May 16, 2017

May 16, 2017
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This is how you start the night: with an Alfred’s Junípero gin martini. All photos by Blair Heagerty Photography.

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The cocktails were flowing, thanks to Anchor Distilling Co.!

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Calm in the Alfred’s dining room (just before we took it over!).

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Your storytellers for the night: Robert Mondavi Winery’s senior wine educator, Dana Andrus, and the tablehopper!

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My party’s table, right in the center of the restaurant.

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The highlight: Alfred’s perfectly roasted filet mignon, served with asparagus, red wine demiglace, and brown butter béarnaise.

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The evening’s lineup of Robert Mondavi Winery reserve wines.

Last Friday, I can’t believe I got to host my dream throwback dinner: a tablehopper vintage Blue Fox dinner at Alfred’s (click for pics)! It was truly a wonderful evening, with guests arriving in all their finery, and the scene at the ~ALFRED’S~ bar felt like a night out 60 years ago!

It’s a lovely thing to start the evening with an Alfred’s Junípero gin martini, ahhhhhh, and it was fun to turn so many people on to the pleasure of drinking a Martinez! (The pot-distilled Old Potrero 18th Century whiskey also disappeared quickly, no surprise there.) Many thanks to Anchor Distilling Co. for getting the night started in such high style, and for brand development manager Jen Chen giving us some fascinating backstory on the Martinez!

Once we rounded everyone up in the dining room, it was my pleasure to start sharing some of the deep history and stories of the Blue Fox and Alfred’s—the phone calls I had the past week with former owners of both restaurants gave me so many amazing details! It was lovely to have some guests in the room who remember dining at the Blue Fox, and I was honored to read a firsthand account from chef Suzette Gresham of Acquerello, who sent me the most vivid recollection.

We were so fortunate to have Robert Mondavi Winery’s senior wine educator Dana Andrus in the house—did he have some great stories to share! It was also a treat to be serving reserve wines from such a storied California producer this evening. The pairings were a hit.

The menu was all about featuring some Blue Fox and Alfred’s classics. I did some spelunking through some old books of mine and found some vintage Blue Fox recipes, and chef Bryan Baker was able to integrate the peperoni Don Salvatore in the antipasto plate, plus the scampi alla Livornese and spinach gnocchi (which he added beef sugo to).

The absolute showstopper was the perfectly roasted filet mignon, served with asparagus and red wine demiglace, a gorg pairing with the Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville. I loved seeing the brown butter béarnaise served in some original Blue Fox sterling silver sauceboats on some tables! (Not surprising, we ate every last bite.) We finished the night with a classic: Baked Alaska—a first for many—with Robert Mondavi Winery 2015 Moscato D’Oro, Napa Valley.

It was truly heartwarming to celebrate old San Francisco for a night, with its deep restaurant history and its rich Italian-American heritage. I mean, really, how incredible to be able to share a story about Alfred’s being the last place many soldiers had a steak before shipping off in World War II, and it’s still in business (thanks, Daniel Patterson Group!). There aren’t many restaurants left that have stood the test of time, let alone since 1928.

And the mythic Blue Fox? It was a pinnacle of fine dining and elegance, and the source of so many rich memories for so many people, for decades! I had many more stories to share, especially from some past writers who wrote about the Blue Fox, so look for an upcoming podcast from me! (Great idea, Dapper Diner!)

Thanks to Eric Shifrin for playing vintage standards for us throughout the evening, and a round of applause to the Alfred’s staff and especially GM Lisa Robins for pulling this off! As many of you know, Alfred’s has been closed from a fire in the basement a few weeks ago, and they opened just for this event and let us take over the restaurant for one night! Great news: it looks like Alfred’s will be reopening next Tuesday May 23rd! Follow @alfredssteaks on Instagram for updates. Be sure to come by soon and welcome them back—they will be ready for you!

