January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012
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One of Darsky’s dream pies while at flour + water. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The container before modification. Photo courtesy of Del Popolo.

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A rendering of the setup, complete with action figures! Photo courtesy of Del Popolo.

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The Stefano Ferrara oven and pedestal. Photo courtesy of Del Popolo.

Pizza fanatics around the city are going to be really thrilled with this piece of news: Jon Darsky—the original pizzaiolo known for his fantastic pizzas when he was part of the flour + water opening team—is now releasing details about his upcoming project, ~DEL POPOLO~. Nope, it’s not a brick-and-mortar spot in the Mission—-it’s going to be a one-of-a-kind mobile pizzeria, the likes of which you have yet to see anywhere. Darsky has been working with fabricators and designers to transform a deconstructed transatlantic shipping container that’s 20’ long and 8’ wide into a mobile unit that will house a 5,000-pound, Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven that’s welded to the floor with a steel pedestal. Not only that, but the exhibition kitchen is enclosed by three glass doors, so you’ll be able to watch your pizza being made. Yeah, this is gonna be fun.

The name means “of the people,” and the pricing is definitely going to be that: all pizzas are 12” with the vegetarian options going for an accessible $10, and meat pizzas will be $12. Darsky will be doing his trademark thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizzas made with organic ingredients sourced from small producers, both domestic and Italian. On offer will be three kinds a day, and the oven is capable of producing 72 pizzas an hour. There will even be an on-board dough mixer! The truck will be in operation for both lunch and dinner. Oh, and another innovation: the pizza boxes will be a lot slimmer than you are used to seeing—hey, it’s a thin crust, so why use such a big box?

He’s been hard at work for the past 18 months getting this all figured out—there’s nothing like being an original case study, especially when Mies Van Der Rohe is one of your inspirations. Since Del Popolo is a mobile operation, some special considerations had to be made for how to transport the brick pizza oven safely, like the industrial airbags that inflate around the support arms of the container to minimize vibration to the oven during transit (they had to call in some specialists to figure that one out). There will also be a step-down feature of the truck, so instead of customers craning their necks up to place an order like at a food truck, they will be eye level with employees. Darsky worked with a local designer on fine tuning some of the project details, and McLellan Industries in Hanford, California, handled fabrication and production.

There will be some test runs coming up, so be sure to follow @pizzadelpopolo on Twitter. The truck will take up less than two parking spaces, but there’s no word where exactly it will be parking around town just yet. The launch is scheduled for February 2012, possibly on the later side of the month.

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Chef Nori at the James Beard Awards. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I first learned about chef Noriyuki “Nori” Sugie from chef Joel Huff, a former (amazing) chef at Silks, who said Sugie was a huge influence on his cooking (Sugie was at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in New York). Sugie has some serious chops, cooking in France’s Michelin-starred L’Aubergade, Sydney’s Restaurant VII, and Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s. (He also roasts some delicious coffee.) Back in 2008, I posted a story about Sugie’s project at the Spencer House in the Haight, but that didn’t pan out. And now he is officially up from Los Angeles to be the executive chef of Mari Takahashi and Gil Payne’s ~NOMBE~ in the Mission.

A simultaneous announcement in the Scoop and a press release mention he will start with lunch service, adding his specialty ramen to the menu starting today, Tuesday January 10th. While running his pop-up ramen night at BREADBAR in LA, he became known for his beef ramen, which will is now appearing at Nombe, with additions like cheek, short rib, oxtail, and beef tongue. Each base is $10, with several additions plus rice dishes also available. He will also be adding a few dishes to the dinner menu, until his entirely new menu launches in February. Nombe is open for lunch Tue-Fri 11am-2pm, dinner Tue-Sun beginning at 6pm, brunch Sat-Sun 11am-2pm.

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I Am No Longer Going to be Available. (Maybe.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.

According to this piece in The Bay Citizen, Café Gratitude has resolved the lawsuits that threatened to close their locations, and now some of the group’s restaurants will stay open (it’s not clear which locations will stay open). You’d think they would mention the good news on their Facebook page; instead, there is just an ad for a line cook at the Berkeley restaurant—guess that bodes well for that location. I reached out to a representative for the organization, we’ll see what they say. The whole thing is as clear as a bowl of live almond hummus. I Am Intrigued.

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Photo of Sweet Woodruff by Molly Decoudreaux via Eater.

