December 20, 2011

December 20, 2011
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Everything you need to know, it’s right here.

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The Metro Wine Map of France.

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The Silver Spoon.

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Olio nuovo from McEvoy Ranch.

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Extra Virginity.

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The first Liga Box from Liga Masiva.

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One of the best things you can give: a meal to someone who is hungry.

Yo yo yo and ho ho ho! Have you finished your holiday shopping? I know, I haven’t either. Just in case you’re stumped on what to get the gourmand in your life, I have a few last-minute holiday gift ideas for you that are quick and fabulous. Let’s do this.

How about my book?! Duh! And it’s less than $20. You can get a signed copy of The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco in my online store (I’m around this week, so we could even arrange a pick-up time), or you can swing by so many fabulous local bookstores who carry it. Buy local, and support your local author! We all thank you.

I was at the Arlequin annual Champagne party a couple weeks ago and was introduced to the maker of this amazing Metro Wine Map of France, David Gissen. For anyone trying to figure out the geography of the French wine regions, you will totally dig this map. It’s so clever and cool to look at. ($24.95 plus shipping.) You should look at all the other neat wino stuff on the De Long site, including more wine maps and tasting notebooks.

For the Italophile in your life: have you seen the new edition of The Silver Spoon that’s out? It’s considered the bible of Italian cooking, now with over 2,000 revised recipes and 400 brand new, full-color photographs. It’s all in there, really (and wait until you pick it up—it’s one heavy mofo). Page after page of totally authentic Italian cooking. It will totally inspire you to try new dishes. (Hopefully the person you bought it for will be inspired to cook something and invite you over!)

Do you understand the joy of having olio nuovo (“new oil”) in your house? It’s one of my favorite things about winter. I swear, I drizzle it on everything, from soups to bread to eggs. The bright, grassy, peppery flavors of this unfiltered oil don’t last long—just a few months—so you have to act (and eat it) quickly. If you want to buy local, the McEvoy Ranch olio nuovo is a favorite, and it’s super fresh ($22/375ml)—it’s also in a limited quantity this year, so no big bottles for you. A really elegant and fruity imported olio nuovo I have been using the past month is the Frescobaldi Laudemio First Pressing 2011 Extra Virgin Olive Oil—what a dream. I got mine from The Pasta Shop at Market Hall in Rockridge ($24.75), or if you want to purchase it online, you can get it for $28 on OpenSky.

While you’re at it, why not pick up a copy of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller? There’s been a bunch of buzz about this very revealing book. So much that it’s actually out of stock all over the place and on back order—although as of today, the Booksmith in the Haight has two copies!

It’s fun to style folks (especially out-of-state friends!) with locally roasted coffee, whether it’s a bag from my beloved Sightglass or a special holiday blend from Equator, featuring two coffees from small co-ops Equator has worked very closely with the past few years (like the El Batan co-op in the remote Andean region of Loja, Ecuador). Available at: Atlas Café, SF; Mokka, Berkeley, and online.

Wouldn’t it be fab to have a box of edible treats arrive at your home each month? Yeah, that’s what I call good mail. The folks at Liga Masiva have expanded their offering from direct trade coffee to creating the Liga Box, full of specially sourced ingredients direct from farmers in Latin America. The first box, Dulces de Mexico, is $30 (plus $10 for shipping if outside the NYC area) and includes chocolate de metate (hand-ground chocolate), flor de jamaica (dried organic hibiscus), ate de guayaba (guava paste), and a full-sized print magazine filled with recipes, photos, and stories from the farmers. This is a trial box for them, and there are plans to release more in the future! Please support them in their efforts

Another option is to sign someone up for a Tasting Box subscription from Foodzie.com. It’s a monthly delivery of treats from independent producers, whether it’s a Seasonal Tasting Box, a Themed Tasting Box (like “Don’t Be So Jerky”), or a Cooking Box which comes with ingredients and recipes (all are $29.95 each). Subscribers enjoy free shipping, and each subscriber can choose a box of choice each month or opt to accumulate credits for future months.

There are so many new online gift certificate companies out there, making it much easier to buy someone a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant, or bookstore, or bar! Take a look at Treatful, Giftly, and Gift Rocket.

