May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011
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The kitchen (and counter seats) at Saison; photo from Facebook.

Some exciting news: chef Jeremy Fox will be cooking at ~SAISON~ from June 14th-18th while Saison’s chef Joshua Skenes is off to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen (he was voted one of the 10 Best New Chefs 2011). Fox is calling the series SMITH@Saison—and he has a posse: collaborating with him on the menu is chef Kim Alter, recently departed from Plate Shop. Fox writes, “I am fortunate to be joined in the kitchen by chef Kim Alter for the SMITH@Saison dinners. Having cooked together over the last several years, Kim is a natural fit for collaborating on daily tasting menus. I feel even more confident that, along with Saison’s own rock star staff, we will achieve the best experience possible for our guests.”

And there’s going to be someone else in the kitchen you may recognize: Eli Kirshtein from Top Chef. Ends up Fox and Kirshtein, both Atlanta boys, had a good time together at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in May, so Fox thought it would be fun to cook together out here. A nightly tasting menu will be offered ($128, and $88 for wine pairings), and I’d recommend reserving the kitchen counter seats for a ringside view. Fox said the menu will reflect an evolution from the cooking he was doing at Ubuntu, and will include changes throughout the week. Reservations: 415-828-7990.

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Photo from Dandelion Chocolate.

I was happy to learn about the second tenant in the upcoming 740 Valencia Street location, which will hold The Abbot’s Cellar and a third tenant. Hopefully open by this fall will be ~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~, a small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate factory from partners Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring (with the help of Alice Nystrom). There will also be a café for people to taste and experience their chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate.

If you’ve been to the New Taste Marketplace recently, you may be familiar with Dandelion’s bars, which they are currently making out of a garage lab in East Palo Alto. They have visited cacao farmers and done incredible amounts of research over the past couple years, including building their own machines. They currently roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conche, and temper small batches of beans, and then mold and package each bar by hand, adapting their process with each new bag of beans to bring out the best, individual flavors.

The landlord and his team have been hard at work for the last few months getting everything ready, and are still waiting on some permits to complete their part of the build-out, but once those permits come through, Dandelion should be able to start construction. You can follow Dandelion’s progress (and upcoming appearances) on Twitter. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St.

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Photo from Txoko.

Right on schedule, the Basque-inspired ~TXOKO~ is opening tonight for dinner at 5pm (open until 2am). You can check out a copy of the menu on their site here, and read up on all the deets in my piece from last week. I look forward to getting a closer look at artist Jeremy Fish’s mural. And getting a taste of the Roncal croqueta with chorizo—damn that thing looks good. Now if only this weather would get better so we can all enjoy the patio, criminy.

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Straw’s fried chicken-n-waffle Monte Cristo. Photo from Yelp’s Kelly S.

A few new beer and wine licenses that have been issued around town are sure to make diners happy: over at ~BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD~, it means you’ll be able to have mimosas with your Hangtown fry, and at ~BISTRO SF GRILL~, you can have a glass of sangiovese with one of their tasty burgers.

But over at ~STRAW~, they bumped things even more, approaching Mark Bright (Saison) to do their wine list. Bright paired up a roussane or Plungerhead zinfandel with the infamous Ringmaster (yes, the cheeseburger in a doughnut), a riesling or syrah with the fried chicken-n-waffle Monte Cristo, and a rosé or malbec with the Bearded Lady, a pulled pork sandwich with blackberry coulis, chipotle BBQ, and citrus slaw. Co-owner Ari Feingold mentioned he really wanted to be able to offer some choice wines with Straw’s reasonably priced food, giving diners the opportunity to have a nice bistro-like dinner for less than $25.

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Tony Gemignani. © FrankenyImages.com.

As if Tony Gemignani’s menu of pizzas at ~TONY’S PIZZA NAPOLETANA~ wasn’t enough, he’s added some intriguing new items as well. Perhaps the most notable addition is his new gluten-free pizza that he has been perfecting for nine months. It is cooked in its own dedicated gas oven, with its own counter and chef in order to avoid contamination. Yeah, that’s dedicated. He has also started offering a Detroit-style pizza, which is a “red top” pizza cooked in blue steel Detroit pans with brick mozzarella, white cheddar, tomato sauce racing stripes, and garlic butter-toasted edges. Vroom. Then there’s the Fear & Loathing pizza, topped with slow-cooked pulled pork in tamarind, serrano and habañero peppers, citrus, tomato, mozzarella, fresh cactus and agave salsa, and queso fresco.

