April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014
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The dining room at Castagna. Photo courtesy Castagna.

A little more than a year after a fire damaged ~CASTAGNA~ in the Marina, the restaurant and wine bar from co-owners and brothers Jerome (general manager) and Stephane Meloni (executive chef) is reopening sometime this week. The new chapter brings some changes, including a more upscale look, with a menu inspired by Provence, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera. The space’s new look is by Jeon Design, and includes more banquette seating, wood floors, and stone accents.

On the dinner menu, look for ratatouille served in socca, a fennel-crusted Mediterranean branzino, daube à la Niçoise, and fried squash blossoms. At brunch you’ll find egg dishes, including an omelet, eggs en cocotte, and quiche Lorraine. They’re also adding bar seating, outdoor seating, and a happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm. Hours are dinner Sun, Tue-Thu 5pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm, brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-5pm (closed Mondays). 2015 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-440-4290.

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Outdoor seating for brunch at Verbena. Photo courtesy Verbena.

~VERBENA~ on Polk Street is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, starting April 5th. The menu offers seasonal dishes, many of them with a twist on the usual selections, including a pork trotter terrine with fried quail eggs and chile oil, and poached eggs with duck ragout and peas. Take a look at the current menu here.

They’re also pouring brunch cocktails, like the Verbena mimosa with orange bitters and Cocchi Americano, and of course a Bloody Mary. Brunch is served from 11am-2:30pm, and you can also enjoy outdoor seating on sunny days.

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The Other Guys. Photo from Facebook.

Here’s a new pop-up for your radar: The Other Guys from friends Nathan Holden, Stephen Thorlton, and John Thurmond. The first one will happen on Sunday April 6th from 6pm-9:30pm at ~20TH CENTURY CAFÉ~, and will hopefully be the beginning of a regular series. The menu will be available either as a tasting menu for $58 per person, or you can elect to order à la carte.

The options include starters like oyster with crisp fish skin, seaweed, and sesame, or artichokes with miso, lemon, and herbs. For entrées, check out a roasted pork jowl with potatoes, spicy sour cabbage, and shellfish, or lemon zest and peppercorn chicken wings. The tasting menu also includes dessert from 20th Century Café, along with some additional dishes not on the à la carte menu. Reservations can be made here.

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Twiglight at the Presidio. Photo from Facebook.

After a winter hiatus, Off the Grid is returning to the Presidio on Sunday April 6th, with both their Sunday Picnic at the Presidio and their Thursday evening Twilight at the Presidio. On Sundays from 11am-4pm, the Picnic includes both food trucks and local restaurants serving from food stands, including Wise Sons, Del Popolo, and Nopalito. A roving cocktail bar offers drinks “blanket-side,” and you can also buy all the important picnic supplies you’ll need, like croquet, kites, and, yes, extra sweaters and blankets.

As for Thursday evening, Twilight at the Presidio runs from 5pm-9pm and includes cabanas lit with lanterns, fire pits and Adirondack chairs, and live music. Cocktails will also be available, served either right at your cabana or fireside. You’ll find a rotating lineup of trucks, including The Boneyard, Red Sauce Meatballs, and Fins on the Hoof. Main Parade Ground, Lincoln Blvd. at Montgomery, The Presidio.

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Kitty loves tea. And Coca-Cola. And your lap. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

Meow! Remember when we told you about cat café ~KITTEA~ in January? Well, their crowdfunding campaign has succeeded in surpassing their $50,000 goal. Apparently there are a lot of cat lovers out there who wanted to see the project happen (not surprising)! Can’t wait to share more information about this one as it gets closer.

Intrepid Chowhounder Melanie Wong reports that Chinatown’s ~DOL HO~ is closed for a break. According to a sign on the door, they’ll reopen on April 28th. 808 Pacific Ave. at Stockton, 415-392-2828.

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Chef Nancy Silverton. Photo from Mozza Pizzeria via Facebook.

On Saturday April 5th, chef Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, will be at Macy’s Union Square giving a free cooking demonstration at the Macy’s Flower Show. She’ll be sharing several of her recipes from her Mozza Cookbook from 2pm-3:30pm, and offering samples of the dishes.

Plus, if you spend more than $35 at the Macy’s Home Department that Saturday, you’ll get a copy of the book for her to sign, a $10 Macy’s gift card, and a Flower Show gift. Just be sure to RSVP here. 170 O’Farrell St. at Powell, lower level kitchen.

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The communal table awaits you. Photo from 18 Reasons.

There’s always something groovy going on at ~18 REASONS~, and here are a couple of April classes that caught my eye. First up, the fabulous Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano from Umami Mart will be teaching a cooking demo, The Power of Shiokoji
, on Tuesday April 22nd from 6pm-9pm. You can learn all about koji (Aspergillus oryzae), a rice mold used in Japan to produce sake, miso, and shoyu, and shiokoji (koji mixed with salt), a miracle cooking ingredient that pumps up the umami factor of any dish, sauce, or dressing. Tickets are $35 for members, $45 for the general public.