What about some cocktail classes or wine classes? It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d love to receive, but wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself. You can treat someone to classes from The Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail at the Boothby Center ($65-$95, look at upcoming classes and get tickets here), Beretta has ongoing cocktail classes (usually $85, email or call 415-695-1199), and I really enjoy the classes at the SF Wine Center, taught by some serious pros (usually around $60).

I am always very grateful to receive a holiday card every year from a dear friend, telling me she made a donation to our local food bank on my behalf. You can hunt down your local food bank and donate, like the SF Food Bank, and there’s also this site, Give a Meal, which will allow you to donate from two weeks to a year of meals to someone in need.

Want more inspiration? I adored this page of local and lovely gift suggestions on the Ciao Samin blog.

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One of the custom-made dim sum-style carts. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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One of the vintage dining room chairs. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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One of the vintage lamps and the peg board walls. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Over the weekend, I swung by ~STATE BIRD PROVISIONS~ to see how things were progressing and to get a look at the space. Chef-owners Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are currently gunning to open on New Year’s Eve—there are still a couple contingencies, so it’s not totally confirmed as of right now. They will announce the opening on their website, so keep checking back early next week!

The space wasn’t quite in a photo-ready state, so I just snapped some detail shots for you—for now, you’ll need to rely upon my writerly powers of description, heh. When you first approach the restaurant, the front window will look onto a prep and pastry station, so you’ll be able to see Nicole doing her delicious magic. The open kitchen (which is designed to crank, complete with two planchas and a fryer) runs along the wall, delineated by a long butcher block counter, all made of Boos Block; under the counter, the plywood was stained the color of Mediterranean blue, and the backsplash and walls in the kitchen feature light grey subway tile.

As you walk past the kitchen, you’ll check in with the host, who will either direct you to wait in the small bar area with an eggshell-colored concrete bar by the taps, or if you’re lucky, to a table! There will be 12 tables total, with room for about 44 guests or so in all (the seating was designed to be versatile). Nice feature: the restaurant is using Urbanspoon’s Rezbook, so if there’s a wait, you’ll get a text when it’s time to claim your table.

The dining room features a few skylights, a cement wall, and some rusted/distressed I-beams that are lacquered. The majority of the walls and some of the ceiling in the space are covered in peg board, really bringing the “workshop” concept of the kitchen to life—and creating a very cool pattern.

There are many mid-century elements the duo painstakingly sourced, like the groovy lights, vintage speakers, and the school-ish chairs that came from an auditorium. The tables were custom made, with a Masonite top, plywood edges with more of the aqua blue, and my favorite feature: there’s a small board stashed under each table. You will take out the board, and on one side you’ll discover the menu, while the other will hold the tally sheet for your order (remember, it’s going to be like a dim sum format, with your server keeping track of how many dishes you order as you go along). I got a look at the two custom-made carts that will be wheeling around the room with dishes on them, featuring reclaimed wood from an old boat and powder-coated orange detailing, in addition to custom trays in a soft, early-1960s palette.

As for the team, the GM and wine director is Mary Christie, who has worked with Stuart and Nicole at Rubicon, in addition to Spring in Chicago, and she opened Sel Gris in Portland. When tablehopper returns in your inboxes on January 3rd, I’ll have images of the space and menus for you. Hours will be nightly 6pm-12am. For now, if you want to keep in touch with State Bird Provisions updates, follow the restaurant on Twitter and Facebook.

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The main space. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A closer look at that upholstered wall action. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Opening right around the corner from State Bird Provisions is ~THE SOCIAL STUDY~ (site not live) from Harmony Fraga. It was originally going to be The Library from Jay Foster and Deanna Sison (Farmerbrown and Little Skillet), but Foster put me in touch with Fraga, who was a manager at Farmerbrown for five years and has taken over the space with a silent business partner.

Fraga envisions the project as a cozy meeting space and neighborhood living room: a place to study people, and also like a study at home, where you can contentedly read a book. But it’s not all about being studious: there will also be films, a live DJ on Fridays (Doc Fu), and a house band on Saturdays, Hot Pocket. The daytime vibe will feature mellow vinyl being played on a turntable.

There will be a communal table in the middle of the room, and there’s a groovy, bright blue padded wall unit with seats and tables, plus a bar, with room for about 30 in all. The house coffee will be provided by Four Barrel, and there will be beer and wine available (plus seasonal sangrias), along with sandwiches, and custom bar snacks, like jerky and chocolate-dipped bacon. There really isn’t a place to hang out at like this in the neighborhood, so it’s sure to be a welcome addition. Hours will be daily 8am-11pm to start. Look for the opening on Tuesday January 3rd. 1795 Geary St. at Fillmore, 415-292-7417.