Deep gratitude for all the guests who came out and supported this event. I can’t host these dinners and experiences if no one shows up, so thank you for helping me keep the spirit of San Francisco burning bright. I also couldn’t do this without the support of generous partners like Anchor Distilling Co. and Robert Mondavi Winery, grazie mille!

The talented Blair Heagerty took many fantastic photos that I think really capture the fun and vintage glamour of the night, enjoy the pics! (Be sure to click through on “black & white” if you want to go into the time machine!)

I look forward to hosting more of these vintage dinners in the future. In the meantime, I will keep sharing pics from my extensive collection of vintage restaurant postcards, matchbooks, menus, books, and more on @tablehopper on Instagram with the hashtag #tablehoppervintageseries. (I know, so modern for something so old.) And you can always get one of my tablehopper vintage SF T-shirts! Until next time! Thanks to all. Cheers!

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An array of chopped salads at Duna. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

Well, chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns are morphing and changing things up again. It ends up they will be serving their last bowl of chanko nabe (sniff sniff) as ~MOTZE~ on Saturday May 27th, and after a quick refresh (expect a field- and forest-inspired look) will be reopening in their Mission space as ~DUNA~ on Thursday June 1st.

The new menu will be focused on the flavors of Central Europe, a flavor profile the two of them adore and is very personal to them (Nick was in Budapest during high school, and Cortney grew up in an Eastern European Jewish family), and played a big part in their cooking while at Bar Tartine. (The name, Duna, is the Hungarian word for the Danube River.)

The new all-day menu is designed to be a more fast-casual format, starting with a range of hearty chopped salads, like Summer Chop Salad with Gyulai salami, cheese, and summer vegetables; chicken and avocado with spicy tahini and sprouts; or a Rusa Salad with the flavors of Mexico, with beets, squash, sweet potato, and a green herb sauce, dressed with kvass and lime. You know you’ll want their langos (smoked potato flatbread) on the side to dunk into the sauce in the bottom of your bowl. Heartier dishes will include spaetzle, a soft egg noodle served with chicken paprikas, and cabbage rolls and sauerkraut. There will also be some dinner specials and snacks, breads, and dips, plus desserts like frozen farmer’s cheesecake and frozen custard.

It’s worth noting that Motze may have comebacks in the form of some pop-up/ticketed events at Duna (like on Saturday May 27th—it’s a set menu for $48/person, not inclusive of tax and tip; tickets will become available on the Motze website starting this Friday). But for now, they’re on to their next thing. 983 Valencia St. at 21st St., 415-484-1206.

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Chef-owner Casey Crynes inside his soon-to-be kitchen. Photo: Casey’s Pizza.

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A margherita. Photo: Casey’s Pizza.

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Seasonal “peach pie.” Photo: Casey’s Pizza.

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“Spring sundae” with Straus vanilla, seasonal fruit, hot fudge, almond puffed quinoa crispies, olive oil, sea salt. Photo: Casey’s Pizza.

From slinging pizzas in 2009 at Proxy to launching SF’s first pizza truck in 2012, ~CASEY’S PIZZA~ is now getting close to opening its first brick-and-mortar location in Mission Bay, just two blocks from AT&T Park. It’s going to be a hip pizzeria, with a casual California style. Chef-owner Casey Crynes says, “It has been a long time coming!” Look for a late June or July opening date.

The new space is going to offer table service and 28 seats, with a wraparound bar/eating counter that has room for 10. The space will feature a Douglas fir slab bar and tables (from Oakland craftsman Lucas Ford), classic schoolhouse lights, and a brick-lined, double-deck Marsal & Sons pizza oven in the open kitchen. There’s also going to be a fun hall of fame photo wall—look for pizza places and people who have inspired him along the way.

The menu is going to expand to eight of his East Coast-inspired, thin-crust Neapolitan pies (the truck usually serves three): classic margherita, pepperoni, bacon kale, arugula pie, rapini, funghi, brunch pie (with Zoe’s bacon and egg), and hot bianca, with rotating specials.

