 2nd Ave., 415-592-8015.

In the Inner Richmond, I was happy to hear about Namu’s new produce boxes, designed to offer a good amount of variety (chosen by chef Dennis Lee), while not being packed with the monster portions of produce you can encounter in other CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes. And here’s the bonus: ~NAMU~ will also have weekly ready-to-cook proteins like marinated chicken wings, Korean-style short ribs, and miso-marinated fish for people to purchase, along with jars of Namu hot sauce, kimchee, or pickles. They will include recipes, and an open dialogue with chef Dennis Lee via email.

Items in the last box included fingerling potatoes, “spring” onions, wild arugula, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, sunchokes, green cabbage, radishes/turnips, fennel, and more. Boxes are available for pick up during their Sunday brunch service, from 10am-3pm to people who pre-order by midnight on the Friday before ($15/light box and $25/bountiful box). They will have boxes available for “walk-ins” for an additional $3/box, until supplies run out. This month, all produce boxes come with a free Namu specialty item. To preorder, email here with produce box quantity by midnight on Friday for pickup on the following Sunday.

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Ciscle-era wings (and a waffle) at Little Skillet.

According to SFoodie, Christian Ciscle, formerly the badass chef and opening manager of Little Skillet, is going to be opening a place called ~WING WINGS~ in the former Roland’s Bagels space. Although these wings won’t be fried—instead, they’ll be the saucy kind. And here’s more: “Also lots of specials, sides, fresh-cut fries, and desserts―no frills, he tells us. It’ll be mostly carry-out, with only limited seating, and late-night hours.” Looks like it’s about two months out. Fun fact: Ciscle was also behind Big Sherm’s Fresh Sandwiches, which was in the neighborhood more than 10 years ago. Oh, the memories. 422 Haight St. at Webster.

More Little Skillet-related news: Grub Street reports that Jay Foster (Farmerbrown and Little Skillet) is going to be opening ~THE LIBRARY~ with business partner Deanna Sison. No actual details about what it will be have been released (a bar? a café?) but stand by. The location: the former Someplace Else. 1795 Geary St. at Fillmore.

Lastly, Inside Scoop reports that opening up on Fillmore Street will be ~JANE~, just next door to Citizen Cake. Owner Amanda Michael will reportedly be offering a coffee program featuring Four Barrel coffee, and breakfast and lunch items, including “housemade baked goods in the morning, and then quick service soup/salads/sandwiches for lunch. The afternoon will see more small-batch treats, like cookies and such.” Considering Citizen Cake is just next door, this should be, uh, interesting. Hours will be 6am-6pm; look for an opening perhaps in February. 2123 Fillmore St. at California.

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Photo from Haighteration.

As some people may have heard, a ~RAGAZZA~ employee was the victim of a terrible, violent crime in November. In order to cover expenses and assist in the victim’s recovery, two fundraising events are being held, including a benefit dinner on Monday January 24th with three seatings (5pm, 7pm, and 9pm). The meal will cost $35 per person and will include antipasti, salad, entrée, dessert, and wine; gratuity and tax are extra. 100% of the proceeds will benefit the victim, and any additional donations can be made at that time. The seatings are mostly full/have limited availability, but you can be added to the waitlist by emailing for reservations.

Since the dinner is mostly full, a big way that you can help is to look at and bid on an eBay auction that will run between January 21st-31st. The non-profit organization La Cocina is sponsoring the event, so any bid amount, beyond the fair market value of the auction item, is tax deductible. Over 40 items have been donated, and the list is impressive. (Really, no one rallies like the restaurant industry to help one of their own.) The Ragazza site is being updated daily, but highlights include: chefs Sharon Ardiana and Melissa Perello (Frances) will prepare meals in peoples’ homes; custom meals with priority seating and wine pairings at many popular restaurants, including A16, Delfina, Flour + Water, nopa, and Café des Amis; gift certificates; and more.

Lastly, donations can also be made directly to benefit the victim. To do so, please send a check made out to Ragazza’s fiscal sponsor: La Cocina, Inc. Please write Ragazza Fundraiser in the memo line so that your contribution goes directly to their cause. Donations may also be made on the evening of January 24th at the restaurant. For your donation to be tax deductible, it will need to be made via check payable to La Cocina, Inc. Donations may be sent to: La Cocina, 2948 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA, 94110-4028.

Best wishes to the victim and everyone touched by this terrible, heart-wrenching crime.

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A similar Mina burger, from STONEHILL TAVERN in Dana Point.

Over at ~RN74~, you can now order their burger, a “zero-proof cocktail,” and cookies to go for $20 during the week for lunch. Served in the bar and lounge Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm.

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The bollito misto cart; photo courtesy of Poggio.

It’s about that time of the year: ~POGGIO~ just re-launched their bollito misto yesterday. Chef Peter McNee will be preparing five different meats: housemade cotechino sausage, beef tongue, veal breast, oxtail, and brisket, all sliced and served tableside from their special Italian bollito cart that they imported from Italy. They’re also making five different sauces to go with the meats. In the past, it was only for a week, but now the bollito will be served every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening until spring. The price is $19.

Up in Pt. Reyes Station, ~OSTERIA STELLINA~ is now offering a Tuesday night special: lasagna bolognese, a salad, and a glass of house wine (from Dry Creek) for $20, along with live music, courtesy of This Old Earthquake band (they will perform each week from 6:30pm-8:30pm).