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The bar and living wall. Photo by Molly Coudreaux.

Opening tomorrow evening in the former RNM location is ~MAVEN~, a project from David Kurtz (Saison, COI, Michael Mina, Gary Danko, Bacar) and Jay Bordeleau (Beretta, Bacar, Mecca, Laïola). The team envisions Maven as a neighborhood hangout, whether you’re coming by for a drink and some snacks, a casual meal, or going for a full-on paired meal. Kurtz’s edited menu has 10 modern American dishes, from scallop crudo ($12) with shiso, Granny Smith apple, and hazelnut, to Chinatown duck sliders ($9), to butternut squash agnolotti ($11/$17) with Brussels sprouts, pomegranate, and Parmesan (click here for the PDF). Kurtz is also a certified sommelier, and will be incorporating drink-oriented ingredients into dishes, including juniper salts, vermouth reductions, and whiskey brines. His sous chef is Matt Brimer (Maverick, COCO500).

The menu has a strong focus on pairing with beverages, whether it’s a cocktail or a glass of wine or a pint of beer. Bordeleau is working with lead bartender Kate Bolton (Michael Mina, Wexler’s), running a bar that features 10 specialty drinks designed to be very food-friendly, plus housemade bitters, sorbets, tinctures, purées, syrups, and some serious ice (spheres and the like). The International Mistress ($11) features amaro, lemon, mezcal, orgeat, grapefruit, while New Boy Valentine ($11) has aged rum, spiced walnut liquor, orange. Interesting, very few spirits and liqueurs are name checked on the cocktail list. You can look at the cocktails, beers, and international wines by the glass here.

Gi Paoletti is behind the new interior with its urban-natural look. There’s a living wall with over 700 square feet of foliage, three tall communal redwood tables, and sculptural light fixtures from shaved wood and stained bold red. There are 60 seats total, with a 9-seat, 18-foot bar fashioned from a single slab of redwood, an 8-seat kitchen counter overlooking the open kitchen, and a fireplace-lit mezzanine with low lounge seating and cocktail tables (it looks great), plus a redwood bar rail with bar stools that overlook the room. Hours are daily 5pm-12am (they are hoping to get later hours in time), and brunch will launch in January. And for those who remember the valet parking at RNM, well, it’s now street parking, people. Am very much looking forward to checking this one out.

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Total sausage-fest. Photo from Chris Beerman.

The next time you’re gettin’ your suds on at the recently expanded ~CITY BEER STORE~ on Folsom, you’ll also be able to get your sausage on (I know, that sounds kind of wrong), thanks to ~CITIZEN’S BAND~. Chef Chris Beerman (it was fate that he’d be doing this partnership) is now serving a variety of sausages, like a housemade pork sausage with molasses and sage and a pork and bacon kielbasa, plus partnering up with local sausage-makers, like Peter Temkin at Showdogs, who will be providing an all-beef hot dog, while Ryan Farr at 4505 Meats will be making a sour berry ale cotechino with rosemary and black pepper. There will also be wild boar, smoked duck, and a bratwurst available.

All the sausages will be served on grinder and torpedo rolls made by Cheryl Burr of neighboring Pinkie’s Bakery, and will come with whole grain mustard and cider vinegar-pickled onions. The cost will range from $5-$7, and the sausage service will run Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm. All you do is place your order with the folks at City Beer Store, and then you’ll need to swing by the bakery kitchen at Citizen’s Band/Pinkie’s Bakery (it’s just a few doors down) about 10-15 minutes later to pick up your order. You’ll be able to eat it at City Beer Store, just like the Toronado/Rosamunde style you have probably become accustomed to. Enjoy! City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St. at 8th St., Suite 101, 415-503-1033. Citizen’s Band, 1198 Folsom St. at 8th St., 415-556-4901.

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Cafeto. Photo courtesy of Erik “Dela” Cruz via Bernalwood.

Last week I mentioned the opening of Precita Park Café, and Bernalwood brings the news of ~CAFETO~ that just opened in South Bernal. Lots of reclaimed wood, free Wi-Fi, it’s dog friendly, and there are things to eat like sandwiches and pastries. 111 Richland St. at Mission.