Crynes says his dough has evolved of late—he’s using Central Milling flour with a two-day ferment, integrating a technique inspired by Portland’s Brian Spangler of Apizza Scholls. There will also be seasonal salads and housemade desserts, including a classic pizza parlor sundae, a cookie plate, and pot de crème or butterscotch.

Crynes is a big beer lover and will be offering a hop-focused craft beer list, including selections from Fieldwork, Alvarado Street, Cellarmaker, Field Recordings, HenHouse, Altamont, Moonraker, plus some one-off beer collaborations on tap with breweries such as Black Sands and Harmonic thanks to his close relationships. Look for some pizza-friendly and mostly Californian reds by the glass and bottle (Baker Lane, Fiction, Unti, Banshee, Stolpman) and some other value-driven global selections.

To start, it will be open for dinner Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm, and then lunch will start, making hours run from 11:30am-10pm.

A bonus with this new kitchen is Crynes will be able to migrate his truck’s dough production needs from his commissary kitchen to the restaurant. The truck will continue to operate weekday lunches in the Financial District and weekends in Hayes Valley. (And is still available for private events and weddings.) He’s also looking into delivery to the neighborhood, perhaps hiring their own delivery person. I’ll keep you posted on the opening! 1170 4th St. at Channel.

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Pork bao, pork gyoza, and har gow at Dumpling Time. All photos: Michael Ogata.

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Tom yum goong xiao long bao (in a beet wrapper).

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Assorted dumplings.

Dumpling alert! Opening this Friday May 19th in SoMa is ~DUMPLING TIME~, and I hope they are prepared for the crush of people who are going to want to explore their menu of unique dumplings that span Chinese, Japanese, and “choose your own” fusion options. I mentioned this project a couple of months ago, but after attending a media preview last week, I got a better sense of what they’re offering.

On the menu, there are classic xiao long bao soup dumplings, or you can try a spicy tom yum goong-stuffed version with heritage pork belly, black tiger shrimp, and coconut milk, wrapped in a beet wrapper (I recommend you do). The bao are fluffy and delicate, with fillings like chashu, chicken, or pork and green onion—you can order them steamed or panfried. Gyoza come with a variety of fillings, and things are definitely untraditional with the har gow, filled with black tiger shrimp, cream cheese, and juicy pork. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well.

They are getting in on the giant dumpling madness sweeping New York, with a giant XLB (comes with a straw!) and giant chashu bao (which I don’t really see the point of, but some people gotta go king size!). There is also shrimp toast, some sides like garlicky green beans, and sweet buns for dessert too. There are 10 local craft beers on tap, plus some bottled selections and wines as well.

The restaurant is from Kash Feng (a native of Xi’an, China) and his Omakase Restaurant Group (ORG), which is right around the corner. The dumpling chef is Do Leung, previously dumpling chef at Tai Wu restaurant in Millbrae—he is originally from Zhongshan, Guangdong, China. There is a glass-enclosed “dumpling room,” where dumplings are made from scratch, using quality ingredients. Many of the recipes at Dumpling Time were created or inspired by Feng’s mom, as well as Omakase executive chef Jackson Yu’s mom. Yay, moms.

Aya Jessani designed the space, which seats 70, and includes communal tables, a mural, and pink neon. There will also be patio seating this summer, with room for 20. Daily lunch will be served 11:30am-3pm, dinner Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm and Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm. No reservations. 11 Division St. at King.

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Burrata-spring onion dip with dried ramps, sea salt. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Grilled organic iceberg with Pt. Reyes Blue. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

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Ahi crudo with taro root chips. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

Last August, executive chef Anthony Strong departed the Delfina Restaurant Group after 11 years—he was first at Delfina, then opened Locanda, as well as expanding Pizzeria Delfina to its four current locations. Instead of moving on to another restaurant gig, Strong has created his own business model: SF’s first delivery-only restaurant, with no storefront.

