July 3, 2012

July 3, 2012
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Yigit Pura in the kitchen. Photo from Facebook.

Details were formally announced this week that Yigit Pura, of Top Chef: Just Desserts fame, is opening ~TOUT SWEET PÂTISSERIE~ in Macy’s Union Square on the 3rd floor, opening August 25th. Pura hopes to use his classical pastry training to create whimsical, adventurous sweets that draw inspiration from childhood, without sacrificing refinement. He also wants his creations to reflect the ever-changing availability of seasonal ingredients in California, as well as the unique blend of cultures and innovation he sees in the Bay Area.

In addition to macarons, petit gâteaux, and special event cakes, Tout Sweet will also be serving a range of breakfast and lunch items. There will be morning pastries, sandwiches, soups, and quiches to fuel up for a hard day’s shopping the Macy’s shoe department. If you are seeking gifts, there will also be jams, pâtes de fruit, and dessert sauces available to take home. The opening is Saturday August 25th. Open Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-7pm. Macy’s Union Square, 170 O’Farrell St., 3rd floor.

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Pläj’s dining room. Photo via Thrillist.

Last week a friend texted me some pics of ~PLÄJ~, letting me know it was open. This Scandinavian restaurant (wow, SF’s first—finally!) has opened in the former Ovations space at Inn at the Opera. The Scoop shares some additional info: the name is pronounced “play,” and the chef-owner is Roberth Sundell, who came to America from Stockholm 18 years ago. Look for a menu of Scandinavian dishes with some California influences, ranging from krondill poached lobster Skagen with white fish caviar, horseradish, avocado, and chile ($18) to white asparagus, morels, fennel confit, egg 63°C, hollandaise sauce, and fried sourdough ($15). The intimate restaurant has a refreshed look, with 44 seats in all (plus a bar with six seats). Full bar, plus Scandinavian beers on the list. Dinner nightly 5pm-11pm. 333 Fulton St. at Franklin, 415-863-8400.

Oh, since we’re talking Scandinavia for a moment, ~BAR TARTINE~ is hosting chef Christian Puglisi of Restaurant RELÆ (Denmark) for a very special dinner on Monday July 16th. They are taking reservations now, with bookings from 5:30pm-10pm. Please specify the number in your party and a window of time in which you would prefer to dine.

Local Addition announces ~WONDERLAND~ has opened in the Lower Haight today, the neighborhood’s only Chinese restaurant. The menu reportedly has a number of vegetarian dishes on it to cater to the neighborhood. Here’s a previous piece on tablehopper with more. Open Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. 500 Haight St. at Fillmore, 415-355-9125.

Grub Street noticed ~FARM:TABLE~ is popping up at Trailhead, a part of A Temporary Offering. You can grab coffee drinks made with Verve coffe Tue-Sun 8am-3pm. 1100 Market St. at 7th St.

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Behind that curtain is THE OVEN (at Bar Tartine). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Since there are so many upcoming projects coming to Valencia, I thought you could use a quick recap on intended opening dates:

The bread and sandwich shop at ~BAR TARTINE~ is looking like August 1st—the team is working out the ventilation with the brand-new oven. Yup, that baby is a hot one.

The long-awaited pizzeria from ~FARINA~, ~FARINA PIZZA E CUCINA ITALIANA~, should be finished with construction and have everything installed by the end of July—the tables and chairs have come in, so it’s getting close. 700 Valencia St. at 18th St.

~THE ABBOT’S CELLAR~, the project from the Monk’s Kettle team, is currently aiming for the end of July. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St.

~AMBER DHARA~ (from Vijay Bist of Amber India) is gunning for a July 20th opening date. 680 Valencia St. at 18th St.

Things are moving along for ~LA RONDALLA~: the end of July or early August is the current target. 901 Valencia St. at 20th St.

Last but not least, ~MAU~, the Southeast Asian rice bowl and noodle project with Sante Salvoni is “realistically” targeting August 15th. 665 Valencia St. at 17th St.

