December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013

The unique shelving (and a look into the open kitchen) at Alta Mid-Market. Photo: ©


Artwork at Alta CA. Hello, blue cow. Photo: ©


Warm root vegetable salad. Photo: ©

Sunday evening I attended a friends and family dinner at the soon-to-open ~ALTA CA~, the latest project from the Daniel Patterson Group. I had an extensive interview a couple of months ago with chef Yoni Levy, and after one bite of his cracked wheat porridge topped with hen of the woods mushrooms, you’ll agree he is one to watch. Alta’s Mid-Market location is pretty ideal: It’s kitty-corner to the new Twitter building, and just a few doors down from the groovy Ma’velous café. And then there’s the Hotspot, but that place is great for its own reasons.

When you walk into the 65-seat restaurant, the first thing you’ll notice is the completely innovative floor-to-ceiling open shelving along the entire back wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room, but still allows for an open kitchen experience. The 17-foot shelves are stocked with vintage pottery, books, and other objets, with a backdrop of the busy kitchen. It’s pretty genius, and sure to be copied.

Patterson had his architect of record for DPG projects, Scott Kester, design the space, and the room’s front angle reminded me a bit of Plum in Oakland. There’s a horseshoe bar made of alder wood, plenty of two- and four-top tables, and yes, there is a strip with working outlets along one wall (you know those are going to be in use for lunch meetings). Patterson’s wife Alexandra Foote has been sourcing the vintage art on the walls; look for more items to be added soon. The boyish music is like something you’d hear hanging out at a friend’s house. The overall feeling is warm and Californian, with plenty of wood (the wood tables feel great, along with the comfortable vintage Danish chairs) and pleasing-to-touch porcelain and flatware too. I also dug the aprons the friendly (and talented) staff are sporting.

So, the menu. You can start with a cocktail (the bar manager is Ashley Miller, most recently at Hakkasan) and some dill-pickled deviled eggs ($5), and there’s also Yoni’s pastrami ($13) and bialys ($6). Or you can go for the chicharrones of beef tendon ($6), which I was calling fatty lace. Or lacy fat.

You can ramp up with bigger plates, like a prettily (but not fussily) composed warm root vegetable salad ($13), with a medley of vegetables like kohlrabi, parsnips, carrots, and more. I already mentioned the stunning porridge, so rich with earthy flavor ($19). Additional plates include confit chicken leg ($18), a spot-on Pacific black cod ($25) with broccolini and the punch of Meyer lemon, and a fully loaded burger ($16) with thick slices of bacon and cheddar cheese. Everything we tried tasted so well prepared and balanced, with a nourishing sensibility. It’s food to admire for a split second before you want to dig in—tweezer food, this is not. Satisfying, yes. Chickpea and oxtail fritters ($16), I am talking about you (which are next are on my to-hit list). And I am sure the lunch menu is also going to be fab (there will be takeout options too). You Twitter folks are lucky.

DPG pastry chef Matt Tinder is behind the daily selection of two ice creams that are an evolved spin on soft-serve with toppings (he’s calling the project The Malted), which will also be available to go during the day, as if you were in an ice cream shop. The wine list is pretty rocking (put together by GM Ben Hetzel and Mark Mendoza), and the 10 bottles of quality bubbly definitely caught my eye. Cocktails include three barrel-aged selections, and four of the draft beers are hyper-local, including Cellarmaker, Almanac, and Faction.

Alta CA opens for dinner on Wednesday December 4th, and lunch this Friday. Hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-2am and Sat-Sun 5pm-2am.


A closer look at Comstock’s new bar. Photo courtesy Jeff Hollinger.


The new bar in the dining room at Comstock Saloon. Photo courtesy Jeff Hollinger.

We originally broke the news about ~COMSTOCK SALOON~’s new chef and new second bar in the redesigned dining room. Now it’s all up and running.

Executive chef Ronnie New (Magnolia Pub and Brewery) updated the menu, which now has a raw bar (think Drake’s Bay oysters and peel-and-eat Louisiana Gulf shrimp), a Comstock burger served on a Marla Bakery bun, and more. One thing that is staying put is the Saloon’s Free Lunch Friday (purchase two alcoholic beverages and you receive a free lunch—the offering changes weekly). And don’t forget, the kitchen is open Mon-Sat 4pm-12am and Sun 4pm-10pm, now serving a full menu (the bar is open daily 4pm-2am).

