August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011
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AQ exterior photo from LiveSOMA.

After some liquor license activity, and Grub Street poking around online, details have been released about ~AQ~, a new project from first-time restaurateur Matt Semmelhack and Dixon Hayes of Mercer Restaurant Group. Martin Heid Design/Build (who designed Commonwealth and Serpentine) is transforming the 104-year-old space on Mission Street, which features an original red brick façade, timber beams, and 12-foot-tall warehouse windows (it ends up the space housed the original San Francisco Department of Health). There will be 82 seats, plus private dining, and a bar with 16 seats and 5 seats at high-tops near the front window and entrance.

Executive chef Mark Liberman will be offering a menu of “innovative California cuisine,” and his background includes working as chef de cuisine for Roland Passot, in addition to time in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Joël Robuchon while in New York, and he was a semi-finalist in the Bocuse d’Or. Yeah, homeboy’s got some chops. He will also be leading some cooking demonstrations, culinary and wine events, and interactive classes at the restaurant—since the open kitchen features 22 counter seats, it’ll be an optimal learning (and dining) environment.

The seasonal menu (check out a PDF of the upcoming fall menu online) won’t be the only thing continually changing: the look and feel of AQ will change as well, from new color schemes to art installations, linens, tabletop arrangements, and even the logo will all reflect the seasons. Both lunch (Mon-Fri) and dinner (nightly) will be offered, with brunch coming later. Look for an extensive wine list, plus four local beers on tap and many by the bottle, and a cocktail program. You can learn more about the project on their Kickstarter campaign page. They are gunning for a fall opening.

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Chef de cuisine Matthew Gandin; photo from Delfina’s Facebook page.

Over at ~DELFINA~, chef de cuisine Matthew Gandin is leaving after eight years with the group (almost nine!). He said it’s completely amicable—he’s just ready to do his own thing, “after working really hard, I’m ready to do that for myself.” He is currently incubating a restaurant concept (no space yet, and not necessarily Italian is all he’d share), but said he’s looking forward to taking time off, and enjoying some travel and relaxation. Best wishes! Chef-owner Craig Stoll tells me they are finalizing potential candidates for the position.

This morning I heard from owner Jeff Jordan of ~GIORDANO BROS.~, and it looks like his Mission location that is opening in the former Ti Couz space will hopefully be passing its final inspection this Thursday, and be open that evening. It will then be softly open for two weeks, serving from 5pm-12am on the bar side in case the desire for a late-night sandwich strikes. Eventually they will add weekend days with the start of football season, and then weekday lunch. Read more about the location in this past tablehopper post. 3108 16th St. at Valencia, 415-437-2767 (or 415-437-BROS).

FYI, ~BAR TARTINE~ is temporarily closed this week as the monster bread oven arrives next door. Inside Scoop reports the restaurant should be back open for dinner service this Saturday.

Sorry to learn ~MISSION BOWLING CLUB~ is going through hard times with the city, which is trying to hit the small business with $44,000 in special impact fees (owner Sommer Peterson is converting a warehouse into a six-lane bowling alley and restaurant). Read more in the Examiner piece here; let’s hope the Small Business Commission can help “create a special fee structure for small, independently owned businesses and plans to send a letter to Mayor Ed Lee.”

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Pres a Vi chef’s table; Yelp photo by James S.

Since leaving Murray Circle, chef Joseph Humphrey has been on quite a hunt for his own restaurant location in San Francisco. After Grub Street noticed Humphrey’s “coming soon” cards listing the name ~DIXIE~ on them at the SF Chefs Sugar & Spice party, Inside Scoop reveals he’s opening in the hefty 120-seat Pres a Vi space in the Presidio that has been empty the past two years. Michael Brennan is revitalizing the room, and they are targeting a fall opening. Humphrey’s partner/front-of-house operator is Khalid Lahlou (Mourad Lahlou’s brother, who used to run Kasbah and Aziza with him). In spite of the Southern name, Humphrey says the food won’t be exclusively Southern food but will show Southern influences. Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy trying out Humphrey’s cuisine on the outdoor terrace before chillier weather rolls in.

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Destino interior; photo: © tablehopper.com.