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Flickr photo by Rick Audet.

Due to open in mid-August in the former Mecca space will be ~SHANGHAI~ (site coming later, FYI). Owner Francis Tsai, an 83-year-old native of Shanghai, who has been working in hospitality since he was 18, has brought on chef Leo Gan, opening chef for Shanghai 1930. The menu will feature modern Shanghainese cuisine prepared with seasonal, locally sourced and/or organic ingredients.

Tsai has had quite the interesting background; according to a press release, “his eclectic career has included stints as a ballroom dance instructor, running the food division of Pan American Airlines, creating the first discotheque in Hong Kong, and operating Wu Kong Restaurant in San Francisco’s Rincon Center.”

Dinner will be served Tue-Sun, with a dim sum brunch on Saturday and Sunday (service to begin about a month after the restaurant opens) and a late-night small plates menu. (Hey, Francis, if you want to kill it, offer a late-night dim sum menu. Seriously. I don’t understand why there isn’t a late-night dim sum place in this town. Xiao long bao at midnight? YES PLEASE.) There is also a full bar, and private dining and special events will be dialed in as well. 2029 Market St. at Dolores and 14th Streets.

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The Old Chelsea. Yelp photo by Kent W.

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The sides from Sneaky’s BBQ. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Wow, I was surprised to see on The Tenderlife blog that the old-school fish-and-chips shop, ~THE OLD CHELSEA~, has closed and been replaced by ~ARIA~, “a Korean-American snack bar.” According to Yelp, items on the menu include KFC (Korean fried chicken), deep-fried seaweed with garlic soy sauce, and pot stickers. (You’ll need to hoof it over to Picadilly Fish & Chips at 1348 Polk for your fish and chips fix.) 932 Larkin St. at Geary, 415-292-6914.

Grub Street breaks the news that the Castro’s comfort food outpost, ~BLUE~, has closed, and the windows are papered over. 2337 Market St. at Noe.

According to Grub Street, ~SNEAKY’S BBQ~ is going to be leaving Rebel on Market and will be relocating “to a more permanent home on the 24th Street corridor in the Mission sometime in the early fall, possibly by late September.” The last day you can score their tasty pulled pork at Rebel will be July 15th. Stand by to find out what goes into the space next.

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The Old Skool Cafe during a Behind the Cart event. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Via Eater, I learned ~GIOIA~ on Polk Street is now serving weekend brunch, with dishes ranging from breakfast pizza to buttermilk flapjacks to sausage and potato hash. Sat-Sun 11am-3pm.

The fab folks at the ~OLD SKOOL CAFE~ in Bayview have started a Sunday brunch and buffet. For $20, Sunday’s menu included white chocolate French toast with honeyed strawberries, Jaqon’s homemade banana pudding, Jeffery’s banana chocolate chip breads, cheesy grits, brown ale-braised greens, baked chicken, and more. Plus you can order à la carte items like fried chicken and sweet potato waffles, eggs Benedict, and sweet potato biscuits and whipped honey butter, as well as vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Look for different menu items to reflect the students’ heritage, like tamales, nopales, lu (Tongan corned beef wrapped in taro leaves), Taiwanese sticky rice, lumpia, and more. The buffet is only $20 for now, and since their beer and wine license is still on someone’s desk in Oakland, you can BYOB! Sundays 10:30am-3pm. 1429 Mendell St. (3rd St. and Oakdale/Palou), 415-822-8531.

Over in the Mission, ~NAMU GAJI~ has added some tasty, large-format menu items that are designed to serve three to five diners, with three orders available per day, first come first served. Examples include bo ssam (roast organic pork belly with crispy skin, 18 oysters, steamed napa cabbage wraps, fresh vegetables, pickles, kimchi, mustard barbecue sauce, and ssam jang, $100); KFC (Korean fried chicken: one whole Marin Sun Farms pastured chicken, tare glaze, spicy slaw, pickled daikon, dashi gravy, $60); along with whole fish (selection will vary). Available during dinner service only, Tue-Sun 6pm-11pm.

