May 2, 2017

May 2, 2017
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Yours truly with Jeremiah Tower and director Lydia Tenaglia. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Campari America cocktails (cosmos and lemon drops!) in the house! Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Spoon feeding Jeremiah Tower Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar. Mic drop. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Dear friends, reunited: Jeremiah Tower and Denise Hale. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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The best theater food ever: chef gourmet popcorn, Stars hot dogs, and Negronis! Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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The lemon drop daisy, with Espolòn blanco. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chef Dominique Crenn and Jeremiah Tower. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Howard Case serving up the Stars-meets-4505 Meats hot dogs! Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The antidote to a hot kitchen: Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble and Fort Point Beer. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

“Can we bring Denise Hale with us?” When you get an email like that from Gary Danko, that’s when you know Jeremiah Tower should be really happy at your party (especially since we were going to keep her as a surprise). Yes, his swan of Stars was going to float into our event.

Last Thursday evening, it was my great honor to host a chefs-only after-hours party and screening to welcome Jeremiah Tower back to San Francisco. While he was attending many events, screenings, interviews, and Q&As during the week for the release of his documentary, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, I wanted to throw something a little more industry and special for him. I called it The Family Screening, a continuation of the previous after-hours events I have hosted for our local chefs.

The night’s mix definitely needed to balance the old guard of SF chefs and include the ones who knew JT, worked for him (like Dominique Crenn, Jan Birnbaum, Loretta Keller, Rob Lam), were inspired by him, and those who remember having drinks at the bar at Stars (many). But I wanted some up-and-coming chefs the chance to meet him too. It was an intimate night, such a warm reunion with a lot of hugs and laughter. We were in a tiny downtown screening room, so unfortunately I couldn’t make it into a full-blown Stars reunion, with ex-servers, bartenders, and more. (Sorry, gang!)

Sadly, some chefs got stuck in service and couldn’t make it in time for our 10:45pm screening. Such is chef life. But it was a lovely surprise to be able to have an impromptu Q&A with the deeply talented director Lydia Tenaglia (co-founder of the award-winning Zero Point Zero Production) and JT at the end of the film. I think it was around 1am, but fortunately we were on Negroni time!

I couldn’t host these chef events without the ever-gracious and appreciated support of Campari America. They agreed we needed to serve cosmos and lemon drops in honor of what we all drank at Stars back in the day—’80s flashback! Rye on the Road created some updated versions for the party: the cosmo was made with SKYY (celebrating 25 years!), muddled lime, dash of Aperol and Grand Marnier, cranberry bitters, with long lime zest, and the lemon drop daisy was made with Espolòn blanco, pressed lemon, citrus, and vanilla bean oleo sacrum, shaken and topped with splash of prosecco, with a dehydrated lemon and sugar rim. (We made sure to serve everything in a rocks glass so the cocktails would fit in the theater cup holders, heh-heh.)   And it wouldn’t be a chef event without Negronis. There were also some tequila shots that may have happened, but I am not responsible for those. As Jeremiah said at the end of the screening, all movies should be screened with lemon drops! Agree.

Of course there had to be Champagne! Tremendous thanks to Jordan Winery, which provided our guests a sneak peek/advance taste of the Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble. It’s a special bottling of nonvintage brut from Champagne AR Lenoble, which will be debuting on May 13th (you can attend the release party!).

It was also my great delight to hand-feed JT and Mrs. Hale a heaping spoonful of the Jordan Chef’s Reserve Caviar by Tsar Nicoulai, and then place the jar into his hand and tuck my mother-of-pearl spoon into JT’s pocket, which he should always have there, now that I think of it. I was also gifted a bottle to pour of 2007 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Champagne from Kim Beto of Southern Wine & Spirits (I heard “PJ fleur” was one of JT’s favorites), and he brought it into the theater to share with Denise during the film.

Howard and Kris Case of Casa de Case were huge Stars regulars and credit JT with inspiring and supporting them in their decision to follow their passion and start their Italian import company. They helped re-create the Stars hot dog that used to be served at the bar: Kris made the sauerkraut (with duck fat, white wine, and botanicals), which Howard served over 4505 Meats hot dogs (thanks, 4505—we could only have the city’s best dog at this event). There was also Grey Poupon Dijon, per the original specs.

We were going to have plenty of hungry chefs coming off service, so leave it to Casa de Case’s chef Colin Dewey to completely rock the popcorn service. It was the most gourmet theater food ever, I swear. We had Parm Pop, with 24-month Parm, oregano, and peperoncino, and Fish Pop, with colatura di alici, garlic, lemon, anchovy, chile, and bottarga grated on top. Outstanding. I want this in my life all the time.

We also had cases of cold beers from Fort Point Beer (their refreshing KSA and Villager IPA were there to greet chefs emerging from hot kitchens), and huge merci to Le Marais Bakery, which donated BOXES of cookies, madeleines, and other sweet treats, plus some breakfast viennoiserie for chefs to tuck into their gift bag for the morning. Truly, so sweet.