The dining room features a gorg old-growth redwood and mahogany bar restored by partner Jonny Raglin, and look for the antique tap handle that dates back to 1880. There are also high-top marble tables, so the “dining room” feeling has been tweaked to feel less formal. Some fun trivia: The bar is a historic homage to Abe Warner, who was the proprietor of the Cobweb Palace from around 1860 until 1893. Since he believed spiders should never be harmed or disturbed, you can see how his saloon earned its name. Old Abe also kept live monkeys and other animals as an attraction for visitors, so keep your eyes peeled for some monkeying around in the design details. You’ll also note an entrance into the dining room has been added.


The combination banh mi from Bun Mee. Yelp photo by Denise T.

Haighteration has news that a new French bakery is coming to the Lower Haight. The new bakery, called ~CHOUX~, comes from owner Laura Athuil, who hails from Nice, France. She’ll focus on cream puffs with different flavors, and may add some other menu items as well. Right now, opening is planned for mid-February. 248 Fillmore St. at Haight.

There’s a new taker for the Noe’s Bar space in Noe Valley: Ivor Bradley, who is also a partner at The Creamery in SoMa. The new spot will be called ~HORNER’S CORNER~ after John Horner, a historical figure who purchased the area in 1850, according to Noe Valley SF. The plan is to keep the bar friendly to sports fans and local residents, with a menu that includes burgers, pizza, and salads, plus a happy hour menu. 1199 Church St. at 24th St.

I have been trying to get information for a couple of months on ~ARCHIVE BAR & KITCHEN~, but after awhile you just gotta give up on people who don’t respond to emails, texts, and calls. Eater has the details: it’s in the old Mondo Caffe space in SoMa, serving craft beer, wine, charcuterie and cheese, and pizza. Edison bulbs, check. Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm. 602 Mission St. at 2nd St.

Fillmore Vietnamese sandwich slinger ~BUN MEE~ is opening a Financial District location soon. Scoop reports that the new location is going to be almost twice as big as the Fillmore one, and will offer additional catering options. The plan is to open in January. 660 Market St. at Geary.

~HI LO CLUB~ (the bar) is throwing a party on Wednesday December 4th: Bacon and Bourbon Happy Hour. That evening, ordering any bourbon of your choice also includes a side of thick-sliced apple-smoked bacon to go alongside your beverage. You’ll also be able to get bourbon-braised pork belly—available from 6pm until they run out. 1423 Polk St. at Pine, no phone.

Russian Hill’s ~STONES THROW~ is now serving brunch on Sundays from 11am-2pm. The menu changes seasonally; current options include egg dishes, sweet choices like brioche French toast, and snacks like oysters or doughnuts. Take a look at the menu here. 1896 Hyde St. at Green, 415-796-2901.


RIP, Moishe’s. Yelp photo by Donny N.


The front of Schroeder’s, old signs and all. Yelp photo by Kent W.

Hayeswire reports that Hayes Valley institution ~MOISHE’S PIPPIC~ closed yesterday after 26 years in business. A note on the front door said “We all would like to thank you so much for your patronage and your loyalty. It is hard to say goodbye and we will miss you all!!!!!” Some folks totally loved this friendly and no-frills spot, and others dismissed it, but the one thing you can’t deny is Moishe’s was one of the last little funky neighborhood spots in Hayes Valley. I had my first Chicago dog there (I have chef Jamie Lauren to thank for the reco—otherwise I wouldn’t have learned what sport peppers were until much later in life). Feeding people for 26 years—awww, we all thought it was too legit to quit. 425 Hayes St. at Gough.

Changes are coming to another SF stalwart, but this one has been around for quite a bit longer (try 120 years). Financial District German and sudsy outpost ~SCHROEDER’S~ has new owners, Andrew Chun and Jan Wiginton of Press Club—they are taking over for owners Stefan Filipcik and his wife, Jana, who are retiring. Scoop reports Schroeder’s is closing on January 1st; look for a reopening in spring 2014. Many elements will remain the same, from the name to the murals, but some new elements will include a private dining area, more windows, and wood floors. Stand by for more details about the menu once they lock on a chef. 240 Front St. at California, 415-421-4778.


It’s crab season at Slow Food San Francisco. Photo from Facebook.

Bayview’s ~POP-UP COMMUNITY MARKET~ is back, but they’ve moved to the Bayview Opera House. The next market is on Thursday December 5th from 5pm-7:30pm. Vendors include Earl’s Bread, Gratta Wines, Yvonne’s Southern Sweets, and sauces from Radio Africa. You’ll also find activities (like a class on how to make yogurt), live music, and a fresh fruit and produce stand, something very important to the neighborhood. 4705 3rd St. at Mendell.