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Duende photo medley (courtesy of Naked Kitchen website).

There are quite a few one-off dinners this month that you’ll want to consider. First, the Dinner Party Project, a series of dinners around the city before SF Chefs 2012 hits in late August, has added a few more events. I have attended two so far, and each was really memorable. Here’s a quick recap of what’s coming: On Sunday July 8th, Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn) and Jason Fox (Commonwealth) are partnering up; then on Monday July 9th is Modern American Picnic, with Lori Baker and Jeff Banker (Baker & Banker) and Nick Balla and Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine) serving sophisticated takes on family-style favorites such as fried chicken, mac and cheese, and other sides paired with local beers on tap. On Monday July 16th, Jen Biesty (Scala’s Bistro) and Alicia Jenish (Grand Cafe) are Going Basque; and Thursday July 19th, Antelmo Faria (Tacolicious), Ryan Farr (4505 Meats), and Alex Ong (Betelnut) are hosting Street Feast. (Liam Mayclem is also hosting a series of Eye on the Bay SF Chefs demos.)

Paul Canales of the upcoming ~DUENDE~ is hosting another preview dinner at ~NAKED KITCHEN SF~ on Sunday July 15th. Tickets and more here. There are only 10 seats available per seating (5:30pm or 8:30pm), so it’s an intimate event. The dinner will happen in the Mission; exact location to be emailed on the day of the event.

On Thursday July 19th, chef-owner Lauren Kiino of ~IL CANE ROSSO~ and co-owners Erin Rooney and Celine Guillou of ~GALETTE 88~ are partnering for a Sustainable Seafood Supper. Guest speaker Maggie Ostdahl, from Aquarium of the Bay and the Bay Institute and coordinator of the San Francisco Seafood Watch Alliance, will be on hand to talk about sustainable seafood practices. The menu sounds delicious, featuring Hog Island oyster chowder; local anchovy rollmop with yogurt-pickled cucumber; Monterey Bay grilled squid salad with seared tomato and marjoram vinaigrette; smoked sardine and white bean pâté with pickled onion and mustard seeds; and a main course of pan-fried local sand dabs with new potatoes, sea lettuce, and brown butter-caper vinaigrette. Dessert is a nectarine, raspberry, and vanilla cream tart. $45 per person, $25 wine pairing. Reservations are available via email; please indicate a 6:30pm or 8:30pm reservation time, number in your party, telephone number, email address, and any dietary restrictions. The dinner will take place at Galette 88, 88 Hardie Place (at Kearny between Bush and Sutter Streets).

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There are a whole bunch of exciting book events coming up, including a few New York chefs passing through town and a local author too!

Bring me your picky, your proud! Now you finally have an event to take that picky eater friend you can’t go out to dinner with. On Monday July 9th, Omnivore Books is hosting local author Stephanie Lucianovic, whose book Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate looks at the science and psychology behind why some people hate foods that others love. You can read an interview with her on Bay Area Bites. 6pm-7pm, 3885a Cesar Chavez St. at Church, 415-282-4712.

The following week, on Monday July 16th, Omnivore Books will be hosting David Chang, Peter Meehan, and Chris Ying for a Lucky Peach #4 magazine signing, which should be a pretty cool opportunity to meet the creators of this edgy and fun food publication. 7:30pm-8:30pm.

On Wednesday July 25, April Bloomfield will be cooking a three-course meal and discussing her book, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, at ~CAMINO RESTAURANT~ in Oakland. Dinner is at 6pm and costs $100 including wine. Reservations can be made thorugh the restaurant’s website. 3917 Grand Ave. at Jean, Oakland, 510-547-5035.

