December 10, 2013

December 10, 2013
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Hello darlings. Those of you who are sticking around for the holidays, I have a very special event in store for you! On Saturday December 28th, tablehopper is beyond thrilled to be hosting an exclusive event with Louis Roederer Champagne, ~TOP IT OFF~. We’ll be pouring the gorgeous Brut Premier all night while dining on exquisite bites in Marianne’s, the stylish members-only room tucked behind The Cavalier. (There will be gougères, bien sûr!)

The soirée will run from 7pm-9pm, and will include a special performance from our fair city’s fabulous chanteuse, Veronica Klaus. How’s that for a fun, swanky evening?

Brut Premier is one of life’s affordable luxuries (this Champagne is full of finesse, and shockingly can be enjoyed for less than $50). In that same spirit, Louis Roederer wants you to be able to salute 2013 in style: tickets to Top It Off are only $65, and our hosts at The Cavalier are offering all guests a complimentary membership to Marianne’s. Who loves you? Exactly.

We are releasing a limited number of tickets this week (and more soon!) since the event is truly intimate. Festive cocktail attire is requested (sorry, no jeans).

We can’t wait to celebrate with you. Let’s end the year on a high note and in high style! See you at Top It Off!

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The Blue Fox tablehopper t-shirt.

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Caramels from the IfOnly collection.

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A flavor assortment from Gâté comme des filles.

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The Goldfinger Set from Umami Mart.

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A screenshot of the Modernist Cuisine at Home app.

Still looking for the perfect gift for some of your favorite gourmands on your holiday shopping list? Here are some ideas for you!

Who wouldn’t love a tablehopper t-shirt? All the shirts are based on designs from vintage bars and restaurants in San Francisco. Oh, and they’re super-soft and flattering too. We have Blue Fox hoodies too!

For the wine lover in your life: the groundbreaking Coravin is a deluxe opener for the person who really has a cellar of gorgeous bottles (or just drinks alone, and doesn’t want to waste an entire bottle). And hey, they’ll probably have to try it out while you’re there.

A Year in Burgundy is a documentary that follow seven winemakers in Burgundy for a year, as they cultivate their vines and harvest them. Cool!

Got a friend who loves to eat out? Of course you do. ShareTable.org and the San Francisco Food Bank have paired up to offer gift certificates in $50 denominations to some of the Bay Areas best restaurants. We’re talking Coi, State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Ichi Sushi, among many other greats. Check out all the choices and purchase here.

IfOnly has collected an assortment of gourmet caramels from 12 Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs all over the country, including Corey Lee, Daniel Humm, Dominique Crenn, and David Kinch. The flavors are innovative and fun.

Speaking of confections, these stunning chocolates from gâté comme des filles chocolats are almost too pretty to eat. But they’re crazy delicious, so dig in. They’re available at Bi-Rite and from Good Eggs. Read more about chocolate maker Alexandra Whisnant here.

Friend who’s a boozehound? They’ll be mixing in style with this super-sexy Goldfinger barware set from UmamiMart. You can find it at their Oakland shop, or in San Francisco where they’re popping up inside the Perish Trust until December 24th. (There are other great barware items too—who wouldn’t love a gold jigger?) Pop-up hours are Tue-Thu 11am-7pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm, 728 Divisadero St. at Grove.

PUNCH magazine is about as cool as a wine, spirits, and cocktail magazine gets. It’s packed with recipes, news, and lore about cocktails and booze culture, plus lots of great stories on wine.

Cherry Bombe is another rad food magazine, one that celebrates women in food. Perhaps for a friend who expressed disgust at that whole Gods of Food embarrassment?

For a bona fide coffee lover, check out the yearly subscription from Andrew Barnett’s Linea Caffe, which delivers locally roasted beans to their doorstep.

Got someone who prefers tea? Nudo gives you the opportunity to adopt a tea garden for a friend, and then delivers first flush tea directly to them from Darjeeling.

If you’ve got a friend who loves to replicate restaurant meals at home, or just a home cook who gets a kick out of sous vide, they would love the newly released Modernist Cuisine at Home app, which has more than 400 recipes and 37 technique videos. They’ve got all the gadgets already, now they can put them to use!