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O3 Bistro & Lounge interior. Photo from Facebook.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the partners behind ~SONS & DAUGHTERS~ have now opened ~SWEET WOODRUFF~, their new carry-out spot. Items include onion brioche soup, suckling pig sandwich, and a roasted mushroom sandwich; check out the full menu here. Opening hours are Tue-Sat 11am-3pm to start. 798 Sutter St. at Jones, 415-292-9090.

Opening this Friday January 13th is ~O3 BISTRO & LOUNGE~ in the former CPK on Van Ness. There are about 45 seats in the contemporary dining room, with a spacious bar and lounge with room for 35 (you can check out photos in their Facebook album). Chef Joseph Villanueva’s (previously at Le Colonial) pan-Asian dinner menu includes braised oxtail tacos with a jicama cabbage slaw in a wonton shell ($9) to larger plates like seared scallops, lobster garlic noodles, baby bok choy, uni XO sauce ($27). Lunch has fried chicken, a burger, and glass noodle salad ($7-$13). Cocktails range from $11-$12, and are made with fresh juices. Hours will be Mon-Wed 11am-11pm and Thu-Sat 11am-2am (kitchen closes at 11pm). A late-night bar menu may launch later. There will also be pre-show service for those attending the symphony and opera house nearby—and it should also be a handy spot for lunch when you’re in the neighborhood for jury duty. Ugh, jury duty. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister, 415-934-9800.

Tipster-about-town Jason B. let me know there was some activity at the old Beautifull! space at Gold’s in the Castro, and it looked like the folks from Bistro SF Grill on California were opening something. A call to SF Grill confirmed they are going to be opening a hot sandwich and panino place, ~BISTRO SF GRILL CASTRO~, using some of the meat they use for their burgers (like their merguez burger), in addition to offering classic panini, like prosciutto and mozzarella, and more. Hours will be 11am-10pm, possibly later on the weekends. Look for an opening at the end of January. 2301 Market St. at Noe.

Jason also let me know “Caffe Bella Venezia is officially gone on Post and has recently been replaced by … ~ITHAI~. iReally?” Yup, iReally. 720 Post St. at Jones, 415-345-9999.

A reader at Eater mentioned displaced ~ESTELA’S FRESH SANDWICHES~ is reportedly now open in the former Cafe Prima Fila space in the Lower Nob Hill. Estela’s will be making their sandwiches here until they can move back into their Fillmore Street location that was burnt in the September fire, which could be quite a while. No number available yet. 891 Bush St. at Taylor.

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The Russia House; Flickr photo by eviloars via Eater.

More New Year casualties: Eater notes ~MEXICO DF~ in SoMa has closed, although “owners Victor Hugo Juarez and company are hanging on to their other Mexican restaurant, Chilango in the Castro.” Inside Scoop chimes in that the owner of Unicorn Pan Asian Cuisine in the FiDi, Kiet Trong, will be opening a restaurant called Region, serving “comfort Asian food with California style and techniques” this spring. 139 Steuart St. at Howard.

For those who travel on the 101, you may be familiar with the looming ~RUSSIA HOUSE~, which Grub Street reports is closing in four months. Back in December, a reader alerted me to a lawsuit filed by Alex Gershteyn versus Russia House, which stated: “Complaint for negligence and premises liability. Defendant Russia House did not provide enough security to prevent systematic acts of violence. The plaintiff was a bystander to a fight in which he was pushed in the back, fell to the floor and broke his wrist.” I guess there’s an ugly side to the vodka-fueled fiestas over there. 2011 Bayshore Blvd. at Hester.

Oh, and a quick update on the whereabouts of chef Michael Morrison, previously at the now-closed ~THE MOSS ROOM~. He got back to me after last week’s column had already posted, informing me he will now be shifting his focus full time to COCO500. Ends up he was spending time at both kitchens, but now he’s going to be able to dedicate more time to a whole-animal program and other projects at the restaurant.

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A (terrifying!) breakfast torta from Fogcutter; photo from Facebook.

Bartenders and late risers: you should know ~DEAR MOM,~ in the Mission now has their bartenders’ brunch up and running. What this means is you can shake the Fernet out of your hair and come by for brunch on Sundays from 11:30am-5pm. This coming Sunday January 15th will be round two for guest chefs Josh DeClercq and Ken Cazenas, two local cooks who are cooking together as B.G.’s Brunch. On the menu: warm mushroom salad, poached egg ($12); smoked salmon, bagel, cream cheese, pickled red onion, caper, dill ($11); roasted Brussels with lardo, fried egg, lemon-horseradish crème fraîche ($10); and more.

The last two Sundays of January will be brought to you by the folks who run the Fogcutter truck. For their menu, options may be toad in the hole, pork belly hash, and pancake soufflés (all $6-$12). 2700 16th St. at Harrison, 415-625-3362.