Launching in June is Young Fava, a new delivery option that is chef quality-driven, and instead of an afterthought, delivery is the primary focus. Strong has been creating a menu of about 15 “New American classics,” ranging from a burrata and slowly melted spring onion dip with lemon oil and crème fraîche (it’s like your dream Cali French onion dip) to rice dumplings (Korean rice cakes) and mushroom sugo with English peas and pine nuts, plus grilled organic iceberg, with Pt. Reyes Blue, busted radishes (LOL), snipped herbs, and a warm bacon-sherry vinaigrette. Oh, and another guilty pleasure: ’90s-style ahi crudo with ginger oil, wasabi tobiko, sesame seeds, micro cilantro, and taro root chips.

Items will change often but are designed to travel well and offer a level of quality that is like your favorite neighborhood restaurant. He has tested the “travelability” of each item extensively (even with an SF hill test, as mentioned in this SF Chron article).

Some dishes will be perfect for a late dinner at your desk (sorry, I feel you!), while others are built to share if you have people over (like your Netflix and chill date). Plus there will be some fun fancy ones, like caviar service (if you really need to impress). Most entrées will be $24 and below (three are less than $18). He’s also thinking about offering a prix-fixe meal down the road.

Strong thinks it’s an interesting new business model in our challenging SF restaurant climate, and it presents an exciting opportunity as a chef. He says, “I want to give delivery the attention it deserves.” His aha moment was when they were first delivering pizzas at Pizzeria Delfina. Back then, it was some of the best you could get outside of the big delivery names and maintaining delivery quality was something he became obsessed with. (The business name comes from a nickname he had in the kitchen—instead of making his staff shuck, blanch, and peel a huge box of baby favas, he decided to fry them up whole. So in a way, this new service is similarly about working with constraints to come up with something else.)

Strong is going to exclusively start with UberEats and will then roll out with other delivery services in time. He’s working out of Turtle Tower on Larkin (one of his favorite places in the city), so will be going in when they close at 5pm, and then starting delivery by 6pm. The plan is to run Tue-Sun 6pm-11pm. Sign up for his newsletter to keep up with previews, tests, and the true launch. And, of course, I’ll keep you posted.

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Photo from Sociale.

After closing on February 17th due to water damage in their kitchen—which required immediate repairs—~SOCIALE~ now has a new kitchen (along with some other upgrades) and plans to reopen on Tuesday May 23rd. Chef Tia Harrison has reportedly made some tweaks to the menu as well. Welcome back!

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The blue room at Blue Plate. Photo courtesy Blue Plate.

Some big news over at 18-year-old ~BLUE PLATE~: after holding it down for seven-plus years with Cory Obenour and Jeff Trenam, chef Sean Thomas is moving on. He doesn’t have anything lined up at the moment except a well-deserved vacation in Mexico for a couple of weeks. He looks forward to taking a break and working on some “fun shit” when he returns. (And knowing how he cooks, I look forward to seeing how that manifests.) In the meantime, he’s very grateful for all the memories and the experience working there. He will be missed by many in the Blue Plate kitchen!

Meanwhile, The Absinthe Group has some changes under way. First, chef Ryan McIlwraith of Bellota has been promoted to executive chef for The Absinthe Group (Absinthe, Arlequin Café, Bellota, Boxing Room, and Comstock Saloon). Chef de cuisine Joel Ehrlich will now be overseeing the Bellota kitchen. McIlwraith will be busy leading the transformation of ~BOXING ROOM~ into ~BARCINO~, a Catalan-inspired restaurant later this year. They will also be hiring a chef de cuisine for Absinthe, since chef Adam Keough will be leaving San Francisco this summer after seven years at the restaurant.

Over in the Castro, Steve Dustin is replacing Ryan Scott as the executive chef of ~FINN TOWN~ on June 1st—Scott is just too busy with other commitments and the restaurant needed culinary leadership. Dustin was previously culinary director for Big Night Restaurant Group (Marlowe, The Cavalier, Marianne’s, and Leo’s Oyster Bar). He will be introducing some new summer dishes at dinner, late night, and weekend brunch in early July.

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Beer Lands is a happy place. Photo: Tom Tomkinson.