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The communal table (also for large groups) in the front area. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The counter. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A look at the main dining area. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

This weekend I headed over to Noe Valley to take a peek at ~LA NEBBIA~, the new enoteca, prosciutteria, and lasagneria from Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan of nearby local favorite La Ciccia. The room has a contemporary and clean look, with some fun overhead lights that look like octopi (one of the best dishes at La Ciccia, ha). Even though there are a lot of hard surfaces, Conti was quick to point out the special noise-reducing ceiling they have installed. He said the place was designed to be unpretentious and fun. There is room for 44 guests total, with 12-13 seats at the counter, plus there’s a communal table and two- and four-top tables. There are also plans for outdoor seating on the spacious sidewalk.

The thing that caught my eye is the large and gleaming double-deck oven, which the kitchen will be using to make pizzas and lasagne. Conti said there will be a traditional pizza on the menu (a margherita), but is excited about offering some different kinds, like one with speck, fresh mozzarella, D.O.P. Gorgonzola, and lemon zest ($15), and another with squid ink, fresh mozzarella, anchovies, sultanas, and pine nuts ($15). You can peek at the preliminary menu here.

Let’s talk about the lasagne, shall we? Uh-huh. There will be three kinds to start: a traditional one with ragù and béchamel; another with ricotta, pesto, and escarole; and an inventive one that Conti said is like a seafood puttanesca ($13-$15). Yes, get in my belly, all three of you.

Conti said not to expect a hard-line and traditionalist Italian approach to dishes—he wanted the food to have the flexibility to include inspiration from other areas. Most importantly, it all has to pair with wine! He is joined in the kitchen by Victor Harvey (previously the chef de cuisine at Padrecito, and prior to that, he was at Slanted Door) and Valerio Martorelli (he was a sous at Farina in 2010, and just came back from Italy).

There is also a fantastic selection of prosciutto, from San Daniele to Parma to domestic picks from La Quercia, and some jamón Ibérico too. Collect all 10! Also on the piggy tip: porchetta should be coming soon. Fresh cheeses range from burrata to stracciatella, all with special accompaniments.

Which brings us to the very important topic of the wine! Conti explained the wines come from the foggy regions of Italy (“la nebbia” means fog in Italian), so expect selections from the Veneto to Piemonte to Montalcino. There will be about 30 by the glass, and 20 sparkling wines or so on the list. Many of the wines are natural and from small producers with an eye on sustainability, and all will be food-friendly.

La Nebbia is soft opening on Thursday December 12th from 5pm-8pm, and will then start daily service that Friday. Hours will be Sun, Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, and until 11pm Fri-Sat, closed Monday. 1781 Church St. at 30th St., 415-874-9924.

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The classic bar at the Big 4. Photo courtesy of The Huntington Hotel.

Good news for folks who were concerned about the fate of the ~BIG 4~ restaurant at the Huntington Hotel: it will be coming back. The new owners, Singapore-based hospitality group Grace International, have brought on the local Puccini Group to consult on and oversee the renovation, design, restaurant concept, and management services of the Big 4. Some changes will include fresh carpet, paint, upholstery, and the tables will no longer have tablecloths. Fortunately the bar will be kept as is, ditto the live piano. Scoop added the news that chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls will also remain. The Big 4 will close for renovations on January 1st, 2014, and reopen in spring 2014.

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Fifth Floor lounge. Photo from Kimpton.

The Hotel Palomar’s ~FIFTH FLOOR~ is getting ready to close after service on Friday January 17th, according to Scoop and a follow-up press release. The restaurant will be reopening in the spring of 2014, with a new, more casual concept. The new space will include a patio and fire pit, and the bar menu will be revamped to emphasize craft cocktails. Chef David Bazirgan is staying on as executive chef, and bar manager Brian Means is also staying put. The food will stay focused on quality ingredients, but will shift toward small plates to accompany the cocktails.

In the meantime, there are still a few ways to enjoy the end of Fifth Floor. Until the end of the month, a portion of the proceeds from pastry chef Francis Ang’s (who hails from the Philippines) desserts will go toward typhoon relief. The dessert tasting menu is $25, and wine pairings are available for an additional $25. Also, starting at the bar at 5pm every night and in the dining room at 5:30pm, you can get a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne and five canapés for $20. Does that mean bubbles, snacks, and dessert for dinner? Perhaps.

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The famed grilled cheese at Outerlands. Yelp photo by Tiffany W.

As previously reported on tablehopper, Outer Sunset beacon ~OUTERLANDS~ is expanding. Well, the time has come, and they will be closing on Monday December 30th for the final step in the renovation project. To commemorate the time they’ve spent with their current space, they’ll be offering a special chef’s tasting menu on Friday December 27th and Saturday December 28th for $65 per person, with beverage pairings available as well. Reservations can be made here.