It’s crab season, and to celebrate, Slow Food San Francisco is throwing its sixth annual Slow Crab Dinner on Saturday December 7th from 6pm-9pm. The delicious Monterey Fish Market crustaceans will be served alongside salad, Baia pasta from the fellows at Hillside Supperclub, and bread from Acme. Oh, and there will be wine and beer from Speakeasy and Magnolia too. Tickets are $80 per person and include food, dessert, and two beer tickets. Wine will be available for $20 a bottle. And just for tablehopper readers, enter promo code slowfood2013 at checkout for $10 off the ticket price. Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. at Lapidge.


New Taste Marketplace at St. Gregory’s. Photo from Facebook.

It’s December, and yes, the holidays are coming, which means there’s no better way to support local artists and food producers than buying some of your gifts at a local fair or market. Here are a few with a food angle to check out.

Be sure to stop by the holiday extravaganza from ~NEW TASTE MARKETPLACE~ on Saturday December 7th. From 11am-5pm, locally made food products will fill St. Gregory’s Church in Potrero Hill. Look for rillettes from Wooden Spoons, actual wooden spoons from Lydali, and soulful sauces from Keena’s Kitchen. You’ll also find beer from Almanac Beer Co. and wine from Periscope Cellars, food (to eat there), and live music. Proceeds from the event benefit The Food Pantry. 500 De Haro St. at Mariposa.

Check out the Holiday Food Fare at ~FIREHOUSE 8~ on Sunday December 8th from 10am-3pm. Savage Flour, Common Fare, and ToliverWorks are just a few of the vendors who will be slinging their foodstuffs, along with coffee from Contraband, wine, and beer. 1648 Pacific Ave. at Polk, 415-890-4800.

KPFA Radio is hosting the 43rd Annual ~KPFA CRAFTS FAIR~ on Saturday and Sunday December 14th and 15th from 10am-6pm at the Concourse Exhibition Center in SoMa. In addition to work from local artists, including jewelry, photography, and furniture, they’ve added the “Edible Tastings” section to the event. You’ll find local purveyors with lots of free samples and goods available for purchase, including items from Happy Girl Kitchen Co., Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey, and Bitchin’ Baklava. Because this is the last year the fair will be held at the concourse, there’s a two-for-one offer on all ticket sales: $10 a ticket. And every ticket gets a guest, which works out to $5 per person. Oh, and proceeds benefit KPFA too. Children under 17 and seniors over 65 get in free. 635 8th St. at Brannan.


The famed honey cake at 20th Century Cafe. Photo: ©

This holiday season, is partnering with the San Francisco Food Bank to offer $50 gift certificates to some of the city’s best restaurants. For every gift certificate sold, $5 goes to the Food Bank, and participating restaurants include Coi, State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Ichi Sushi, among many other greats. The certificates can be ordered online now, or you can go buy them on Thursday December 5th at a special event at ~20TH CENTURY CAFE~. From 5pm-7:30pm, if you buy a gift certificate during the event you’ll also get a free slice of Michelle Polzine’s Russian Honey Cake. That’s right, free cake just for buying a gift certificate to a great restaurant.

Can you eat a lot of chicken wings? Or are you just someone who likes to watch others eat a lot of chicken wings? Either way, you’ll want to hit up the ~WING WINGS SECOND ANNUAL CHICKEN WING EATING CONTEST~ on Saturday December 14th at El Rio. The party goes from 1pm-5pm, and there are two contests: a timed event and a “hella hella hot” event. They’re currently seeking contestants (bwok!) and donations for the raffle; more information is available on the event’s Facebook page. Just attending the event is a $5 donation at the door; drinks and wings will be available. The event is raising funds for Casa de las Madres. 3158 Mission St. at Cesar Chavez, 415-282-3325.


The hot pot spread at Gogi Time. Photo from Facebook.

Berkeleyside Nosh caught the news back in August that Korean barbecue and hot pot restaurant ~GOGI TIME~ is moving into Oakland. Now, according to a Facebook post, the restaurant will be soft opening on Wednesday December 4th and Thursday December 5th, starting at 5pm. They’ll be serving a limited menu at 20 percent off, with a full menu and lunch to come later in December. 2600 Telegraph Ave. at 26th St., Oakland, 510-834-5757.

On Saturday December 7th, ~ARTÍS COFFEE~ is opening its doors in Berkeley. The new coffee shop is offering something beyond the usual pour-over coffee choices: they are actually roasting on-site, in front of their customers, from raw beans that you select. So, you go in, pick your raw beans, and they’ll roast them right there while you wait. They’re using a new roaster called the “Java Master”. SFWeekly has a lot of details on the concept and roasting technique, if you’re curious, plus some details on their fancy new brewing machine, too. 1717B 4th St. at Virginia, Berkeley, 510-982-6063.