Marcus Samuelsson will be touring the Bay Area with a variety of events celebrating his new book, Yes, Chef. He’ll kick off on Wednesday July 11th by cooking as a guest chef and hosting a book signing at Camino. Dinner will be at 6pm, and tickets are $85, including wine. Reservations can be made through the restaurant’s website.

Then, on Thursday July 12th, he will be doing a guest chef lunch at ~JARDINIÈRE~, which kicks off at 12:30pm. Tickets are $110 and include wine. Tickets can be purchased through Book Passage here.

And last but not least, also on Thursday July 12th, Samuelsson will have a book signing at Book Passage in the Ferry Building at 6pm. 1 Ferry Building, Embarcadero, 415-835-1020.

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The long table recedes into the hills. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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Appetizer of chickpea puree, vegetables, and olives. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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Summer squash salad with tofu, served by the gracious Kelly. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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Menkir Tamrat points out the many uses of teff. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report from Dana Massey-Todd: This last Saturday, I had the opportunity to don a sundress and some dirt-clomping boots and hit the road to Sunol, a small town about an hour southeast of San Francisco, to attend an ~OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD~ dinner. These dinners are pretty special, I must say. The Outstanding in the Field crew goes to a farm, sets up an alfresco kitchen and a long, beautifully set table in one of the farm fields, and then a guest chef prepares a meal from the farm’s produce. They started in Santa Cruz in 1999, and now tour across the country, Canada, and even Europe.

On this particular evening, the farm was Baia Nicchia, and the chef was Sean Baker of ~GATHER~, in Berkeley. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a glass of 2009 Pinot Noir from Mobius Wines and a tall, thin temple that looked as if it had been plucked from the Palace of Fine Arts and placed among the low brown hills. It turns out that Baia Nicchia is one of several farms in the Sunol AgPark, which is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The site once provided water and power to the residents of San Francisco, and the temple, along with the rest of the site, was built in 1910, right around the same time as the Palace of Fine Arts. Now it has been converted into a park administered by SAGE, a Berkeley organization that provides educational programming and leases the parkland out to farms such as Baia Nicchia (Namu Gaji also has their farm out there).

Fred Hempel and his partner, Jill Shepard, run Baia Nicchia, and they are doing some really interesting things. Fred is a self-professed tomato addict and has focused a great deal of his energy on creating the richest, most complex tomatoes around. They plant and harvest them late, to take full advantage of California’s late summer heat, and are experimenting with breeding new varieties. But they are planting some lesser-known crops too. Menkir Tamrat has partnered with Fred to cultivate a variety of Ethiopian crops that until recently have been near impossible to find for local Ethiopian cooks, including a variety of wonderfully flavorful and spicy peppers that form the base of the spice blend berbere; heirloom varieties of teff, the staple grain from which injera is made; and cooking greens, including multiple mustard types. They are also growing some wonderful herbs for tisanes, such as Persian mint and anise hyssop, and edible flowers. We were lucky enough to take a tour of the farm with Fred, and we sampled some of the Ethiopian peppers, as well as ice plant and New Zealand spinach, an odd, crunchy green with an almost garlicky bite.

Because Baia Nicchia is a relatively young farm with a focus on a late-summer harvest, much of the produce that appeared on our plates was sourced from another farm, Lindencroft Farm in Ben Lomond, near Santa Cruz, though some of the items we sampled and learned about were featured on the menu.

After all this learning, it was finally time to sit. We were led to the long, white linen-covered table in a beautiful corner of the farm. Seating is at one long table, and meals are served family style in eight-person clusters. We were lucky enough to sit with Menkir Tamrat himself, and his lovely wife. The first plate was essentially a meze dish, with a remarkable purée of vegetable ash with black garlic, tahini, and black chickpeas. It was served alongside some astonishingly fleshy olives that were more flavorful than salty, a head of confited, roasted, and then grilled garlic, and a variety of vibrantly hued vegetables from both Lindencroft Farm and Baia Nicchia.