And for meat lovers who have low cholesterol (or are perhaps fearless, with high cholesterol), there’s the new fire-roasted bone marrow and coppa fondue, with Gruyère cheese and white wine, served with toasted buttered bread, sliced coppa, wood-fired bone marrow, and a side of Gorgonzola. (You can also get some marrow in the new speck and marrow calzone for two.) Mamma mia.

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At Locavore’s friends and family party. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Over in Bernal Heights, ~LOCAVORE~ has promoted chef de cuisine Jonathan Merritt to executive chef; chef Jason Moniz will remain as one of the partners/owners of Locavore, but he will be working on special projects such as expanding their sausage business. There shouldn’t be a dramatic change in their food since Merritt has been running the back of house since March, but since he worked at Pok Pok in Portland, don’t be surprised if you see some Thai flavors pop up.

The Scoop reports Kyle Caporicci is the new pastry chef at Oakland’s ~COMMIS~; predecessor Carlos Salgado is moving to L.A. to open Taco Maria in his family’s 25-year-old taqueria.

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The new building at 5600 Third Street; photo by Daisy Chow.

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Future entrance to Get Fresh Juice Bar and Café; photo by Daisy Chow.

If all goes well, a new juice bar/café will be joining the growing roster of food venues coming to Third Street in the Bayview, this one with a community-minded goal: youth development agency Hunters Point Family (HPF) plans to open ~GET FRESH JUICE BAR AND CAFÉ~ at 5600 Third Street this fall. Local youth from HPF’s Girls 2000 program will run the café, selling juices, salads, sandwiches, and fresh produce they’re growing on their nearby organic community garden, which was recently made over with the help of chef Michael Mina.

Get Fresh will occupy two adjoining, street-level retail spaces in the newly constructed Armstrong Townhomes, a mixed-use development that includes senior apartments and urban townhomes. According to HPF Executive Director Takai Tyler, they’re waiting for approval for funding from SF Redevelopment for the buildout. Meanwhile, an advisory board of local restaurant and business owners are working with the teenage girls on skills such as recipe development. They also have plans to run a test kitchen over the summer.

On Saturday May 21st, the project’s organic garden got a big helping hand from Michael Mina and 75 restaurant staffers, who volunteered to spend the day pulling weeds, pruning trees, turning dirt, and planting seedlings at the half-acre plot in the Alice Griffith community. (Chefs from Mina’s restaurants prepared lunch for all.) Mina’s restaurants will purchase some of the produce after the harvest, providing an income source for HPF. The garden also provides organic produce to the local community through HPF’s food pantry and at neighborhood farmers’ markets.

Cheers to Mina and staff, as well as collaborators Urban Strategies and HOPE SF, for supporting such a great community project. (You know from the socialite section that our local chefs and restaurants are constantly making us proud with their generosity.) Plus it sounds like the juice bar/café will be a more healthful alternative to the building’s other incoming retail tenant, Wingstop, a franchise whose Oakland and Emeryville locations boast soda machines with 106 flavors.

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By Daniel Azarkman

After over a year of deliberation and not-so-promising town hearings, my former employers at ~POLLO CAMPERO~ confirm that they will finally be opening a San Francisco location. The fast-casual chicken chain started 40 years ago in Guatemala and is absolutely everywhere in Central America, but has yet to make a formal appearance in Northern California. For a while now, nostalgic immigrants here have been getting their fix by placing an order at Rico Pan in the Mission, which has an employee haul a car-ful of fried chicken up from L.A. every so often.

Soon they won’t have to drive nearly as far, says a unanimous vote from the San Francisco Planning Commission last Thursday. The decision comes after a few changes to the concept in response to neighbors’ concerns. The space at 2740 Mission, formerly a Payless ShoeSource, will importantly feature a covered patio to keep sounds and smells out of anyone else’s yard. Aiming for a late 2011 opening, this Pollo Campero will stand alone among U.S. locations in being a full-service restaurant, though this is the norm in Central America. 2740 Mission St. at 23rd St.

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Photo of a Rib Whip sandwich from Food Truck Crush’s Facebook.