As for the changes, the additional space will allow the restaurant to add 22 seats, including 6 or 7 at the bar. They’ve got a full liquor license and will continue to offer cocktails, with plans to add a new bar manager. You’ll also be able to order from the full menu at the bar. They’ll be adding a special bread and pastry room to the kitchen, so look out for an expanded availability of loaves from baker David Muller to purchase during the day, plus the addition of morning pastry hour with goods from pastry chef Brooke Mosley. The dinner and lunch menus will stay tight and small, but you’ll find more choices at lunch in particular. Many of the favorites on the lunch and brunch menu will remain (no more eggs in jail would equal revolt), along with some offerings that reflect the complexity currently found on the dinner menu.

Many of the original designers of the space are involved in the renovation, and the plan is to keep the feel of the space while improving flow and adding some important features. Look for seating for large groups, and the new bar mentioned above. The heated outdoor seating will remain, and there is also word that hours will expand. The reopening is slated for February 2014.

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The swank interior at Café Claude Marina. Photo by Aubrie Pick.

The recently opened ~CAFÉ CLAUDE MARINA~ has had a chef turnover: opening chef Doug DeGeeter has moved on, and RJ Subaba will be taking over December 15th. Subaba was most recently the executive chef at Cin-Cin Wine Bar in Los Gatos, and his background also includes positions at The Village Pub in Woodside, Murray Circle at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, and The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena. He’ll be working closely with Alicia Jenish—the corporate chef for Franck LeClerc’s restaurant group (which includes the upcoming Gaspar, Gitane, both Café Claude locations, and Claudine)—who has been overseeing the menu since DeGeeter’s departure. The new winter menu should be in place with Subaba’s touches by January 15th. Next on Jenish’s to-do list: find a new chef for Gitane. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-292-3599.

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Your new brunch spot: La Urbana. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The chandelier and coffee bar at Espressamente Illy. Photo courtesy Illy.

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The Banh, Baby, Banh burger from Big Chef Tom’s Belly Burgers. Yelp photo by Austin W.

This last weekend, ~LA URBANA~ softly started their brunch service. I swung by on Sunday, and tried their chilaquiles with carne asada ($15), while a neighbor’s huevos con chorizo ($15) looked mighty tasty. You can look at a copy of the menu here. The brunch plates are a bit more composed than the usual Mission-style plato, so don’t come here expecting a heaving plate with eggs, beans, and rice (although I did appreciate how perfectly seasoned my carne asada was). Eye-openers include a mezcal Bloody Mary and pear Bellini. I recommend ordering the Mexican Dude off the evening cocktail list, it’s perfect for brunch (housemade horchata, vodka, mezcal, and espresso coffee liqueur). Let the healing begin. Hours are Sun 11am-2:30pm.

We’ve been trying to hunt down info on this place for a couple weeks now after a tip, and last week Eater caught the weekend opening: it looks like ~SAIWALKS~ is now open in the Marina. They’ve moved into the former Asqew Grill on Steiner, serving Vietnamese street food with quality ingredients. The owner, Victoria Le, grew up in Saigon and spent the last two years developing her menu. Look for spring rolls and crispy rolls in both meat and vegetarian options, pho, vermicelli bowls, and rice plates. Some of the options include grilled shrimp, nine-spice chicken, and a lemongrass pork chop. All of the meat is grass-fed, and ingredients are organic. You’ll find lots of vegetarian options, too, plus Vietnamese drip coffee from roaster Henry’s House of Coffee. A beer and wine license is pending. It’s open daily from 11am-9pm. 3348 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-549-7932.

Another week, another new place for to get your caffeine on. This week, check out the brand-new ~ESSPRESSAMENTE ILLY~ in the Castro. The space boasts a chandelier made of espresso cups, a bar for both espresso and pour-over coffee, and a retail area selling beans. Baristas will be trained not only in making coffee, but also in coaching retail customers in at-home brewing techniques. Joyce Goldstein consulted on the café’s menu, and a back patio should be ready to open in early 2014. Oh, and there’s free Wi-Fi, too. To celebrate the opening, they’re offering a free espresso between now and Saturday December 14th. Hours are daily 7am-9pm. 2349 Market St. at Noe.