Some of my favorite earrings are some beautiful bone earrings I received from the captivating Haven Bourque, who is going to be teaching a class called Wool, Leather, Bones on Friday April 25th, from 6pm-8pm. She will be leading a discussion of how discarded “ingredients” can be brought to life through craft. Joining her are Claire Herminjard, who plans to use discarded cowhides to make bracelets and other wearables, and Joe Pozzi, who works to find uses for “trash” wool from the sheep of Pozzi Ranch. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for the general public.

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Love pie? Good, because it’s the best! On Sunday April 13th, check out the second annual SF Pie Social from 11:30am-3:30pm at the Verdi Club. It’s also a competition, with a panel of illustrious bakers, dessert experts, and food gurus judging the entries: Elisabeth Prueitt (Tartine), Jessica Battilana (Tasting Table), Jake Godby (Humphry Slocombe), Anita Chu (Sated Magazine), and Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos (Three Babes Bakeshop).

You can purchase a ticket to attend for $15 (only $5 for kids) and eat all the pie you can stomach, or you can enter one of your own creations for $25. Of course there are prizes for the winners, along with serious bragging rights. All proceeds benefit the San Francisco Community School, a K-8 public school in the Excelsior. 2424 Mariposa St. at Hampshire.

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A view of Bar Dogwood on the corner of Telegraph Ave. and 17th St. in Oakland. Photo from Facebook.

It looks like two local drivers made some really bad decisions this weekend. Very early Sunday morning, cars crashed into and damaged two local businesses, ~BAR DOGWOOD~ in Oakland and ~JOEY AND PAT’S~ bakery in the Mission, according to The Chronicle. Fortunately, no one was injured in either crash, and all drivers and passengers fled and have not been found. According to their Facebook page, Dogwood will reopen tonight, which is pretty amazing.

Mission Local reports that the building on Folsom and 21st Street that houses Joey and Pat’s may have to be vacated entirely, since the car destroyed a major support beam. We know how difficult an incident like this can be for a small, locally owned business, so here’s hoping everyone can get back on their feet soon.

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Seafood soup from Giin Thai Canteen. Photo from restaurant website.

East Bay Express reports that a new restaurant with a whole animal focus (and a retail butcher shop!) is coming to North Oakland, and it’s called ~CLOVE & HOOF~. The new project comes from Analiesa Gosnell (previously a butcher at Cafe Rouge) and chef John Blevins (previously at Gather and Lalime’s). The shop will sell cuts of meat from responsibly raised whole animals that will be broken down in-house, while the restaurant will focus on lunch offerings. There will be about 24 seats for those wishing to dine in, but the focus is on takeout.

Sandwiches will be made utilizing lesser-known or challenging cuts of meat that are paired with housemade condiments. Blevins is also planning to install a smoker in the kitchen and has been studying charcuterie in France, so you’ll find both European-style offerings alongside dishes that are rooted in Southern barbecue traditions. One such dish is a pork confit stew with garlic sausage (smoked in-house), brisket ends, and Tarbais beans, which marries a cassoulet-style dish with American pork and beans. To start, they won’t be open for dinner, though there are plans to offer whole-animal dinners and prepared dishes to take home. Right now, the hope is to open in the fall, though there is still an extensive build-out to get through until the space is ready. 4001 Broadway at 40th St., Oakland.

In Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood, ~COMAL~’s owners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman have been working with the city to get approval to open a new restaurant in Elmwood for months, and they’ve finally succeeded! The new place will be in a former garage that has been vacant since at least 2007, when an organization called the Elmwood Neighborhood Association blocked a different restaurant from moving in. The same group opposed the new project, as well, but after lots of community outreach and support from many others in the neighborhood, they got the green light. Berkeleyside Nosh has lots of details on the process, so check out their coverage for lots of great information.

They are still looking for a chef to run the kitchen at the new place (Comal’s Matt Gandin will stay where he is), but they’ve got the basic concept in place. It will be neighborhood-focused, “approachable and comfortable,” as Paluska says, with “Northern California” food, including flavors from Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. The space will seat 100, including 12 seats at the bar. Once they have a chef, more details will emerge about the food. They’re targeting an early 2015 opening. 2635 Ashby Ave. at College, Berkeley.

Berkeleyside Nosh reports that there is a new Thai place in town. ~GIIN THAI CANTEEN~ comes from the same people behind Gecko Gecko, and offers thai cuisine that is spicier, less sweet, and more flavorful than the average Thai-American options. The menu includes many Thai restaurant staples, including curry and pad Thai, as well as some more unusual choices, like a whole fried fish of the day and spicy sausage with sticky rice. 3278 Adeline St. at Alcatraz, Berkeley, 510-547-4446.

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Spring vegetables in the kitchen at Oliveto. Photo from Facebook.

It’s springtime, and though the weather might not feel like it, you can still celebrate on your plate. Lots of wonderful produce is popping up at the markets, including asparagus, fava beans, spring onions, and peas. ~OLIVETO~ is saluting spring from Tuesday April 8th through Friday April 11th with a special Dinners from the Field menu. This first annual feast features lots of vegetable-driven (and mostly vegetarian) dishes, all of them fresh and exciting.

Look for dishes like a ragù of braised baby artichokes with wheat berries, strawberry gazpacho with mint and green almonds, and a sformatino of asparagus. You can peek at a preliminary menu here; just be aware that it may change, depending on what is freshest that week. Pray for morels! There will also be some meat options, and everything will be available à la carte.

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