It was followed by a delicate green dish of shaved summer squash, seaweed-marinated ice plant, and miso-cured tofu that had been aerated with liquid nitrogen right there in the outdoor kitchen. The tofu was remarkably creamy and rich, and reminded me of savory ice cream. It was perfect with the crunchy, fresh squash, and a salsa of tomato and carrot gave it a lovely tang and snap.

There was also a dish that contained pumpkin flowers stuffed with Redwood Farms goat cheese, lamb meatballs, lamb bacon, smoked vegetables, and injera puree made from one of the heirloom teff varieties Menkir has introduced to Baia Nicchia; the grain was creamy, rich, and savory. The teff had been fermented for five days, made into flatbread, and then pureed into the delicious, smooth porridge on the plate. After listening to the story of how teff came to be planted at the location, it was a real treat to not only sample the end result but also enjoy it at the table. The accompanying Mobius Alexander Valley Zinfandel from 2010 was rich, a tad tropical, and delicious.

Next came a seafood dish of black cod, with mussels, squid, and sea vegetation, including phytoplankton (that’s right, whale food!), sea spinach, sea lettuce, and sea beans, alongside Carolina Gold rice. It was perfect with Mantra’s 2009 Sonoma County Pinot Noir.

As the fog finally crept over the trees, the finale came on a beautiful plate of braised apricots, with a cake made from Menkir’s white teff, cherries, and amaretti cookies. The teff was an unexpectedly excellent grain for the cake: it had the crunch of polenta that nicely supported the soupy apricots, but was offset by a tender crumb. Again, witnessing a rather jolly Menkir took this dish to quite the next level. The only thing that possibly could have improved this course would have been one of the herb tisanes from Baia Nicchia’s fields, but alas, maybe next time.

Those around us who had been to Outstanding in the Field events before said this was some of the most unique food they had yet experienced, and I, too, was blown away. I admit, I had been expecting a delicious but tried-and-true take on roasted or grilled pork, maybe with a Little Gem salad and handmade pasta. Don’t get me wrong: I love all those things boundlessly. But what we were served instead delighted me: a vegetable-driven meal that contained no pork products at all, took influence from the cuisine of Ethiopia and Asia, and was just as richly flavored and satisfying as any Cal-Italian farm supper. Anything in this setting would have been lovely, but being served such innovative, remarkable food only added to the magic of the evening.

Outstanding in the Field has just begun its season, and though this was the last dinner in California for a few months, it is well worth a journey or planning ahead to November, when they return to California. Getting out of the city and connecting so closely with those who craft our food, from farmer to chef, is truly worth the effort.

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31st Union interior. Photo via Facebook.

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Delizie interior. Photo via Facebook.

A couple of new openings for you 650 dwellers. First, ~31ST UNION~ is now open in San Mateo in the former Bollywood Indian Cuisine space, featuring American comfort food with local ingredients in a small-plates format by executive chef Paul Burzlaff (and owner David Hunsaker). There are also classic and original cocktails, local artisanal craft beers, and a California wine list that include a dozen keg wines on tap (six white and six red). Perhaps one of the most notable features is the late hours: open Tue, Wed, and Sun 4pm-11pm and Thu-Sat 4pm-12am. Lunch will be added later. 5 South Ellsworth Ave. at Baldwin, San Mateo, 650-458-0049.

The Italian grapevine (heh) tells me some Calabresi opened a new place in San Carlos called ~DELIZIE~ just last month. The menu includes a selection of crostini, cavolfiori gratinati (baked cauliflower), fusilli alla calabrese with ricotta salata and sausage, linguine alle vongole (clams), pappardelle al cinghiale (wild boar), and orecchiette with beans and mussels. I know, sounds good. Hours are Mon-Sat for lunch 11am-2:30pm and dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm. 1107 San Carlos Ave. at El Camino Real, San Carlos, 650-486-1539.

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