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Rich Table’s porcini doughnuts with raclette cheese. Photo courtesy of Outside Lands.

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Wine Lands. Photo: Cal Bingham.

Really, SF? Must we completely crush everyone with our sick concert food lineup every year at Outside Lands? Yes. The answer is yes. Especially in their tenth year! This year, there will be 78 restaurants, 40-plus wineries, 28 breweries, and 8 experiences: A Taste of the Bay Area, Wine Lands, Beer Lands, Cheese Lands, Outside Clams [LOL], Choco Lands, Cocktail Magic, and GastroMagic. This year, the festival runs August 11th-13th and a limited amount of 3-Day GA tickets are available. And then there’s A Tribe Called Quest, I mean…yeah.

This year’s curator of A Taste of the Bay Area is restaurateur Anna Weinberg, and Marlowe will be there and featuring its signature Marlowe burger. Also new to the mix: Tartine Manufactory (morning buns, croissants, and iced coffee), Smitten Ice Cream (bringing its cookie dough-pretzel ice cream), Alba Ray’s, Dabba (serving their awesome ethnic confusion tacos!), FOB Kitchen (Shanghai lumpia and sticky wings), Cheese Steak Shop, Izakaya Sozai, Little Star Pizza (Brass Monkey, baby!), Boba Guys, and Fearless Coffee (serving olive oil-fried egg sandwiches and griddled French toast).

Classics like Rich Table’s porcini doughnuts with raclette cheese, Wise Sons Jewish Deli’s pastrami cheese fries, and Azalina’s Malaysian will be there with chicken curry nachos and lamb burgers.

Of course, Dave McLean, founder and brewmaster of Magnolia Brewing Company and Alembic Bar, has put together a beer lineup of 28 breweries. Altamont Beer Works, Alvarado Street, Black Sands Brewery, Laughing Monk, and Oakland United Beerworks will join returning favorites like 21st Amendment, Almanac, Faction Brewing, and Local Brewing Company.

Wine Lands curator Peter Eastlake has added Ehren Jordan’s Failla chardonnay and pinot noir, SLO Down’s “Sexual Chocolate” red blend, Hoxie Spritzer (serving dry wine spritzers), and Japanese sake served on tap with Bushido “Way of the Warrior.” Returning faves include Scribe, Lioco, Idlewild-Ryme-Leo Steen, Wind Gap-Pax, and you can always count on me hitting up Scharffenberger’s bubbles. You’ll also notice this year there’s a special limited-edition reusable stainless steel wine cup that can be purchased. Pretend you’re camping in Golden Gate Park!

Don’t miss a visit to The Back Wine, a sip and putt mini golf area offering wines from Cannonball Wine Company. VIP ticket holders will enjoy the inaugural launch of Palm Bay International’s Rosé All the Way, with rosé wines from around the world.

Cheese Lands will have gooey Swiss raclette “nachos” and more, thanks to Thalassa Skinner of Culture magazine in partnership with Napa Valley’s Long Meadow Ranch. Outside Clams (helmed by Woodhouse Fish Co.) will have Dungeness crab rolls, raw and BBQ oysters (conveniently close to Wine Lands for optimal pairing), lobster rolls, and clam chowder bread bowls. Choco Lands will have plenty of treats for the stoners, while GastroMagic and Cocktail Magic details will be shared in coming weeks. Start planning your layered look now…at least you don’t have to have a Coachella body for this festival, ha.

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Twilight at the Presidio. Photo from Facebook.

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At 2015 Cochon Heritage BBQ SF. Photo: Gamma Nine/COCHON 555.

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Xavier Salomon, executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.

It’s that time of the year again: Off the Grid and Presidio Trust’s Presidio Twilight is back as of this Thursday May 18th. Come by on Thursdays from 5pm-9pm for all kinds of food (like El Sur, Chairman Bao, and the Lobsta Truck), music, games, lantern-lit cabanas, and fire pits. Don’t forget your sweater! Main Parade Ground at The Presidio.