Starting this Sunday August 21st, ~DESTINO~ and ~PISCO~ will start serving Sunday brunch from 10:30am-2:30pm. Guests can either sit in Destino or Pisco, and they’ll get the same menu. As for what’s on the menu, new items include huevos con pallares (two fried eggs, fava bean purée, marble potatoes, crema de rocoto, breadcrumbs); eggs Benedict with cornmeal biscuits; crepas de dulce de leche (warm crêpes filled with dulce de leche, seasonal berries), and a Destino omelet (which includes your choice of fillings like jamón serrano and pork belly). There will also be savory items like a TLT (tocino, lechuga, and tomate) made with pork belly, heirloom tomatoes, tetilla, arugula, and housemade focaccia, and a Peruanaso burger (Estancia Farms sirloin, aji panca, encebollado, and sweet potato chips). And, of course, Destino’s delicious arepas will be available, along with many other dishes. And since there’s a full bar, you’ll be able to kick back with an aji amarillo bloody Mary, which I can’t wait to try.

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Boxing Room interior; photo from Boxing Room.

Starting Monday August 22nd, you’ll be able to swing by the ~BOXING ROOM~ for lunch Mon-Fri, starting at 11:30am. One the menu: new po’ boys (of course!) like a dressed roast beef po’ boy with gravy and steak fries ($14), and a limited number of muffuletta sandwiches (!) with ham, salami, housemade mortadella, provolone, olive salad, and mixed greens ($13), along with salads, like an heirloom tomato salad with cane vinaigrette and basil ($12). Items from the dinner menu now available for lunch include Cajun boiled peanuts ($5), hushpuppies ($5), smoked chicken and andouille gumbo ($9 or $15), Granny G’s burger with Creole mustard aioli and steak fries ($14), fried seafood po’ boy with catfish ($13), shrimp ($15), or oysters ($18), and more. The oyster bar will also have some selections available. The continuous hours into dinner service (which starts at 5pm) will make it a nice spot for late lunchers as well.

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Home patio and fireplace; photo from their website.

A tablehopper tipster let me know that ~HOME RESTAURANT~ filed for bankruptcy and closed last week. Inside Scoop shared further details that there was a potential deal to sell the restaurant to the owner of Lookout, but the transfer of the ABC’s liquor license was going to prove to be problematic (read all about it here if you’re interested). Time will tell who steps up next. 2100 Market St. at Church.

A reader also let me know that ~JUBILI~, the frozen yogurt and cereal place on Fillmore, appears to have closed. She says, “No notice yet, but the place looks cleaned out-ish, and not open midday on a Monday. Sad. It was quite good yogurt, but every time I was there I was one of (maybe) 2 people in there. I think the other two yogurt places must have more targeted walk-by traffic.”

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Photo of the 2009 SF Street Food Festival from Facebook.

There’s more going on than ever with this year’s ~SAN FRANCISCO STREET FOOD FESTIVAL~, in addition to what we mentioned previously. Got a couple updates here for ya, but first, a refresher (as if you need it): food trucks and restaurants alike are going street food-style Saturday August 20th from 11am-7pm on Folsom between 22nd and 26th Streets. The event is free and open to the public, and all food will be under $8, half under $3.

There’s still time to win prizes in the Street Food Fest scavenger hunt game: get a team together and sign up here. You can do a bunch of the challenges from the comfort of your own computer, and prizes include gift certificates for food at Off the Grid, drinks at 15 Romolo, and even an invite to the opening of Wise Sons Deli with free bagels to boot.

So what’s to eat on the big day? You’ve already got 30 of La Cocina’s vendors, 20 Bay Area owner-operated restaurants, and 10 local food trucks, serving everything imaginable from Zaré’s Persian lamb tacos ($8) to Anda’s piroshkis ($3) to Namu’s kimchi okonomiyaki ($8). Drinks and sweets run the gamut too, from lassis, teas, and juices to ice cream, cupcakes, and even “Gelishots” (with tequila). Six visiting vendors are confirmed: Skillet Street Food from Seattle (fried chicken sandwhich, $8), Big-Ass Sandwiches from Portland (Roast Beef Sandwich, $4/$8), the peached tortilla from Austin (Asian tacos, $3), Ingrid’s LunchBox from Madison (warm apple crisp in a crêpe, $6), and The Arepa Lady from New York (Colombian corn cakes, $4). It’s like eating your way across the country and the world, in one place. Plus when you hit up the out-of-towners, all profits will be donated to La Cocina.