I want to give a very special thank-you to our other event sponsor, Poached, which really helped me pull this thing off! Couldn’t have done it without them. Their lovely team helped me at the event and also created a fun gift bag, which had some Jacobsen’s travel salt (love it), a Poached hat, and thanks again to 4505, we were able to stuff the bags with their famous chicharrones. It was like the ultimate chef to-go bag.

Huge thanks to publicist John Weaver—who, like me, had fond memories of cosmos and lemon drops at Stars—and agreed that this party needed to happen. Thank you for making it possible! Mwah.

I hope you all enjoy the photo album of the event by the one and only Eric Wolfinger. There are very few photographers who can shoot your event and say, “Almost every chef I staged with in 2004 when I was looking for a line cook job was in the house…Gary Danko, Suzette Gresham, Robbie Lewis.”

When we talked about the image look and feel, I threw out the idea of taking Polaroids there, and damn, did he rock it. I didn’t expect him to show up with just a Polaroid camera, but wow, did the images turn out great. And that’s Eric—not only did he understand the chef dynamics in the room and all the players, but he managed to capture all my favorite moments. On a Polaroid camera. He also said that he will personally send anyone who wants their original Polaroid! What a guy. You can email him here.

(To learn more about Eric, who is one of my favorite local food photographers, check out this SmugMug short film about him and his craft. You’ll also learn more about Dandelion Chocolate. It’s a fab film, and also a touching homage to how to live your life, and there’s insight into how to handle loss as well.)

A few hours prior to the event, I was able to interview Jeremiah and Lydia Tenaglia about the film, San Francisco dining, restaurant design, and more. But that’s going to take some time to wade through the recording and a separate post. So I hope you enjoy this party recap and pics for now—I’m still shaking the Parmesan and caviar out of my hair. Oh, and here’s the Spotify music mix I made, in case you’re in the mood for an ’80s (and early ’90s) party mix. (Always!)

We missed you here in San Francisco, JT, thanks for coming back. Don’t be a stranger. And everyone, see this film. Lydia has created something very insightful and unique. It’s deep.

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The exterior of Locanda. Photo by Eric Wolfinger via Facebook.

Last week, I popped into ~LOCANDA~ for an impromptu pasta dinner with a friend (when cacio e pepe calls, I pick up the phone). Was happy to learn Melissa Reitz (previously Bar Agricole, Camino, Zuni Cafe) has been in the kitchen for the past month and is just ramping up some of her touches to the Roman-rooted menu.

Meanwhile, over at ~OCTAVIA~, Sara Hauman has been brought on as Melissa Perello’s chef de cuisine (she was most recently at Mister Jiu’s and previously at Huxley). [Via Scoop.]

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Toast toast toast! At the new Nourish Cafe. Photo: Rebecca Kinney.

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A look at the soon-to-be-loaded case at Kahnfections! Photo courtesy of Kahnfections.

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Bring on the blended margarita at Glena’s. Photo: Sean Jerd.

Last month, I mentioned the 100 percent plant-based and organic/non-GMO ~NOURISH CAFE~ was opening a second location in the former Flour & Co. on Hyde Street in Nob Hill, and boom, it’s open. They are offering all kinds of vegan items; take a peek at the menu here. There are smoothies, Stumptown Coffee espresso drinks, and kombucha on tap as well. Hours are Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 9am-3pm. 1030 Hyde St. at California.

Back in March, I let you know about the bakery opening in the former Green Heart Foods space in the Mission, and now ~KAHNFECTIONS~ is soft opening this Friday May 5th at 6am. Come by for Judy Kahn’s biscuits, croissants, muffins, and scones, plus dessert items and favorites like cookies and carrot cake. Egg sandwiches will be coming down the road too. Hours Sat-Sun are 8am-3pm and then Mon-Fri 6am-3pm. 3321 20th St. at Folsom.

Just in time for Cinco de Drinko, ~GLENA’S~ can finally start whipping up their blended margaritas starting Wednesday May 3rd to go with your tacos. Chef Michael Gaines and partner Stephanie Gaines are working with bar manager and program designer Lachlan Bray (Kin Khao, Tosca). Other cocktails on the menu include a Paloma, El Marinero (mezcal, rhum, Aperol, pineapple, lime), The Federale (Jamaican rum, Punt e Mes, vermouth, Ancho Reyes, bitters), Si Señor (gin, Cocchi Americano, lemon, seltzer), and Baja ha ha (vodka, Suze, ginger, passion fruit, lime); all $12. Hours are Sun-Thu 11am-10pm and Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. Arriba. 632 20th St. at 3rd St.

Another menu change is coming to ~CAFE DU NORD~, which is shifting back to being a live music venue and streamlining the food menu. Bye-bye, amazing late-night burger. Hoodline confirmed Ne Timeas and The Bon Vivants are no longer working with owner Dylan MacNiven on Du Nord after the big relaunch they did, although they are still involved with Aatxe and Swedish American Hall. It sounds like there will be some food served; stand by for details on all the changes soon. 2174 Market St. at Sanchez.