Also returning to town is Cochon555, with five chefs, five heritage breed pigs, five winemakers, five somms, and five bartenders coming together on Sunday June 4th. Magnolia Brewing Company is hosting this global heritage BBQ competition. The five (Dogpatch-heavy) chefs competing are Jordan Keao of Ãina, Eric Nyeste of Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co., Tommy Halvorson of Serpentine, Chandler Diehl of Piccino, and Trevor Ogden of Park Tavern. Four of the five heritage breed and family farms include Charlie Thieriot of Rancho Llano Seco, Wendy and Duane Massa of Massa Natural Meats, Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch, and TC Gemmell of Walnut Keep Farms.

There will be 30 chef-competitor dishes, plus beef tartare, farmhouse cheeses, a butter bar, and more. Welcome punches feature Buffalo Trace and DRY Sparkling, smoked old-fashioneds with Breckenridge bourbon, The Manhattan Project presented by Poached Jobs, the Tiki Bar featuring Angostura rum, a Courvoisier Cognac “neat” tasting with handcrafted chocolates, and a heritage rum cart. Don’t forget to drink water! Wines include Kosta Browne, Cirq, Silver Oak, Scholium Project, Pax Wine Cellars, and artisanal beer offerings courtesy of Magnolia Brewing Company.

Tickets for general admission start at $125; VIP tickets (early admission at 4pm, exclusive sommelier and cocktail competition tastings) are $200; and Bespoke tickets are $400. A portion of all proceeds will go to Cochon555’s sister charity, Piggy Bank. 5pm, Magnolia Brewing Company, 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St.

Kicking off this month is the Global Cuisine Series at ~THE RITZ-CARLTON HALF MOON BAY~, giving attendees the opportunity to enjoy a hands-on cooking class with a rotating roster of chefs. Each month, Maître Cuisinier de France Xavier Salomon, the hotel’s executive chef, will invite a different chef to the property, starting with Claudia Sandoval, winner of Master Chef Season 6 and author of Claudia’s Cocina: A Taste of Mexico, on May 20th-21st.

Next up is Telmo Faria of Uma Casa June 10th-11th; Charles Phan of The Slanted Door on July 22nd-23rd; Charles Olalia of RiceBar, a pioneer of innovative Filipino cuisine, on August 26th-27th; Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table on September 23rd-24th; chef Manish Tyagi of August 1 Five on October 28th-29th; Gerald Hirigoyen of Piperade on November 18th-19th; and William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves on December 16th-17th.

The weekend begins with a hands-on cooking class led by the visiting chef, where guests assist in preparing a variety of dishes. You get to enjoy the fruits of your labor at a luncheon showcasing your preparations, which will be accompanied by wine pairings from the global destination the cuisine hails from. The visiting chef will also present two dishes on the Navio tasting menu for Saturday night and will have a dedicated pop-up station at the hotel’s over-the-top Sunday brunch.

There is only room for 14 guests per month. Guest packages including the exclusive cooking class, the luncheon, and a $100 resort credit start at $950 per night, plus applicable taxes and fees. A two-night minimum stay is required. (You can read my write-up of my recent stay there.) To book a spot, contact 650-712-7686 or via email. One Miramontes Point Rd., Half Moon Bay.

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Turkish delight at Castro Ice Cream. Yelp photo by Esso A.

A couple of little Mediterranean items of note: now open in Russian Hill is ~TROY~, an extension of the East Bay’s Troy Greek, which I mentioned was opening their first SF location and moving into the former Polker’s. The casual menu includes gyros, souvlaki, soups, salads, and more. Open Mon-Thu 11am- 9:30pm, Fri-Sun 11am-10pm. 2226 Polk St. at Vallejo, 415-885-1000.

Meanwhile, there’s another ice cream place that has opened in the Castro, ~CASTRO ICE CREAM~, serving Mitchell’s ice cream, but they’re also serving Turkish breakfast (with simit), all kinds of borek, Turkish coffee and tea (perfect to perk you up before a movie at the Castro Theatre), Turkish delight, and housemade baklava. Merhaba! Open Sun-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm. 451 Castro St. at 17th St., 415-757-0853.