Adding to the already plentiful breakfast options at the Ferry Building Marketplace, ~GOTT’S ROADSIDE~ will now be serving some breakfast, like a Southern sandwich of buttermilk fried chicken tenders, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and charred jalapeño mayo ($5.99). Yeah, a food coma is imminent with that bad boy. There will also be some egg and soft corn taco options, plus French toast, and non-fat yogurt with granola and fresh fruit for you Lululemon-wearing types. Served daily 7am-11am. Breakfast will be served strictly to-go from Gott’s takeout window in the main market hall. 415-318-3423.

After a quickie post-holiday closure, ~QUINCE~ has made some adjustments to the bar and 16-seat lounge area, offering new seating and dining-height tables. The new bar menu features an array of fish crudos, ordered individually or as a tasting ($24), such as a halibut with pink grapefruit, fried nettle and lime ($14), or hiramasa with puntarelle, blood orange, and olive ($16). My favorite development: you can now order caviar by the spoon, instead of just the ounce (but it’s still not cheap: for $25, you get a 5-gram spoon of Royal Osetra Caviar—yeah, it’s almost as expensive as other bad habits that get weighed by the gram). There will also be a prosciutto tasting ($18), a Sonoma foie gras torchon with caramelized persimmon salad ($24; well, for the next six months), some cheeses from the infamous cart ($6 each), and desserts.

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Dan the man of Slow Hand BBQ. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Some pop-up action for you this month. First, since ~NAMU~ in the Inner Richmond is closed, and the upcoming ~NAMU GAJI~ is a month or so away, the brothers are going to be doing a series of late evening pop-up dinners at ~FOUR BARREL COFFEE~ the next few Fridays. You’ll be able to swing by for okonomiyaki, ramen, and their famed Korean fried chicken. Click here for info and tickets.

Have you had a chance to sample the very fine barbecue from ~SLOW HAND~? Well now you’ll be able to at ~THE DOCTOR’S LOUNGE~ (previously mentioned in tablehopper here), starting this Friday January 13th. Look for brisket (delicious!), ribs, pulled pork, and more. Dinner service starts at 6pm. Future dates TBD. 4826 Mission St. at Ocean, 415-586-9730.

Over in the East Bay, ~LOCAL CAFÉ~ on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue is hosting the first in a series of wine-pairing dinners with certified sommelier Ian Burrows. He and chef Colin Etezadi (formerly of Boot and Shoe, Camino, Pizzaiolo) will be hosting a special four-course dinner on Wednesday January 25th at 6:30pm, paired with wines for $72. For reservations, email or call 510-338-3319. 4395 Piedmont Ave. at Pleasant Valley, Oakland.

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Yeah, yeah, we all resolved to work out more this year, so how ‘bout working out the ol’ palate with any of these groovy events? The next New Taste Marketplace is the place for local food grooves, and it’s coming up this Saturday January 14th, noon-5pm. Try the vegetarian Chinese puff pastries, sweet and savory, handmade by Blissful Pastries, or the creative hard candies from Confounding Confections in flavors like orange marmalade, chai spice, and tea with lemon. Enjoy live music too throughout the afternoon, including Lauren Strum and Bill Hansel. Don’t forget, this community-minded market is a fundraiser for The Food Pantry. St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, 500 De Haro St. at Mariposa.

Did the mention of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil in the ‘hopper’s holiday guide pique your interest? Find out more when ~PURCELL MURRAY~ hosts author Tom Mueller for a tasting, discussion, and book signing—plus Middle Eastern luncheon of mezze with Anissa Helou—on Wednesday January 18th, 11am-1pm. Jane Goldman will moderate the discussion, and Mueller will lead a tasting of extra virgin olive oils from Palestine, Italy, Spain, California, and Australia. $50. Reservations: 415-330-5557. 185 Park Ln. at Valley Dr., Brisbane.

Beer and chocolate pairing—this is gonna be an interesting palate workout. Put aside Tuesday January 31st, 7pm-9pm, for Taste and Savor Chocolate: Palate Development Class from Dandelion Chocolate (you can read about their upcoming Valencia Street project here) and ~18 REASONS~. Pete Slosberg will talk about the process of making chocolate from bean to bar, then take you through taste comparisons between major brands and local chocolatiers, tasting white, milk, and dark chocolates. Finally, taste Dandelion’s chocolate and end the night with a beer and chocolate pairing. $25 members, $35 general public, purchase tickets online.