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The patio at Arguello. Photo: © Henrik Kam 2014.

Cinco de Mayo falls on a Friday this year, so you know the city is going to go crazy. I envision lots of hooky playing. Here are five quick ideas on where to go and what to do:

Brunch at ~DON PISTO’S~; their Cinco de Mayo brunch from 11am-3pm will be a rowdy and tasty one

Lunch on the outdoor patio at ~ARGUELLO~ in the Presidio, where you can soak up the sun while enjoying $7 margaritas all day and $12 buckets of beer. Great chips and guac and carnitas and grilled shrimp tacos await.

—The weather is probably going to be gray again on Friday, so head over to Sausalito and enjoy margaritas on the patio at ~COPITA~ and wish them a happy fifth birthday!

—Enjoy hot Latin beats, performances at midnight, and tamales at Juanita MORE’s Cinco de Mayo—House of MORE! fiesta. At the ~OASIS~ in SoMa, 10pm-3am. $10 in advance/$15 at the door.

—And now for some real talk: on Friday, restaurants throughout Berkeley and other Bay Area sanctuary cities will take part in Cocktails for La Causa to raise awareness of deportation and immigration issues and support local organizations providing legal defense. Funds collected from the sale of food or drink specifically created for this event will be donated equally among Centro Legal de la Raza, the East Bay Community Law Center, and the Multicultural Institute in Berkeley. Please check the list to see who is participating in Berkeley, which has been a City of Refuge since 1971!

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Tikka masala mac and cheese at Navi Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Preeti Mistry.

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The bar at Paradita Eatery. Photo by David Escalante.

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Pollo a la brasa at Paradita Eatery. Photo by David Escalante.

Last fall, I mentioned Juhu Beach Club’s Preeti Mistry was opening ~NAVI KITCHEN~ in the Bakery Lofts in the Triangle neighborhood of Oakland and Emeryville, and it’s now softly open and serving breakfast. The menu includes a Mumbai Morning Burger ($8.45), with pork ginger sausage, fried egg, American cheese, pepper cress, and ghost pepper chutney, while the Croque Gadame ($8.45) has brown sugar chai-spiced bacon, fried egg, white cheddar, pickled onions, and tamarind ketchup. There are a couple of vegan toasts, too, plus coffee service (and DIY chai!).

Lunch starts this week (salads, subs, soups, and can we TALK about tikka masala mac and cheese?), and nighttime Indian pizzas are coming soon, I’ll keep you posted. And there’s a patio, sweet. [More on Nosh.] Open now Wed-Sun 8am-3pm. 5000 Adeline St. at 47th St., Emeryville.

Newly open in Public Market Emeryville is chef Carlos Altamirano’s ~PARADITA EATERY~, a fast-casual spot focused on Peruvian street food. (He’s also behind Mochica in SF’s Potrero Hill and Piqueos in Bernal Heights, plus La Costanera in Montara, Parada in Walnut Creek, and the Sanguchon food trucks.) Check out the menu here, which covers organic salads, Peruvian sandwiches (like lomo saltado), grilled anticuchos (meat skewers—bring on the beef heart), pollo a la brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken, made with Mary’s organic free-range chickens), a variety of rice bowls, sides and alfajores for dessert, oh you know it. And there are cocktails, including pisco sours. Fun fact: did you know Altamirano founded Alta Farm in Half Moon Bay, dedicated solely to producing the spicy rocoto variety of pepper? He wanted to be able to have it fresh instead of frozen. Dedication! Open daily 11am-9pm. 5959 Shellmound St. at 59th St., Emeryville.

Open in the former Salsipuedes in Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood is ~THE KEBABERY~ from Camino’s Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain, and partner Brian Crookes, with chef Traci Matsumoto-Esteban leading the kitchen. (It’s inspired by their Kebab Mondays at Camino.) The menu allows you to choose your kebab plate (herby lamb kebab, marinated chicken kebab, spiced king trumpet mushroom kebab, and fried cauliflower kebab, which is also GF) and side salads (carrot salad, mashed beets, sauerkraut salad), plus yogurt, pickled chiles, herbs, and your choice of grilled flatbread or red lentils—or you can have a kebab sandwich. Other specials include a bowl of soup with yogurt and fried spices, one salad, and a grilled flatbread. Chocolate pudding for dessert, and beer and wine. It’s casual, counter service, and they’ve made it easy for takeout. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-9pm. 4201 Market St. at 42nd St., Oakland, 510-922-1601.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that ~ADESSO~ was sadly closing, and to reconfirm, their final day of service will be Saturday May 6th. 

Was also sad to learn that West Oakland’s quirky ~FUSEBOX~ has closed after five years of feeding us. Damn, those wings have left us. You can read more on Nosh.

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