You’ll wanna visit the Cocktail Gardens too (generously curated by Jon Gasparini/Rye on the Road), where the city’s best bartenders will be serving concoctions specially crafted for the festival (only to those who are 21+ with ID, of course). Look for the Lawrenceburg Swizzle (Wild Turkey 81, lemon, mint, maple syrup, Creole bitters drizzled over crushed ice with mint garnish), Street Food Punch (Flor de Caña 7-year rum, ginger syrup, lime, Rye Bar aromatic bitters, Prosecco, lime zest garnish), and Spicy Paloma (Espolón tequila blanco, agave jalapeño syrup, fresh grapefruit, fresh lime, seltzer, pinch of salt, sweet pepper garnish).

With so much food to eat and drinks to drink, don’t bother fumbling for cash. Get a passport, online and ahead of time. 20% of sales go to La Cocina, and passports can be shared. Here’s the important part: passport holders get exclusive “secret” treats for free, like a small bite from Bill Corbett (executive pastry chef, Absinthe) at the Mission Artisan Tortillas truck. In another online perk, you can now see a map and make a favorites list to share with friends and view on your iPhone.

After the festival, join the official after-party from 7pm-2am for more food (late night tacos!), music, and dancing with Afrolicious, Tormenta Tropical, and DJ Quest at Public Works, 161 Erie Street at Mission (near 14th Street). Tickets are just $5.

Try not to get too hungover (haha) because there’s the “Eat Your Cart Out” brunch on Sunday August 21st, noon-1:30pm, at Fort Mason Center, where Top Chef Masters contestant Suvir Saran will be making peanut shrimp. He’s joined by Wise Sons Deli, Azalina’s, and Ingrid’s LunchBox. Did we mention mimosas and bloody Marys are included? Brunch kicks off the two-day National Street Food Conference. There’s some juicy topics in there, like a look at the tension between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks, and the old school versus new school taco truck divide. Tickets are online, ranging from $50-$100, and scholarships are available too.

See you at the festival!

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Tomato photo from Flour + Water.

Oh yeah, it’s totally the time to be enjoying those delightful pomodori, so here are a few events you tomato-lovers won’t want to miss:

Tonight, Tuesday August 16th, author Barry Estabrook will be at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~. He’ll be talking about his new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, from 6pm-7pm. Here’s more from Ruth Reichl: “In my ten years as editor of Gourmet magazine, the article I am proudest to have published was Barry Estabrook’s ‘The Price of Tomatoes.’ Now he’s expanded that into this astonishingly moving and important book. If you have ever eaten a tomato—or ever plan to—you must read Tomatoland. It will change the way you think about America’s most popular ‘vegetable.’ More importantly, it will give you new insight into the way America farms.”

And then on Monday August 29th, chef Thomas McNaughton of ~FLOUR + WATER~ is hosting a six-course Tomato Dinner with wine pairings in the Dough Room. There are two seatings (5:45pm and 8:45pm). $175 per person (inclusive of wine pairings and gratuity). Tickets.

And on now at ~BIX~ is the Return of the Killer Tomatoes Cart. You can enjoy some heirloom tomatoes served tableside with hand-pulled mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, and basil during dinner nightly, or for lunch on Fridays. $14.75.

Starting Sunday August 21st, ~THE TAVERN AT LARK CREEK~ is hosting Biergarten in the Grove on Sundays. Chef Aaron Wright has put together a menu of grilled Austrian and German dishes, like a Bavarian mixed grill (grilled sausages with choice of two sides, $16.95) fresh off the outdoor grill, along with applewood-smoked pork sliders ($9.95), German potato salad ($5.95), and a jumbo pretzel baked in-house ($3.95). There will also be live music and special beers on tap, like Spaten’s Pilsner and Dark Optimator, and Iron Springs’ Chazz Cat Rye and Casey Jones Imperial IPA, all on draught for $3. Happy hour prices will also apply to other beverages, including $5 well drinks, $6.50 well drinks served up, and wine on tap at $4 a glass. Every Sunday from 2pm-5:30pm through October 30th. 234 Magnolia Ave. at William, Larkspur, 415-924-7766.