This was very dangerous news for me to learn: ~LITTLE STAR PIZZA~ on Divisadero is now open at noon Fri-Sun. Yup, pizza and wings and cheesecake for lunch, it’s a scary proposition. 8416 Divisadero St. at McAllister, 415-441-1118.

And The Richmond mentions the opening of ~FIREHOUSE PIZZA~, a mostly takeout place featuring East Coast-style pizza (i.e. thin crust), plus garlic knots, and something that gave me serious pause: a spicy bacon cheeseburger pizza with garlic butter, extra ground beef, jalapeños, bacon, and cheddar. It’s located in the back of the Appel & Dietrich market. Open daily 4pm-10pm. 6001 California St. at 22nd Ave., 415-221-7603.

And next Wednesday December 28th, another ~LA BOULANGE~ location is opening: it’s a new downtown location inside the Merchants Exchange Building. Online ordering and office catering will become available in the new year. 465 California St. at Leidesdorff.

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Tacos dorados from La Taqueria. Photo by Blair Sneddon Photography.

In the unsuccessful comebacks department: a tablehopper reader informed me ~LETICIA’S~ in the Castro has a sign on the door stating that it’s closing December 31st. 2200 Market St. at Sanchez, 415-864-5384.

Eater notes that ~MORPH~ has closed in the Richmond. 5344 Geary Blvd. at 17th Ave.

Chowhound mentions that ~FA-LA-LA~, the falafel place on Durant that made amazing pitas, has closed. 2518-B Durant Ave. at Telegraph, Berkeley, 510-704-0454.

And this is not a closure, but just a reminder that ~LA TAQUERIA~ will be closed for their annual break until January 8th, reopening on Monday January 9th. 2889 Mission St. at 24th St., 415-285-7117.

Over in SoMa, chef Jessica Gorin of ~THIRSTYBEAR~ is moving to Illinois (her husband got a job at the University of Illinois), and she might be starting her own thing there. Best of luck, Jessica! Her replacement will be Laurance Gordon, who has been her sous chef for almost two years, and he previously worked at Absinthe and The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco.

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Juhu Beach Club’s Sloppy Lil’ P.

Chef Preeti Mistry of ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ is going to be popping up on Thursday nights at La Victoria Bakery in the Mission, starting on January 5th. She is doing a prix-fixe menu for the first dinner (four courses for $35), but there will most likely be à la carte nights as well. The menu includes dahi puri (black chickpeas, potato, chaat masala, Straus yogurt, tamarind water); shoulda, coulda, vada chaat (crispy fried mashed potato, winter greens, chutneys); mung ne dal (warming mung bean soup, toasted cumin croutons); your choice of Holy Cow (smoky black cardamom short rib sandwich with cucumber raita) or Sloppy Lil’ P (saucy, spicy, buttery veggie sloppy joe with pickled red onion, aka pav bhaji!).

You can buy your ticket in advance here (the $5 seating reservation will go towards your total bill), but there will be a few spots left for walk-ins. And it’s BYOB! Can’t wait to check this one out. Pav bhaji!!

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Inside B-Side BBQ; photo from Facebook.

Last week, I got a note from owner Tanya Holland that she has opened ~B-SIDE BBQ~ in the Yardie Jerk space on San Pablo. She’s doing a few different kinds of barbecue, ranging from Memphis to Texas, with some of her own flair as well. Click here for the current menu, which lists smoked brown sugar-rubbed brisket, pulled pork, jerk-spiced baby backs, St. Louis ribs, smoked chicken, and salmon, plus a tofu option for you vegetarians that miss barbecue. Lots of sauces and sides. Open Tue-Sat 11am-4pm for takeout for now. 3301 San Pablo Ave. at 34th St., Oakland, 510-595-0227.

I was very happy to learn that one of the CHEFS graduates (from the ECS program) Virginia Robertson is the chef for a new East Bay restaurant, ~TOUCH OF SOUL~. She created the recipes, and reviews and a photo on Yelp reveal a menu with chicken wings, oxtails, po’ boys, and other soul food classics. Listed hours are Tue-Sat 11:30am-10pm, Sun 11:30am-9pm. 4336 San Pablo Ave. at 43rd St., Emeryville, 510-595-1227.