Off the Grid alum ~BIG CHEF TOM’S BELLY BURGERS~ is bringing a brick-and-mortar location to SoMa, according to Scoop. Tom Pizzica is the owner and “Chef Tom” of the name. The burgers are made completely with ground pork belly, available in a variety of preparations. A few staples will always be on hand (Pizzica calls them “OG”), and rotating specials will also show up on the menu; peek at the choices here. Chicken and vegan patties will also be available, along with sides like crinkle-cut fries, onion rings, and charred greens. The opening is currently planned for early 2014. 1550 Howard St. at Lafayette.

~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~ is keeping the holidays sweet and chocolaty with their Twelve Nights of Chocolate this month. Every evening between now and December 21st, they’re holding a different chocolate event, including a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory screening and two evenings of wine and chocolate pairings. Definitely be sure to check out the party on Friday December 13th, when Delfina’s pastry chef Jessica Sullivan will take over the Dandelion kitchen and prepare a three-course dessert tasting menu. Tickets are $50 and proceeds benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-349-0942.

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An assortment of the items you’ll find at La Cocina’s Gift Alley. Photo from Facebook.

This holiday season, remember to keep your dollars local and support the amazing artisans and entreprenuers who keep the Bay Area so delicious. One of the best ways to support these businesses is at ~LA COCINA~’s fifth annual Gift Alley on Friday December 13th. From 11am-7pm, downtown’s Crocker Galleria will be filled to the gills with local products for all your gifting and sharing needs, including Clairesquares brandy butter, Wooden Spoons and their delicious rillettes, and seasonings from Sal de Vida. Yeah, the stuff in your stockings just got a lot more delicious. Plus, there will be hot food to keep your shopping energy up, including vada pav from new La Cocina entrepreneur Rasoi, onigiri from Onigilly, and stew and wraps from Eji’s Ethiopian.

There will also be a gift-wrapping station to keep your gifts gorgeous, and a bar. All proceeds from both will benefit La Cocina. It all takes place at the Crocker Galleria, making it a perfect stop for lunch in the Financial District or after work (again, there’s a bar). 50 Post St. at Montgomery.

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The exterior of the new Great China. Photo courtesy of James Yu.

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Great China’s incredible Peking duck. Photo from Facebook.

After many stops and starts and delays, it looks like ~GREAT CHINA~ will be opening Monday December 16th. It’s a long-awaited comeback, since Great China suffered a terrible fire two years ago. Well, the phoenix is rising from the ashes in new and much larger digs, with 150 seats and a new lounge area. A full liquor license should be coming soon too.

So, let’s talk about that lounge: there will be room for eight or so at the bar, plus there are three four-tops, which will also be good for solo diners for lunch during the day. Once full liquor kicks in later on, expect some well-executed classic cocktails, some refreshing tiki-esque drinks, and a couple of adventurous drinks as well.

Of course, any oenophile knows how utterly amazing second-generation owner James Yu’s wine cellar was at the previous location (let’s not talk about how much was lost in the fire, okay?). He said the restaurant unfortunately won’t be opening with a beer and wine license (it should hopefully activate within the month), so we’ll have to wait a little for some of his fab selections. But he said there were 20-30 cases of quality wines that were undamaged, with some reserve wines in the bunch, so expect some jaw-dropping wines by the glass when he can pour again. He said there will be some fantastic wines poured at cost to celebrate with those who enjoyed drinking Great China’s wines in the past. Cheers to that.

As for the staff, Yu said he managed to get most key folks back in the kitchen, with a few new players in the mix. He said a couple of his longtime servers are coming back, along with a couple they were grooming before the fire, plus they gained a former captain from Tommy Toy’s, who Yu said has been a great help in ramping up the level of service. Yu also mentioned his parents (who opened the original Great China) will be around to greet regulars and keep an eye on things.

Yu’s brother, Tai, is an architect and is behind the design of the new location. There is now a semi-private VIP table, enclosed on three sides with room for 14. The back area of the dining room has six large tables, and the plan is to partition it off with glass later in 2014 so it could be used as a private room for 50-60 guests.

The menu will remain the same, so I know we all can’t wait to have their superlative Peking duck and the inimitable double skin dish! Such great vegetables too. And lucky us, it’s still crab season, which means we can order the ginger-scallion crab! Hours will be daily 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. Once the bar is up and running, look for hours to extend, with plans for a late-night menu. Welcome back, Great China! 2190 Bancroft Way at Fulton, Berkeley, 510-843-7996.

UPDATE: Great China is opening Monday December 16th at 11:55am.