The mobile food movement is not showing any signs of stopping; quite the opposite. Up in Larkspur, new gathering ~FOOD TRUCK CRUSH~ is happening every Friday (through September) from 4pm-8pm at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. Ferry travelers or just plain hungry people will have tasty choices like the Indian street food of Curry Up Now, the wood-fired pies of Pizza Politana, the Midwest-style BBQ of The Rib Whip, the sweet offerings of Three Twins Ice Cream and Sift Cupcake & Dessert Bar, and the Cajun stylings of Suzie Q’s Lunch Box. Golden Gate Larkspur Ferry Terminal, 101 E. Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Larkspur, 415-259-7263.

News about ~OFF THE GRID~ coming to North Berkeley on Wednesday evenings has the East Bay buzzing. According to details on KQED blog Bay Area Bites, this debut East Bay OtG is to be located at the site of the Thursday farmers’ market on Shattuck at Rose, in the famed Gourmet Ghetto. With the blessing of the North Shattuck Association, a local merchant group, food truck vendors will gather from 5pm-9pm with a core group consisting of Liba (falafel), Hapa SF, The Taco Guys, and Cupkates returning weekly, plus three more trucks rotating in, like Skylight Snowballs, 510 Burger, and Fins on the Hoof. They also report that Off the Grid organizer Matt Cohen will provide a space for “chefs from the immediate area” to join in, beginning with Peter Levitt of Saul’s Deli. Original reports had the weekly Wednesday gathering still awaiting permit approvals, with June 8th being tossed around as the earliest start date, but Berkeleyside just posted that Off the Grid North Berkeley is having their soft launch tomorrow June 1st, adding that Brass Knuckle will also be there, but no local chef in an OtG truck this first time. Corner of Shattuck and Rose, Berkeley.

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Pastoral Covelo in Northern California; photo from Food Forward’s blog.

If you read tablehopper, you’re sure to have noticed the growing movement toward urban agriculture in our fair city (beehives on restaurant roofs, herb gardens in bars) and across the country. On Thursday June 2nd, you can attend a screening of the pilot episode of the new public television series ~FOOD FORWARD~ to learn more about urban food pioneers and other “food rebels”—educators, scientists, fishermen, farmers, and chefs—who are spearheading the movement to change our currently unsustainable food system. The reception includes food and wine and a meet-and-greet with the team behind the documentary. It all starts at 6pm in the Goldman Theatre in Berkeley’s LEED-certified David Brower Center. Tickets $10 advance, $15 at the door.

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The number of olive oils out there can be a bit mind boggling, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just hop on over to The Pasta Shop on Saturday June 4th from 12pm-3pm, and join their third annual ~FESTIVAL OF CALIFORNIA EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL~ for an informative afternoon of olive oil tastings, pairings, cooking demos, and discussion.

The event will highlight California’s most recent harvest, that of 2010, with at least 12 producers from around the state demonstrating the styles, varieties, and flavor profiles now available, from the fruity and mild Arbequina, to the robust, pungent, and peppery Tuscan blends. Participating olive oil producers include Bari Olive Oil, Bozzano Olive Ranch, Calivirgin, Corto, Colline di Santa Cruz, Katz & Co., Lucero, McEvoy Ranch, Olivina, Pacific Sun Farms, Robbins Family Farm, and Talcott. Sample their oils alone and in recipes that show how the flavor profiles directly change the taste of the finished recipes.

Be sure to check out The Ice Cream and Olive Oil Bar on the patio, offering a variety of combinations, such as vanilla gelato with a robust olive oil and topped with sea salt. And, you’ll get to sample The Pasta Shop’s own signature olive oil brownies, olive oil cake, and challah.

From 1pm-1:30pm, satisfy your intellectual palate: Albert Katz of Katz & Co will speak on the history of olive oil in America, and the recent UC Davis Olive Center research on adulterated olive oil in the marketplace will be discussed, followed by Q&A.

Stick around for a demo on cooking with extra virgin olive oil from 2pm-2:30pm with Pasta Shop executive chef Scott Miller. Yup, not only can you fry with it, you can poach, confit, and sauté with extra virgin olive oil. Coinciding with this event, next-door neighbor Café Rouge will offer special menu items featuring California extra virgin olive oils.

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