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Reem Assil of Reem’s California. Photo: Luke Beard.

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Golden State Man’oushe with eggs, red pepper tomato sauce, goat cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. Photo: Luke Beard.

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A vegetarian man’oushe at Reem’s California. Photo: Luke Beard.

The 510 is crack-a-lackin’ with news, starting with the opening of ~REEM’S CALIFORNIA~, a first brick-and-mortar location for La Cocina grad Reem Assil, who was previously at farmers’ markets. Reem’s opens today, Tuesday May 16th, with a menu centered on her trademark mana’eesh flatbreads baked in a traditional brick oven, as she says, “a quintessential street food of the Levant, the region including Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.”

Assil grew up in a Palestinian-Syrian household outside of Boston, worked for a decade as a community and labor organizer, and then dedicated herself to learning baking. Social justice is an important part of her business, with a strong focus on the community.

In the morning, there’s the Golden State Man’oushe topped with eggs, red pepper tomato sauce, goat cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. You can add sujuk (cured Armenian beef sausage), basturma bacon (fried, cured pastrami), or “a lil’ California love” (tomatoes, arugula, avocado, labneh, or an egg). Breakfast pastries are all made in-house and include sweet and savory pastries such as ka’ak (sesame bread rings) and orange turmeric tea cakes. Local Red Bay Coffee drinks, housemade iced cardamom coffee, and traditional Arab tea are also served.

Later in the day, flatbreads are baked on a traditional griddle called a saj, topped with meats like sumac-spiced chicken or lamb, caramelized onions, roasted root vegetables, and harissa, rolled into wraps and served with green olives and house-pickled turnips. There are freshly made mezze and desserts like orange-blossom shortbread and baklava.

Sunday brunch and dinner service will start in July, with craft beers and wines from the Levant. Open Tue-Fri 7am-3pm and Sat 9am-3pm. Fruitvale Transit Village, 3301 E. 12th Street, Suite 133, Oakland.

A surprising taker for the recently closed Fusebox in West Oakland: Berkeley’s ~IPPUKU~ team, who will finally be launching their long rumored soba restaurant. It’s going to be (confusingly) named ~ICHI SOBA~, with no relation to ICHI Sushi in SF. Scoop reports Ippuku chef Christian Geidemann and business partner Paul Discoe (who is behind Ippuku’s beautiful space) plan to open in August. 2311 Magnolia St. at 24th St., West Oakland.

An update for the Berkeley location of cult ramen shop ~IPPUDO~: Nosh reports the opening is looking like mid to late July. 2011 Shattuck Ave. at University, Berkeley.

Also in Nosh: ~BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE~ (they will make their cold brew there), ~STARTER BAKERY~, and two other businesses will be moving into the former Pyramid brewery. Stand by for more tenants as this project takes shape. 901 Gilman St. at 8th St., West Berkeley.

Meanwhile, over in Jack London Square, owner William Lue’s Burmese restaurant ~GROCERY CAFÉ~ has found a new home and is opening Monday May 29th in the former Hahn’s Hibachi location. The menu will feature authentic and home-style dishes, including Burmese tea leaf salad, ohno khao swe (coconut chicken noodle), and monhinga (fish chowder with rice noodles), as well as some new dishes like Burmese-inspired lamb shanks and veal osso buco. Open Mon-Sat for lunch and dinner and Sun brunch. 63 Jack London Square (Franklin and Embarcadero West), Oakland.

Olive oil lovers need to head to the Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Festival at ~MARKET HALL FOODS~ in Berkeley this Saturday May 20th. There will be tastings from Market Hall’s extensive and amazing selection (get 10 percent off your favorites) and a chance to chat with experts. And don’t miss the handmade mozzarella from the cheese counter. 1pm-3pm. 1786 4th St. at Delaware, Berkeley, 510-250-6004.

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